“DOONT” — A Bad Lip Reading of Dune

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You may remember that I was excited to hear about the upcoming release of Dune (which I suppose should be called Dune: Part One). It turns out to be excellent and I’d recommend it to anybody.

But once you’ve seen it and while you’re in the two-year wait for Dune: Part Two (argh!), can I suggest you also enjoy this wonderful creation by the folks at Bad Lip Reading, whose work I’ve plugged before. Note: minor spoilers (amazingly) if you haven’t seen Dune yet.

Hot Shots, Part Dream

I’ve a long history of blogging about dreams I’ve had, and though I’ve not done so recently I don’t want you to think it’s because my dreams have gotten any less trippy-as-fuck. Take last night for example…

I plough every penny and spare minute I can into a side-project that in my head at least qualifies as “art”. The result will be fake opening credits animation for the (non-existent) pilot episode of an imagined 80s-style children’s television show. But it gets weirder.

Do you remember Hot Shots!? There’s this scene near the end where Topper Harley, played by Charlie Sheen, returns to the Native American tribe he’s been living with since before the film (in sort of a clash between the “proud warrior race” trope and a parody of Dances With Wolves, which came out the previous year). Returning to his teepee, Topper meets tribal elder Owatonna (Rino Thunder), who asks him about the battle Topper had gone to fight in and, in a callback to an earlier joke, receives the four AA-cell batteries he’d asked Topper to pick up for him “while he was out”.

Still from Hot Shots!. Owatonna, an older Native American man, sits surrounded by animal skins. An English subtitle reads "So, who won?" A Japanese subtitle reads "誰が戦争に勝ったのですか?", which translates as "Who won the war?"
There are very few occasions where a parody film is objectively better than it’s source material, but I maintain that Hot Shots! beats Top Gun hands-down.

I take the dialogue from this scene (which in reality is nonsense, only the subtitles give it any meaning), mangle it slightly, and translate it into Japanese using an automated translation service. I find some Japanese-speaking colleagues to help verify that each line broadly makes sense, at least in isolation.

I commission the soundtrack for my credits sequence. A bit of synth-pop about a minute long. I recruit some voice actors to read each of my Japanese lines, as if they’re characters in an animated kids TV show. I mix it together, putting bits of Japanese dialogue in the right places so that if anybody were to sync-up my soundtrack with the correct scene in Hot Shots!, the Japanese dialogue would closely mirror the conversation that the characters in that film were having. The scene, though, is slow-paced enough that, re-recorded, the voices in my new soundtrack don’t sound like they’re part of the same conversation as one another. This is deliberate.

Meanwhile, I’ve had some artists put together some concept character art for me, based on some descriptions. There’s the usual eclectic mix of characters that you’d expect from 80s cartoons: one character’s a friendly bear-like thing, another’s a cowardly robot, there’s a talking flying unicorn… you know the kind of shit. I give them descriptions, they give me art.

Next, I send the concept art and the soundtrack to an animation team and ask them to produce a credits sequence for it, and I indicate which of the characters depicted should be saying which lines.

Framegrabs from four 80s childrens television programmes showing: marching robots, a cat scratching its ear, a unicorn with a knight's shield behind it, and a pastel-coloured creature using its huge ears to fly.
Identifying the shows I lifted images from to make this sample is left as an exercise for the reader.

Finally, I dump the credits sequence around the Internet, wait a bit, and then start asking on forums “hey, what show is this?” to see what kind of response it gets.

The thing goes viral. It scratches the itch of people who love to try to find the provenance of old TV clips, but of course there’s no payoff because the show doesn’t exist. It doesn’t take too long before somebody translates the dialogue and notices some of the unusual phasing and suggests a connection to Hot Shots! That seems to help date the show as post-1991, but it’s still a mystery. By the time somebody get around to posting a video where the soundtrack overlays the scene from Hot Shots!, conspiracy theories are already all over: the dominant hypothesis is that the clips are from a series of different shows (still to be identified) but only the soundtrack is new… but that still doesn’t answer what the different shows are!

As the phenomenon begins to expand into mainstream media I become aware that even the most meme-averse folks I know are going to hear about it, at some point. And as I ‘m likely to be “found out” as the creator of this weird thing, sooner or later, I decide to come clean about it to people I know sooner, rather than later. I’m hanging out with Ruth and her brothers Robin and Owen and I bring it up:

“Do you remember Hot Shots!? There’s this scene near the end where Topper Harley, played by Charlie Sheen…”, I begin, hoping that the explanation of my process might somehow justify the weird shit I’ve brought to the world. Or at least, that one of this group has already come across this latest Internet trend and will interject and give me an “in”.

