Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Misinfo Nation": short film from Mozilla, ought to be in the festivals



Misinfo Nation: Misinformation, Democracy, and the Internet” from Mozilla as a complimentary short film.


The piece takes the position that the barrage of false information in social media may not have as destructive a political effect as has been feared.  People who receive it are already in their echo chambers and have already decided on which candidates to support (such as Donald Trump in the 2016 election).  So the piece seems design to counter the view that social media threw the 2016 election to Trump.

The film defends individualized speech, and may be designed to counter the political pressure on platforms which is increasing and could lead to much less speech by individuals (even like me) than what we have come to take for granted in the past two decades.

The film doesn’t cover the radicalization cycle (say the way Brian Stelter keeps explaining it on CNN) as much as it might have tried to do.

This is an important short film.  Maybe it should be in a festival (like Tribeca next spring).

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"The Birdcage": recalling "We Are Family" indeed



Actor Reid Ewing just now, on Twitter, did an impersonation of Florida senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman) from “The Birdcage” (MGM/UA),  a co-founded or the Committee of Moral Order, right out of the mouth of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. It's based on the play by Jean Poiret. 

  
I remember seeing this gay comedy directed by Mike Nichols in 1996 (at the old NEI in Merrifield VA, now replaced by the Angelika Mosaic), which starts with a boat goes across a sound toward Miami Beach, with “We Are Family” playing in the soundtrack.  Gay cabaret owner Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) and his gender fluid lover Albert (Nathan Lane) have a son they have raised, from Albert is heterosexual days (Paul Rosenfels used to say that most transvestites are straight). The son Val (Dan Futterman) will get married, and the Senator and wife (Dianne Wiest) will invade South Beach.
  
  
The film has a lot of satirical moments, pre gay marriage but when gay parenting was happening more. In one scene, a Louise teases Robin Williams’s hairy chest (remember “Mrs. Doubtfire’?) and also mentions gays in the military (this film was made during Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask don’t tell”.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Two feature films about Matthew Shepard



On the day after Matthew Shepard was interred at Washington National Cathedral, it’s well to note a film about his story, Tim Hunter’s “Anatomy of a Hate Crime” (2001), from Team Entertainment and MTV.  It is written by Max Ember.


Cy Carter plays Matthew, who was charismatic and yet perhaps naïve and innocent at the same time. I remember how that comes through the performance when I saw it while living in Minneapolis in 2001. The two assailants are played by Brendan Fletcher and Ian Somerhalder. Yet, Matthew could have been taken in.

  
In 2002 there was a second TV film from Canadian TV and shown on NBC, simply “The Matthew Shepard Story”, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, with Shane Meier as Matthew and Stockard Channing as his mother.

See also "Matthew Shepard Was a Friend of Mine", Oct. 3, 2014. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

"Barton Fink": Coen Brothers make a layered period piece film noir about screenwriting; where the external carnage becomes the screenplay



I mentioned “Barton Fink” today in reviewing “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”.  I remember seeing this black comedy back in late 1991 at the Shirlington Theater in Arlington VA, on a Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a workplace crisis.


The Coen Brothers film (directed by Joel, distributed by 20th Century Fox, without Cinemascope) deals with writers block in the screenwriting business back in 1941, but it has a David Lynch kind of look.


John Turturro plays the playwright, now hired as a screenwriter and holed up in a flop hotel (the Earle) where he thinks he can avoid writers block.  Pretty soon some bizarre events, especially involving the insurance salesman Charlie (John Goodman) next door, and later a novelist Mayhew (John Mahoney), and a secretary Audrey (Judy Davis) who claims to have ghostwritten most of Mayhew’s work. Then there is a lot of gratuitous violence that generates Barton’s script.
So this is some kind of layering.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Why Colleges Tolerate Fraternities" (Vox, "Overrated")




Phil Edwards, a “nerd” narrates “Why Colleges Tolerate Fraternities”, 7 minutes, in Vox’s “Overrated” series.


At one time they were banned because of connection to the Masons and the fear of secrecy.

But as college enrollment soared after 1900, colleges found that fraternities were a good tool for “distributive discipline” (even if that started with hazing) and later a source of alumni money.
Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society, was a fraternity and got started at William and Mary (from which I was expelled in 1961 in the freshman semester, but I’ve covered that before, as well as the “Tribunals”).


