From 'Gemini Man' to 'The Irishman': Dawn of the De-Aged Actor

courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Ben Rothstein/Paramount Pictures

courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Ben Rothstein/Paramount Pictures

While directing Will Smith in Gemini Man, in which the 51-year-old actor stars as an assassin hunted by a clone of his younger self, director Ang Lee made an unusual request of his star. He asked Smith to "act less."

Lee needed Smith to go back to his less-polished acting roots from the early 1990s in order to capture the performance for his younger clone. But to make Smith look like his youthful self required a whole new level of trickery that saw Lee and his visual effects team create a fully digital CGI 23-year-old Will Smith.


Colleges are starting degrees in esports, with $36,000 programs


On their first week in class, a group of students is playing a first-person shooter video game in a sleek new digital studio. It's their introduction to the degree in esports they've enrolled in.

The group clicking away on their mice are at the University of Staffordshire, one of several U.K. and U.S. schools launching programs aimed at capitalizing on the booming industry's need for skilled professionals. In the U.S., colleges including Virginia's Shenandoah University, Becker College in Massachusetts and The Ohio State University have debuted esports degrees.

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In Defense of 'Joker' and Its Repulsive Violence


By Stephen Galloway

Todd Phillips' bravura work dares to confront the things we're most afraid to see.

In 1971, Warner Bros. released one of the most controversial films in movie history. 

A Clockwork Orange told the dystopian story of a brutal young man, Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), who leads a band of thugs (“droogs”) on a terrifying crime spree, beating, raping and committing acts of what’s called “ultra-violence” along the way. At one point, he bludgeons a woman with a phallic sculpture; at another, he and his droogs bash a man and rape his wife while chanting "Singin’ in the Rain."

Stanley Kubrick’s film drew an immediate outcry despite its box office success. Pauline Kael called it “pornographic” because, she argued, it dehumanized the suffering of Alex’s victims while eliciting sympathy for Alex’s own. The Catholic Church forbade its members from seeing the picture, which was given an X rating in North America.

But what made Clockwork Orange especially troubling was the spate of copycat incidents that followed, or at least incidents that looked as if they’d been shaped by the film.

In early 1972, a British prosecutor slammed it for influencing a 14-year-old accused of manslaughter. Later, a 16-year-old, pleading guilty to killing an old man, said he’d heard about the movie, while his attorney assured the court that “the link between this crime and sensational literature, particularly A Clockwork Orange, is established beyond reasonable doubt.”

There, of course, is the rub. No study has ever established that link beyond a reasonable doubt; nor is there any evidence to show that a criminal — even one who imitates something on film — wouldn’t have done something equally abominable at another time.

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The Far Side could be back from extinction, and the timing's so right

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By Bonnie Burton

Looks like Gary Larson's popular syndicated comic is making a comeback after 24 years.

Everyone in the US who read the newspaper funny pages from 1980-1995 will likely remember the witty, single-panel comic The Far Side by Gary Larson. Well, good news. According to the official Far Side website, more Far Side comics are on the way.

The website, run by Andrews McMeel Universal, posted a Far Side comic illustration with the sentence "Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen. A new online era of The Far Side is coming!" The website didn't provide any additional information on when or how Larson's comic will return, and Andrews McMeel Universal didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

But at a time when tragedy and cruelty seem to dominate headlines, one this is certain: We could use Larson's oddball humor now more than ever. The Far Side pointed out the ludicrous side of being human, and the secret genius of animals. Cows drove cars when farmers weren't looking. Scientists played hilarious tricks on one another.

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Holocaust 'masterpiece' causes uproar at Venice film festival


By Fiachra Gibbons

Venice (AFP) - A searing adaptation of one of most controversial books about the Holocaust divided critics at the Venice film festival Wednesday, with some fighting each other in the dark to get out of its first screening.

"The Painted Bird", based on Jerzy Kosinski's highly contentious 1965 novel about a Jewish boy surviving the worst human nature can inflict on him in an unnamed Eastern European country, was hailed as a masterpiece by some and an unwatchable ordeal by others.

But its staggering central performance from nine-year-old Czech Roma boy Petr Kotlar -- who witnesses a panoply of depravity from incest, bestiality and rape to mutilation and murder -- has had co-stars Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgard as well as the critics in raptures.

That did not stop some running for the exits at its first screening.

In the very first scene, the boy's pet ferret is taken from him by boorish peasants and burned alive.

The Hollywood Reporter called the black-and-white epic "heart-wrenching... and the ideal film treatment" of the novel, which itself sparked outrage in Kosinski's native Poland when the writer first hinted that the story was autobiographical.

- 'Monumental work' -

The Guardian's Xan Brooks also heaped praise on Czech director Vaclav Marhoul for "never putting a foot wrong", adding: "One day they'll make a film about the first public screening" at Venice.

"It will feature the man who fell full-length on the steps in his effort to escape and the well-dressed woman who became so frantic to get out that she hit the stranger in the next seat," he wrote.

"The centrepiece will be the moment 12 viewers broke for the doors only to discover that the exit had been locked," he added.

Brooks declared the film "a monumental piece of work and one I'm deeply glad to have seen. I can also say I hope to never cross its path again."

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter also hailed it, but warned that it was an "emotional three-hour punch in the stomach".

Marhoul defended the unremitting darkness of his adaptation -- which has a happy ending, of sorts -- insisting that "only in darkness can we see light. Shining through all the horrors is, for me, hope and love."

He said the film was a warning of what can happen when Europe turns inward as it was doing now, drawing a parallel between the attitudes to migrant children fleeing wars in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan and the rejection and abuse his hero suffers.

- 'Kosinski lied' -

"Bad times are coming to Europe," he told reporters.

"Looking at the populists who are running so many European countries at the moment like Hungary, Poland, Russia, in the Czech Republic too and of course the US."

Marhoul said the film took 11 years to make.

"I didn't know when I started that this story would become much more accented by what happened in Europe three years ago, when so many people came here to save their lives," he said.

Because of the fury Kosinski sparked in Poland, the director decided to have most of the film's sparse dialogue in Slavic Esperanto "so no nation would be associated with villagers" who mistreat the boy and hand him over to the Nazis.

Despite being accused of plagiarising other Polish books, Kosinski's novel is still seen by many as a classic.

"When Kosinski said it was his autobiographical story he was lying," Marhoul said.

"In fact he spent the World War II with his parents among Polish villagers. And those villagers tried to save them... That's not a big problem for the book (because it is fiction). But many people in Poland still think this book is about them."

Via yahoo news

Hidden earthquake risk found lurking beneath Los Angeles



By Maya Wei-Haas

The fault was once thought dead, but recent research suggests it’s likely still active—and poses a hazard to the metropolis above.

THE PORTS OF Los Angeles and Long Beach bustle with activity—their colorful array of shipping containers are stacked and unstacked in a never-ending, multibillion-dollar game of Tetris. But a previously overlooked danger lurks below this frenzy: A fault capable of generating earthquakes magnitude 6.3 or greater.

The Wilmington fault, as it’s called, is an elusive type of fracture. Unlike many faults, which crack Earth’s surface like an egg, the Wilmington fault is “blind,” which means it’s concealed beneath the surface, making it especially difficult to study. So while scientists have long known the fault is present—stretching 12.4 miles under southern Los Angeles into San Pedro Bay—it was presumed to have sat quiet for millions of years.

Now, a new analysis of the system, published in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, suggests that isn’t the case. Using a cluster of clues incorporated into a three-dimensional model, the study authors posit that the fault has been active much more recently than once thought—and likely still poses a risk to people on the surface.

“I hope bringing attention to it can potentially increase safety in the region,” says study author Franklin Wolfe, a doctoral candidate who is part of Harvard’s structural geology and Earth resources group.

While the fault is slow moving and likely ruptures only once every 3,200 to 4,700 years, it underlies two of the United States’ busiest ports. And researchers worry that the Wilmington could link with other nearby faults to produce a temblor as strong as a magnitude 7.4.

The study also emphasizes just how many faults crisscross Southern California, adds Chris Goldfinger, an earthquake geologist at Oregon State University, who was not part of the research team. Scientists have made major strides characterizing the geology of the region, but there’s still more to do.

“Just by itself, if you take the implications of a relatively slow-moving fault like this, it won’t change the hazard very much,” he says. But the discovery that the Wilmington fault is likely still active, he says, “sort of leaves this big hanging question mark: What about all the others?”

Tectonic smashup

When most people think about California earthquakes, they think of the San Andreas fault. The mighty feature formed some 30 million years ago as the North American plate swallowed almost all of what’s known as the Farallon plate. Ever since, the North American plate has met face to face with the Pacific plate, the two grinding past each other at a boundary called a strike-slip fault. (Learn what's happening as the Farallon plate dies under Oregon.)

This sent North America for a wild ride: Its west coast first stretched out then sections later compressed. That means the faults in the basin where Los Angeles sits today first slid in one direction and then reversed, forming thrust faults in which blocks of land are shoved on top of others.

It’s as if “you put the whole thing it in a vise and started turning the handle,” says Goldfinger.

One such thrust fault was the focus of this latest work, but it’s still hidden below ground. Slow growing and breaking through soft sedimentary rocks, the Wilmington fault hasn’t yet breached the surface.

“Sorting out where we have these sneaky active faults is a challenge,” says Kate Scharer, an earthquake geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey who was not part of the research team. In urban L.A. buildings and roads make surveying difficult—and the lack of a surface break adds another layer of complexity to the hunt for slow-moving faults.

Assembling the geologic jigsaw

By sending waves of energy that penetrate the ground and watching how they bounce back—a process similar to an ultrasound—researchers can examine the warping of different layers and read the rocks’ deep geologic past, Wolfe explains. The early versions of these Earth sonograms came from the oil and gas industry, which was interested in finding the ancient organic material trapped beneath the folded layers that would produce petroleum.

These images revealed a distinct subsurface fold above the fault, which points to a period of early activity. As the basin is squished, stresses build until they hit a breaking point and the Earth gives way both as movement along the fault in ground-rattling earthquakes, as well as in folding of the rock layers—like the pages of a paperback that’s squeezed from the sides, says Kimberly Blisniuk, an earthquake geologist at San José State University who was not involved in the work.

But these curved layers were capped with what seemed to be nearly horizontal rocks. “That’s what led to this idea that it’s no longer active,” says study author John Shaw, a structural geologist at Harvard University with extensive experience studying the complexities of blind-thrust faults.

Hints of a fold linger in the shallow rocks at the southern tip of the fault, Shaw says. But the instruments used in the oil and gas industry focus on the deeper rocks, where petroleum is most likely to lurk. To know if the fault was recently active, they needed better images of the layers just beneath the surface.

This next piece of the geologic jigsaw clicked into place at a conference about a decade back when Shaw ran into Dan Ponti, a co-author on the new study and a geologist with the USGS. Ponti had been mapping groundwater near California’s coast and noticed something curious: Some of the shallow rock layers of the aquifer were warped.

“He didn’t have an immediate understanding or explanation of why that would be,” Shaw says. Located near the Wilmington fault, it was possible the folds in these shallow layers pointed to recent activity. But the direct connection between these two-dimensional slices of Earth and the overall fault structure hadn’t yet fallen into place.

That’s where Wolfe came in. As a first-year graduate student at Harvard University, he eagerly began compiling all the data he could get his hands on, including the recent USGS seismic profiles, incorporating the information into a three-dimensional model. Finally, the picture was clear: It was all part of the Wilmington fault.

Evil earthquake twin

From their analysis, the team estimates the Wilmington fault has moved an average of just 0.16 millimeters per year over the last 500,000 years, and it likely hosts an earthquake every few thousand years. For comparison, the San Andreas fault is estimated to move 30 to 50 millimeters each year, with an average time between earthquakes of around 150 years. (Learn about an earthquake in Turkey that lasted 50 days.)

“This thing is the slowest horse on the race track,” says Scharer. “The party’s over, and everyone goes home before this thing comes back to the stables—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come back.”

That is, while it’s slow moving, it shouldn’t be ignored. For one, there’s the type of motion thrust faults produce, which is more of a vertical shove than the horizontal back and forth of a strike-slip fault, Wolfe says. Buildings can sway a little, but the up-down motions can be devastating. Such intense impacts were seen during the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake that rattled from a blind-thrust fault in 1994, killing more than 60 people and injuring thousands.

The Wilmington fault is also located directly below two important ports and other infrastructure, Shaw notes. And a disruption of operations could have major impacts. While more work is necessary to further tease apart the Wilmington’s earthquake potential, the latest study emphasizes the import of studying slow-moving blind faults.

“While we’re all focused on strike-slip faults, which come to the surface,” Goldfinger says, “the L.A. basin’s evil twin hiding in the subsurface might be just as hazardous.”