The Godfather Without Brando?: Coppola Explains How It Almost Happened

It’s hard to imag­ine The God­fa­ther, the icon­ic 1972 film, with­out Mar­lon Bran­do. But that’s almost how it turned out.

Dur­ing cast­ing, Para­mount exec­u­tives orig­i­nal­ly pushed for Lau­rence Olivi­er. But when he could­n’t take the film, and when the direc­tor, Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, asked them to con­sid­er Bran­do, they ini­tial­ly respond­ed: “Mar­lon Bran­do will nev­er appear in this motion pic­ture.” Above, Cop­po­la and co-star James Caan explain how the execs were even­tu­al­ly cajoled into chang­ing their minds, and how the clas­sic film fell into place. As you watch this, also keep in mind that Para­mount ini­tial­ly asked two oth­er direc­tors (Ser­gio Leone and then Peter Bog­danovich) to make The God­fa­ther before approach­ing Cop­po­la, plus they lat­er want­ed Robert Red­ford or Ryan O’Neal to play Michael Cor­leone. But Cop­po­la, who threat­ened to quit the pro­duc­tion, got his way and put the rel­a­tive­ly unknown Al Paci­no into the film. The rest, as they say, is his­to­ry.…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Bruce Lee Audi­tions for The Green Hor­net

Kurt Rus­sell Audi­tions for Star Wars

M.I.T. Camera Captures Speed of Light: A Trillion-Frames-Per-Second

Think of it as the ulti­mate slow-motion movie cam­era. Researchers at M.I.T. have devel­oped an imag­ing sys­tem so fast it can trace the motion of puls­es of light as they trav­el through liq­uids and solids. To put it into per­spec­tive, writes John Markoff in The New York Times, “If a bul­let were tracked in the same fash­ion mov­ing through the same flu­id, the result­ing movie would last three years.”

The research was direct­ed by Ramesh Raskar of the Cam­era Cul­ture group at the M.I.T. Media Lab. In an abstract, the research team writes:

We have built an imag­ing solu­tion that allows us to visu­al­ize the prop­a­ga­tion of light. The effec­tive expo­sure time of each frame is two tril­lionths of a sec­ond and the resul­tant visu­al­iza­tion depicts the move­ment of light at rough­ly half a tril­lion frames per sec­ond. Direct record­ing of reflect­ed or scat­tered light at such a frame rate with suf­fi­cient bright­ness is near­ly impos­si­ble. We use an indi­rect ‘stro­bo­scop­ic’ method that records mil­lions of repeat­ed mea­sure­ments by care­ful scan­ning in time and view­points. Then we rearrange the data to cre­ate a ‘movie’ of a nanosec­ond long event.

You can learn more by watch­ing the video above by Melanie Gonick of the M.I.T. News Office, or by vis­it­ing the project web­site.

via Kot­tke

A Panoramic Virtual Tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

These days, you can take a vir­tu­al tour of paint­ings at the MoMA, Met, Uffizi Gallery, Her­mitage, Rijksmu­se­um, and Nation­al Gallery and oth­er major muse­ums, thanks to Google’s Art Project. And don’t for­get the Sis­tine Chapel and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now let’s add one more to the list — a panoram­ic vir­tu­al tour of the Smith­son­ian Nation­al Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry. You can vis­it the whole muse­um on your own, walk­ing from room to room, check­ing out fos­sils of count­less dinosaursspec­i­mens of ear­ly sea life, exhibits on the ice age, and much more. Begin the gen­er­al tour here, or find a more tar­get­ed area of inter­est here.

Note: the tour requires Adobe Flash Play­er, ver­sion 9.0.28 or lat­er.

via metafil­ter

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Remembering George Whitman, Owner of Famed Bookstore, Shakespeare & Company

In 2005, the Sun­dance Chan­nel aired Por­trait of a Book­store as an Old Man, a 52 minute doc­u­men­tary that pays homage to George Whit­man, the Amer­i­can founder of the most famous inde­pen­dent book­store in Paris, Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny. Whit­man died yes­ter­day, at age 98, in his apart­ment above the store.

