Fake UI

One day, an incredibly illuminating secret history is sure to be written about the many naïve aspirations and cynical assumptions hidden in the fictional user interfaces (FUI) that TV and movies have been putting in front of audiences for the past thirty years or so. The first step is to start identifying the specimens and collecting them so that we can see them in aggregate.

This tumblr blog, Fake UI, does a decent job of keeping abreast of recent entries to the genre. There’s also Kit FUI, which catalogs these examples into an IMBD-like database. Also see Andy Baio’s trove of 1,200 screen captures of FUIs from 47 movies, which he wrote about here and which can be browsed here.


Quotes on Comics

This site catalogs “random quotes on comics, some hilarious, some dead serious, others thought-provoking, but all stimulating and thoroughly inspirational.” I enjoyed spending too long hitting the “Give me another quote” button a few dozen times. Try it for yourself at quotesoncomics.com.


The Atlantic: How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood

This article is just fantastic. Writer Alexis Madrigal unravels the mystery of Netflix’s uncannily specific “altgenres,” those categorizations of movies like “Witty Comedies Featuring a Strong Female Lead” or “Critically Acclaimed Dramas Based on 20th Century Literature.” He deduces that there are 76,897 of these classifications, apparently, and until now they’ve been evidence of an unprecedentedly extensive structured-data approach to understanding film — hiding in plain sight. Madrigal details his approach to understanding the scope of this system, and then manages to trace it to its godfather, Netflix vice-president of product Todd Yellin, who sat down with him for a one-on-one interview.

The article is a wonderful example of scrappy, code-centric investigative journalism (albeit lightweight, admittedly). But what I like most about it is how it seeks to understand Netflix as more than just an innovator in video distribution. By examining the way the company thinks about the data it collects from us and presents back to us, Madrigal is touching upon the far-reaching implications of Netflix as a new kind of entertainment company, one that is practically restructuring our very idea of what filmed entertainment is.

Read the full article here.


William Drenttel, 1953-2013

Bill was one of the leading lights of the design industry, a true intellectual who made a difference. He passed away this past Saturday after a year and a half-long battle with brain cancer. I only just heard a few moments ago; we became friends several years ago but I hadn’t spoken to him in two years or so. He was an incredible person and I’m deeply saddened.

More about Bill at the site he co-founded, Design Observer.


Today’s Best Action Movie Directors Are Working in Direct-to-Video

Insightful essay from Ignatiy Vishnevetsky:

“Direct-to-video action may be an isolated genre, but its strengths go beyond mere niche appeal. It’s a vibrant, interconnected scene that is continuing the traditions of the classic action movie without being caught up in reverence. In the process, it’s produced some of the most purely entertaining movies of the last few years—movies that often outclass their big-budget counterparts.”

Read the full essay at The A.V. Club.


“Memorex” by Smash TV

This amazing super-cut video is a year old by now, but for those who missed it, it’s hypnotic and eerily wonderful.

“Sourced from over forty hours of 80s commercials pulled from warped VHS tapes, ‘Memorex’ is a deep exploration of nostalgia and the cultural values of an era of excess. It’s a re-contextualization of ads — cultural detritus, the lowest of the low — into something altogether more profound, humorous, and at times, even beautiful.

“Digging up long forgotten memories for a generation who spent their formative years glued to the boob tube, Memorex is a veritable nostalgia nuke for children of the 80s. Endless beach parties, Saturday morning cartoons, claymation everything, sleek cars, sexy babes, toys you forgot existed, station idents, primitive computer animation, all your favorite sugary cereal mascots, and so much more. An ode to the hyper consumerism and sleek veneer of a simpler time.”

As close to a trance mix as video has come so far. Watch all fifty minutes of it here.


Cardboard Box Office

This young family recreates images from famous movies with mom, dad, baby Orson and cardboard boxes.

Cardboard Box Office

The whole project is charming as hell and, for me, exasperating too — I can only dream of the copious amounts of free time afforded to couples who have just one child to take care of. See more at Cardboard Box Office.



A handsome, vaguely calligraphic free typeface from Uruguayan designer Fernando Díaz. At first glance Fénix’s “strong serifs and rough strokes” suggest it’s well suited only for display purposes, but in the samples shown here, at least, it’s surprisingly effective for setting text as well.

Fénix for Text

The fact that it’s free is the good news. The better news is that it’s available as a web font at Google Fonts. The bad news is that there’s only the one weight right now; no bold, light, medium, italic, etc. See the font in greater detail at Díaz’s Behance project.


“Thief” Comes to Criterion Collection

Michael Mann’s 1981 masterpiece “Thief” comes to The Criterion Collection in March of next year. This is good news.

I wrote a little about “Thief” two years ago when I posted some thoughts about Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Drive”. Where many hailed “Drive” as an original auteurist work, I saw it more as a superb homage to “Thief.” Both are worth viewing.

As usual, Criterion’s release looks lavish; it’s mastered from a new 4K transfer, with a 5.1 surround soundtrack; it comes with interviews and audio commentary from the director and his star; and it includes a companion booklet by critic Nick James. (Who doesn’t love a good booklet?)

It also features new cover art, designed by Fred Davis, that mercifully improves on the DVD cover issued by MGM some years ago.


The designers at Criterion justly get a lot of praise for the often extensive liberties they take in packaging their reissues, but I think the best thing that can be said about their art direction is that it is almost unfailingly appropriate. The artwork for this version of “Thief,” is wholly more true to the film, even if it uses the exact same visual assets that would have been available to MGM; it just benefits from having much, much better taste. That’s the difference-maker.

More about “Thief” on Criterion here.