At this point, millions have visited the glowing world of Pandora, in director James Cameron’s Avatar. The highest grossing film in history, with nearly $2.5 billion earned worldwide, it is, as of this past weekend, still the third-most popular film in the U.S., and has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
What fewer have seen, however, is the real glimmering world of Avatar, namely, the humming, 10,000 square-foot server farm at WETA Digital, in Miramar, New Zealand, above, where the film’s photo-realistic images, above right, were wholly generated. The system literally “occupies spots 193 through 197 on the Top 500 list of the most powerful supercomputers.
Thirty four racks comprise the computing core, made of 32 machines each with 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of memory. Weta systems administrator Paul Gunn said that heat exchange for their servers had to be enclosed. The “industry standard of raised floors and forced-air cooling could not keep up with the constant heat coming off the machines,” said Gunn. “We need to stack the gear closely to get the bandwidth we need and, because the data flows are so great, the storage has to be local.”
By the time the production was in its
last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage.
That’s. A. Big. File. Imagine if someone accidentally deleted it.
What absolutely thrills me about the teaser for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, right, Oliver Stone’s follow-up to his 1987 classic, Wall Street, are two hilarious sight gags that take place near the 1:00 mark. Both have to do with the release of corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from prison. (Lovers of the first film, below right, know that it ended with Gekko’s protegé, Bud Fox [Charlie Sheen], turning over information to the Feds that would put Gekko away for a long time.)
Of course, the short’s best visual effect—Douglas’ nearly quarter-century older face—isn’t one, and in a powerful close-up, above, Stone and the actor put it to tremendous use, to convey both the unrecoupable passage of years, Gekko’s great humiliation, and his desire for infinitely lucrative revenge.
One of the most fascinating aspects of revisiting definitive works is learning, as one inevitably does, how fungible they were when created. Few, now, could imagine anyone but Michael Douglas as the oily and sinister Gekko, and, ultimately, Douglas was given an Academy Award for his portrayal.
But as noted in Wikipedia, referencing James Riordan’s Stone: A Biography of Oliver Stone and other sources,
the studio wanted Warren Beatty to play Gekko but he was not interested. Stone initially wanted Richard Gere but the actor passed, so the director went with Douglas despite having been advised by others in Hollywood not to cast him. Stone remembers, “I was warned by everyone in Hollywood that Michael couldn’t act, that he was a producer more than an actor and would spend all his time in his trailer on the phone”. But the director found out that “when he’s acting he gives it his all”. The director says that he saw “that villain quality” in the actor and always thought he was a smart businessman.
In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Shia LeBoeuf co-stars as Jacob “Jake” Moore, a Wall St. trader on the come-up, engaged to Gekko’s daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). From the looks of things, this apparently gives Gekko more than usual parental concerns. Check out the teaser, then the trailer, below.
Also, as a special bonus, watch the original trailer for the first film, also below. When you do, keep an eye out for the very first, brief image after the logo and, realize, yes, that was a different world.
I so utterly dig this gorgeous one-sheet, above, that director David Lam fashioned, in lush black-and-white, for his 2009 documentary, Athlete. The film tells the stories of four ordinary folk, including 35-year-old twin sisters Carrie and Kellie, above. All are locked into mind-breaking tests of physical endurance, each for their own personal reasons, each redefining the idea of limits. That’s the trailer, below, but, in a way, you can say that the poster tells the whole story. Out on DVD March 9.
The world gets smaller and smaller, and Vanity Fair‘s gets even tinier, still: Their new, March 2010 Hollywood cover, above, shot by Annie Leibovitz, features a bevy of SPF50-dependent, semi-translucent beauties.
They are, l-r, Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick.
It’s almost, like, given the kind of talent available and doing amazing work today, if you do a magazine cover of nine young women in film, right, and they’re all white, it’s just because you want it white. You’re making, intentionally or not, a racial power statement.
I wonder: While discussing Haiti over lunch, did any of these actors say, “Wow: This sure is one Caucazoid photo shoot”? Better yet, did anyone refuse to be part of something which so genteely hangs out the NO COLOREDS sign?
I don’t know if these women have thought about this, but, just like global warming, every bit of race adds up, and if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. At least, consider that the next time you’re cast in a project—like this one—that sends relations back sixty years.
James Cameron’s Avatar has been hailed for its medium-busting visual effects and astounding commercial success. Since its release on December 18th it has repeatedly topped the box-office in multiple countries, and is now the highest-grossing film in history, having taken in nearly $1.9 billion worldwide.
But, underneath the breathtaking graphics and lifelike performance capture, does the story of Neytiri and Jakesully, above, just retell the story of a white person finding himself by “going native”? Is it merely a fable about Europeans who would take over non-white people, save for the leadership of a Caucasian guy who leaves his reprehensible, bloodthirsty tribe, in order to cast his fate with the natives?
Avatar has famously been compared to Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning, 1990 work, Dances With Wolves, which also raised similar charges regarding the consistency of the “white savior” myth. Disney’s Pocahontas has also been i.d.-d as Avatar‘s spiritual predecessor, though, perhaps no more pointedly than in these two YouTube clips, the first of which remixes video from Avatar to audio from Pocahontas‘s trailer, and the latter which does the reverse.
Today, this afternoon, Friday, April 25, at 2 pm ET, on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, my guests are:
They’ll talk about Avatar, race, and these issues, with the goal of giving listeners some clarity on them.
But first: After the President’s state-of-the-union address this past Wednesday, Chris Matthews, right, of MSNBC’s Hardball fame, opined that Obama “is post-racial, by all appearances. I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”
I’ll talk with Jesse Washington, race and ethnicity editor for The Associated Press, and author of the essay, “Do Blacks Truly Want to Transcend Race?” about what Matthews meant, and what it means for Obama and our national understanding of the subject.
You can hear these thoughtful individuals’ ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
Mere seconds into this excerpt from the “red band” trailer—one containing harder, R-rated content—for the upcoming, vigilante superhero fight-fest Kick-Ass, you become painfully aware that darling little Mindy Macready, above (played by Chloe Moretz), is not your ordinary, little, enjoying-some-ice-cream-with-her-dad (Nicholas Cage) type.
Then it gets worse.
Then it gets really better.
I won’t spoil it except to say, 1) the language is NSFW, and 2) if they can legally do this with pubescents, then I’m gettin’ my doggone Gunslinger Girl live-action adaptation. No bet.
After seeing the outrageous trailer, below, for Kick-Ass—about a crew of self-styled superheroes—I’m hot to check this action-comedy masterpiece-to-be. That’s the drool-worthy one-sheet, above. [turning to you] Hey…lower your hands, buddy. I’ll smack you up.
It’s difficult to say how much I remain in awe of director Martin Scorsese’s violent, 1990 opus, GoodFellas, above. Meanwhile, on the internet, my use of Wikipedia is second only to the attention I give Google.
So, imagine my surprise when, looking up GoodFellas on Wikipedia, I came across a detail that blew up my appreciation of both.
It was a single sentence, the fourth paragraph in the Wiki page that chronicles the film’s rich history: