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August 30, 2009|Patrick Kevin Day; Shari Roan; David Sarno; Richard Verrier

HERO COMPLEX

The fine art of scalping in film

To play up the grisly spectacle of scalping Nazi soldiers in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" required some sleight of hand as well as the makeup skill of Gregory Nicotero and the rest of the effects crew at KNB EFX.

"The way the gag works, the scalp and the actor's head are separate," Nicotero said. "To sell the gag, you have to pretend like you're really putting effort into the cutting, like the knife is really slicing through skin."

The team made a mold of make-up effects artist Jake Garber's head and used that as the model to sculpt the scalps to be affixed to the extras' heads.

Then they hand-painted the bloody details onto the piece and covered the whole area in a patented concoction called Ultraslime.

But to guarantee the realism of the bit, Nicotero taught the assembled "Basterds" (minus Brad Pitt) the fine art of scalping.

"It was a little overwhelming for them, because they'd all just flown into Berlin," Nicotero said. "But they got really enthusiastic and excited. I think at one point Gedeon [actor Gedeon Burkhard] forgot there was an actor under there. He was just going to town."

-- Patrick Kevin Day

From Hero Complex: For your inner fanboy

For more, go to latimes.com/herocomplex

BOOSTER SHOTS

It's liver fat, not belly fat, to fear

In recent years, researchers have found evidence that fat accumulated in the abdomen appears more harmful than fat that cushions the thighs, arms or rear. This fat, called visceral fat, is thought to be active tissue that can raise the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease.

However, new research suggests it's not belly fat that's bad but, rather, fat that accumulates in the liver. The study compared obese people with elevated and normal levels of liver fat and determined that excess fat inside the liver was linked to the higher risk of metabolic problems. Researchers don't know why some fats, particularly triglycerides, accumulate inside the liver in some people but not others. But a protein that controls the transport of fatty acids from the bloodstream to various tissues is likely to be involved.

People with fatty livers should try to lose weight, the lead author of the study, Dr. Samuel Klein, said.

"Fatty liver disease is completely reversible," said Klein, of Washington University in St. Louis. "If you lose a small amount of weight, you can markedly reduce the fat content in your liver. In fact, even two days of calorie restriction can cause a large reduction in liver fat and improvement in liver insulin sensitivity."

The paper was published in PNAS Early Edition.

-- Shari Roan

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and news from the world of health

For more, go to latimes.com/boostershots

TECHNOLOGY

L.A. street traffic on Google Maps

For years, Google Maps has let the traffic-conscious peek at the congestion on freeways and highways in major cities, including Los Angeles. It's a great service, but it has its limitations. If you're an L.A. resident, you're well acquainted with the sinking feeling that comes from checking your commute only to see that the Hollywood Freeway is a blood-red line all the way home. Again.

But now there's a tail light at the end of the tunnel: Google Maps added traffic overlays to many of the Southland's major streets -- allowing savvy, smartphone-equipped motorists to get off the freeway and find a speedier route home.

The new traffic information covers urban centers in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. To view traffic info, click the "Traffic" button on the upper right of the Google Maps window.

Google Maps imports much of its real-time traffic information from companies that monitor the nation's roadways.

But it's adding a high-tech twist: crowdsourcing. When mobile users call up Google Maps on their phones, the service harvests anonymous location data to enhance its picture of live road conditions.

Clearly, the next step is to develop software that lets the GPS technology in your phone process the Google Maps data and display the best route home. But in the meantime, knowing that Beverly Boulevard is green should be good enough.

-- David Sarno

From Technology: The business and culture of our digital lives

For more, go to latimes.com/technology

COMPANY TOWN

AMC moves back to Hollywood

Start popping the popcorn: AMC Entertainment, the nation's second-largest theater operator, is moving back to Hollywood.

The Kansas City, Mo., chain, which operates 307 theaters, said Thursday it will open a new film office in Century City to strengthen its ties to the studios and develop alternative entertainment, such as live broadcasts of sporting events. The company had closed its film office in 2005 in a company-wide consolidation.

"We are pleased to reestablish a physical presence for AMC's film team in L.A.," said AMC Chief Executive Gerry Lopez. "The addition of new talent and the relocation of key AMC film associates will reenergize our strong industry relationships, which are integral to our programming expansion strategy."

Robert J. Lenihan, president of programming, will oversee the new office with a staff of five in Los Angeles. The new office will be close to one of its flagship theaters, AMC Century City 15.

In February, AMC tapped Lopez, a former Starbucks Corp. executive, to become chief executive.

He replaced Peter Brown, who retired after the privately held company sustained heavy losses and dropped plans for an initial public stock offering. AMC and other theater chains have been enjoying a strong year at the box office but face long-term challenges to boost attendance and draw younger audiences.

-- Richard Verrier

From Company Town: The business behind the show

For more, go to latimes.com/companytown

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