There’s nothing like spending a lazy Sunday afternoon (or Wednesday, if you’re unemployed or irresponsible) watching a movie. It’s fun and relaxing, allowing you to be swept away by the plot and characters. Well, prepare to have the feeling snatched away as you now devout yourself to locating and documenting these kinds of Easter eggs left by cruel filmmakers to distract us.
Lucas THX You For Watching
This man is responsible for more virgins than the Catholic church.
George Lucas is best known as the creator of the progressively more disappointing Star Wars series, as well as having a hand (often with his buddy Steven Spielberg) in many other ventures of wildly varying quality.
In hindsight, we probably should have seen the prequels coming.
Back when Lucas was a rebellious young filmmaker, he wrote and directed a movie based on some of his rambling film-school crap. Called THX-1138, it told the story of sex, drugs and a very depressing future. Surprisingly it was pretty good and it gave George the credentials he needed to make his next film, American Graffiti. This lead to him making A New Hope, and unless you’ve been living as some backwoods moisture farmer, you probably know the rest.
A man who cares much more for power converters than fine cinema.
Even if you don’t text like a thirteen year old girl, you probably recognize the “THX” initials. Perhaps because THX Sound, and the famous sound effect, was created by Lucasfilm. However, this only the most obvious of Lucas’ call-backs to his first big-boy film. In fact, he tries to pepper a reference in virtually every project he can… starting with his second movie, American Graffiti.
Tear your eyes away from the paint job and check out the licence plate.
Many of the references are sly, referring to either the initials THX or the number 1138 rather than both together. They are also often spoken aloud. In “A New Hope”, cell block 1138 is mentioned by Luke. In “Empire Strikes Back”, a general gives an order to “send rogues 10 and 11 to Station 3-8”. In “Return of the Jedi”, the helmet worn by Leia has the numbers painted on the side:
While in “The Phantom Menace” a droid is marked with the number:
In “Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the Nazi submarine gives its call sign as U-1138 (spoken in German, naturally), while in “The Last Crusade” the Roman numerals for 1138, MCXXXVIII, can be found in Indy’s notebook. More references are scattered throughout Lucas’ work, including television shows like “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (where a training course is referred to as “version THX variable 1138”) and the numerous Star Wars and other LucasArts video games.
Finland Be Praised
We’re not even 100% sure this is the guy we’re talking about.
If you don’t recognize the name Renny Harlin, we’re not going to judge you. The Finnish born director hasn’t had a lot of luck in recent years, and has received a lot of negative press for helming such Hollywood juggernauts as “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” and 2004’s “Mind Hunters”. However, those of you who came to age in the early 1990’s may respect his work on “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger” and those of you fond of the “super-intelligent animal” genre might have enjoyed his work on “Deep Blue Sea”.
So what do many of his films have in common besides relatively high box office returns and low Tomatometer ratings? An abnormal love of his native land, of course!
What’s not to love?
Yes, Harlin is proud of his Finnish heritage of quality cell phones, high standards of living, horrible winters and high suicide rates. Not proud enough to keep him from changing his name (born Lauri Mauritz Harjola) but still proud. And he shows it by putting flags, vodka and music into his movies.
Perhaps the most subtle reference is slipping the Jean Sibelius piece “Finlandia” into the scores of some films. This was probably most evident at the end of “Die Hard 2”.
Also helpful in making it through one of Harlin’s later films.
Finlandia vodka can often be seen as the alcoholic beverage of choice in Harlin’s movies. It was featured in “Deep Blue Sea”, “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane”, among others.
Snow, water and Jesus?
The Finish flag is the most common reference and frequently appears in the background of some of his movies, including “Cutthroat Island”, in a crowd in “Driven”, on a box in “Deep Blue Sea”. Less subtly, in “Cliffhanger”, we’re treated to an entire parachute colored like the flag, as can be seen in this compilation video:
John Landis Is Punctual
While the name also might not be one you instantly recognize, John Landis was a dynamo during that magical period between the late 1970’s and early 1990’s. He did some of the era’s most memorable comedies, including “Animal House” “Trading Places” and “The Blues Brothers”, as well as directing some of Michael Jackson’s best videos, including “Thriller”.
