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12 Directors Who Hated Their Own Movies

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This weekend's Fantastic Four reboot may have won its opening night box office, but the movie's bigger story has been the distance director Josh Trank has very publicly placed between himself and the final product. He's not alone. Just because a director works on a movie for months, or even years, doesn’t mean he or she will love the end product.

1. Tony Kaye // American History X (1998)

British director Tony Kaye has a reputation in the film industry as a perfectionist. While studio executives at New Line Cinema were happy with early cuts of American History X, Kaye wanted more time to refine it. New Line gave Kaye an additional eight weeks to deliver the film, which he used to cut the movie down to 87 minutes. The studio decided to release a longer 119-minute final cut of the film, with help from star Edward Norton.

Outraged by the changes, Kaye disowned the film and publicly attacked American History X during its initial theatrical run. Kaye has tried to take his name off the film, suggesting that the Directors Guild of America use the pseudonym Alan Smithee or Humpty Dumpty to replace his director’s credit.

2. Woody Allen // Annie Hall (1977)

Although it won four Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and is widely considered his finest work, Woody Allen thought his romantic comedy Annie Hall was a big disappointment. "The film was supposed to be what happens in a guy’s mind, and you were supposed to see a stream of consciousness in his mind and I did the film and it was completely incoherent," Allen said. "Nobody understood anything that went on and the relationship between myself and Diane Keaton was all anyone cared about. That was not what I cared about."

3. David Lynch // Dune (1984)

In 1984, after the box office and critical success of The Elephant Man, David Lynch took a job directing the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune for producer Dino De Laurentiis. The project was the third attempt to bring Dune to the big screen after ambitious but failed efforts from producer Arthor P. Jacobs and visionary Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. Lynch’s experience making Dune was a long and painful one, overshadowed by the belief that the source material was unfilmable. With the size of the production and its hefty budget, Lynch was unable to retain artistic and creative control while filming, and he slowly distanced himself from Dune.

Currently, there are a number of different cuts of Dune floating around. Some versions replace David Lynch’s director’s credit with the pseudonym Alan Smithee, the false name the Directors Guild of America uses for directors who don't want to be associated with a film.

4. Joel Schumacher // Batman & Robin (1997)

Director Joel Schumacher made it a point throughout his career to never direct a sequel if one of his movies found success, but he broke his own rule to direct 1997's Batman & Robin. "I always knew that if you get lucky, walk away," Schumacher later said. "But I was shooting A Time To Kill and the studio had been very generous to me, and much was expected of me by the toy manufacturers and the Warner Bros. stores." The final result is considered one of the worst comic book movies ever made. Batman & Robin ended the Batman gravy train for Warner Bros. and DC Comics Entertainment (at least until director Christopher Nolan stepped in eight years later to deliver Batman Begins), and Schumacher has publicly apologized for disappointing fans.

5. Alfred Hitchcock // Rope (1948)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope was an ambitious effort from The Master of Suspense. It’s based on a 1929 stage play of the same name and is presented in real-time with a number of continuous takes stitched together to appear as one long shot. Hitchcock wanted the film adaptation to follow the same structure and presentation as the original play, but ultimately felt Rope was too self-indulgent and bloated. The director called it "an experiment that didn't work out."

Despite critical and commercial acclaim, Hitchcock bought up its film rights with the hope that Rope would never be seen or heard from again. However, upon his death in 1980, Rope was re-released in theaters.

6. Dennis Hopper // Catchfire (1990)

In 1990, Dennis Hopper directed a thriller starring Jodie Foster called Catchfire. During production, Vestron Pictures, the film’s distributors, were unhappy with the way Catchfire was coming together, so they re-edited it to a digestible 98 minutes without Hopper’s approval. Enraged with the studio’s theatrical cut, Dennis Hopper left the project before it was released. "Alan Smithee" was credited with directing the film.

When Catchfire was released for cable television, Hopper re-edited the film with a 116-minute director’s cut and titled it Backtrack.

7. Stanley Kubrick // Fear and Desire (1953)

Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the greatest directors in cinema history, but he was no fan of his 1953 debut, Fear and Desire. He described it as "a bumbling amateur film exercise." Kubrick had even gone as far as to buy Fear and Desire’s original negatives and all available prints to ensure that it would never see the light of day again.

There was only one legal print of Fear and Desire at the George Eastman House, Kodak's archive, and it received a restoration and re-release in 2012.

8. Steven Soderbergh // The Underneath (1995)

Six years after the success of his debut feature sex, lies, and videotape, Steven Soderbergh released The Underneath, a film noir starring Peter Gallagher. The Underneath remains a low point for the director, despite moderate critical acclaim. Soderbergh has called the film “kind of a mess” and “dead on arrival” and admits that he made the film at a challenging time in his career and that his "heart wasn't in it." It is currently available through the Criterion Collection as a bonus feature to the DVD release of his 1993 film King of the Hill.

9. Michael Bay // Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Despite its box office success, one of action director Michael Bay’s worst films is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. While the film lacked a certain punch seen in other Bay efforts like The Rock, Armageddon, and the first Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen suffered from its lack of script. The film was made during the Writers Guild of America strike of 2007 and 2008, so Michael Bay only had a few pages to build a feature around. Since its release, Bay has called Revenge of the Fallen "crap."

10. Jerry Lewis // The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

In 1972, Jerry Lewis directed The Day the Clown Cried, which was about a circus clown who is sent to a concentration camp and leads children to the gas chambers. The film never got past the rough edit stages of post-production and The Day the Clown Cried was never released in theaters. Only two known prints of the film exist, and are both under lock and key. Stockholm Studios retains a copy of the film under copyright law, while Jerry Lewis owns a version in his personal film archive. Lewis admitted that, “In terms of that film, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of the work and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad.” Though Lewis had hoped the film would never be seen by audiences, the Library of Congress recently announced that it has added the film to its collection with plans to release it ... in 10 years.

11. David Fincher // Alien 3 (1992)

After a career directing music videos, David Fincher took on his first feature film with Alien 3. The third installment of the highly profitable film franchise experienced many woes during production. Fincher started shooting Alien 3 without a completed screenplay, which was constantly being rewritten, and he had to answer to so many producers and studio executives that it almost turned him off of filmmaking entirely. Eventually, Fincher left the project before the film went into post-production. In 2003, when the Alien “Quadrilogy” DVD set was released, he was the only director in the franchise who did not participate in its production or release. It got better for Fincher, and ever since Alien 3, he has had complete control and final cut over all his films.

12. Arthur Hiller // An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997)

Director Arthur Hiller attempted to make a post-modern satire about the film industry called Burn Hollywood Burn. It follows a director named Alan Smithee who makes a film, which the movie studio takes away and re-cuts for the theatrical release. The director asks to take his name off the project, but the only pseudonym he could use was “Alan Smithee.” He later steals the film and threatens to burn it.

In a postmodern example of life imitating art, the end result was so bad that Arthur Hiller took his name off the project and actually used the pseudonym Alan Smithee as his director’s credit. Critics and general audiences didn’t get the inside joke, and Burn Hollywood Burn bombed at the box office. It won five Golden Raspberry Awards in 1998, including Worst Screenplay for Joe Eszterhas and Worst Picture.

The Directors Guild of America discontinued the Alan Smithee pseudonym a few years later in 2000.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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