Cameo A Go-Go
Geek Fact: Over 40 directors have appeared in John Landis films.1985's In The Night alone features 14, including himself.
The Simple Version: Hollywood is very small, really.
Geek Fact: A strip of film consists of four elements - the emulsion, the substratum, the base and the backing.
The Simple Version: Digital consists of two elements - a 1 and a 0.
Schooled For Cinema
Geek Fact: The first film school, the Moscow-based All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (or VGIK), opened in 1919 and is still going strong. Past students include Russian auteurs Sergei Eisenstein and Andrei Tarkovsky.
The Simple Version: This is why so many Russian films feel like lectures.
Geek Fact: Cinema relies on the idea of persistence of vision, which suggests that the eye can be tricked into believing still photographic frames are in continuous motion if they are projected at a sufficiently fast speed.
The Simple Version: They're not moving, really.
The Star Supports Himself
Geek Fact: When Academy voters nominated Barry Fitzgerald for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for his role in Going My Way , the rules had to be changed.
The Simple Version: Make your minds up.
A Certain Ratio
Geek Fact: The Academy Ratio of 1.33:1 was used by Golden Age Hollywood and old-style telly. Widescreen did away with both - today, 1.85:1 or 2:35:1 are the standards - although it's making a comeback in films like Meek's Cutoff and The Artist .
The Simple Version: Screens aren't as square as they used to be, but they weren't really square to begin with.
Geek Fact: There are over 30 official Dogme 95 movies...
The Simple Version: …but you'll have seen four or five, tops.
The Name Game
Geek Fact: Michael Keaton's real name is Michael Douglas. He had to change his name for obvious reasons, eventually naming himself after Diane Keaton - whose real name Diane Hall, inspired her Oscar winning character Annie Hall .
The Simple Version: Actors are always changing their names.
Geek Fact: The Lumiere Brothers invented the Cinematographe - projection onto a screen for a large audience. Thomas Edison invented the Kinetoscope - private projection booths for a single viewer.
The Simple Version: If they'd had DVDs back then, Edison would have been laughing.
Coast To Coast
Geek Fact: The fictional company Pacific Courier features in L.A. set movies Die Hard and Speed . In the New York-based Die Hard With A Vengeance , it'd changed to Atlantic Courier.
The Simple Version: Detail matters.
The Rhythm Method
Geek Fact: Sergei Eisenstein, the Russian director who popularised theories of montage, suggested there were five types of editing - metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal and intellectual.
The Simple Version: Cut!
Geek Fact: Everybody knows that Barry Norman, Jonathan Ross and Claudia Winkleman have hosted the BBC's flagship film show. But other presenters include Russell Harty, Michael Parkinson and Eyes Wide Shut screenwriter Frederic Raphael.
The Simple Version: The Film programme will go on forever.
Geek Fact: There weren't many surprises at the first Oscar ceremony - held on 16th May, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel - because the winners had been announced three months previously.
The Simple Version: Watching the losers' faces is half the fun.
Geek Fact: Rival Hollywood studios had different forms of widescreen. Cinemascope shot standard 35mm in an anamorphic (squeezed) format, requiring a special lens in the projector to make the image appear wide on screen. Paramount's VistaVision, in contrast, ran the 35mm film horizontally to expose a larger area.
The Simple Version: There's more than one way to widen the frame.
Ha Ha Ouch
Geek Fact: Slapstick is named after the battacio, a prop popular in Italian Commedia dell-arte.
The Simple Version: Could've been worse. Could've been named after the whoopee cushion.
Don'ts And Shouldn't Do's
Geek Fact: The Motion Picture Production Code - known as the Hays Code, after chief censor Will H. Hays - was enforced between 1934 and 1968. It consisted of 11 things that couldn't be shown, and a further 14 that probably shouldn't. Most involved sex and/or violence.
The Simple Version: No more rolling in the Hays.
Sign Of The Times
Geek Fact: The letters on the Hollywood sign are 30ft wide and 50ft high. Originally there were four more - it read Hollywoodland - but they were removed in 1949.
