Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vox produces animated short explaining authoritarianism

In this era where I am moving my new reviews of larger media projects to another platform, I still find some small little films to mention here.

Vox Media has an animated “short”, “Donald Trump and the Rise of American Authoritarianism”.

There is a byline, “the political science that predicted Trump’s rise”.

People who support leaders like Trump place a great emphasis on security, social order, and obedience of subordinates and children, somewhat for its own sake.  Personal creativity and expression and initiative take a back seat to stability and predictability.  Authoritarianism tends to castigate “expressive” people whom it sees as freeloading on the sacrifices of others.

 Authoritarianism expects everyone to “join” and to “belong’.  Remember the call "I need some volunteers" in Army Basic.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

New York Times offers "virtual reality" short film tour of "dwarf planet" Pluto

The New York Times offers a seven minute virtual reality filmSeeing Pluto’s Frigid Heart” online,   through the smart phone app NYTVR or Google Play.

When the film is streamed, the view of the dwarf planet’s landscape varies as the viewer tilt’s the phone or tablet screen angle.  The video shows ice-scapes and reddish-brown masses, magnified to suggest an altitude of a few miles, with the NASA Pluto flyby July 14, 2015.  The surface is mostly nitrogen ices with various contaminants.  The thin  atmosphere contains some carbon monoxide and methane.

The moon Clarion, and the moon Triton of Neptune (especially) apparently differ considerably from Pluto, despite similar origins.

The app urges the use of headphones, but the narration can be heard in a quiet room from the phone itself.

On another matter, I’ve noticed that Amazon is very strict about spoiler alerts in accepting user reviews on its website.  Apparently Hollywood is really worried that “knowing the ending” will deter some customers from going to specific films (it doesn’t work that way for me).

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA map of  Pluto

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ameer's "Straight Men and the Gay Men Who Love Them 3", collection lives on the edge

Straight Men and the Gay Men Who Love Them 3” (2014) is the third so-named collection of short gay films produced by Jorge Ameer (and Hollywood Independents),  The first of these collections seems to be no longer available. The DVD cover describes it as “an international compilation of gay shorts.”

The first film, “Quarters” (2013, 16 min), is directed by Ameer himself.  Paul (Tom Drexel) and Jeremy (Robert Brinkley) spend Paul’s last night as a bachelor together in an apartment on the French Cote d’Azur. Paul will marry a woman.  They play “quarters” as if it were strip poker. Jerry (thinner, smooth-chested) has dated girls too but comes out.  The rest is Paul’s one last chance for gay intimacy, however non-ritualistic.

The filmmaking is not Ameer’s best, but the director is known for edgy gay subjects, especially gay men living double lives.

The largest film is “From Here to There” (2012, 29 min) by Yee Lam Wong, set in Hong Kong (without Edward Snowden). Two past friends (Wing Him Chan and Jae Lenug) meet at a wedding banquet.  One of the young men gets drunk so the other drives him home, through impressive scenery.  The two men remember their past “relationship” at a Baptist academy (sort of a road setting like my short story “Expedition”, next-to-last in my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book).

In “Boygame” (2013, 15 min, Sweden), by Anna Nolskog, two 15-year olds talk about getting girls but practice on each other.  I trust that the real-life actors (Charlie Gustafsson and Joakin Lang) were over 18 at the time of filming,

Rubber Duckie” (2012), by Henry Alberto, presents two young men (one gay, one straight, apparently), living together in a dilapidated industrial warehouse in a post-apocalyptic world.  Apparently there is enough battery power around for video games and not much else.  Filmed in Lancaster, CA. Starring Max Hambleton and Adam Vaughn.

Early One Summer” (2009, 10 minutes, UK), by Gary Thomas is the shortest of the set but the most disturbing. Dave (Charlie Ross), is invited to go on a camping trip by his physical education teacher (Graeme Dalling),  The teacher says he is not married, but we see fights before and after the trip between Graeme and his wife (Janet Greaves) over his interest in much younger men.

The DVD has a 31-minute director interview, much of it dealing with this last film. Thomas says the boy is of college age, and that older men are often not very aware age distances in relationships until others force them to deal with it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"The Armor of Light" looks at Christian teachings and self-defense

The Armor of Light”, directed by Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes, is the second of two PBS “Independent Lens” films on successive evenings dealing with the area of being “Armed in America”.
The film focuses on the work of anti-abortion activist Robert Schenck, who has come to question whether the focus on self-defense and Second Amendment rights among many evangelical Christians, contradicts “the Second Commandment” (and the Sixth Commandment, obviously), as well as deeper understandings of the teachings of Christ on “loving your enemies.”