Ruth interrupts: “I don’t think I’ve seen Hot Shots!”

“Really?” Realising that this’ll take some background explanation, I begin by referring to Top Gun and the tropes Hot Shots! plays into and work from there.

Some time later, I’m involved with a team who are making a documentary about the whole phenomenon and my part in it. They’re proposing to release a special edition disc with a chapter that uses DVD video’s “multi angle” and “audio format switch” features to allow you to watch your choice of either the scene from Hot Shots! or from my trailer with your choice of either the original audio, my soundtrack, or a commentary by me, but they’re having difficulty negotiating the relevant rights.

After I woke, I tried to tell Ruth about this most-bizarre dream, but soon got stuck in an “am I still dreaming” moment after the following exchange:

“Do you remember Hot Shots!?” I asked.

“I haven’t seen Hot Shots!” she replied.

Maybe I’m still dreaming now.

Still from Hot Shots!. Owatonna, an older Native American man, sits surrounded by animal skins. An English subtitle reads "So, who won?" A Japanese subtitle reads "誰が戦争に勝ったのですか?", which translates as "Who won the war?"× Framegrabs from four 80s childrens television programmes showing: marching robots, a cat scratching its ear, a unicorn with a knight's shield behind it, and a pastel-coloured creature using its huge ears to fly.×

Note #17929

Sometimes, I miss Troma Night. Hanging out with my friends and watching awful/awesome films over pizza and beer.
If only there were a way to do it during lockdown?
Oh wait, there is: danq.me/homa-night/homa-night-2

Dune (2020)

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Oh my god I’m so excited. I’m afraid they might fuck up the story even more than David Lynch did in 1984 (not that I don’t love that film, too, but in a very different way than the books). I mean: I’d have hoped a modern adaptation would have a bigger part for Chani than it clearly does. And I know nothing at all about the lead, Timothée Chalamet. If only there was something I could do about these fears?

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Yeah, that’s the kind of thing.

The supporting cast look excellent. I think Josh Brolin will make an awesome Gurney Halleck, Jason Momoa will rock Duncan Idaho, and I’m looking forward to seeing Stephen McKinley Henderson play Thufir Hawat. But if there’s just one thing you should watch the trailer for… it’s to listen to fragments of Hans Zimmer’s haunting, simplistic choral adaptation of Pink Floyd’s Eclipse.

7 things we know about the nun reading ‘Boys’ Life’ in ‘Airplane!’

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A nun reading Boy's Life and a boy reading Nun's Life

It’s one of the best visual gags in a movie filled with them.

In the classic 1980 comedy Airplane!, two passengers are seen reading magazines. First, we see a nun reading Boys’ Life. Moments later, there’s a boy reading Nuns’ Life.

The scene is over in seconds, but the memory of this joke lives on. That’s especially true for those of us who have been reading Boys’ Life since we were kids.

Here are seven things you might not know about this bit of visual humor.

Of the many things I love, here are two of them:

  • The Airplane series of movies.
  • People who, like me, get carried away researching something trivial and accidentally become an expert in a miniscule field.

This fantastic piece takes a deep dive into a tiny scene in Airplane. What issue of Boys’ Life was the nun reading? What page was she looking at? What actual magazine was the boy reading within the Nuns’ Life cover? These and more questions you never thought about before are answered!

Note #17103

Chafed nipples. But we only have Frozen II-themed plasters in the house. So now I’m wearing an Elsa & Anna pasties. How did my life come to this?


The Neighbors’ Window

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This beautifully-shot short film won Best Live Action Short Film at the Oscars last month, and if you haven’t seen it you owe it to yourself to do so. Over the course of 20 artfully-crafted minutes it tells two distinct stories, and before long you realise that what you’re really watching is the third story that emerges, Rubin vase-style, from the mind of the watcher and in the gaps between the two. Official website. Probably NSFW.

Metropoloid: A Metropolis Remix

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Yaz writes, by way of partial explanation:

You could fit almost the entire history of videogames into the time span covered by the silent film era, yet we consider it a mature medium, rather than one just breaking out of its infancy. Like silent movies, classic games are often incomplete, damaged, or technically limited, but have a beauty all their own. In this spirit, indie game developer Joe Blair and I built Metropoloid, a remix of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis which replaces its famously lost score with that of its contemporaries from the early days of games.

