Friday, July 31, 2015

"Cartel Land" is a riveting docudrama showing two "vigilante" groups in Mexico and southern Arizona near the border

The documentary “Cartel Land” (filmed and directed in real time by Matthew Heineman) starts with a prelude showing some low level drug cartel coolies smuggling near the Mexico-Arizona border at night.  There is conversation in Spanish, that, while people "up north" will get hurt by or because of the contraband, we do this to survive; we wouldn’t have to do this if we had nice “clean jobs” in the U.S. like white people.  There is a hint of Maoism, to be sure. But you can ask the obvious libertarian question, would there be any profit in this if drugs weren’t illegal?

The film shows two stories in parallel.  In Michoacan, Mexico (south of Mexico City) a small town physician Dr. Jose Mireles sets up a local Autodefensas to lead a vigilante army against the Knights Templar cartel.  Eventually the Mexican government stops him and puts him in jail.  And some of his soldiers get drawn into forming an opposing mini-cartel.  The film ultimately puts a lot of blame for the problems on corruption within the Mexican government (local as well as federal), as much as on the cartels themselves;  the government needs the problem to justify itself (libertarian analysis again). 
There is an interesting point where Mireles tells townspeople that they have to act in solidarity to protect themselves. 
Then up north, in the Altar Valley, along the Arizona border, a veteran, Tim Foley, leads his own paramilitary group called the Arizona Border Recon.  Like Mireles, he looks grizzled, and has had his hard knocks in life, including losing everything in the 2008 financial crash.  But he says ranchers in this part of the state have to be able to take care of themselves.  It simply takes police too long to get there.

I know someone whom I’m told now practices law in Arizona helping ranchers with this issue. 

The film is likely to continue to attract attention particularly because of GOP candidate Donald Trump's comments about illegal immigration, the porous border, and the drug trade. 
The official site is here  (Orchard).

The film has an unusual technical feature. It is filmed in 2.35:1, but the subtitles are shown below the image, which means that some theaters have to compress the image.  That was the case at Landmark E Street, before a fair Friday night audience.

This film did very well in festivals (I believe AFI Docs in DC, as well as Sundance).
Wikipedia attribution link for photo for NM AZ border by Wing-Chi Poon under creative Commons share-alike license (2.5).  I visited the area west of Phoenix frequently in the 1970s to go to conventions held by Understanding and Dan Fry; most recent visit (including Yuma area) in May 2000. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"The True Cost": western consumers depend on slave overseas labor for clothes, and other things

The True Cost” (2015), directed by Andrew Morgan, starts out as a predictable critique of the way US clothing retailers and brands depend on garments manufactured by grossly underpaid labor overseas.  This affects even major fashion lines. Fashion should not be disposable, the film says.
Gradually, though, the documentary turns into a attack on “materialism”, and on a capitalist system that seems predicated on it.  
The film offers live footage in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Uganda, Haiti, China and Japan.
Particularly effective is coverage of a major factory fire in Bangladesh, and of a government crackdown on labor protests in Phnom Penh.  The film also ventures to cover cotton growing in southern US, and the virtues of “organic fabrics”.
One could ask a disturbing question about the moral responsibility of individual consumers.  But the problem of underpaid workers probably does affect the low end the most. One could start asking the same questions about other products, like computers, cell phones and electronics. It doesn't stop with Thomas Carlyle ("Sartor Resartus"). 
The official site is here  Besides Netflix Instant, it is also available on Amazon and iTunes.
Picture: near Tupelo MS, Natchez Trace, my trip, 2014.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Do I Sound Gay?": documentary seems almost superfluous now, given rapid progress in equality

In October 1968, about a month after I had transferred to Fort Eustis, I walked past the latrine and saw my “bunkmate” shaving the area around his elbows.  I stopped and asked, “Shaving your arms?” and he answered “Yeth.”  He was getting ready to give blood, he said. A real sacrifice.

He loved to make fun of Tiny Tim, and note who had a high-pitched voice.  “Smooth” became “Th-mooth”.  The code for homosexuality was “OGAB” (“Oh, go way butterfly!”) and the main indicator was the almighty lisp.  And he did genealogy charts to prepare himself for Mormonism.

It seems odd to make a lot of “gay speech” now, in an era where gay marriage has been so suddenly accepted.  But “Do I Sound Gay?” does remind us of how suddenly things have turned around.  In 2005, Gov. Schwarzenegger of CA (“No more movies!” – which he didn’t keep to) vetoed a marriage equality bill, preceding Prop 8.

The center of this film is director David Thorpe, a lean, balding and bearish Brooklyn writer in his 40s, alone again after his boyfriend left, with two cats who love him dearly. (One of them is named “Rocket”.)  He takes some speech lessons, and learns that stereotyped gay speech tends to emphasized separate syllables, long vowels (like in Dutch) and certain consonants and diphthongs.

Other personalities who appear include Tim Gunn, Michael Airington, Jeff Hiller, David Sedaris, and George Takei (with some footage of Liberace).

The documentary makes some side journeys into exploring teen bullying and the stubborn expectations of the stereotypes which don’t go away in public school as quickly as they have in politics.

There is a scene filmed inside historic Julius’s bar in Greenwich Village.

I saw the film at Landmark E Street in Washington DC before a fair weeknight audience, mostly male.

The official site is here. (Sundance Selects and IFC).
Picture: Julius’s, NYC, 2004 (my visit).


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"The Cold Lands": an orphaned boy, trying to make it on his own, is "raised" by a drifter who grows up himself

The Cold Lands” (2013, directed by Tom Gilroy) sounds eclectic enough, as a 12-year-old boy Atticus (same character name as “Mockingbird”) tries to make it on his own after his mother dies, and becomes the pal, quasi-son of a local drifter.   But I’m not sure what this all comes to.

The mom Nicole (Lili Taylor) raises her son in the Catskills in New York State, and tries to teach Atticus (Silas Yelich) to be self-reliant, not too dependent on his gadgets and computer games.  There’s an early discussion where he asks her if animals know they will die.  But mom has juvenile diabetes, and it doesn’t seem very well controlled.  She dies abruptly, under murky circumstances.  And the boy seems to want to stay away from Child Protective Services.

He meets a local hippy Carter (Peter Scanavino) and the two become a kind of tag-team, and Carter becomes a bit of a father figure, even if there is a little petty crime and marijuana along the way. Carter is appropriately desperate; he has no money (but somehow he gets gas). 
The film, curious, is dropping off Netflix instant play soon. The film can be rented for $2.99 from Cinedigm. 

