The Glitch is Back: UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB and the New /er Film

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unfriendeddarkweb__article-hero-1130x430Stay on the computer long enough and the contours of its design, the pixelated dreamscape you fall into becomes almost like another universe to inhabit. The tools whose interfaces we are so familiar with have, in a late capitalist economy, become necessary extensions of our identities and the primary way we exchange information, money, and even foster intimacy. The digital universe is its own setting, and that’s never truer than in the Unfriended films. Desktop films like Unfriended, its sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, the short film Noah, and the upcoming Searching… are the next logical step from found footage, which intimates that the footage exists within reality. Desktop films, conversely, acknowledge that the mediated reality is a new space, with its own way of articulating information and performance; desktop films are like if you lived in funhouse mirror maze. But Unfriended and Unfriended: Dark Web don’t operate exactly like other found footage films, like the anthology V/H/S or even the phenomenon igniting The Blair Witch Project; instead, they’re a unique nightmare that revitalizes the slasher genre because the mediation between reality and new media digital space traps the viewer in limbo. The social context of slashers have changed, and so did the way we experience them.  Read the rest of this entry »

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“Identical” Crisis: Three Identical Strangers

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la-1530128659-3gvu8u05qv-snap-imageThere is a piece of archival footage in Three Identical Strangers that director Tim Wardle plays for the audience in triplicate: the boys, the subjects of the film, on a talk show in what appears to be a megachurch arena. The host, grey haired, stands closer with his audience, as the sideshow attraction sit on the yellowy orange carpeted stage, wearing the same outfit: a vomit and sunburnt green pull over and khaki pants. Their legs are spread apart and they slouch, and were they on the R train, they could easily be accused of manspreading. Three fold. The host, holding a microphone that looks like a Freudian lollipop, points out that the three of them are sitting in the same position. A quarter of a second later, the boy on the far left crosses his legs, and the other two, like a wave, follow. And although it’s played like magical, hokey intuition between the three identical triplets, their unknowable shared energy on display for the whole world, seeing the footage played twice, and three times reveals a bit of hesitancy on the second and third brothers in terms of following the action. But it happens, and the crowd goes wild, three times. Unquestioned. Read the rest of this entry »

Somewhere That’s Green: Class, Gentrification, and Little Shop of Horrors

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Little-Shop-of-HOrrors(Author’s Note: This originally appeared on Harlot.)

A rad Off Broadway musical, a parody of the sci-fi/horror ilk that Roger Corman (its original creator, of sorts) churned out, and, perhaps, most of all, a sweetly poisonous satire on race, class, and the American Dream. Frank Oz’s adaptation of Alan Menken and Howard Ashmen’s cult musical (which was in turn based on a low budget 1960 film) is a delectably deadly apple concerning a boy, a girl, poverty, and a foul-mouthed carnivorous plant. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Romance Film: Finding Love in the Best Worst Date Movies

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GONE-GIRL-Movie-HD-Trailer-Captures00004_1_11(Author’s Note: This was original published on Fandor on February 14th, 2016, but they’ve deleted their archives.)

Is there anything more romantic than watching the face of your date as the image of Rosamund Pike slitting Neil Patrick Harris’s throat is projected up on the big screen—on your first outing, no less? Now that’s an ice breaker. My date was seated to my right as I scribbled down notes for the first fifteen minutes, unaware of the context of our meeting until a good fifteen minutes into the film. The ambiguity with which our outing was initially imbued may or may not speak to a larger idea of the cultural shifts in courting, but to watch Gone Girl on a first date is really, contrary to public perception, a romantic thing. The jittery ebullience of the evening doesn’t really change, since the context is the same, and though we didn’t go out again, not because of the film (our post screening discussion was lively and impassioned), there’s a hurdle one overcomes when watching Gone Girl—or even other works like Antichrist, Scenes from a Marriage, etc.—it’s a weird, inexplicable sense of intimacy and understanding one has when watching a film like this, let’s call them Anti-Romantic films. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday is Done: 17 from 2017

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17 for 17 Round 3
This was an exhausting year, about which, I do not have any interesting or insightful thoughts, at least that pertain to anything other than my personal life. But I did go to the movies, so there’s that. Here’s to the cinema that made it somewhat bearable.
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Start from Hello, Old Friend: In Loving Memory of Julie Klausner’s “Difficult People”

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difficult-people

Being one of the two shows I actively make an  effort to watch, the cancellation of the brilliant Difficult People is devastating for me.Biting gay men and their equally witty female counterparts, or arguably vice versa, are a shopworn cliche in comedies. But the significance of Difficult People, the Hulu Original created, written, and starring Julie Klausner and starring Billy Eichner, is the show’s ability to flesh out the world to be hyperspecific beyond bon mots. Playing a struggling writer and a struggling actor, the finely observed details of their relationship, in both cruelty and joy, are hard to find in most media. To use “Old Friends” from Stephen Sondheim’s cult flop musical in the season three finale, and the unexpected series’ end, is another example of the deft way in which Klausner could paint mean people as being capable of deep intimacy and love.

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Home Invasion: On Being an Outsider in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “[Safe]”

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large_close_encounters_third_kind_blu-ray15At the heart of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (which opens in theaters for its 40th anniversary September 1st) and Todd Haynes’ (whose new film, Wonderstruck, will play at NYFF) masterpiece [Safe] is the all-consuming desire to feel comfort and belonging when the world you live in offers no such pleasure. Though different in form and approach, Spielberg, whose unapologetic sentimentality is a hallmark of his work, and Haynes, who makes heady, intellectually rigorous movies that more often than not comment on sentimentality than are necessarily culpable of it, find a common feeling that infects both of their lead characters: displacement and —  no pun intended — alienation. Read the rest of this entry »