The Color Palettes of Your Favorite Films: The Royal Tenenbaums, Reservoir Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner & More

We tend to think of film as roughly divided into the "black and white" and "color" eras, the latter ushered in by such lavish Technicolor productions as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. But we also know it's not as simple as that: those pictures came out in Hollywood's "golden year" of 1939, but some filmmakers had already been experimenting with color, and the golden age of black-and-white film would continue through the 1960s. Movies today still occasionally dare to venture into the never-entirely-shuttered realm of the monochrome, but on the whole, color reigns supreme.

Even though most movies now use color, few use it to its fullest advantage. Color gives viewers something more to look at, of course, but it can also give a movie its visual identity. Think of the films you've seen that you can call back most vividly to mind, almost as if you had a projector inside your head, and most of them will probably have a distinctive color palette.

The most memorable cinematic images, in other words, will have been composed not just with any color they happened to need, but with a very specific set of colors, deliberately assembled by the filmmakers for its particular expressiveness.

For a few years now, the Twitter account Cinema Palettes has drawn out and isolated those colors, ten per film, for all to see. "Though based on a momentary still, each spectrum of shades seems to encapsulate its movie's overall mood," writes My Modern Met's Leah Pellegrini, pointing to "the somber, otherworldly blues of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the dreamlike pinks and purples of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the cloyingly pretty pastels of Edward Scissorhands, and the earthly, organic greens and browns of Atonement."

It will surprise nobody to see the work of Wes Anderson, famed for the care he gives not just to color but every visual element of his film, appear more than once on the feed. Here we see Cinema Palettes' selections from The Royal Tenenbaums, as well as from Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The project reveals an aspect of filmmaking that few of us may think consciously about, but nevertheless reflects the nature of cinema itself: the best films select not just the right colors but the right aspects of reality itself to present, to intensify, to diminish, and to leave out entirely.

Explore more films and colors at Cinema Palettes.

via My Modern Met and h/t Natalie W-S

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear 9 Hours of Hans Zimmer Soundtracks: Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight & Much More

No name has become more synonymous with the very concept of "movie music" than that of Hans Zimmer. Beginning in the 1980s by composing for such cult filmmakers of distinctive vision as Jerzy Skolimowski, Nico Mastorakis, and Nicolas Roeg, Zimmer soon rose to Hollywood heights, creating the scores for big hits like Rain ManThe Lion KingAs Good as It Gets, Gladiator, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In recent years, he has entered into an ongoing collaboration with the director Christopher Nolan, himself an indie favorite turned blockbuster king, scoring his Batman movies as well as InceptionInterstellar, and Nolan's new World War II picture Dunkirk, whose unusual sonic intensity the Vox video above explains.

"My weakness is that I didn’t go to music school, and that my formal education is two weeks of piano lessons," Zimmer told Indiewire a couple years ago, after the release of Interstellar. "My strength is that I know how to listen," and "the way Chris Nolan and I work is we listen to each other."

Unlike many productions where "the composer is this nearly uncontrollable element that comes into the film" and to whom the director must defer, Zimmer starts working on Nolan's movies from the beginning, a process he describes as a conversation: "While he was writing, while he was shooting, I was writing, and the music was happening sort of in a — to use an Interstellar term — parallel universe, really." With no need for the dreaded "temp score," the drama of Zimmer's music and Nolan's stories develop together.

You can hear the results of Zimmer's process in this nine-hour playlist, which includes Zimmer's work for Nolan's films up to Dunkirk--its sound based in part on the ticking of a watch Nolan had given him--and others besides. (The playlist also includes Zimmer's soundtracks for Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Black Hawk Down, Sherlock Holmes, Gladiator, and The Thin Red Line.) If it leaves you with the desire to learn a bit more about how this instinctive master of movie music does it, have a look at the trailer above for "Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring," his $90 course from the online educational platform Masterclass. The very first piece of wisdom he offers reflects the fact that his instinct for back-and-forth collaboration extends well beyond his partnership with Nolan to his view on the craft itself: "In music, you're basically having a conversation" — with your artistic collaborators, with your fellow musicians, with anyone to whom you can listen.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Video Essayist Kogonada Makes His Own Acclaimed Feature Film: Watch His Tributes to Its Inspirations Like Ozu, Linklater & Malick

We've featured the work of many cinema-loving video essayists (myself included) here on Open Culture, none of it more artistic than that of a man who goes by the name of Kogonada. Whether dealing with the films of auteurs like Stanley KubrickAndrei Tarkovsky, Alfred Hitchcock, or Wes Anderson, he finds new and striking ways — often free of traditional narration, and sometimes even free of spoken words altogether — to show us how their cinematic visions work, and in so doing to create new cinematic visions of his own. But when, we Kogonada fans have long wondered, would this mysterious fellow make a movie of his own?

The answer arrived at this year's Sundance Film Festival in the form of Columbus, Kogonada's feature directorial debut. "Columbus gets its title from the city where it’s set — Columbus, Indiana, home to a remarkable collection of renowned works of modern architecture," writes the New Yorker's Richard Brody, one of the many critics to have already lavished praise on the newly released picture.