The soundtrack has some classical music, which I could not follow when the credits rolled on Netflix thumbnail; one excerpt sounded like it came from the Mendelssohn "Reformation" Symphony. 
The Facebook site is here. The film was a selection at the Berlin Film Festival.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"The Silent Thief": a mysterious guest breaks open some family secrets and unforgiven homophobia

The Silent Thief” (2012), by Jennifer Clary, is a curious thriller, set in Malibu, where radical hospitality goes wrong.

Before Cody (Mile Henderson) goes away to college, his parents invite an apparent British orphan of the same age, Brennan Marley (Tobey Hemingway) to live with the family, to help out with income.
Cody meets him, and feels suspicious before going away.  Brennan seems to have some issues and behave like a mooch.  His problems begin to surface when one of Cody’s weightlifting buddies Alex (Josh Pence) makes a sexual advance on him.

Then, we see Cody watching a video he shot of his past crimes, where he apparently had victimized Doug Edwards (Reid Ewing), shown as an attractive “hippy” in silent black-and-white cameos. 

Brennan eventually tries to take advantage of Cody’s being in the closet, and to arrange a gradual drowning of Alex.

Perhaps the film makes a remote comparison to “The Dark Place” (Dec. 2, 2014). There’s a touch of Hitchcock, too, maybe “Rebecca”.

I’m not sure I buy the ritualistic and watery ending.
The film (Jensev and HBO) can be rented HD on Amazon for $4.99, and $3.99 on YouTube, couldn’t find it on Netflix. 

Picture: Beach near San Clemente, my picture, 2012.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Paper Towns": coming-of-age road comedy with perfect kids

Paper Towns” (2015, directed by Jake Schreier) is a coming-of-age comedy, based on the novel penned by John Green (“The Fault in our Stars”), somewhat in the vein of popular series ten years ago, like “Smallville”, “Everwood”, “One Tree Hill”.  Nat Wolff plays Quetin the perfect kid, high school senior in every AP course (almost patterned after a combination of both Andraka brothers), by haunted by a hit or miss girl friend from his own childhood, Margo (Carla Delevinge).
The story is set in Orlando FL, and that’s significant. But most of the outdoor scenes appear shot in a Florida late fall (which autumn colors), which doesn’t match senior prom time.  I was just in Orlando myself (picture above from Saturday night street festival).
One night, she sneaks into his room through an open window, and coaxes him to accompany her on a wild escapade of breaking-and-entering pranks.  For example, Quentin actually puts some Nair on a sleeping football player’s eyebrow.  Then, she disappears.  Quentin becomes obsessed with finding the girl who got him to break his own perfect eggshell.  

At the end, Quentin will learn that his idea of Margo had been his own fantasy.  Or was it?  Are some people really angels?  I had a hard time believing that someone as wholesome as Quentin really would do some of the stunts when she leads him around early in the movie. 
This leads to a typical road comedy with his buddies (Austin Abrams and Justice Smith), as they follow some treasure hunt-style clues and then drive 1200 miles north to a “paper town” in New York State to find Margo. They have to get back in time for the prom.

A “paper town”, by the way, is a fictitious town put on a map by cartographers during medieval times tying to catch people with copyright infringement.

Now some of the urgency in the screenwriting is a bit artificial, but it seems dictated by Hollywood convention. 

Before the movie starts (even before the Fox fanfare), John Green gives what amounts to an anti-piracy speech, noting how many jobs are supported by making the film.  I wonder how many jobs could be created by “Do Ask, Do Tell”.

Ansel Elgort makes an uncredited cameo as a convenience store clerk.  He could lose the tattoo.
The credits say that the film was shot also in North Carolina (with UNC?), Malibu, and New York State as well as Orlando.

The official site is here.

I saw the film at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA on a Sunday night.  I left to find police activity in the parking lot, with a major bust blocking my car for over an hour.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"The Case for Faith" with Lee Strobel: Can one faith be more "true" than another?

In “The Case for Faith”, directed (2007) by Lad Allen, Lee Strobel (following his book of the same name) goes on a journey to look at the troubling questions about Christianity raised when older evangelist Charles Templeton (Bob Davidson) gives up preaching, even though without resources, out of his own doubt in whether be believes what he preaches.  Templeton had written “Why Only Christianity” and the film takes on the question, what right to Christians have to believe they are more correct than other religions?

Strobel builds is case on the idea that Christianity is predicated on a personal intervention from God through a real human, his son, rather than just on ideas and teaching and rules to follow.  He does explain the need for Grace in his own way.  I would say that Grace is necessary because quantum physics guarantees that no one can always be right!

“Evil” is not a thing, but it will necessarily surface when living beings have free will.  In terms of physics, free will is what counteracts entropy.

The film covers some personal tragedies, including a tragic automobile accident in a driveway in Boston in the winter.  It also reenacts a little of the morning of 9/11.

There is the odd line, God won’t let us approach suffering with our own agenda.

There is also the idea that it is impossible for God to lie, which fits in with yesterday’s film.

The DVD has a tutorial called “Dealing with Doubt” (with Lynn Anderson). There is the interesting idea of “the gift of faith”.  There is discussion of the need to "want to believe".

I can remember some rather coercive personal communions back at MCC  Dallas in the 1980s, "I've a believer, not a doubter".  (I even remember being approached and invited to supper to talk about God. )  But many religions do attack "unbelievers" (or "infidels"). 
There is a second tutorial called “The Least of These: The Christian’s response to evil and suffering”.This comprises several short films, which seem to be sponsored by Rick Warren and the Saffleback Church. 

There is a set of three films sponsored by "The Peace Plan".  These are "It Is Time", and then "Stratton's Story", in which a minister in Rwanda helps victims of AIDS without regard to sin, and "Joel's Story", where families affected by war in Rwanda.  Then there is "The St. Francis Inn", which provides community assistance (and perhaps "radical hospitality") in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.  There is a great deal of emphasis on personal right-sizing and the willingness to walk in the shoes of another and and allow connections to others to become more meaningful even when they are not freely chosen.