And in virtually every work Landis has done, he tries to include a reference to the words “See You Next Wednesday”.
A billboard in “The Blues Brothers” had a particularly prominent reference.
Numerous references appeared in the film “Schlock”.
The appearance of phrase in “An American Werewolf in London” makes you think maybe he wants to reschedule to Tuesday?
In “Trading Places”, it once again appears as a movie poster.
Ditto in “Coming to America”.
Occasionally the phrase is also spoken, as was the case in “Kentucky Fried Movie” and “Thriller”. Landis says that the line was the title of a terrible movie he wrote as a much younger man. He also notes that it first appears on screen during a conversation in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”. However the director of that film, Stanley Kubrick, has a very different signature of his own…
The Kubrick Stare
Sometimes referred to as the Kubrick Glare, “the Stare” is a shot that appears in many of Stanley Kubrick’s films. Probably symbolizing evil, chaos or even just run of the mill madness, it usually contains one part knowing smile and one part crazy eyes.
Our barroom impersonations of this shot from “2001: A Space Odyssey” is probably responsible for our phenomenally unsuccessful track record with chicks.
The stare can often occur several times in the same film, usually featuring a wider shot for ambiance, and a tighter, more “monstrously creepy” close up. Such was the case in “Full Metal Jacket”:
Definitely something unsettling here…
Oh, sweet Jesus!
And in Kubrick’s immortal “A Clockwork Orange”:
What’s that kid on the middle-right doing? Enhance!
Well, that’s certainly unsettling, but we don’t see…
Even Jack Nicholson got in on the fun in “The Shining”:
All work and no crazy eyes makes Jack a dull boy.
Like we said, the Kubrick Stare only get’s creepier…
Well, it would be pretty hard to top this.
The Tarantino Shot
Responsible for flicks such as “Kill Bill”, “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”, noted director and writer Quentin Tarantino also has a go-to shot for his movies, but he’s much pickier about the details, so we can sum it up for you in a single image:
That Guy Looks Familiar…
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was an English film director that pioneered the modern film thriller and suspense genres. Complex plots, psychological undertones and innovative camera techniques were just some of the many tricks he kept in his directorial bag. But the point of this article isn’t to pay homage to his genius. Instead we’re using him as the most prominent and well known example of a director making a cameo in his own movie. He actually appeared in most of his films, though some are still disputed or uncertain.
While some cameos were practical and served a purpose in the plot, often they were only there to fill the screen as another extra, or provide a moment of light-hearted comic relief.
Here the poor bastard can’t even catch the bus going “North by Northwest”.
He even poked fun at himself, having lost close to 100 pounds in real life around the filming of “Lifeboat”.
Some films remain unconfirmed or rumored, people going as far as to theorize him dressing in drag to throw the audience off:
Well hello there foxy la… wait a minute!
The list is rather long, but many more cameos exist, and some yet to be confirmed.
Many other directors have joined the tradition, including Peter Jackson, M. Night Shyamalan, John Waters, and many others.
Pixar Has Too Much Time On Its Hands
Pixar is a phenomenally successful animation company, beloved by children, adults and especially childish adults. Their films enjoy nearly universal acclaim for their cutting edge visual effects, compelling characters and dynamic storylines. Since many of the same people worked on each of their movies, there have been several in-jokes and Easter eggs within almost all of them.
The first major motion picture that was made by Pixar, “Toy Story” featured a beat up, rust bucket of a car that delivered pizza for the fictional Pizza Planet chain.
Weirdworm writers could only dream of owning such a godlike carriage.
While a relatively minor plot point, the Pixar team have quietly inserted the vehicle into each of their films. Sometimes it appears for mere frames at a time, while other times (usually in Toy Story sequels) it can have a fairly lengthy screen presence.
In “Finding Nemo”, it appeared in plastic bag Drunk-o-Vision.
In “A Bugs Life”, devout fans are finally treated to the delivery drivers equally squalid mobile home.
There were several appearances in “Up”, probably an underhanded attempt at getting you to purchase an HD television.
