Iron Man 2 debuts May 7, and if trailer No. 2, below, is any indication, prepare to defensively wet your pants.
First, the movie pits Iron Man—aka multi-billionaire weapons designer / playboy Tony Stark, above—against nemesis Whiplash, played by misshapen beast-of-a-man Mickey Rourke.
Then, the flick stuffs itself silly with cool actors in deft supporting roles: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury; Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard, as Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine; Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow; and Gwyneth Paltrow returning as Virginia “Pepper” Potts.
Finally, if you’re staring at that photo and can’t figure out the look of Iron Man’s suit, watch the trailer and get your mind blown backward.
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.
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.
Throughout his career, writer/director James Cameron, right, has pushed an insistent, technologically-demanding style of filmmaking seemingly up a cliff. From seeing Star Wars, as a 22-year-old truck driver in his native Canada, to becoming creator of the highest-grossing film in history—1997′s $1.8 billion Titanic—he has taken hold of the film industry by sheer force of will. Meanwhile, with each advancing step, the creator has fought off naysayers and second-guessers, each expecting his next outrageous vision to be his final folly.
With the release of his latest work, Avatar, above, however, Cameron has shattered expectations, as well as creative and financial barriers, to make what is, after five weeks, already the second-highest-grossing film in history, with eyes on its older sister’s No. 1 position.
Who is James Cameron, and what makes him the man and artist he is? In her new book, The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron, author Rebecca Keegan, right, works to get inside his life and thinking. By interviewing Cameron, his family, and his numerous collaborators, the journalist gives a detailed, never-before-seen picture of this remarkable, often confounding auteur; the drive behind the driver, so to speak.
Rebecca Keegan is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 15, at 2 pm ET.
That conversation, though, will be preceeded by a discussion of the crisis in Haiti. This week’s devastating 7.0 earthquake, which killed an estimated 45-50,000 people, deepens the woes of the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. We’ll examine the disaster, and the forces at work, globally, that keep the country in its troubled state.
You can hear Rebecca Keegan’s thoughts, and others, 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.
UPDATE: These are links to the Haiti pieces from which I read during today’s NONFICTION broadcast:
Need I say more about what will almost certainly be Summer 2010′s biggest hit? Don Cheadle (replacing Terrence Howard) puts on the classic steel-gray War Machine battlesuit, above, and, matched with Robert Downey Jr.’s titular character, I’m bettin’ it’s about to be ridonkulous.
To Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., right, you can describe it many ways. But, in the end, “more than a literary genre or a social passion,” sci-fi, or sf, “is a way of organizing the mind to include the contemporary world.”
Well and simply said, and there’s more where that came from. In his book, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, Csicsery-Ronay is bullish on sf. A professor of English at DePauw University, and coeditor of the journal Science Fiction Studies, he argues eloquently and passionately for a reconsideration of the form, and for its social utility and intellectual depth.
The title of his book alludes to what he describes as “a constellation of seven diverse cognitive attractions,” pulls, or features, sf possesses, and that make it compelling to fans. These include everything from the way it creates new language to how it handles the notion of history.
Like sf itself, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. is a mother lode of ideas. He’s a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 20, at 2 pm ET.
One way sci-fi movies used to let you know you were in the future was to make the president Black. But given that he actually is, does that job now fall to Black female rockers, like Danielia Cotton, above, or perhaps journalist Farai Chideya‘s Sophia Maria Clare Lee, the lead in her new novel, Kiss the Sky?
In it, Chideya, right, weaves a fast-moving story of sex, drugs, racial politics, and rock-and-roll; a modern tale of a woman who wants it all, but who also keeps getting in her own way. An ultra-modern woman herself, with credits from Newsweek, MTV, and NPR—where she hosted this blogger numerous times—and other media, Chideya makes no bones about the fact that she’s always wanted to be a novelist. Plus, now that she is one, she gladly shares the good news of how she did it, encouraging others to tell their own unique stories. As she notes in her essay, “How Do I Write A Novel,” “writing — not just the product but the process — is as individual as our fingerprints.”
You can hear Farai Chideya’s and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
UK designer / retailer Last Exit To Nowhere makes T-shirts for, perhaps, the most dedicated of movie fans: Those so geeked out on a particular film that they crave the logos of its barely mentioned, even merely-alluded-to, fictional corporations.
I don’t mean, like, say, The Daily Planet, Superman / Clark Kent’s well-known, Metropolis-based, but nonexistent newspaper. We’re talking more like Weyland-Yutani, Inc., above, the interplanetary megacorporation; owner-operator of the massive Nostromo and Sulaco spaceships from Alien and Aliens, respectively. Or the Slaughtered Lamb, that unfriendly-to-strangers, soupless pub in An American Werewolf in London. Have you ever thought of spending a winter weekend at the Overlook Hotel, right? Believe me: Not if you saw The Shining, first.
Astro Boy, the American CGI feature based on Japanese manga master Osamu Tezuka’s 1951 character, opens today. It features the voices of Freddie Highmore as Astro Boy, with Nicolas Cage, Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, and Donald Sutherland, among others, pulling up the rear.