The closest I could come to an official site was the "Questar1" site given on the DVD.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Irrational Man": a philosophy professor tests his own nihilism and creates a Hitchcock-like mystery

Irrational Man” is the new black comedy about philosophy from Woody Allen, and it didn’t stay on the course I expected as it started.  It migrated toward being more like a Hitchcock mystery.
Joaquin Phoenix (whom I thought was going to quit acting (story ) plays Abe, a philosophy professor newly hired at a college in Rhode Island. He is quite slovenly and unappealing, with a sloppy pot belly. People (even his boss at the outset) are asking him is he is “all right”.  He soon meets another professor Rita (Parker Posey) and takes after a student Jill (Emma Stone) who already has a likable boyfriend Roy (Jamie Blackley).
Early on, he is lecturing about Kant, and whether it is ever OK to lie.  The film goes out of the way to make all the college students (male and female) physically and personally appealing. 
At a social, attended by students, in a faculty home, he finds a pistol, and shocks everyone with the “Russian Roulette” game, on himself, known from the 1979 film “The Deer Hunter”.
He is questioning “why” he lives, and seems caught in the “meaningless” that (coincidentally, we hope) Andrew Holmes in Colorado had demonstrated in his notebook.  (There is mention of the horrific idea, of knowing what it is like to kill somebody, as if such an event could be reversed – only in a dream.) Others call this “Abe talk”.
But when he learns that Rita has a custody problem aggravated by a “badass” local judge (Tom Kemp), Abe suddenly has a reason to feel he has a purpose in life, enough to get over his writer’s block.  He can murder the judge, commit the perfect crime, and never be a suspect. At this point, the movie sounds a little like a game of Clue.  The “poison” will be all too simple to administer, and the actual event will pass quickly.
But the police are more onto this than Abe suspects, and soon Rita suspects.  Furthermore, the police are ready to frame a previous legal assistant who somehow had access to chemicals and who may have harbored a judge.  An existential crisis will follow, and Abe’s true colors may well come out.  He is capable of more direct violence than we had suspected.

Because of the intricacies of Abe's activities, the DVD that comes out may well have some deleted scenes, and will merit some commentary.  There is also a question of omniscient observer integrity in this film; several characters narrate in mockumentary fashion (without face speaking to camera);  even Abe narrates, as if from the afterlife. 
Now, when I moved to Minneapolis in the fall of 1997, shortly after publishing my first book, I got a quick lesson in the value of philosophy as an undergraduate major.  A senior at Hamline (who had run for City Council in St. Paul in the Libertarian Party) arranged my lecture at Hamline.  Some last fall, I saw someone on the Metro with a build resembling Bryce Harper’s with a stack of undergraduate books, reading “The History of Philosophy”.

The official site is here (Sony Pictures Classics).
I saw the film Friday afternoon before a small audience at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA.  “Southpaw” was also playing at about the same time, but for today, I passed up the chance to see Jake Gyllenhaal’s previously manly bod “ruined” by shaving and tattoos.  I hope they’re temporary.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of downtown Providence RI, by P D Tillman, under Creative Commons 2.0 Share Alike License. I visited West Warwick in 2003 (late filmmaker Gode Davis). 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Trainwreck": Amy Schumer drives a non-stop farce about improbable love and committment

Trainwreck”, directed by Judd Apatow (“Bridesmaids”;  “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), is an “unlikely couple’s” romantic comedy, structurally like “Wingman, Inc.” (July 21), but on a much grander scale. It’s non-stop chatter from Comedy Central’s Amy Schumer, who wrote the script and stars as the overbearing girl whose dad had made her cynical about love and monogamy.

She’s a “real” writer (Amy) for a NYC gossip magazine and is assigned a story by her uncompromising boss (Tilda Swinton) about sports doctor Aaron Conner (Bill Hader).  After some silly one night stands with gross language (one number is totally hairless even in the crotch) she finds herself actually drawn into a relationship.

The movie (long for a comedy at 124 minutes) takes some side trips that are indeed curious.  There’s a lot about pro basketball, as Aaron has to do a knee operation on a pro player (LeBron James plays himself). She throws up in the scrub room seeing the knee opened up.  It doesn’t seem as if the hospital practices too much infection control.

Aaron also sometimes works with Doctors Without Borders (remember the 2003 film “Beyond Borders”). When Amy gets a cell phone call from her boss in the middle of his speech, she has to run out, threatening the relationship.

The double-edged relationship with her dad (shared by sister Vanessa Bayer) gets noted at her dad’s graveside ceremony (short of a memorial funeral, after his spell in assisted living).

Daniel Radcliffe appears in a fictitious black and white film “The Dogwalker” (which has been the name of a real film in 2002, reviewed Sept. 19, 2006). 

Even as she draws closer to a possible actual marriage to Aaron (who constantly says he loves her), she has an encounter with 16-year old intern Donald (Ezra Miller, actually 22, but made to look 16).  

The film was released with Universal’s own brand (rather than Focus Features, and with an R rating).  The official site is here
I saw the film at Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax VA before a very full weeknight audience (Wednesday July 22), which laughed constantly.

Update: Later July 23

There was a serious gunfire incident at a showing of this film in Lafayette LA, at a major multiplex, at around 7:30 PM CDT Thursday July 23, 2014.  At least three, including the gunman, are dead. At least seven others are injured. The shooter seems to have been an older white man, and this event sounds unlikely to be related to international terrorism, but more likely "mental illness" or other domestic extremism. NBC News has a rapidly changing account here

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Boulevard": A study of an older heterosexually married gay man leading a double life, and unraveling (Robin Williams's last film. almost)

There is a critical scene in “Boulevard”, almost Robin Williams’s last film, where the wife Joy (Kathy Baker) tells Nolan Mack (Robin Williams) that she had married him close to three decades before because she didn’t want to have to stay in the real world.
Maybe that line encapsulates the whole of homophobia for past generations.  If the only morally and socially acceptable outlet for male sexuality was going to be marriage (open to procreation), then the idea of staying together and “interested” in one spouse for life could work for everyone.  And everyone could find someone.  And women, in the past, could be shielded from the business or real combat of the “real world” and concentrate on children.
But I don’t recall that this couple, however dedicated, has children.  Joy is slowly beginning to accept that her husband has another side.  Nolan's 90-year-old father is close to death in a nursing home, but that provides a convenient excuse for some of his absence from home, not an existential problem itself.  He also gets to confront his father that he is gay at the end of the father's life. 