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"Pretty Privilege?": What if you have the perfect body at age 21 to be noticed on your first night out? I sure didn't.



In “Pretty Privilege?”, a cis-male with a perfect bod explains what it is like to another guy who is not so perfect.  He is like Macho Man from the Village People.  But the future ride may be all downhill from this point in space-time.


Some how this reminds me of Umair Haque’s criticism of capitalism, based on the idea that some people believe they are just “born better” than others. 
  
It would have been nice to be able to go into a bar at 21 with a perfect body. Had someone done so in 1981 or so, he might not be around today.

Update: Oct. 29, 2018

A match?  From Miami book fair, November, 2017?  (I went there, where my books were being promoted). A totally random coincidence.

The subject of the film is Eduardo Sanche-Ubanell who in on imdb and has made short films (one of them about the Everglades).  Maybe a future focus on reversing climate change?  Let us hope so. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

"White Lily": short film examines the importance of fantasy for people who travel alone




Dust presents a 9-minute short film “White Lily”, from Chrita Oldfield and director Adrian Reynolds.
   
  
A man on a space ship in interstellar space (it barges through some space junk) ponders what people will look like when he returns home in twenty more years.  He has a girl friend on board, but we gradually learn she is a hologram, designed to fit his visual fantasies.  One clue is that she names parts of speech instead of real words an articulating her sentences. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

"Ducks' Migration": a young college-age male couple is distracted by parents, as one of them watches birds more than people, for science


Ducks’ Migration” (13 min), by Geoff Mansfield, presents two teens, about college freshman age, building a relationship, under the nose of the parents. 

One of the boys is into birding and makes a point of being at a pond (in Central Park, maybe) when the mallard ducks migrate for the fall.


But the distraction of their parents’ concern over their relationship may interfere with the boys’ seeing the big event.  

The film could use better definition. 

There is nudity, but not complete. 

In the 1990s, I had a friend in “Adventuring”, the DC area LGBT group, who sponsored birding hikes.
  
The film makes a curious reference to Bastille Day in France.
 
 For another short film about a young male scientist (Dallas Taylor) and animals, look at July 19, 2017, about ocean mammals who would love him. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"Camp Horizons": short film about aborted reparative therapy at an Oklahoma camp




Paul Hower’s “Camp Horizons” with Matthew Hanisch as Aiden and Griffin LaVictoire as Lucas.


Aiden is sent to a reparative therapy clinic in Oklahoma (by rejecting parents) and is paired with a childhood best friend Lucas. You can guess what may happen. Both young men are very cis physically -- and that creates a certain irony. 
  
The film is apparently set near the Quartz Mountains in SW Oklahoma.  I took this picture in 2005. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

"Hyperlight": short film about faster-than-light travel poses a paradox about identity




Hyperlight” (16 min) on Dust Films, directed by Nguyen Anh-Nyugen, presents an interesting paradox about personal identity and consciousness.


A faster-than-light spacecraft is in orbit around a distant, icy world. It has encountered a failure as it came out of hyper-speed. 

Elmirissa finds her male companion lifeless, but then a duplicate copy of him appears alive.  She also finds out she has died and is a duplicate.

To get her companion back she must kill his copy.
  
Does your consciousness move to the copy when you come out of hyperlight travel?  Is it like a dream?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Star Wars writer fired from Marvel for behavior on Twitter (hiding behind "safe spaces"?)



Marvel Studios has fired a writer for Star Wars franchise, Chuck Wendig, for his political threads on Twitter. The story by Kate Gardner on Mary Sue is here.

The problem seems to have to do with his being trolled for creating some LGBTQ and/or non-binary characters. 


It’s unclear what happened behind the scenes with LucasFilm or even Disney.
  
This is going to be a controversial story. Maybe a Timcast? 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"Babel" (2006) is an interesting networked-plot film in multiple locations




I tend to like films with intersecting stories around the world (like “Life Itself”), and one of the best examples is “Babel” (2006, Paramount) from Alejandro Gonzalez Innaratu.  It is the last of a trilogy of “death” films including “Amores Peres”, and “21 Grams”.  
  