The Simple Version: HOLLYWOODLAND - LAND = HOLLYWOOD.
Never Got to #1
Geek Fact: My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the highest grossing film at the American box office never to reach #1 in the weekend charts.
The Simple Version: You need a big fat marketing budget to get to #1.
Fear Of Flying
Geek Fact: Actors with a phobia of flying include Billy Bob Thornton, Cher and Whoopi Goldberg.
The Simple Version: "Surely you can't be serious?" "I am serious, and please stop quoting that movie at me!"
Geek Fact: Walt Disney attributed his studio's success to the "nine old men" who ran the animation department - Ward Kimball, Wolfgang Reitherman, Les Clark, Ollie Johnson, Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, Eric Larson and John Lounsberry.
The Simple Version: Mickey had help building the Mouse House.
Geek Fact: The Hollywood Ten - the men blacklisted during the 1950s for suspected Communism - consisted of two directors (Edward Dmytryk, Herbert Biberman), one producer (Adrian Scott) and seven screenwriters (Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Larson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Alvah Bessie and Lester Cole).
The Simple Version: Hollywood genuinely felt that the pen (and the camera) was mightier than the sword.
In The Frame
Geek Fact: Film is generally run at 24 Frames Per Second. As one foot of film equals 16 frames, a minute of footage is 90 ft long.
The Simple Version: Reels are really useful.
Geek Fact: Pan and Scan, the process by which widescreen films were cropped for television broadcast, was so reviled that Woody Allen refused to have Manhattan released on home video without appearing in its correct aspect ratio.
The Simple Version: Thank god for widescreen tellies.
Stuck In The Middle
Geek Fact: Dorothy Dunaway, William Pitt, Robert Reed and Charles Redford are better known by their middle names Faye, Brad, Oliver and Robert.
The Simple Version: Note to parents - give your kids an option.
Speed Of Sound
Geek Fact: The Jazz Singer , the "first sound film," used the Vitaphone system of playing the dialogue back on a record. Vitaphone lasted only until 1930, when it was superseded by technology that placed the soundtrack alongside the images on the celluloid itself.
The Simple Version: You've ain't heard nothing yet.
Geek Fact: The first American cartoon to be X-rated was 1972's Fritz The Cat ... but in Britain, Henry 9 Till 5 beat it by two years.
The Simple Version: Brits are dirtier than Americans.
It's Time To Light The Lights
Geek Fact: The three main lights required to illuminate a film star are key (in front), back (behind) and fill (next to the camera).
The Simple Version: Leave it to the Director of Photography.
Release The Hounds
Geek Fact: The phone number used by Simon Gruber in Die Hard With A Vengeance , 555-0001, is shared by C. Montgomery Burns in The Simpsons .
The Simple Version: Smithers fucked up.
Geek Fact: The gaffer runs the electrics, the best boy is his assistant.
The Simple Version: "Hey, if I wanted to be called an electrician, I'd have become an electrician."
Nobody Does It Better
Geek Fact: Adjusted for inflation, Thunderball is the highest grossing James Bond film.
The Simple Version: People were expecting another Goldfinger .
Geek Fact: The operator-mounted Steadicam rig, invented by Garrett Brown, was first used in 1976's Bound For Glory , proving so revolutionary the film won that year's Oscar for Best Cinematography.
The Simple Version: It's easier to impress Oscar voters if you show them something they haven't seen before.
Geek Fact: The platoon in 1962's The Manchurian Candidate was named after cast and crew from The Phil Silvers Show - apart from the star, there's creator Nat Hiken and cast members Allan Melvin and Harvey Lembeck.
The Simple Version: Filmmakers love in-jokes.
Loop The Loop
Geek Fact: Ever wondered why film didn't break when it was being fed through a camera or projector? That's because of the Latham loop, a portion of film held slack to prevent tension. It's named after camera maker Woodville Latham, who patented the loop in 1896.