"Those buildings provide an extraordinary premise for the drama, which is a visionary transformation of a familiar genre: a young adult’s coming-of-age story. For once, that trope doesn’t involve a sexual awakening or a family revelation; it’s the tale of an intellectual blossoming, thanks to a new friendship that arises amid troubled circumstances."

Those troubled circumstances have to do with the parents of the two main characters: Casey, a recent high-school graduate who's stayed in town to care for a mother trying to kick a methamphetamine habit, and Jin, a fortysomething translator who's flown in from his home in Korea (birthplace of both the Midwest-raised Kogonada and the film's Los Angeles-raised star John Cho) to watch over his father, an architectural theorist plunged into a coma by a stroke. "These parallel lines meet when Casey offers to show the stranger her town," writes Rolling Stone's Peter Travers in his review. "'Meth and modernism are really big here,' she tells Jin, as he becomes increasingly intrigued by this girl who sees the art and the humanity in buildings."

Soon Jin and Casey take "baby steps toward a relationship, in a manner that recalls Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise." That film, and its successors Before Sunset and Before Midnight, figure heavily into Kogonada's video essay on Linklater, "On Cinema & Time." Other influences, cited by critics as well as Kogonada himself, include Terence Malick, whose way with the elemental he examined in "Fire & Water," and Yasujiro Ozu, whose films got him thinking about cinema in the first place. As he put it to Indiewire, he started by thinking he would "try to figure out what it is about his films that initially felt very unimpressive, but kept haunting me," to understand why Ozu "isn’t easy to just reduce to something — he certainly is not this sort of traditionalist, he’s certainly not a western modernist, he is something else and whatever he was exploring and offering felt so relevant, even today."

Kogonada's video essays "Way of Ozu" and "Passageways" reveal not just the Japanese master's use of architectural spaces, but Kogonada's interest in such spaces. Columbus brings the depth of that interest to the fore: "The director provokes awareness of the Modernist Columbus by treating it as one of the film’s characters," writes Architectural Record's Dante A. Ciampaglia. "It’s both protagonist and nemesis for Casey and Jin as they wander the city, explore its architectural bounty, and find it both reflecting inner struggles and inspiring epiphanies." As Kogonada himself puts it, "I think that’s the thing that interests me, the relationship between empty spaces and life itself." May he find many more opportunities to explore it onscreen.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

New Yorkers Can Now Stream 30,000 Free Movies, Including the Entire Criterion Collection, with Their Library Cards

Image by Andrés Nieto Porras, via Flickr Commons

A quick heads up for the 8+ million people living in New York City. According to The New York Times, anyone "who has a New York Public Library or Brooklyn Public Library card can now watch more than 30,000 feature films, documentaries, foreign-language films and training videos." This includes the entire catalogue of films in The Criterion Collection (think Fellini, Lynch and Kurosawa), and also complete lecture series from The Great Courses.

The films can be viewed streamed anywhere, anytime, on smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart TVs.

New York Public Library members can get started here. And Brooklyn Public Library fans can do the same here.

Please someone, beam me back to New York.

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Accidental Wes Anderson: Every Place in the World with a Wes Anderson Aesthetic Gets Documented by Reddit

Wes Anderson's immaculately art-directed, immediately recognizable films may take place in a reality of their own, but that doesn't mean a reality with no connection to ours. To go by their results, the director of The Life Aquatic, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel (to name only three of his most visually distinctive pictures) and his collaborators have clearly immersed themselves in the very real history of the West in the twentieth century, drinking deeply of its fashion, its architecture, and its industrial and graphic design.

So no matter how fanciful his constructed settings — The Royal Tenenbaums' dream of New York City, The Darjeeling Limited's train crossing India in quirky old-school splendor, The Grand Budapest Hotel's unspecific Alpine mitteleuropa — Anderson always assembles them from precedented elements.

And so the habitués of a subreddit called Accidental Anderson have set out to post pictures of his sources, or places that might well pass for his sources, all over not just Europe, of course — where they found the Viennese cafe at the top of the post and the Berliner delivery van with wagon just above — but America, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

Much of a location's accidental Andersonian potential comes down to its geometry and its colors: deep reds, bright yellows, and especially pale pinks and greens. Many of Anderson's preferred hues appear in the Gold Crest Resort Motel just above, which may strike a fan as having come right out of an Anderson picture even more so than the motel he actually used in his debut feature Bottle Rocket. The director has since moved on to much finer hostelries, which thus form a strong thread among Accidental Anderson's popular postings: Florida's Don CeSar Hotel (known as the "Pink Lady"), Cuba's Hotel Saratoga, Switzerland's Hotel Belvédère, Italy's Grand Hotel Misurnia.

Berlin's humbler Ostel, a themed tribute to the design sensibilities of the former East Germany, might also resonate with the ever-deepening historical consciousness of Anderson's movies. (Remember The Grand Budapest Hotel's titular building, sadly redone in a utilitarian, faintly Soviet avocado-and-ochre during the film's 1960s passages.)

