DC Shorts tackles “Technology Addiction”: Top films are “Rated”, “Video”, and “Get the F__K out of Paris”

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Monday night, September 12, 2016, DC Shorts held one of its “Tackling the Issues” film sets, “Technology Addiction”.  It was shown at Landmark E Street cinema in one of the larger auditoriums, about half full.   In the QA the comment was offered that some films are not online yet because other festivals will not accept them if they can be found online (although DC Shorts will, and has an online festival).

The longest film was “Modern Love”, set in Montreal (bur in English) by director Nicolas Beachemin (20 min), with QA.   A blond, already furrowed 28-year-old connects with a young woman with a blind dating app.   Over time, various circumstances hinder their meeting (like her dropping her not life-proofed phone in soapy water).  But sometimes your love is closer to you geographically than you think.

The best film of the night is one of the next two.

Rated”, by John Forston (QA), 19 minutes,a delicious satire,  presents a typical San Fernando Valley family (played by Forston’s own wife and kids) where one morning every adult has a “YRLP” rating floating in the ether above their head, visible to all.  John’s wife got only 2-1/2 stars and finds herself discriminated against as a parent at a school meeting and the by a local restaurant, which will admit only those with 4-star ratings or more.   In the QA, Forston says he was inspired to make the film by the fact that Uber lets drivers rate consumers (as does Airbnb,  I think), which means that some consumers could find themselves cut out of the markets even as customers.  It’s obvious to draw a parallel in this film to past racial segregation.  But the idea could extend to excluding people from “life” for “cosmetic” reasons, like overweight, or having too much or too little body hair, or even something like “B.O.”.  The film could also be viewed as an extension of the idea of “online reputation”, which affects small businesses even more than people because of user reviews.

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Video”, by Randy Yang, appears to be shot in Washington DC, perhaps near Logan Circle.  A white woman, and young lawyer, berates a homeless black man selling stuff on the street.  (Actually, he really wasn’t panhandling.) Two young black women videotape her and threaten to post it on YouTube immediately (using the “Capture” app).  The threat that the video could go viral would threaten the white woman’s chance to make partner in the firm.  The two women try to blackmail her to get the video deleted.  There ensues some conversations about how white people perceive black people, especially women, visually.

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So Good the See You” annoys me as a greeting in social happy hours, and here it is a comedy (10 min) by Duke Merriman on not so radical hospitality.  A couple from Manhattan visits old friend Zoe at a party in Westchester, perhaps Scarsdale.  An overheard cell phone call ruins everything, leading to a confrontation reminding me of Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”, although the vomiting was kept off camera.

Get the F__k out of Paris”, by Greg Emetaz, presents a “Survival Mom’s” idea of impending apocalypse.  Doing laundry in a ritzy area near the Seine, a young woman gets a text message from a friend in the CIA that at midnight, every cell phone in Paris is going to explode.  What really happens at midnight?  The film has some structural concepts like the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is” in my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book. (treatment ).  The film also fortuitously (if accidentally) capitalizes on Samsung’s flammable Galaxy battery recall (WSJ story).

Syrah”, by Mike Holt (4 minutes) is a comic version of Siri, with a slightly middle Eastern flavor, albeit in the Bronx.  One of the characters looks like “Jaws” from the Hames Bond movies.

Life Smartphone” by Chenglin Xie, 3 min, China, animated, speculated what happens if everyone simply lives inside their own smartphones.  The animation resembles Danganronpa somewhat.

Still pictures: Volunteer activity at AATP “Meal Pack” Monday on Mall, and “Donald Trump”.

(Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 10:30 AM EDT)

“Now You See Me 2” is another grand romp

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Name: Now You See Me 2
Director, writer:  Jon M. Chu
Released:  2016/6
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, large auditorium, late, 2016/6/15, very small audiene
Length 129
Rating PG-13:
Companies: Summit
Link: official site

Now You See Me: The Second Act”, directed by Jon M. Chu, continues the party, go-go atmosphere of its 2013 predecessor, with the “Four Horsemen” taking control of large, adoring crowds with their extroversion and magic tricks.  Let’s enumerate them: Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), J, Daniel Atlas (a most extroverted version of Jesse Eisenberg), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), presented as clean-cut and the best looking with a not so subtle implication that he’s a “masculine gay”. Thaddeus Bradley Morgan Freeman), double crossed and out of jail (seems to play moderator.

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The plot this time concerns the “Robin Hood” gang’s outwitting super hacker Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, very much a grown man now but with still a trace of Harry Potter’s gentleness), who wants to use a super-computer and special circuit (fit onto a playing card, like a Joker) in Macau, China (near Hong Kong) to reverse-engineer all the encryption in the world and spy on everyone himself.

It gets hard to tell what’s magic and what’s supernatural, especially when the Four wind up in Macau (China’s Las Vegas) .  One of the most interesting sequences in the film occurs where the Four (and a couple of accomplices) outwit security in the computer room in Macau by sleight of hand, passing the card around among one another while undergoing groping and “pat-downs” by security that borders on homoerotic.

The other great sequence occurs on New Year’s Eve in London (no snow), where Atlas manipulates the weather (making it rain upside down).  The spirit of the scene reminds me of the conclusion of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” (1995), where the conclusion is set in LA on Y2K as 2000 enters.  In that movie, remember, there had been presented the idea of “prescient goggles” with their own magic.

The orchestral music score by Brian Tyler is often opulent, starting a concert overture just before the closing credits, then introducing some hip-hop, before going back to a full Sonata-allegro, with Straussian opulence, ending triumphantly (A major).

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Macau by Diego Delso, under CCSA 3.0

Other films for comparison: “The Illusionist” (2006, Neil Burger), and “The Prestige” (2006, Christopher Nolan)

(Published: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 3:15 PM EDT)