Nolan has worked at a bank in Nashville for 25 years, and his boss has approached him about a promotion, to make him a manager.  The interview will be a sit down dinner with the wives at another executive’s home.  Yup, that’s how people used to do things.  I had glancing blows with that life myself.
But one night, as Nolan is driving downtown, a young male hustler Leo (Roberto Aguire) deliberately steps in the path of his slow moving car.  The ensuing “accident” leads the kindly Nolan into an intimate encounter, and then a series of them, in motel rooms.  Nolan has enough money to pay for anything.   Nolan is more interested in just looking at Leo and touching and cuddling with him than with actual genital sex.  Leo’s slender body offers an absolutely hairless chest, although the makeup is a little sloppy (it looks shaved in a couple scenes).  Nolan gets to see all of his fantasies, as if this aspect of his life could be kept totally separate from marriage.
Nolan starts getting harassed by his sponsor (Giles Matthey), and, as in “Hustle and Flow”, indeed “it’s hard out here for a pimp.”  When Nolan tries to intervene, complications occur and  Nolan’s double life unravels.
There was a period in my own life, in the early 70s, of heterosexual dating, and I wondered if this character could have been me in an alternate universe. By coincidence, the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is”, in my “DADT-III” book, has a lead character named Nolan”, but with very different motives.  Remember, Nolan is also the first name of a popular bisexual techie (played by Gabriel Mann) in ABC’s “Revenge”. 
Leo seems to have a lot of decency, and might have been a “successful” gay man himself if raised in a more supportive environment.  He does wrong only when he has to, for survival.  This aspect of the movie seems like a political statement about economic and social inequality (even among whites), not just homophobia.

The name of the movie seems to be a spot in Nashville, but I know it as a major street in Richmond, VA.  Much of the outdoor scenery resembles Broad Street west of downtown in Richmond. But the credits say, Nashville.
The film is playing at the West End Cinema in Washington, which re-opened July 17 under Landmark Theaters.  The theater is being renovated one auditorium at a time.  The projection quality had improved.
The film is distributed by Starz (formerly using Overture Films as a brand), which doesn’t seem to have an official site. Landmark’s site for it is here
Pictures: State capitol of TN in Nashville, and general downtown, my trip, 2014.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Wingman, Inc.": a formulaic sex comedy whose concept is apparent from the title

Wingman, Inc.” (2015), directed by Choice Skinnner, is a new situation comedy about the concept in the name:  that is, a man who helps less secure men pick up women, or, conversely, a woman who helsp companions fend off undesirable men.  I don’t think this concept would find much application in the gay community.
So the natural question becomes, what happens when the wingman (Bobby, played by Kristopher Turner) and the wing-woman (Kristy, played by Erin Cahill) meet, and maybe have a romance?
Admittedly, the comedy is pretty silly.  Bobby has a business as a dog psychiatrist, that doesn’t bring in enough to pay the rent (or pay back student loans) in modern Los Angeles.  There are plenty of cute and imposing pooches, especially a Shepard named Parker (inspired by Richard Parker in “Pi”, maybe).  So the Wingman business may help with the bills and keep him from getting evicted.
Bobby has a creative roommate Bud, who smokes bongs in his pad.  Bud is played by Reid Ewing, who appears with a modest beard for the first time that I recall.  Later Bud cleans up and plays a constructive role in Bobby’s renovation.  Ewing seems to be playing a sequence of supporting roles in smaller films, many of them comedies.  I still don’t know what happened to the release of “South Dakota”.

Reid's role doesn't bring him much into direct contact with Bobby's "patient' dogs, but that's ironic; Reid is well known for his interest in rescuing animals (Facebook post from Utah here). 
This film is not as successful as “10 Rules”, because it simply is a little slow and not quite goofball enough to transcend itself.  I guess Bobby has just the right amount of hair on his chest, so that he can survive a botched mugging near the end. The Coen Brothers were not consulted about how to shoot that. 
The closing "wedding sequence" and epilogue of fast-moving post-establishing shots does present an interesting idea for cinematic narrative. 
Lionsgate has a site for the film here ; the site listed on imdb does not work.
I watched it on Amazon instant play ($4.99 in HD).   It can be rented on YouTube for $3.99 from Lionsgate. I sometimes find that the Amazon feed can stall (delivering video) when Netflix always works – is that because Netflix payed Comcast for the fastest lane?

Picture: LA along the 405 (not far from Reid's own "Traffic Jam"), Angelino Hotel, my trip, 2012. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Maidan" looks at the protests in Kiev, Ukraine over the 2013-2014 winter, before Putin's aggression

Maidan” (2014), directed by Sergei Loznitsa (aka Sergey Loznitsa) is a 2-hour-plus “documentary” showing, without voice commentary (just some subsection titles), from on the ground, the course of the “Euromaidan” protests in central Kiev, Ukraine from November 2013 to February 2014, when president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych was driven from power.

Protestors had wanted closer ties with Europe, and Yanulovych fled to exile in Russia. There are historical details on Wikipedia here

The political change may well have helped provoke Vladimir Putin into Russia’s subsequent aggression, largely unchallenged, in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. 

The film gives the viewer the impression of “being there”, standing in the crowd, shouting, which is not something I normally do.  (Am I above “joining in” other people’s solidarity protests?)  It gives an intimate look of drab downtown Kiev, which is valuable because the average viewer has little chance to go there. 

The scale of the protests is much larger than that of the Occupy movement in the US.

Of course, the viewer wonders if a conventional documentary, explaining the politics, would have been more effective.  Subtitles are provided for the demonstration and street speech, mostly in Ukraine (resembling Russian). 

The film may be viewed in Netflix Instant Play, or rented on YouTube for $3.99.  I played in NY and LA at the end of 2014.  I don't recall seeing it play in DC, 
The official site is here (Cinema Guild and "Atoms & Void"). 

Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Mstylav Chernov from Jan 22, 2014 under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Ant-Man": not necessarily a reliable lesson in either biology or quantum physics

The best scenes in Peyton Reed’s 3-D “Ant-Man” occur toward the end, where the reduced Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) plays in a model train set, with a Thomas running on an elevated track, even causing a track wreck.  The train as well as Scott expands to real-world size and plop on top a police car outside. 
Then Scott shrinks down to the quantum level, and the special effects, that carry on into the end credits, show us a psychedelic version of the quantum world of quarks.