I’ve watched Metropolis a number of times over the decades, in a variety of the stages of its recovery, and I love it. I’ve watched it with a pre-recorded but believed-to-be-faithful soundtrack and I’ve watched it with several diolive accompaniment. But this is the first time I’ve watched it to the soundtrack of classic (and contemporary-retro) videogames: the Metroid, CastlevaniaZeldaMega Man and Final Fantasy series, Doom, Kirby, F-Zero and more. If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare and a love of classic film and classic videogames, then you’re in the slim minority that will get the most out of this fabulous labour of love (which, at the time of my writing, has enjoyed only a few hundred views and a mere 26 “thumbs up”: it certainly deserves a wider audience!).

Avengers, MCU, Game of Thrones, and the Content Endgame

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In the future, media organizations might have to do away with the “film” and “TV” tags entirely, if indeed there are media organizations as we currently think of them.

Based on my own experience chronicling both art forms, I’m increasingly convinced that film and TV started merging a long time ago, before most of us were aware of what was going on. Some of us have accepted the change. Others are in denial about it. But as my grandfather used to say, there’s no point trying to close the barn doors after the horses have already escaped.

Interesting article summarising the ongoing changes to the concepts of what we consider “film” versus “television” and the increasingly blurred distinction, and an exploration of how that’s embodied by phenomena like Avengers: Endgame and the final series of Game of Thrones. Spoilers about the former and about the first three episodes of the latter, obviously.

We Watched the Toy Story Porn Parody So You Don’t Have To [NSFW]

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A wise man once said “To Infinity and Beyond”, Unfortunately there’s no way of knowing who that man was or in what context it was meant to be understood, so let us instead turn our attention to the Toy Story porn parody – Sex Toy Story The XXX Parody Part 1.

It says Part 1, but I searched and there’s no Part 2. Unless they’re doing like a Toy Story 3 thing where they wait like ten years for Andy to grow up and go off to college, in which case we will have to wait with bated breath for ten years for Part 2.

Sex Toy Story title card

We open on an unnamed woman played by Veruca James (Lesbian Anal Vampires, Emo Teen Fucks at Work) getting ready to masturbate. She does so the normal way we all do, by rubbing her clothed body.

“Does it exist?”, I asked, when the conversation drifted perilously close to this topic. Well of course it exists: Rule 34, duh. I was so glad that this article existed, to spare me from having to watch it to work out how much I didn’t want to watch it. Now all I have to do is scrub the idea of this article from my mind, which is hopefully easier than the retina-burning image of the film itself would have been.

Resulting link NSFW, obviously.

Review of Total Recall (2012)

This review originally appeared on Amazon. See more reviews by Dan.

Why are there remakes?

Sometimes I wonder why a film gets remade only to make it worse. The original Total Recall was a good film. Not a masterpiece by any stretch, but a clever, funny, action-packed (and only slightly campy) romp through space and the human mind. Not so this remake – if you can see past the overused lens flares, here’s what you’ll learn about our future:

  • Cars, elevators, emergency exits, surgical equipment, and life in general will become less safe, not more, as we invent increasingly smart automated systems.
  • All common sense will be lost along the wayside: when faced with the opportunity to kill their enemy, both good guys and bad guys alike will prefer to give them another chance to fight back. Again. And again.
  • Even though a nation is capable of building robots capable of working tirelessly and surviving in the inhospitable parts of the planet, they’re far more-likely to use those robots to kill other humans working for them in the hospitable parts of the planet.
  • At some point in time, people will stop caring how practical their mobile phones are, and instead start using ones that require that you find a nearby window before you can use the screen (which can then be seen by all the strangers near you).
  • Gravity turns out not to work like we think it does. Who knew!

If you can forgive the silly plot and unbelievable characters, the acting isn’t intolerable and the story’s “fun enough” that it’ll distract you for a while. Don’t expect miracles, though: this film should have gone straight to DVD.


It’s All Fun And Games

Back to work after a great weekend. Troma Night was particularly successful this week – we watched a RiffTrax‘d copy of Eragon (“Get your ragons online at e-ragon!”), which was suitably hilarious; the classic bit of self-deprecating sci-fi that is Barbarella (“Hmm… camp bad guy number 104… how will Barbarella get past this one? Oh; using sex. What a surprise!”); and Human Traffic, which is what Trainspotting could have been if it wanted to appeal to the 24 Hour Party People demographic. Kinda.