Sylvia Beach first opened a book­shop named Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny in 1918, and it soon became a home for artists of the “Lost Gen­er­a­tion” (Hem­ing­way, Pound, Fitzger­ald, Stein, etc.). It also famous­ly pub­lished James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. The shop even­tu­al­ly closed dur­ing the Nazi occu­pa­tion of Paris. Yet a good decade lat­er, George Whit­man came along and estab­lished anoth­er Eng­lish-lan­guage book­store on the Left Bank and even­tu­al­ly rechris­tened it Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny. Whit­man’s shop gave sanc­tu­ary to Beat writ­ers – Allen Gins­berg, William S. Bur­roughs and the rest. And it’s this incar­na­tion of the fabled book­store that the doc­u­men­tary takes as its sub­ject. Give the doc­u­men­tary some time, and be sure to watch the last five min­utes – unless you already know how to cut your hair with fire. It will give you a lit­tle feel for Whit­man and his well-known eccen­tric­i­ties. RIP.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William S. Bur­roughs Reads His First Nov­el, Junky

Spike Jonze Presents a Stop Motion Film Set at Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny

Jack Ker­ouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

Free Audio Books and Free eBooks

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Google Presents YouTube for Schools, Makes Video World Safe for Teachers

On YouTube, the path to edu­ca­tion is as nar­row and as dif­fi­cult to walk as a razor’s edge. Left to their own devices, kids have a ten­den­cy to veer away from the math tuto­ri­als and head straight for the water-ski­ing squir­rels. What’s an edu­ca­tor to do?

Google believes it has the answer with “YouTube for Schools,” a new ser­vice that gives teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors the abil­i­ty to fil­ter out every­thing but their own selec­tions from YouTube EDU, a curat­ed col­lec­tion of edu­ca­tion­al videos from sources rang­ing from Sesame Street to Har­vard.

“We’ve been hear­ing from teach­ers that they want to use the vast array of edu­ca­tion­al videos on YouTube in their class­room, but are con­cerned that stu­dents will be dis­tract­ed by the lat­est music video or a video of a cute cat, or a video that might not be appro­pri­ate for stu­dents,” writes YouTube Prod­uct Man­ag­er Bri­an Truong. “While schools that com­plete­ly restrict access to YouTube may solve this dis­trac­tion con­cern, they also lim­it access to hun­dreds of thou­sands of edu­ca­tion­al videos on YouTube that can help bring pho­to­syn­the­sis to life, or show what life was like in ancient Greece.”

To help teach­ers find the best mate­r­i­al with ease, YouTube has orga­nized the edu­ca­tion­al videos by sub­ject and grade lev­el, with more than 300 playlists to choose from at To learn more, or to sign up, go to

Also don’t miss our own curat­ed list of Intel­li­gent YouTube Chan­nels, which high­lights the best video col­lec­tions on the Google-owned ser­vice.

Incredible Mental Math Gymnastics on “Countdown”

Count­down is a British TV game show revolv­ing around words and num­bers. In the num­bers round, con­tes­tants select six of twen­ty-four shuf­fled tiles with num­bers on them. Next, a com­put­er gen­er­ates a ran­dom three-dig­it tar­get num­ber and the con­tes­tants have thir­ty sec­onds to get as close to that num­ber as pos­si­ble by com­bin­ing the six num­bers through addi­tion, sub­trac­tion, mul­ti­pli­ca­tion and divi­sion. This mem­o­rable episode of Count­down aired in March 1997 and starred James Mar­tin and his rather unusu­al way of arriv­ing at the tar­get num­ber of 952.

One YouTube user sug­gest­ed a dif­fer­ent way: 6 x 75 = 450; 450 ÷ 50 = 9; 100 + 3 = 103; 9 x 103 = 927; 927 + 25 = 952

I found yet anoth­er way: 100 + 3 = 103; 103 x 6 = 618; 618 x 75 = 46,350; 46,350 ÷ 50 = 927; 927 + 25 = 952

What about you? Any more sug­ges­tions?