The story (Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish with Paul Rudd himself writing some of the script) and screenwriting, however, are all so trite and conventional.  Scott, an ex-con for having been a successful cat burglar (and winning left-wing praise for playing Robin Hood) can’t keep at fast-food job because of his record, and desperately needs an occupation to make child support payments and get visitation for his darling little girl.  It’s all about “gotta do it”.  So he returns to crime, and gets “hired” by inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to become a tiny soldier, reduced by the “Pym Particle” that compresses matter and re-expands at will (physics says this is impossible). 
Along the way, Scott enlists the help of armies of real ants, of various species (including carpenter) making for some spectacular CGI inside sewer tunnels. Entomologists will laugh.
There is a back story of how Pym claims to have intercepted a Soviet ICBM nuclear strike on the US in 1987.  A likely story. 
Oh, what other movies come to mind?  Try “Antz”, “A Bug’s Life”, and even “Small Soldiers” (1996), an early film from “Everwood” and now “Rookie Blue” star Gregory Smith. 

The film is produced by Marvel Studios and released by Disney, official site
I saw the film before a small Sunday audience at Regal Ballston Common, in a large auditorium, flat screen.  The film is left in standard 1.85:1 format, which makes projection on IMAX easier.  But in a conventional wide-screen auditorium like Regal’s larger ones (that is, “Epcot style”), the entire screen area won’t be used, since the set up is optimal for wide anamorphic.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"When the Iron Bird Flies": the diaspora for Buddhism

When the Iron Bird Flies: Tibetan Buddhism Arrives in the West”, directed by Victress Hitchcok and Amber Bernak, documents the diaspora of people who practice the Buddhist faith, in large part because of China’s treatment of religion in Tibet.
When some people want to set up a center in Freehold, New Jersey, they run into a zoning board that actually asks questions about “Christianity.” 

Finally, some people set up what seems like an intentional community in the West (I think it was northern California, around Mt. Shasta), with for concentrated meditation practice.  I was somewhat reminded of my visits to Lama in New Mexico in the 1980s.

There is talk of “Sumsar”, the idea that “life is suffering” and the acceptance of “pervasive dissatisfaction”.

The official site (from Chariot Videos and Pundarika) is here

The film is available on Netflix instant play. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Puncture": Chris Evans stars as idealistic but flawed lawyer going against corporate interests that may have made HIV much worse

Puncture” (2011), directed by Paul and Adam Kassem with story by Paul Danziger, is a bit like a John Grisham legal thriller (like “Rainman”) with evil insurance and pharmaceutical companies, set in the late 1990s.

Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) and Paul (played by Mark Kassem) are the underdog Houston lawyers, and Mike has a character weakness – drug addiction, which puts him in the hospital after a vomiting spell in the film’s middle section.  Are such fallibilities of rooting-interest protagonists necessary?  This is appears to be based on a true story (Weiss’s dates are given as 1967-1999). 

The lawyers stumble upon a plaintiff Vicky (Vanessa Shaw) with HIV from a hospital needlestick. The course of the litigation shows that the corporate defendants conspired to keep safer syringes out of the market to boost profits.  The script at one point seems to blame the companies for the entire HIV epidemic explosion in the 1980s, as well as the subsequent outbreak of Hepatitis C.

The screenplay has a lot of exposition, with characters explaining the sins of the companies rather than engaging in natural dialogue.  Maybe this argues that the film should have been a documentary. 

 The film is a bit low-keyed for the seriousness of the subject matter. 

The most relevant website now seems to be “Safe Needle”. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of downtown Houston by Henry Wan, under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license.  
 I visited the city many times while living in Dallas in the 1980s.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Amy": a tragic story of a singer

Amy”, directed by Asif Kapadia, is a long but ultimately gripping documentary of the life of British jazz singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). Amy started out life as precocious, living in her own flat as a teen, but her course in life would be undermined by intractable addiction to alcohol and drugs, accompanies even by bulimia.
The film starts out slowly, with a lot of fuzzy old footage, but becomes compelling as this gifted young woman is unable to deal with fame, attention, and the recursive fixes of substance abuse.  I didn’t actually know the tragic outcome when I saw the film, as her genre is not my own (which is more classical).
There are several interventions, and at one point Universal sends her a letter threatening to deny her any more business unless she submits to medical supervision and drug testing.   Doctors tell her that the build-up of various drugs in her system threaten her with cardiac arrest and sudden death at any time, even though she is in her 20s.  Her life is managed by others, which is part of her problem. 
Eventually, her managers whisk her away to a rehab concert in Belgrade, Serbia – and the images of the city at night near the concert hall are quite compelling visually.  She has a total meltdown on the stage.  (I thought about the recent film about Glen Campbell.) When he returns to London, she soon is found dead in her palatial house of alcohol poisoning.
Personally, this downward spiral into drugs isn’t part of my own repertoire.  At one time, when growing up, I did not envy media stars because I, like many in my generation, perceived them as “spoiled” and “immoral”.  But as I became an author myself and mixed more with media people, not just musicians but also including many in acting, directing, and film production, I certainly developed an interest in “being there” myself.  It would seem hard to get anywhere in major media without self-discipline, which alcohol and drugs would undermine.  Indeed, the people I know personally seem to have the right kind of self-control, because I’ve never really encountered this among people I know.
The official site (from A24 Films) is here.

I saw the film late today at Regal Ballston Common in Arlington before a small audience.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Belgrade nightlife, by NinoBeg, under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Self/less" is a B-movie treatment of the body-soul exchange idea (how to get young and healthy again)

