And The Award for Biggest Movie Explosion Goes To...

Spectre, the latest James Bond film, has a long history of thrilling spy exploits to live up to. Regardless of how it does at the box office, the latest 007 chapter helmed by director Sam Mendes has made its mark in history by producing what Guinness World Records deems the “largest film stunt explosion” of all time. During a climactic scene, Bond and his love interest du jour silently watch a stunning show of smoke and flame as their enemies’ headquarters blows up in the distance; in real life, the film crew cheered.

Pulling off an explosion of such scale was a measurably impressive task, as evidenced by the stockpiles of explosives gathered in the Moroccan desert: 2224 gallons of kerosene were lit by 73 pounds of explosives contained in 24 individual charges, each equipped with its own remote-controlled micro-computer. The Spectre team had one chance to get it right, and Mendes was justifiably proud when they did: “All one shot. Come up the stairs, some dialogue, largest explosion in the history of movies, exit frame, cut.”

Once the charges were detonated, the explosion lasted a total 7.5 seconds. Bond himself—or rather, actor Daniel Craig—flew to Beijing to receive the award, along with co-star Léa Seydoux and Spectre producer Barbara Broccoli. The trio graciously accepted the Guinness World Record plaque on behalf of Special Effects Supervisor Chris Corbould, the Academy Award winner who masterminded the enormous explosion.

007 is no stranger to setting records. In fact, the 24 Eon Productions films considered true Bond adaptations have racked up so many notable achievements that Guinness has compiled a list of the franchise’s 50 greatest broken records to date. A chase scene in Live and Let Die (1973) includes what was then the world’s longest recorded speedboat jump in a film: 120 feet. The record for most cannon rolls in a car was accomplished on the set of Casino Royale in 2006, when a custom-equipped Aston Martin achieved seven consecutive flips in the air with stuntman Adam Kirley at the wheel. 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me inspired, decades later, the 2008 unveiling of the world’s first fully submersible sports car: the Rinspeed sQuba, able to drive on land and as deep as 33 feet underwater—so long as the driver is properly equipped with an oxygen tank, of course.

The records aren’t all cars, speed, and adrenaline, though. The Bond films can boast an association with a few less dangerous awards, not least of which is the world record for most expensive pizza sold at auction: the “Pizza Royale 007,” created for the 2007 premiere of Casino Royale. Inspired by author Ian Fleming’s expensive (and boozy) tastes, the opulent pie was topped with lobster marinated in cognac, caviar scented with champagne, steak marinated in scotch, vodka-infused salmon, white truffles, and edible gold leaf for a tasteful final touch. An Italian lawyer put up the equivalent of $3,321 for charity to buy it. Fleming’s highbrow preferences are also responsible for another Guinness record, for most expensive typewriter. The author’s custom gold-plated Royal Quiet Deluxe model was sold for £56,250 ($90,309) in 1995. Not quite a 7.5-second explosion, but pretty flashy in its own way.

5 Film Transitions Worth Knowing

You see them every day, on TV shows, the news, and in movies, but how well do you know the most oft-used film transitions? Here are the big five:


The dissolve is an editing technique where one clip seems to fade—or dissolve—into the next. As the first clip is fading out, getting lighter and lighter, the second clip starts fading in, becoming more and more prominent. The process usually happens so subtly and so quickly, the viewer isn't even aware of the transition. The above video offers a great overview of the cut, with examples.


This transition is the opposite of the dissolve in that it draws attention to itself. The best example of the wipe is what's known as the Iris Wipe, which you usually find in silent films, like Buster Keaton's or the Merrie Melodies cartoons—the circle getting smaller and smaller. Other wipe shapes include stars, diamonds, and the old turning clock.

The Star Wars films are chock-full of attention-grabbing wipes. Here are two good examples from The Empire Strikes Back. The first shows the clock wipe; the second, the diagonal wipe (pay no attention to the broken blocks at the start of the second clip—that's a technical glitch, not part of the film).


As the name implies, in the basic cutaway, the filmmaker is moving from the action to something else, and then coming back to the action. Cutaways are used to edit out boring shots (like people driving to their destination—why not see what the character is seeing or even thinking sometimes?) or add action to a sequence by changing the pace of the footage. My favorite use of the cutaway is in Family Guy, where the technique is used to insert throwaway gags. Here's a great example:


The L Cut, also called a split edit, is a very cool technique whose name dates back to the old analog film days.

The audio track on a strip of celluloid film runs along the side, near the sprocket holes. In the L Cut transition, the editor traditionally cut the picture frames out of the strip, but left the narrow audio track intact, thus creating an L-shape out of the film. A different camera angle, or scene was then spliced into the spot where the old picture was, so the audio from the old footage was now cut over the new footage.

Of course, with digital editing, one doesn't need to physically cut anything anymore, but the transition is still widely used, and the name has remained the same.

Split edits like these are especially effective in portraying conversations. Imagine how a simple conversation between two people might look if all we ever got was a ping-pong edit back and forth between the two people talking. The L cut allows the viewer to read the emotion on the listener's face, as the dialogue continues over, as we see in this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:


The fade in and fade out usually signal the beginning or end of a scene, especially if the filmmaker is fading to/from black. This is the most common, of course, but fading to white has become trendy, too. The opening title sequence from the HBO series Six Feet Under featured many fades to black and a couple brief fades to white. The very last bit in the sequence fades slowly to white, and is my all-time favorite example of the transition:

science fiction
Why So Many Aliens in Pop Culture Look Familiar

Aliens have been depicted countless times in cinema, from Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (1902) to James Cameron's Avatar (2009). But despite the advancements in special-effects technology over the past century, most aliens we see on screen still share a lot of similarities—mainly, they look, move, and interact with the world like humans do. Vox explains how the classic alien look came to be in their new video below.

When you picture an alien, you may imagine a being with reptilian skin or big, black eyes, but the basic components of a human body—two arms, two legs, and a head with a face—are likely all there. In reality, finding an intelligent creature that evolved all those same features on a planet millions of light-years away would be an extraordinary coincidence. If alien life does exist, it may not look like anything we've ever seen on Earth.

But when it comes to science fiction, accuracy isn't always the goal. Creating an alien character humans can relate to may take priority. Or, the alien's design may need to work as a suit that can be worn by human performers. The result is a version of extraterrestrial life that looks alien— but not too alien—to movie audiences.

So if aliens probably won't have four limbs, two eyes, and a mouth, what would they look like if we ever met them person? These experts have some theories.

[h/t Vox]


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