Many Pixar films also contain a reference to “A113”, a classroom at California Institute of the Arts used by character animation students.
References to our college days would mostly revolve around Colt 45.
Another prominent image is the Pixar ball, taken from one of their first animated shorts. The ball has appeared in the Toy Story series, Monsters Inc, and other films:
Sometimes it’s easier to spot than others…
Pixar has one other tradition as well: having actor John Ratzenberger play a voice role in every film. They have stated in the past that Ratzenberger has been their “good luck charm”.
Not what we’d call a good luck charm, but then, we’re not worth several billion dollars.
- – Lucas THX You For Watching: http://www.vilificationtennis.com/wp-content/uploads/george-lucas.jpg http://wednesdayshaul.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/howard_the_duck.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_8I48ESeurWA/R54oLImQ4mI/AAAAAAAAAlQ/Aiwr4R-czA0/s320/luke-skywalker-tatooine.jpg http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/features/cars/40.jpg http://images.wikia.com/starwars/images/3/39/2112_press05-001.jpg http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090414123353/starwars/images/thumb/5/58/3B3-1138.jpg/704px-3B3-1138.jp
- – Finland Be Praised: http://img.mtv3.fi/mn_kuvat/mtv3/viihde/isoja_kuvia_2007/482731.jpg http://www.hanamiweb.com/finland_winter.jpg http://img.wendmag.com/uploads/2009/11/finlandia_vodka_gr.jpg http://images.allrefer.com/reference/world/flag-images/finland-flag.gif
- – John Landis Is Punctual: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/50/Synw.JPG http://www.seeyounextwednesday.com/images/schlock1.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/__ZC6F3SCITU/TLmEZiWrvnI/AAAAAAAADtE/sqrUtr5OX_A/s1600/AWL%2Bsee%2Byou%2Bnext%2Bwednesday.JPG http://www.seeyounextwednesday.com/images/tradingplaces1.jpg http://www.seeyounextwednesday.com/images/camerica1.jpg
- – The Kubrick Stare: http://2001.a-false-flag-odyssey.com/dave_false_flag.jpg http://andersonpooper.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/full-metal-jacket.jpg http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_SSUbVSG_KVY/TLxdqh4pTAI/AAAAAAAAAME/22jb1NMcsdU/s1600/2%2BKubrick.jpg http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_vpMD7ow5cWQ/Sv4yTKkfB4I/AAAAAAAAA7s/m6C_aM5twGg/s400/aclockworkorange.jpg http://tristonrobinson.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/alex-1st-scene.png http://www.mtg-images.de/hf/47753.jpg http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b17/thepestilence123/TheShining0013.png http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_SSUbVSG_KVY/TLxdrF_mo1I/AAAAAAAAAMI/DL9cAYeqv-c/s1600/3%2BKubrick.jpg http://thesamerowdycrowd.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/jack-nicholson-frozen.jpg
- – The Tarantino Shot: http://s-ak.buzzfed.com/static/imagebuzz/terminal01/2010/5/10/15/the-tarantino-shot-26125-1273520089-13.jpg
- – That Guy Looks Familiar…: http://www.dvdactive.com/images/editorial/screenshot/2006/6/cameo.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_gsUALeZML10/SHE14NP9lDI/AAAAAAAADF0/9kGeNhKJ-e8/s400/HitchcockCameo.jpg http://www.filmposters.com/articles/hitchcock-cameo-screencap-2.jpg
- – Pixar Has Too Much Time On Its Hands: http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110102051643/pixar/images/f/ff/PPts2.jpg http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110102050658/pixar/images/2/21/Nemo-Pizzaplanet.jpg http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110102045610/pixar/images/0/05/Bugslife-Pizzarcar.jpg http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100122220210/pixar/images/e/e7/Pizzaplanetup2.jpg http://images.wikia.com/pixar/images/6/63/A113pixar.jpg http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090601180431/pixar/images/thumb/4/4a/ToyStory3-teaser001.jpg/811px-ToyStory3-teaser001.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1f/JohnRatzenberger08RIIFF.jpg/548px-JohnRatzenberger08RIIFF.jpg