Self/less”, directed by Tarsem Singh, is based on the premise that one can have his consciousness transplanted to another body, as with “Advantageous”, reviewed here July 1, and in my novel manuscript. But here the premise is used to make a B-movie, which becomes a roller coaster of popcorn entertainment with car chases and shootouts, and a rather silly ending. The film is written by David and Alex Pastor.  It’s not exactly about taking selfies.
I would love to wake up in a younger body, which could be my own at 21.  I’d love to find my scalp hair back, and even more relevant to shame, the hair on my legs.  If I woke up in someone else’s body would I have his consciousness or mine?
As the film opens, real estate billionaire Damian Hayes (Ben Kingsley), 68, basks in his gilded penthouse in Manhattan, reminding one of the way Donald Trump lives.  Soon he is explaining that he has terminal cancer and his doctor is talking about hospice. He is whisked away in a private jet to a luncheon in New Orleans, where he collapses.  He’s whisked to a mysterious facility near Tulane, where he finds himself lying next to the inert body of a 35-year-old.  He’s sent through what looks like an MRI machine, which stops his heart, and his consciousness transfers (through “shedding”) to the new body, played by Ryan Reynolds.  The new body has scalp, chest, arm and leg hair; his had been gone (maybe from chemotherapy).
The young Damian has a new name (Edward Hale), and has to live as if he were in a witness protection program.  He is told that his fictitious birth date was in 1980, making him 34.  He is supposed to take these red pills to control hallucinations, which he soon learns comes from Edward’s real life.
But he feels the impulse to investigate, from his pad in New Orleans, and soon tracks down Edward’s past family near St. Louis.  He travels there, and not to watch the Cardinals in a World Series.  There’s a widow and young daughter, to be raised.  He had been told he had never been married (as if maybe gay). Imagine the family values issues.  But the movie really doesn’t go there. Instead, he learns that “Edward” had been murdered. The effort to convince the wife (Natalie Martinez) that he is really Damian is hardly very convincing. But soon he finds there is a pretty big plot involving more spare bodies and plans for him, led by the young mad scientist played by Matthew Goode.
The Tumblr site is here
The film is distributed by Gramercy Pictures, which was an arthouse label in the 90s and now belongs to Comcast-NBC-Universal.  Focus (the usual art distributor) is also mentioned.  But Gramercy seems  a bit the analogue of CBS Files (there is an MSNBC films trademark).
I saw the film at AMC Tysons on a weekday afternoon, before a small audience, which tended to laugh at the film rather than with it.
Maybe another comparison would be the 60s classic “Seconds”. 

Most of the film was shot on location in New York and in Louisiana.

Picture: No, not New Orleans, but Tampa FL, my visit a few days ago.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Epcot travel films in "Cinerama"

The Walt Disney Epcot World Showcase offers at least two travel films in super wide screen.
One of these is “O Canada”, in Circle-Vision.  The film goes back and forth across the country, and doesn’t stay in one order.  The Bay of Fundy and Magnetic Hill in New Brunswick are shown; visited it myself in 1978. The Canadian Rockies are of course spectacular;  I visited the area and took the ski lift at Banff (to about 7500 feet) in September 1983, when there were already snow flurries at Lake Louise.

The gardens of Victoria are shown, as are Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec, and Calgary (including the rodeo).

I think I had seen this before in a June 1983 visit.  It’s still the same.

The other big travel film is “Impressions de France”, which is effectively in Cinerama.  Again, I think I had seen this in 1983, too  There is an odd scene where Mont Blanc (the highest point in Europe) is shown with Debussy’s “La Mer” in the background. There is a lot of music from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, as well as the conclusion of the Organ Symphony.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"The Space Shuttle": a cute idea in 1969

The NASA Kennedy Space Center offers a short film documenting the history of the “shuttle” program, (call the film simply “The Space Shuttle”), at its Atlantis exhibit hall (which also offers a simulation of what a blast-off feels like – indeed, acceleration (either direct or angular) can greatly increase the perception of G-forces and gravity – an idea that is important for artificial gravity in science fiction movies, even my own – an idea I’ll take up later). 

The film starts in April 1969, with an enactment of a meeting at NASA called by a female engineer – to develop something that seems mysterious.  It will have nothing directly to do with man’s walking on the Moon in three more months. The idea is a reusable (or at least partially reusable) orbital vehicle. 

The device will need another vehicle for being transported around, and the idea comes up to put it piggyback on a 747.

Wikipedia gives the fleet history: Enterprise, Columbia, Discovery, Challenger and finally Atlantis (the first to launch an interplanetary probe).  The Challenger would experience a catastrophe in January 1986, which I remember hearing about at work. The first post-Challenger launch would be on a Discovery.
NASA has a longer documentary on YouTube, narrated by William Shatner, from which the museum film is extracted. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Shrek 4-D": a solitary "man" is drawn into action to protect others

The Universal animated demonstration short film “Shrek 4-D” or Shrek and the Fiery Dragon” is pretty effective, and offers some experiments along the way.

The audience is herded into a pre-show, where a “pre-story” is presented on two screens: a mirror (vertical), and conventional image to the right, with three thumbnails between.  Shrek is the lovable ogre, living by himself, who psychologists would say has a “schizoid personality”.  He would be challenged to see if he could help real forest people, driven toward his radical hospitality by Lord Farquaad.  When a princess is abducted, Shrek gets more involved with other peoples’ lives than he ever expected.  The pre-show presents a ghost villain on the right.

The main wide screen film shows how Eventually Shrek summons a fiery dragon to save everyone, riding Jurassic-back. The “4-D” comes from motion of the seats, and a little mist spray.

I guess Shrek plays the Dragon Sicilian Defense in chess games and wins with it (even against the Yugoslav Attack). 
The 4-D idea seems rather silly, but has been tried also at the Newseum in Washington and National Aquarium in Baltimore.  In 1974, the disaster flick “Earthquake”, by Mark Robson, from Universal, had introduced “Sensurround” with rustling chairs.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

"Mission Blue": biography of ocean researcher Sylvia Erle

Mission Blue” (2014), directed by Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens, a joint effort of National Geographic and Netflix, is a documentary about the work of NatGeo “Explorer in Residence” Sylvia Earle  much of her work dating back to the 70s and 80s. A lot of the footage is older, in narrower aspect, and emphasizes the novelty, at the time, of female divers or ocean explores.

The film focuses on areas around the Galapagos, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico.  She describes the Gulf has having become America’s toilet, largely because of the oil resource, especially after the BP Horizon disaster in 2010.  There is an interesting narrative about the Tampa area, which used to have a lot of natural swampland and has been paved over, probably contributing a lot to the unpredictable sinkhole problem plaguing homeowners.

There is a lot of discussion of overfishing, and about killing of sharks for skinning.

She also talks about cetaceans, especially whale sharks. 

She warns us that we may not see damage to the oceans easily, but without them, we would look like Mars (shown), or maybe Venus.