To think that Anderson came from a place no less impossibly distant from the realm of midcentury Europe than Texas, home of the Dallas music store pictured below. Given his increasing popularity, it's hardly a surprise to see his signature aesthetic being not just reflected but adopted around the world. If life continues to imitate art, Accidental Anderson's contributors will long have their work cut out for them. Pay a visit to Accidental Anderson here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Miyazaki Meets Warhol in Campbell’s Soup Cans Reimagined by Designer Hyo Taek Kim

M'm! M'm! Good! M'm! M'm! Good!,

That's what Warhol Campbell’s Soup Cans reconceived as Miyazaki films are,

M'm! M'm! Good! 

Brazilian-Korean designer Hyo Taek Kim has found a continuing font of inspiration in his childhood love of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films.

He has deconstructed them into a series of Pantone of color palettes and captured several favorite moments through the lens of VHS tape glitches.

Miyazaki–Special Soup Series, his latest exploratory journey into the enchanted world of the revered master animator and director–finds him reducing each film to a couple of essential flavors.

One can imagine Mom calling the kids in from an afternoon of sledding for a warm, Cream of Tomato-ish bowl of Totoro.

Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle are slightly more sophisticated flavors, that may involve leafy greens.

Princess Mononoke and Porco Rosso are Grandpa’s favorites–real stick to your ribs fare.

The subtle iconography brings added dimension to the stark product design Warhol duplicated to such acclaim.

As Kim told the Creators Project:

Simple design that works is always so much harder to create than you might expect. It’s just very fun to marry two ideas, artists and/or concepts into one big image. Andy Warhol changed the world of physical arts. Hayao Miyazaki changed the world of animated arts.

This is not Kim’s first go at Campbell’s. His earlier Supersoup Series reduced superheroes to consommé and cream ofs. Don’t forget the oyster crackers.

Posters and t-shirts of Hyo Taek Kim’s Miyazaki Special Soup and Soupersoup Series can be purchased here.

View more of Kim's soup cans online at the Creators Project.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Did Akira Kurosawa Make Such Powerful & Enduring Films? A Wealth of Video Essays Break Down His Cinematic Genius

No Japanese filmmaker has received quite as much international scrutiny, and for so long, as Akira Kurosawa. Though now almost twenty years gone, the man known in his homeland as the "Emperor" of cinema only continues to grow in stature on the landscape of global film culture. Film students still watch Rashomon, swords-and-sandals fans still thrill to Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, midcentury crime-picture buffs still turn up for screenings of Drunken Angel and Stray Dog, and many a Shakespeare buff still looks in admiration at his interpretations of Macbeth (as Throne of Blood) and King Lear (as Ran).

How did Kurosawa and his collaborators imbue these and many other acclaimed pictures with such enduring power? An entire subgenre of video essays has emerged to approach an answer to that question. At the top of the post we have one from Tony Zhou, creator of the well-known cinematic video essay series Every Frame a Painting, on Kurosawa's "innate understanding of movement and how to capture it onscreen."

His staging also demonstrates a highly developed sense of space, which Zhou reveals in the short essay just above by breaking down a scene from 1960's corporate-corruption drama The Bad Sleep Well.

All of those film students watching Seven Samurai may not consider it a true action film, at least by their ultra-modern standards, but the way Kurosawa's best-known picture tells its story through artfully rendered movement and violence has stood as an example for action filmmakers ever since. Lewis Bond, the video essayist behind Channel Criswell, draws out the lessons Seven Samurai still holds for action cinema today, in the essay above. But what happens in the frame also gains much of its impact from the construction of the frame itself. A video essayist by the name of Mr. Nerdista looks at Kurosawa's unusual mastery of the art of framing, as seen in Rashomon, in the essay below.

But no film, no matter how skillfully made, could cross as many historical and cultural boundaries as Kurosawa's have with aesthetics alone. The strong moral sense at the dramatic core of his work — a characteristic, too, of the Shakespeare plays from which he drew inspiration — will keep it forever relevant, not because it presents the audience with simple lessons about what to do and what not to do, but because it forces them to consider the most difficult moral questions. This comes most clearly to the fore in 1963's modern-day ransom story High and Low, examined in the Jack's Movie Reviews essay below.

A.O. Scott selected High and Low as a New York Times "Critic's Pick" back in 2012, and you can see him discuss the movie's virtues in this video. It appears as just one of a roundup of Kurosawa-related videos at, a selection that also includes Scott on Rana Criterion Collection clip of Kurosawa experts on the violence of Seven Samurai, a look at Kurosawa's evolution as an artist through four of his best-known movies, a two-part essay on Kurosawa's influences as well as those he has influenced. For as much as all these videos have to say about Kurosawa's movies, though, few of them reference the details of Kurosawa's life. The Emperor, who once wrote that, "there is nothing that says more about its creator than the work itself," would have approved.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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