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A Zillion McCarthy

11 Famous Movies Almost Named Something Else

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A Zillion McCarthy

It's often the first thing you know about a film, so when it comes to crafting the next blockbuster, movie makers are eager to get the name just right. That means if the first—or second—suggestion isn't a winner, it's back to the drawing board to find something pithier, pluckier, or otherwise more appealing. Here's a look at some of the movie titles that didn't make the cut.

1. Pretty Woman

The movie that made Julia Roberts a star was originally supposed to be called 3000, a reference to how much Vivian charges Edward for a week of her company. Test audiences felt the title seemed a little too sci-fi, but luckily the soundtrack provided the perfect inspiration for an alternate. Also cut from the final product? The darkness of the original script, which featured a drug-addict hooker who, at the film's end, is back on the street instead of finding love.

2. Big

In this sweet film from 1988, Tom Hanks makes a wish and finds himself prematurely all grown up. Which is probably why it was originally titled When I Grow Up. But since brevity is the soul of wit, the powers that be decided why use four words when one will do — Big got the idea across just fine.

3. The Breakfast Club

This Brat Pack favorite was written under the title The Lunch Bunch, which loses points for cheesy rhyming but actually makes more sense when you think about it. They do eat lunch together in the film.

4. Scream

Scream may seem as simple as it gets for a horror flick title, but it originally boasted an even more basic name: Scary Movie. Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson ditched the self-referential title for something less silly, but it soon found work somewhere that the irony was allowed to shine.

5. Hitch

The working title for the Will Smith RomCom stole a line from the movie: The Last First Kiss. Studio execs worried such a sappy moniker might discourage a male audience, so the sentimental option was dropped in favor of something slicker. It's unclear if this had the desired effect of attracting droves of the coveted demographic to a movie about matchmaking.

6. Snakes on a Plane

Which movie would you rather see: Snakes on a Plane or Pacific Air Flight 121? It's gotta be the former, right? Thankfully for meme-makers everywhere, Samuel Jackson agreed. And when the powers that be tried to replace the memorable moniker with something utterly bland, the star intervened.

"The title was what got my attention," Jackson told USA Today. "I got on the set one day and heard they changed it, and I said, 'What are you doing here? It's not Gone with the Wind. It's not On the Waterfront. It's Snakes on a Plane!' They were afraid it gave too much away, and I said, "That's exactly what you should do. When audiences hear it, they say, 'We are there!'"

7. Alien

This is another tale of "less is more." Or, the less-cited adage, "movies with the word 'star' in the title do not strike fear into the hearts of potential viewers." Alien is eerie, intriguing and instills a sense of unease all with one simple word. Star Beast sounds like the title of an anime film.

8. Annie Hall

Woody Allen's classic romantic comedy went by numerous names during the production process. Allen's original suggestion was Anhedonia, the medical term that refers to an inability to experience pleasure, but it was deemed not marketable (or pronounceable?) enough. Co-writer Marshall Brickman then offered a series of suggestions that are likely to delight to fans retrospectively, but failed to fit the tone of the film: It Had to Be Jew, Rollercoaster Named Desire and Me and My Goy. By the time the movie got to test screenings Alvy and Me and Anxiety were both still in the running.

9. Blade Runner

The Ridley Scott dystopian thriller is based loosely on Philip K. Dick's book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? As poetic and thought provoking as that title is, the studio thought such a clunky name would be tough to market, and production ran through a series of one-word options like Android and Mechanismo before settling on Blade Runner.

10. Tomorrow Never Dies

Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein said he was inspired for the structure of the title after hearing the Beatles song Tomorrow Never Knows on the radio while working on the script. However, the name that was born out of that stroke of inspiration was Tomorrow Never Lies, in which the "Tomorrow" in question was the film's fictional newspaper by the same name. But a fax typo during production resulted in the unintentional suggestion Tomorrow Never Dies, and it was deemed too good to correct.

11. Back To The Future

Writer Robert Zemeckis drafted the script under the title that eventually ran, but during production, executive Sidney Sheinberg suggested changing it to Spaceman from Pluto, claiming that including the word "future" in the name doomed a movie's success. Steven Spielberg prevented this disaster by pretending the whole thing was just a big joke. Sheinberg was too embarrassed to correct him.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Creative Bar Owners in India Build Maze to Skirt New Liquor Laws
June 20, 2017
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Facing a complicated legal maze, a bar in the southern Indian state of Kerala decided to construct a real one to stay in business, according to The Times of India. Aiswarya Bar, a watering hole that sits around 500 feet from a national highway, was threatened in 2016 after India's Supreme Court banned alcohol sales within 1640 feet of state and country-wide expressways to curb drunk driving. Instead of moving or ceasing operation, Aiswarya Bar's proprietors got creative: They used prefabricated concrete to construct a convoluted pathway outside the entrance, which more than tripled the distance from car to bar.

Aiswarya Bar's unorthodox solution technically adhered to the law, so members of the State Excise Administration—which regulates commodities including alcohol—initially seemed to accept the plan.

"We do [not] measure the aerial distance but only the walking distance," a representative told The Times of India. "However, they will be fined for altering the entrance."

Follow-up reports, though, indicate that the bar isn't in the clear quite yet. Other officials reportedly want to measure the distance between the bar and the highway, and not the length of the road to the bar itself.

Amid all the bureaucratic drama, Aiswarya Bar has gained global fame for both metaphorically and literally circumnavigating the law. But as a whole, liquor-serving establishments in India are facing tough times: As Quartz reports, the alcohol ban—which ordered bars, hotels, and pubs along highways to cancel their liquor licenses by April 1, 2017—has resulted in heavy financial losses, and the estimated loss of over 1 million jobs. Aiswarya Bar's owner, who until recently operated as many as nine local bars, is just one of many afflicted entrepreneurs.

Some state governments, which receive a large portion of their total revenue from liquor sales, are now attempting to downgrade the status of their state and national highways. To continue selling liquor in roadside establishments, they're rechristening thoroughfares as "urban roads," "district roads," and "local authority roads." So far, the jury's still out on whether Kerala—the notoriously heavy-drinking state in which Aiswarya Bar is located—will become one of them.

[h/t The Times of India]