The film may be rented on Netflix Instant Play.  The film also had the help of Insurgent Media and of Ted Talks.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

"Everyday": British docudrama shows a family holding together with dad in prison

The British docudrama “Everyday” (2012), directed by Michael Winterbottom, depicts the closed-knit family life of a man imprisoned for smuggling drugs. 
The movie was show as “reality” of five years, a few weeks at a time (somewhat in the technical style of “Boyhood” or “56”). 
The closeness of Ian (John Simm) to his four children is quite touching, during visitations at the jail.  In the meantime his wife Karen (Shirley Henderson) raises the kids and remains loyal, “for richer or for poorer”, etc.   One of the kids is taunted at school because of dad.  I am not wired to live this way.
Toward the end, Ian gets to visit his home, and barely misses disaster over another allegation. Perhaps the film makes a case for a libertarian policy on drugs.
The music score by Michael Hyman repeats a placid major-key melody repeatedly.
The film may be rented from IFC  (or Sundance Selects) on YouTube or viewed on  Netflix. Channel 4 Television in the UK was a production company.
Wikipedia attribution link for photo from Devon by Dennis Redfield, under Creative Commons 2.0 License. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Lars Van Trier becomes indulgent with "Nymphomaniac Vol. 1"

Lars Van Trier has produced some interesting works, but when he gets focused on just one or two characters he gets self-indulgent. That seems to be the case with “Nymphomaniac Volume 1”.  Does this really need two movies?
The movie opens with a blank screen for some time, making one wonder if something is wrong. Then Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds a woman Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) passed out in an alley,
The film comprises each character telling life narratives.  Joe tells the stories of her allowing men to abuse her.  Some of the sequences are interesting, like when she applies for a job and is astonished at the idea that she should have experience.  In some scenes, the physical passion is explosive, something of which I am not capable, as if it were some personal cross to bear – but only when others want to barge in and demand that I compete in their world.
Seligman’s narratives can get interesting, as when he talks about mathematics (a Fibonacci sequences is shown on the screen) or organ music, or, particularly, the Russian revolution, and how the Bolsheviks parsed the parasitic bourgeoisie from the “proles” as it crashed into estates, that would soon be “gone with the wind”.  With music, he gives an interesting explanation of polyphony in Bach. The role of the “tritone” (two minor thirds) in music, and the supposed controversy, is explored.  “Since the music has three voices, I will limit myself to talking about three lovers”, Joe says in response.
Some sequences are in black and white.
The official site is here
The film is now on Netflix instant play, and Amazon.  It played at Landmark E Street in downtown DC in 2013. 


Monday, July 06, 2015

"Fireflies in the Garden": men of letters have dynastic family squabbles, even in Texas

Fireflies in the Garden” (2008, directed and written by Dennis Lee) is a multi-generational family drama, set up with a lot of flashbacks, about a couple of scribes and writers, showing that they can have tempestuous families like “real people”.
The central character is romance novel author Michael Taylor (Ryan Reynolds). It’s interesting enough to concoct a male “Nora Roberts) and there are lines about what makes novels sell and keeps authors above the dreaded midlist. The younger Michael is well played by Cayden Boyd.  Then the other pole in the story is Michaels dominating father, English professor Charles (Willem Dafoe) and his mother Lisa (Julia Roberts) who delayed her own college graduation until after raising her kids.
The pivotal event in the story is an auto accident (which happens in an instant) when Charles is driving to the graduation party, and Lisa dies.  The accident happens when Lisa’s nephew Christopher (Chase Ellison) carelessly runs out in front, causing the car to swerve.
When Michael returns to the “Drogheda” (I think of “The Thorn Birds”), this time set in Bastrop, Texas, finding himself displaced by other family, the modern day fireflies are set up.
Part of the backstory involves Michael’s humiliation as a teen for falsely claiming to have written a Robert Frost poem, “Fireflies in the Garden”, also the title of Michael’s own memoir.  (Did it really sell?) It also involves recreation exploding fish on ponds with firecrackers.
The story is pretty intricate, but the presentation of the backstory incidents sometimes seems a bit arbitrary. The original film ran 120 minutes, but the Sony DVD runs just 89 minutes. 
The official Facebook is here. The original release (Kultur Production company) was on Senator Films (a big all star cast for a small film) and then it was picked up by Universal Focus.  Every company that handles the film wants to change it. Another classic movie that comes to mind is Tom Schulman's "Dead Poets Society" (1989). 
The mixing and concatenation of generations in a dramatic film reminds me of my “Mobius Strip” idea from my own DADT screenplay.  If you’re an old man who lost out on relationships, cross to the other side of the strip, turn young for a day and experience a relationship with a young adult a couple generations later, but just for a day.  Maybe not a real challenge. 


Sunday, July 05, 2015

"Infinitely Polar Bear": maybe politically correct, but rather silly comedy

Infinitely Polar Bear” presents Mark Ruffalo in a self-effacing role this time, as a blundering father almost hiding behind his bipolar disorder or manic-depressive. His first name, “Cam”, is only coincidental with the much more successful Modern Family character. 
Nevertheless, he convinced Maggie (Zoe Saldana) to marry him and have two quite gifted girls.  (One of them asks Maggie in one scene if she’s “black”.)  When Mark gets hospitalized, Maggie decides to go (from Cambridge, MA) down to New York to get an MBA so she can get a better job.  In the meantime, Cam is expected to prove he is good for something by taking care of the kids.  Men are messy, right?
When she returns, she finds employers in Boston not too eager to hire her because she has kids.  So much for work-family balance (and the paid family leave debate).
The official site is here. Sony Pictures Classics). It’s odd to see this film produced by Bad Robot.
There was a fair July 4 crowd at Angelika Mosaic in Faifax, and it related to the emotional tone of the relationships in this family more than I did. 

Saturday, July 04, 2015

"Terminator: Genisys": The Arnold is indeed back; the younger Aussie makes a sacrifice

I’m not a big follower of the Terminator genre, and I have a bit of a problem with a premise based on backward time travel, because of the time arrow of physics.
Nevertheless, that’s the premise of “Terminator: Genisys” (directed by Alan Taylor).  In 2029, in a wrecked world, a time machine has somehow been built, and cyborg warrior John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends an unaged Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) all the way back to his boyhood home in the coast mountains of California in 1984, to reinvent himself, protect Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and change the future.
At this point, it’s important to note the first checkpoint of history.  On August 29, 1997, the day of Princess Diana’s accident and before I started my own move to Minnesota, the artificial intelligence of our missile silos turned on us and destroyed most of the country, rather like a Cuban Missile Crisis II.  Kyle will get past that and wind up at another breakpoint in 2017, with a new ally Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger, back to making movies after paying his dues as GOP governor of California) and another in an aged O’Brien (Whiplash’s J. K. Simmons). 
The nemesis is a company called Genisys, which had started as a gaming company in 1984, on the new Apple, and become a morph of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. It was somehow responsible for the 1997 meltdown (a likely story).
Kyle’s journey back to his youth costs him – his chest hair, and even arms and legs at times, as if he ha done a Justin Timberlake (or, for that matter, Freddie Smith in the past on “Days”). The movie also presents some paradoxes:  people meeting their earlier selves, or kids older than their parents. 
There is something like that in “The Age of Adaline”, as well as, for that matter, “Interstellar”.  The whole film has a Christopher Nolan feel.  Hans Zimmer was the executive music producer for the film, and the music has some of the style of “Inception”, but there were other composers.  Is this a way for classically trained composers and musicians to make a real living?
The official site (Paramount and Skydance) is here
I saw the film at AMC Tysons in Imax 3D, before a fairly large audience.  The aspect ratio stayed at 2.35:1, rather than filling the entire vertical space of Imax.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