The drama has interlocking stories in three major locations:  Morocco, Japan, and the US-Mexico border area.  It all starts when an American woman on a bus (Cate Blanchett) is accidentally shot by a boy while her husband (Brad Pitt) has to fend for her.


The story moves to Japan, were a troubled girl deals with a police investigation that leads eventually back to the man who provided the gun in Morocco, after considerable complexity involving her mother’s suicide.

And on the US border the American’s children’s nanny (undocumented) gets involved in complications taking the kids across the border for a wedding.

  
There is also a lot of backstory of the American couple who had lost a child to SIDS.
   
It's pretty clear how the title of the film is inspired by the story in Genesis. 

Look also at "The Edge of Heaven", June 24, 2008. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Some short films on "activists" by Ford Fischer (and an important documentary project)



I have presented and countered (with others criticism) Ford Fischer’s work for “News2Share” which he and Trey Yingst help start at American University in Washington DC a few years ago, on my “fr” blog (see Blogger profile, “Films on major threats to freedom”).

But I thought I would share is YouTube short from Providence, RI Saturday (during the same time as the Kavanaugh vote). Official name: “Clashes as ‘Providence Freedom Rally’ Clashes with Antifa”.


It’s all very combative. Someone threw urine in Ford Fischer’s face, and he says he almost vomited. 

 This little incident went around the Internet all day Saturday.

Fischer says some of the people in the crowd are “libertarians” who don’t grasp what they are getting themselves into.

Police got spray-painted in white by Antifa.
  
Fischer recently tweeted that he accidentally appeared in “The First Purge” (horror film, Universal, 2018), here.  But I have a cameo in “Major League 3” (sports comedy, Warner Brothers, 1997).
  
Providence (actually West Warwick) is the home of deceased documentary filmmaker Gode Davis (died, 2010).  His brother is trying to complete “American Lynching” with the help of PBS and I’ve had discussions with him about it (I have a small amount of footage). Gode was active in reporting the fatal West Warwick disco fire in 2003. 
  
Ford Fischer is also working on a documentary called “Transhuman”, Indiegogo site here.  Apparently this film will take up the issue of FOSTA (story). 

Picture: near Newport, RI, from my 2015 trip to visit Gode's brother, Greg.  

Monday, October 08, 2018

"Mythcon V" in Milwaukee: "Are Social Media Outlets Replacing Mainstream Media?", panel discussion "film"



On Sunday, September 23, 2018 I was having a nice sandwich lunch near Lake Tahoe, back on the California side (no slot machines)”, around 2 PM PDT, when suddenly my iPhone was filled with Twitter messages from Tim Pool (and others) over how Mythcon V had been delayed at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, WI (maybe 1800 miles away from me at the moment) because of bomb threats.  (Now, the Milwaukee Brewers are in the baseball playoffs, yes.) 

Then there was a volley tweets to the effect that the extremely confrontational and combative far Left knows it is dying and is getting desperate. I didn’t learn that the panel had gone on for a couple more days, before I flew home.

I guess it’s gotten worse this past week during the Kavanaugh hearings. 
But here is the one hour “film” of “Mythcon V”, the panel discussion “Are Social Media Outlets Replacing Mainstream Media?”. David Smalley moderated. The panelists were Steven Knight (“Godless Spellchecker”), Claire Knight (from Australia, “Quillette”), Jeremy Hambley (YouTube channel, “The Quartering”), and Tim Pool, formerly with Vice News and Fusion, now running his own Timcast channel on YouTube.   The session took place around 10:30 AM CDT on Saturday, September 22.


The biggest theme recurring through the one hour is the way the organized Left is prodding mainstream companies to hit back, by deplatforming at least the most objectionable content providers – namely (for now) Alex Jones.  (Frankly, I think Jones only made David Hogg more powerful by calling him a space alien.)  Some attention was paid to the power of credit card companies to shut down platforms.

