Monday, April 14, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXIV
It took me three sittings to make it through this movie. I'm not quite sure what it was, but I couldn't bring myself to watch it all the way through the first time. Or the second time. It's depressing! Even though the documentary was released shortly after the initial Net economy crash in 2000, the failings, foibles, and future of dotcoms still resonate strongly in the ongoing economic downturn. The mockumentary "Dot" is not just a parody of the whole dotcom craze; it's clearly a parody of this movie, which is even more effective in its emotional impact because it's real. Some of the actors in "Dot" even look like the real people in And the parallels continue -- the edits, the high fives, the New Age references to meditation, the language -- such as "keeps me up at night" -- the self-referential place-based references to Silicon Alley and Silicon Valley, the buzzword-driven hyperbole, and the boosterish enthusiasm. The ill-fitting suits and made-up price points! Who knew that such an of-the-moment documentary would be fodder for such an accurate mockumentary? The language, the personal dynamics, and the shared metaphoric pretense ("We were in our confrontation and debate space." Who talks like that?) all resonate, perhaps embarrassingly so. is the story of one company's rise and fall. I kind of wish I hadn't seen "Dot" first. To make fun of something that was relatively sad and silly in so many ways just adds salt to the Net economy's wounds.

Sunday: Strange Days
A nice palate cleanser after the emotional up and down of This 1995 film is a somewhat hot and cold look at virtual reality via recordings of people's actual experiences, feelings, and memories; race-based urban politics; and the turning of the millennium. As a cyberpunk movie running slightly parallel to "Existenz," it works quite well. Ralph Fiennes plays a former cop turned street peddler of stolen moments. The cinematography for the jacked-in scenes isn't that impressive, but the concept is good. I'm assuming the movie was set in a stylized Los Angeles, given the Rodney King-like killing of Jeriko One, a hip-hop artist working to organize the "gang bangers." Surprisingly, Ice-T wasn't cast in this role. The racial politics aspect of the movie also works well, as the film considers street justice, the role of the police and the media in local politics, and people's responsibilities to catalyze change even if that change will bring pains of its own. Some of the best dialogue comes from Angela Bassett's bodyguard character, as she goes off on why they need to make public the disk that kicked off the movie's mystery plot line in the first place. Because in the end, this is a film noir-esque mystery movie. The cyberpunk setting is just a backdrop for a proper whodunnit storyline. In the end, the serial killings and events that set them off comes as quite a surprise, and the theoretical technology really helps amplify the suspense.

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