The activist has an office in Washington DC very near the Supreme Court building.

The film covers a number of controversial gun cases, especially in Florida with its “stand your ground” laws.  These cases include Trayvon Martin’s shooting by George Zimmerman, and the shooting of teens outside a fast-food restaurant by a software engineer irritated by “loud music.”

The official PBS site for the film is here  (also, Fork Films and Samuel Goldwyn). The film can be viewed on Amazon for $1 and YouTube for $3.99.
After the 88-minute film, PBS hosted a second town hall (one hour) at the Northland Bible Church in Orlando, one of the largest in Florida, with pastor Joel Hunter, hosted by Michelle Martin of “All Things Considered”., called “Faith and Guns”.  Most participants seemed to feel this was a cultural problem, that everyone has an obligation to defend the self and other family members and neighbors from unpredictable criminals and “enemies” (and that seems to contradict the Gospel).

Monday, May 09, 2016

"Peace Officer": founder of a Utah police SWAT team documents abuses by his own creation

PBS “Independent Lens” is airing two related films this week on police conduct and “gun violence in America”.  Despite my own announcement yesterday, it’s more convenient to do these films here now.

Monday night, PBS aired “Peace Officer”, directed by Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson. The film (listed as 105 minutes on imdb but running 88 minutes on PBS) tells the story of former Utah sheriff William “Dub” Lawrence, who was elected sheriff in Davis County, north of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1974.  He had to learn the job OJT. He formed one the early SWAT teams to help lead the Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan war on drugs. Of course, libertarianism has pointed out the fallacy, that the criminalization seems to make the practical problems worse.

Over the years, Dub started to become skeptical of the practice.  Finally, he had to do a raid where his own son-in-law was killed.

But Dub documents a number of cases where police may have not been justified by their conduct during raids, and where mistakes can lead to maiming or deaths of civilians.

In one case, police were trying to capture someone AWOL from the Army, and got the wrong house or wrong person with the same name. A deadly confrontation was barely avoided because the homeowner used only a baseball bat at the door rather than a shotgun.

A few other cases, like Matthew Stewart and Brian Wood, were examined in detail.

The film even said that in some towns in Utah, you don’t call the police.

Officers have sometimes been exonerated for shooting innocent civilians if they reasonably believe that they were threatened by a criminal in the home.

After the movie, PBS conducted a QA in Orlando, FL.

There was a case in 2014 of Darrien Hunt in Saratoga Springs, UT, which Reid Ewing has tweeted about, which was not mentioned in this particular film.

Official site is here  (Submarine and Gravitas Venuturas). It can be watched on Amazon for $6.99 and YouTube for $3.99.

Wikipedia attribution link for Salt Lake salt flats picture https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saltph26.jpg (p.d.)

Sunday, May 08, 2016

De Niro has second thoughts on pulling "Vaxxed" from Tribeca; debate on censorship of indie film ensues; my own migration of movie reviewing to a new site

This morning (Sunday), ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” featured a brief story about the documentary film “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” , directed by Andrew Wakefield, written with Del Matthew Bigtree.  The film purports to claim that the CDC covered up a study linking common vaccines to autism in some boys in 2004.  I have no direct way to know if this is true, and would tend to doubt it.

Robert De Niro appeared, and seemed to express some regrets over pulling the film from the Tribeca film festival in New York City for 2016.  There is an obvious claim that this is indirect censorship of independent film, by the establishment (big pharma).  A communications professor from American University in Washington appeared, and suggested that it is appropriate to discourage even amateur media projects that continuously question accepted science where there is no debate. For example, the idea that man causes climate change (Al Gore’s 2005 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” for Paramount Vantage) is established science;  but the rate of climate change, expected rise in sea levels, and effect on severe storms or wildfires is all still worthy of deep investigation.  It would seem that the idea that fracking causes earthquakes is still worthy of investigation.

Vaccines present a public health moral dilemma. If most kids get them (and most adults for some diseases) there is “herd immunity”.  Parents who refuse to allow vaccination based on a probable hypothetical risk are depending on others to take the risk for them (sort of like the military draft in the past). One could say, “Bill, you don’t have kids, how dare you say this.”  True, I don’t face some risks personally because I don’t have sexual intercourse with women (and I haven’t adopted children or been compelled to raise any “OPC” – some people are).  But you can’t settle issues on emotion.