That’s three mediocre-to-good films, plus a RiffTrax on one of them. That’s pretty good stamina for Troma Nights these days. After the last film had finished, everybody stood up and meandered towards the door, chatting as they went about the various recent events (floods, terrorism, blah blah) that had been going on. Then stopped walking. Then kept talking. “Well, I’m sitting down again,” I said, after awhile, and so did everybody else. And so, for the first time in years, a 3-film Troma Night ended with everybody sat around chatting for half an hour or more. Which is fab: Troma Night’s always supposed to have been about the people (not the films, the beer, or the pizza, which jointly come about second), and actually stopping to pass time at the end of a night was a fun and unusual reminder of what we’re all really here for.

Then on Sunday we had a low-key but “different” Geek Night. We only had Matt P, Claire and me, so we took the opportunity to learn and try out a handful of the games from the Playing With Pyramids book and Treehouse sets Claire had gotten from Looney Labs (creators of Chrononauts and Fluxx, amongst other things). Aside from Treehouse itself (which is an easy-to-learn and short game – with perhaps a little too much luck – that gets you used to playing with the pyramids), we played Icehouse, Homeworlds, and RAMbots.

Icehouse is the original Icehouse strategy game – a real-time (no, not simultaneous turn: actually real-time – players can all perform legal moves whenever they like) board game, which is somewhat unusual. Icehouse is fun, but I think it would work better with more players, more diplomacy, and more thoughtful strategy than we were executing.

Homeworlds is a stunningly-clever turn-based game of space strategy, diplomacy, exploration, and conquest. There’s a few things in it that make you have to think quite hard (such as the way that the hyperspace system works, the fact that the orientation, not the colour, of a piece implies it’s ownership, and the difference between free and sacrificial actions). Not to mention the secret alignments of the players. This game’s been running through my head ever since we played (I’ve just come up with a strategy that I should have done in the last three turns to lead me to a victory that would have been particularly brutal).

Finally, RAMbots – which I quite liked, but which I think could be ludicrously good fun with four players – is a simultaneous-turn based game of secret orders, which reminds me slightly of the ship-to-ship combat in Yo-Ho-Ho! Puzzle Pirates! or Space Fleet. Players each secretly “program” their robots using instructions from their “limited” code pool and execute them in a way that will seem instantly familiar to any computer scientists who play it (at least, those who are familiar with ideas like priority queues, program counters, and parallel processing), and shouldn’t be so hard for others to learn, too. These robots can drive around the board (actually a chessboard) trying to activate and ram “beacons” in an order chosen by the player to their right, but it’s also possible to ram, push, pull, tip up, and shoot at the other robots too… causing damage lets you “steal” from their instruction set, making it harder for them to write effective programs… and so it goes on.

We’ll be having another Geek Night on Friday, if you want to join in: we’ll be playing more of these four games (and perhaps some other bits of pyramid-related fun), and maybe even a game or Illuminati, if it’s not too late by the time it (and it’s carriers) arrive.

Troma Night CLXI – Tonight

CHANGE OF PLANS: All of the tickets for Pan’s Labyrinth are sold out. For those that didn’t get a ticket in time and for those that weren’t coming to Pan’s Labyrinth anyway, Troma Night now starts as usual at The Cottage at 8pm. Tell anybody who might not know.

Tonight is the 161st Troma Night (based on liberal estimation and basic guesswork), and it’s a somewhat unusual one. The plan is as follows:

  • 8:00 pm – start at the Arts Centre for the stunning-looking Pan’s Labyrinth. Yes, this means that we won’t be ordering pizza at 8pm: instead, I suggest that people either (A) eat beforehand or (B) have a snack beforehand to keep them going, and we’ll order pizza later. I suspect I’ll be doing option B.
  • 10:20 pm – return to The Cottage, order pizza for anybody who’s hungry, and watch something else. I propose an MST3K, or perhaps one of the B-movies Jimmy provided some weeks back, because I anticipate that something silly, bad, and/or funny will be quite welcome after the psychological thriller than Pan’s Labyrinth is likely to be, but I’m open to suggestions and I’m happy to do things democratically.

If there’s anybody who doesn’t want to come along to Pan’s Labyrinth but does want to come for the rest, let me know and I can give you a bell when we leave the cinema, so you can meet us in a timely fashion. But really, you should come.