Font designer Mark Simonson does an occasional blog piece called Typecasting (or more recently Son of Typecasting) in which he skewers films for the anachronistic foibles in their fonts. Did you know, for instance, that the steam pressure gauge on James Cameron’s Titanic was set in Helvetica? Crikey! That font was sinking 45 years before it was invented!

It’s a professional hazard. Just as Mark Twain could never look at the Mississippi the same way once he became a riverboat captain, Simonson can’t look at the tombstone in a Western without thinking How did Helvetica (1957) and Eurostile (1962) end up on a tombstone in the year 1885?

When it comes to language, regular readers of the Star Chamber will know that frequent contributor Alan Kennedy is the local expert. This week he has a few thoughts to share about actors and accents.

Continue reading “GIMME SOME CAW-FEE!”

Train wrecks and momentum in the movies

When it comes to big things, it’s hard to get momentum right. We don’t have much experience with truly massive things moving quickly and unpredictably. Airplanes, trucks, and trains in normal circumstances aren’t surprising. But here’s a video of a train wreck during a tornado (nobody gets hurt). Watch through to the end to see Old Man Momentum get his due.

In old movies, they had to substitute small models for the real thing, so the physics were all wrong. Watch this video of the steamboat in the African Queen going over a waterfall. It’s clear the boat in the waterfall is about two feet long. With computer simulations and graphics, they can do much better these days. Here’s a clip from The Incredibles that involves a van speeding through traffic. Since they aren’t using a mechanical model, they can get the physics right, or close enough for a cartoon fantasy world.

Fonts in movies

I love this kind of attention to detail… Typecasting is a discussion of how well movies do getting time period appropriate fonts in their onscreen typeset materials. A sample: In the movie Chocolat (set in the 1950s), we see a sign that features a font that was introduced in (quel horreur) 1978! “Perhaps the mistake is understandable. ITC Benguiat was designed in a quasi-Art Nouveau style. It is likely that Art Nouveau typefaces would still be in use in provincial France of the mid-fifties. But not ITC Benguiat. It didn’t exist. [seen on]