The film is in limited release (Cinema Libre), and will come to Washington DC May 20.

I wanted to advise visitors that in the future, my movie reviews will be done on a new Wordpress site called “Bill’s Media Commentary”. I opened this site and wrote the first post last Wednesday, May 4, 2016.  I’ll explain more about this very soon on my main “BillBoushka” blog quite soon.

Some movies business stories may still appear here from time to time, and existing reviews may be updated or corrected as circumstances, comments or new information warrant.  At this time, there are no direct plans to copy this blog to the new Wordpress site, but that could happen later.  l will provide more tools to help visitors link reviews on the two sites by common labels.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"Dirty Teacher", about abuse by a rogue female high school teacher, is compelling if formulaic

Lifetime channel film “Dirty Teacher” (2013, directed by Doug Campbell) deals with an inappropriate relationship between a high school teacher (female) and a student (mail); but this time there is no seduction by the minor and the teacher is truly evil.

Molly Matson (Josie Davis), about age 40, takes over a senior high school English class in a LA suburb as a long-term sub.  In her class are Danny Campbell (Cameron Deane Stewart), a baseball player who needs to keep his grades up to stay on the team, and Jamie Hall (Kelcie Stanahan) needs to keep her grades up to get a scholarship.  Her dad has lost his job, can’t get another one and her parents are about to get foreclosed on their upside down home. Danny has been dating Jamie, who has resisted going “all the way”.

Molly has a mental health problem from a traumatic event in her own childhood (shown in erratic flashbacks).  She starts to come between Danny and Jamie and makes a move on Danny, eventually getting into intimacy.  She manipulates Jamie’s grades to keep Jamie busy and away from Danny.  When Danny finally balks at the relationship and suddenly, as a male, feels abused himself by an older adult, a violent confrontation occurs and she runs him over with her car, “accidentally”.  Then, she tries to frame Jamie with fake physical evidence of what should be a second degree murder case.  I don’t know if this is based on a true story, but if it were it would get on to Dateline. Molly, in the end, seems to be a psychopath, rather like out of a soap opera, comparable to Theresa in NBC's "Days of our Lives."

Screenwriting teachers tell you to make the heroine’s circumstances really desperate.  Jamie breaks bail (even with the ankle bracelet) and with the help of her parents track down the organized crime ring that helps Molly hide her crime – with some cunning insights into how these rings work.  The writing of this brisk 85-minute movie seems cookie-cutter and formulaic, yet the film works and keeps the viewer engaged at the horror toward the end.

Danny, as portrayed, is about as physically attractive as a young man can get.  (OK, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.) That makes the murder scene particularly gruesome and upsetting.

The official site is here (Johnson Production Group and Lifetime).

So this film would make a distant comparison to “Student Seduction” (May 4, 2010). Lifetime consistently produces films on important social problems, especially involving women.
I played the film on Amazon Instant Play.  I could not get past a video error on any Windows machine. On the MacBook, Amazon prompted me to download the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight and then it played. Why does Amazon need Silverlight to play?

Picture: Beach north of San Diego, near Camp Pendleton (my trip, 2012)

Monday, May 02, 2016

"Addicted to Sexting", or at least flirting, online

Addicted to Sexting” (2015), by Joseph Tosconi, 80 minutes, looks at the “growth” of the practice of flirting with other people through technology, often including sending sexually explicit images and messages.

One of the most serious legal problems in recent years is that when minors send images of themselves, they are often breaking state or even child pornography laws, and have often been prosecuted. And teenagers usually don’t have the judgment to grasp the possible long term consequences to them for a single image sent on a smart phone. But the film does not hit this point as hard as it could.

A psychological problem is that people become “addicted” to the brief pleasure of seeing images online, because of the physiological way dopamine works.

The film traces the history of sending explicit texts on older devices, even work-related pagers or beepers. There is coverage of the idea of covering your tracks (Snapchat -- "those messages disappear all by themselves" -- Hillary Clinton, and Tender, for meetups).

The movie also covers the attitude that people expect others to join in the flirtation, a practice that I even find unwelcome on Facebook myself.  I’ve even experienced a situation on twitter where someone who didn’t follow me back didn’t want me to act too chummy, so it seems.

The official Facebook is here  (Gravitas Venturas).

The film covers the “ugliness” of sexual images of the elderly.   It also covers revenge porn briefly, including a troubling gay male case.

The film can be viewed on Netflix instant play or viewed on Amazon.