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13 TV Commercials Directed by Wes Anderson

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While Wes Anderson is best known for his big screen releases, the director has also made a fair number of television commercials—and they're just as distinctive and charming as his feature films.

1. SoftBank

In 2008, Anderson teamed up with Brad Pitt to make a commercial for the Japanese telecommunications and Internet company SoftBank. Inspired by Jacques Tati's Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot's Holiday), Anderson sets the Japanese commercial in a French seaside town and uses one continuous shot to capture Pitt as a bumbling tourist.

2. and 3. Hyundai

In 2012, Wes Anderson directed two commercials for Hyundai. In the first commercial, Anderson uses a mixture of miniatures and advanced car technology. The result resembles famous smart cars from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Spy Who Loved Me, as well as Knight Rider's KITT.

His second commercial for Hyundai features one continuous single shot of modern life in a busy home as Anderson’s camera effortlessly moves from room to room and eventually outside to a driveway. Both commercials aired during the 84th Academy Awards on ABC.

4. IKEA

In 2002, Swedish furniture company IKEA kicked off their “Unböring” marketing campaign with an Anderson-directed commercial featuring a family drama unfolding in a very stylish living room. When Anderson pulls his camera back, it's revealed that the family was staging an argument on an IKEA sales floor.

5., 6., and 7. AT&T

In 2007, Anderson directed three 30-second TV spots for AT&T. The ads focus on different professionals—an actor, a reporter, and a salesman—and all three commercials use an extended single shot with changing backgrounds to reflect new locations.

8. Stella Artois

Wes Anderson co-directed this commercial for Belgium brewers Stella Artois with Roman Coppola. The TV spot features Anderson’s penchant for symmetry and '60s French pop culture.

9. Sony Mobile Xperia

Anderson asked 75 children throughout New York, Los Angeles, and London what they thought goes on inside an Xperia mobile phone. The spot centers on a response from an 8-year-old named Jake Ryan that features tiny robots doing the heavy lifting inside the device. Anderson took a cue from his animated film The Fantastic Mr. Fox and built a visual world using stop-motion animation.

10., 11., and 12. Prada Candy L’eau

In 2013, Anderson co-directed a three-part Prada Candy L’eau perfume commercial with Roman Coppola. The spots feature a love triangle including two young men (Peter Gadiot and Rodolphe Pauly) trying to court a beautiful young woman (French actress and model Lea Seydoux). Anderson and Coppola used François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim as inspiration for these three vignettes.

13. American Express

Anderson’s American Express “My Life. My Card” ad is arguably his best commercial work to date. The two-minute spot features longtime Anderson collaborators Jason Schwartzman and Waris Ahluwalia, as well as cinematographer Robert Yeoman. It showcases what life is like on an Anderson movie shoot and serves as a keen parody, with the director poking fun at his own signature style and tropes.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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