So there seems to be a real power struggle, at least in my view. Pool pointed out that local news legacy media can no longer afford to hire court reporters to investigate corruption, and the competition with new media does not always work in the public interest.  The panel did mention the channeling by social media of sometimes false content into echo chambers, as a major problem, but did not give that aspect the attention I would have expected.  Claire and Pool noted that major newspapers no longer make their profits entirely from news operations, but use real estate to bolster the bottom line of their often holding companies to satisfy fiduciary responsibilities.



But new media does need to support itself (and this could get into campaign finance and issue advocacy law, as I have been discussing recently in other blog posts) and there is some shift from ads (and “clickbait”) to paywalls and simply using crowd funding. 

Quillette made somewhat on an impression on me, with respect particularly to science reporting and expanding on the bureaucratic limitations of legacy media – not only on climate change (suddenly a big story in major media today on a dire new IPCC and Global Carbon Project report) but possibly less reported issues like power grid security.  I may share my own work on this with Quillette soon, based on the potential interest Claire showed in the panel.

The panel also discussed the proposedInternet Bill of Rights”, as Kara Swisher recently outlined in the New York Times here.   But on an international level it breaks down.  It’s more than just the US First Amendment (Pool said that the First Amendment incorporate five different rights – they’re not all exactly the same thing). Everyone was aghast at Google’s capitulation to get business in China. 
  
There was a fleeting reference to the recent controversy in Europe over the Digital Common Market and Copyright Directive (Articles 11 and 13) without specific mention by name.  These could have more effect even on US new media than they realize now.  There was also a reference (without name) to the proposed new decentralized Internet architecture (“SOLID”) proposed by Tim Berners-Lee and being developed at M.I.T. in Cambridge, MA.   

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Vox short film explains why social media sites self-destruct



Why Every Social Media Site Is a Dumpster Fire” with Carlos Maza.


This video from Vox pretty much explains why social media sites incentivize extremist content, that tends to appeal to “tribalism” in most people.  (Carlos looks pretty hot in the video!)

Siva had pretty much covered the same ground in “Anti-Social Media”.

It leads you wondering, do some people have less of the tribal genes?  Maybe introverts? Maybe those with some mild autism?  Strong individualists?   Maybe those with “schizoid personality” which may not be such a bad thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

"I Lost All My Friends in the Culture War": It can happen, maybe worse



OK, this soliloquy by a young woman who names herself “Critical Condition” gets to count as a movie once: “I Lost All My Friends in the Culture War”.


She was raised in Christian conservatism, left home as a young adult, and began to make friends with more liberal people, even “the hippies”.

But as the outside culture war heated up, she says, her views, almost by default, got to be seen as falling into the well of “hate speech.”  She found herself solo in both social media and real life, it seems.
  
I can remember after my William and Mary expulsion of 1961 my father said I would lose all my friends. I did not.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

"The Good Waiter" is a curious gay male drama about the "proletarian" workplace for young actors in LA



George Bamber’s “The Good Waiter” (2018/2016, 14 min) is a curious short film with an ironic and a bit devilish plot, about the world of “the proles”.


The film was written but the two male leads.  Kevin (Kevin Grant Spencer) seems like an upcoming young actor and tennis player who has a nice job as assistant manager in a Glendale CA restaurant, working for Kim (Michelle Grisaffi).  One day a naïve young man and another aspiring actor Drew (Matthew Ludwinski) shows up to train as a waiter.  Drew seems awkward at this proletarian job.  (I once overheard comments about a waiter in Martinsburg, W Va – “his movements are slow”.)  Kim says that the way you fire someone is let him finish training and then just not put him on the schedule.

Kevin invites Drew on a “hike” in Griffith Park – that is, after Drew takes off his shirt (“thmooth”). 

The expected “men kissing” starts (this isn’t “Next Door Mates” but it could go there) as they climb an old evergreen tree common in southern California.  In a maneuver eerily reminiscent of a similar scene in John Knowles’s “A Separate Peace”, Drew suddenly falls down into a small canyon.
Kevin then botches work and Kim has to fire him – but then Drew rises from the dead and is working in the restaurant as Kevin drives by.

The film has a curious prologue (“If we’re going to do this, no second chances”) that may be explanatory. “The Good Waiter” is not exactly the same as “The Good Doctor”.
  
Picture: Near Civic Center, San Francisco, where I ate before an important meeting Sept. 19.