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Math Cours­es

Math­e­mat­ics in Movies: Har­vard Prof Curates 150+ Scenes

Mul­ti­pli­ca­tion: The Vedic Way

David Attenborough Reads “What a Wonderful World” in a Moving Video

Sir David Atten­bor­ough is Eng­land’s finest nat­ur­al his­to­ry film­mak­er, best known for his Life col­lec­tion, a series of nine nature doc­u­men­taries aired on the BBC between 1979 and 2008. It’s wide­ly con­sid­ered the stan­dard by which all oth­er wildlife pro­grams are mea­sured.

In recent weeks, British and Amer­i­can audi­ences have been treat­ed to Atten­bor­ough’s lat­est pro­duc­tion, Frozen Plan­et (see trail­er below). It’s thought to be his last major pro­gram with the BBC, and to com­mem­o­rate this mile­stone, the ad agency RKCR/Y&R has pro­duced a mov­ing video that fea­tures Atten­bor­ough read­ing lines from “What a Won­der­ful World” — you know, the Louis Arm­strong clas­sic — as scenes from Atten­bor­ough’s doc­u­men­taries fill the screen.

The ad agency intro­duced the video last week with a lit­tle blog post, which con­clud­ed by say­ing: “If you’ve had a shit­ty jour­ney into work today, I promise, this will put your smile back in place.” We could haven’t have said it any worse or bet­ter.

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Spike Jonze’s Imaginative TV Ads

Spike Jonze has made a name for him­self as a wild­ly inven­tive direc­tor of music videos and fea­ture films, like Being John Malkovich and Adap­ta­tion. He has also cre­at­ed some of the most dis­tinc­tive tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials of the past decade. Today we bring you a few of his great­est hits.

In late 2002 Jonze cre­at­ed a stir with his IKEA com­mer­cial, “Lamp” (above). The 60-sec­ond spot went on to win the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Inter­na­tion­al Adver­tis­ing Fes­ti­val. Boards mag­a­zine list­ed “Lamp” as one of the top 10 com­mer­cials of the decade, writ­ing:

Spike Jonze’s incred­i­bly human direct­ing touch cre­at­ed a believ­able ten­der­ness between a woman and her new Ikea light­ing, elic­it­ing pure empa­thy for a lone­ly, dis­card­ed object, left to suf­fer curb­side in the rain, and then shat­tered it all with one bril­liant stroke of cast­ing that abrupt­ly and brusque­ly brought us all back to real­i­ty.

Jonze’s star­tling Gap com­mer­cial, “Dust,” (above) became a YouTube sen­sa­tion imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing its release in 2005, but the com­pa­ny pulled the 90-sec­ond ad after test­ing it in only a few cities. Per­haps the spec­ta­cle of a cor­po­rate brand exu­ber­ant­ly doing vio­lence to its image was a bit too much for the boys in the board­room. The deci­sion to shelve the ad made the com­pa­ny look even less hip than before. As Seth Steven­son wrote in Slate, “I just can’t under­stand spend­ing all that mon­ey on a big-name direc­tor, and a big-bud­get shoot, and then frit­ter­ing the results away on such a lim­it­ed pur­pose. Did Gap not see the pos­si­bil­i­ties? Were they too scared to go for broke?”

Anoth­er ground-break­ing Jonze com­mer­cial from 2005, “Hel­lo Tomor­row,” (above) was made to intro­duce a self-adjust­ing, “intel­li­gent” sneak­er from Adi­das. The spot uses spe­cial effects to cre­ate the impres­sion of a lucid dream. The music was cre­at­ed by Jonze’s broth­er, Sam “Squeak E. Clean” Spiegel (Jonze’s birth name is Adam Spiegel) and sung by his girl­friend at the time, Karen O of the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The ad received many awards, includ­ing two Gold Lions at Cannes. The sneak­er was dropped by Adi­das in 2006, but the com­mer­cial lives on.

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