"Snap: Enter the Dangerous Mind": a popular electronic dance composer goes ballistic while mentally ill

Enter the Dangerous Mind” (2013), originally called “Snap”, by Youssef Delara and Victor Teran, attracted my attention at first because it ostensibly appears to be about a music composer losing his sanity and going down.  That has happened.  The musician is Jim (Jake Hoffman), and he seems pestered by a related companion Jake (Thomas Dekker).  For a while, we’re not even sure that Jake is real, or just a “voice” or phantom of schizophrenia.
Jim’s music genre is EDM, or “electronic dance music”, which is largely percussive, popular in some kinds of discos. He seems to have some online following.  He has volunteered at a woman’s shelter where he meets a social worker Wendy (Nikki Reed).

For straight men, dating puts them under a lot of pressure to make a move and perform, it seems.  Jim, who is quite attractive physically, is humiliated when he experiences premature ejaculation with Nikki. (The same thing happens to “Ephram” (Gregory Smith) in an infamous episode of “Everwood”). 
After this, his own demons are released, apparently related to a horrible episode of abuse in the past.  He embarks on a crazy plan to avenge his own humiliation with catastrophic results.
There is an early scene where police come to his apartment over a noise complaint over loud music.  They even find his air pistol.  Garden apartments do tend to transmit noise a lot.  Twice that happened to me in Dallas, once when playing Schoenberg’s Verlkaerte Nacht, the other the Schubert Great. 
Official Facebook site is here Cima, and Variance Films).
I saw the film on Netflix Instant Play, but it can be rented on YouTube or Amazon for $3.99.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"Advantageous": In the future, looks will mean everything, even to the point of body swapping

Advantageous” (2015), by Jennifer Phang, is a somewhat groundbreaking science-fiction film, quieter and less “obvious” (and maybe less commercial) than something like “Ex Machina”).  The film went right from Sundance to Netflix instant play, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see some theatrical runs under the “Sundance Selects” label.  Too bad we don’t have the West End Cinema in DC now.
In a dystopian city (in 2041), built up from New York with CGI, rich people live off rentier wealth, and few people have jobs, and somehow the poor people are kept mollified or drugged.  Gwen (Jacqueline Kim), at 40, still has a good job as a PR person for a cosmetics company, but recently she has been “red-flagged”.  Essentially, she no longer looks young enough to be effective in her job.  She fears she will not be able to see her daughter Jules (Samantha Kim) enough advantages to make it, despite her gifts and advantages. This all echoes David Callahan’s 2004 book “The Cheating Culture”.  There’s talk of going to work as an egg donor, as more women have become infertile (and there is a suggestion that population demographics, with rich people not having enough kids, has become a problem). 
Soon she is confronted by a radical idea:  she can have her soul transplanted to a younger body. Now this is a bit more radical than doing cosmetic surgery (which a recent issue of “Time” suggested everybody will be expected to do soon), or even getting wigs or toupees to cover up imperfection. I was once prodded to do that.  I’ve even fielded the idea, that if I am attracted to someone, could I stay “loyal” if something “happens” or even if “he” changes his mind (like what if he is trans-gender after all?)  That could make a screenplay.
Yet, what happens here is more like some ideas in my novel “Angel’s Brother”.  That’s too much to explain right here, but I’ll give a couple of links.  See where I discuss “the second function” at this first link  describing it, and how the “144,000 angels” idea works here (written earlier). 
I’ll also give a couple quotes from my book:
From Chapter 21:

The middle aged character Randy, at a ritual initiation, ponders “Bill”:
I see myself, making up a gratuitous example about the area of a triangle as an integral.  I point out my own error from the seat.  I am teacher and student, at the same time.  But only for a little while.  Only for demonstration, for proof of concept.

I read Bill’s screenplay, “The Sub”.  I wondered if his only purpose was to tempt me into making a pass at Bill, to seduce him, to prove the point.  I become him.  I become an elder with all my youth.

And then I become Bill, for real, for a little while. But Bill doesn’t really want to become me.  He wants to live in a Sal or a Matt.

From Chapter 27:
“Sal” has learned that he is an angel that will host many personalities who will occasionally live for an hour or so in his body, while he gets to know all of them.  Bill keeps more independence.

In a half hour or so, Randy would get this part of the conversation transmitted. 

“I actually experience a little of the people I infect,” Sal said. “I can reconstruct Randy’s own night to remember. He would marry, have kids, and carry the same cravings you did.  Because he was strong, like me, he could do it all.  You couldn’t.  But the infection worked better for you than anyone else.  Look, your biological disguise got you out again. And not just ‘For the first time’. But it will go away.  This body snatch doesn’t last, it still melts like snow that doesn’t stick.”

“You and Matt…”

“We’re the heroes. We’re the only two angels that go on forever.  The virus brings the Y chromosome stuff to the fertilization.  It must have happened for Christ.  As we all know, in mammals, virgin births could produce only females, unless there was a vector virus like this one. We wouldn’t need weddings anymore.  We would just want them for fun”

My book has the concept of identity transference through a bizarre virus. But my DADT screenplay does not;  the best possibility is a kind of telepathy.  There is always a question, "what would it be like" to experience being someone else.  In this movie, Gwen finally "succeeds"; her "2.0" instantiation is played by a Freya Adams. 
Back to the review now! (or “Back to the Bay!”)
Here’s another great discussion of the film by Arthur Chu.  And Vox Media’s site “The Verge” even weighs in on the film here.  This one gets a lot of attention.
The official Facebook site is here. The film can also be watched for $3.99 on Amazon Instant. 

It looks like the Lipstick Building (Madoff) shows up in my first picture above.