The Simple Version: You can patent a shape.
A New Dimension
Geek Fact: The first commercially released 3D film was The Power Of Love , made in 1922. The film was never widely exhibited and the fad didn't catch on.
The Simple Version: 3D isn't all that, and never was.
Without a Hitch
Geek Fact: Alfred Hitchcock made cameos in all of his Hollywood movies, making 1939's Jamaica Inn the last of his films in which he didn't appear.
The Simple Version: Hitchcock couldn't resist casting himself.
Geek Fact: How did filmmakers add actors to special effects shots before greenscreen? Eugen Schüfftan invented a process for Metropolis in which the camera filmed miniature sets through a special mirror.
The Simple Version: It's all smoke and mirrors.
Noir Is The New Black
Geek Fact: The term 'film noir' was coined by French critic Nino Frank in 1946 after wartime rules against imported American cinema were relaxed, and a bunch of hard-boiled thrillers were shown in Paris all at once.
The Simple Version: Noir isn't a genre. It's a coincidence.
Geek Fact: Albert Brooks' real name is Albert Einstein. He was born in 1947 - long after the other Albert Einstein had become world-famous.
The Simple Version: That's harsh, Mr and Mrs Brooks.
Geek Fact: Gandhi holds the record for the biggest number of extras employed on a single film - a staggering 294,560.
The Simple Version: Presumably, they weren't given royalties.
A Sense Of Vertigo
Geek Fact: The 'Dolly Zoom' used in Vertigo , Jaws and other films was developed by Paramount cameraman Irmin Roberts. The camera is pulled back on a dolly, while zooming in on the subject to create the illusion of shifting depth.
The Simple Version: The film equivalent of rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time.
Geek Fact: Film actors weren't household names until the Independent Moving Pictures Company signed the popular "Biograph girl" Florence Lawrence and made her name part of their films' publicity.
The Simple Version: Can you imagine Al Pacino simply being known as 'shouty bloke'?
Geek Fact: The sound of the gong on the Rank Organisation ident was made using a tam-tam, not a gong.
The Simple Version: Rank treachery.
Geek Fact: You ought to know the Magnificent Seven by now. Try the Kurosawa originals: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Inaba, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Daisuke Kato.
The Simple Version: Brynner, McQueen, Coburn, Bronson, Vaughn, Dexter, Buchholz.
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
Geek Fact: Trade magazine Variety was the first to coin several expressions that entered the language, including DJ, biopic, F/X and multiplex.
The Simple Version: They probably didn't have a dictionary.
The Biggest Year
Geek Fact: 1946 was the biggest year in terms of cinema admissions in both America and the United Kingdom.
The Simple Version: Before = war. After = television.
Read All About It
Geek Fact: Top Gun , Saturday Night Fever and The Fast And The Furious are all based on magazine articles.
The Simple Version: C'mon, you don't expect producers to read a whole novel, do you?
Geek Fact: Silent comedian Fatty Arbuckle's career was ruined by rumours he raped actress Virginia Rappe to death with an ice dildo. In reality, a botched abortion caused her death, but the damage to Arbuckle had been done.
The Simple Version: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Scream And Scream Again
Geek Fact: Ben Burtt popularised the use of this sound effect, now an in-joke used by sound editors, but it first appeared in 1951 Gary Cooper Western Distant Drums and is named after a dying character in The Charge At Feather River .
The Simple Version: It's the "Stormtrooper falling into the Death Star chasm" scream.
Join The Dots
Geek Fact: Disney switched to a new technique of Xeroxing the animation cels in the early 1960s, making it much, much easier to draw the estimated 6,469,952 dog dots in One Hundred And One Dalmatians .
The Simple Version: They cheated.
Not Coming To A Hello Magazine Near You
Geek Fact: Martin Scorsese was married to Isabella Rossellini between 1979 and 1983. Given how much attention is accorded to celebrity marriages, it's amazing that this fact isn't better known.
The Simple Version: No, really, they were married.