We Live in Public

August 19, 2010

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2009

Directed by: Ondi Timoner

Written by: Ondi Timoner

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Rating: 5 out of 10


Overview. Josh Harris, ever hear of him? Me neither… not until I heard of this movie. The “Wharhol of the Web” came up with the ideas of Internet TV (Pseudo.com), statistic gathering, and the basis for many of today’s social networking sites. So why isn’t he mentioned as often as Gates or Jobs? Timing; The Internet wasn’t able to handle the bandwidth needed for his visions. Not until broadband became commonplace for net access. But by then, it was too little, too latte for Harris who left the high-tech scene and expatriated to Africa to avoid creditors.

Ondi Timoner

Indie filmmaker Ondi Timoner spent 10 years with Harris documenting his rise as an Internet entrepreneur, to the Quiet experiment, and his eventual downfall.

 

Rise of a dot-com kid. Harris arrives in New York City with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket, an a couple of ideas for the Internet in his head. His first venture is JupiterResearch, an Internet research company. In 1993, he envisioned television on the Internet and founded Pseudo.com. Pseudo not only had television (more like early vlogging before anyone heard of vlogging), but associated chat rooms for the shows. When he sold Pseudo, Harris’ net worth was now $80 Billion US. Luckily for him, he got out before the big bubble burst, but he decided to use that money for a “little” experiment…

 

The experiment: In December 1999, under some buildings in Manhattan, Harris constructed a “bunker” where he would gather 100 people. The people would be living in a commune-type setting with “pod” beds while under constant surveillance, and be subject to “interrogations,” though they would have free meals and a shooting range. The experiment’s aim was simple; To see how these people would behave living in an Orwellian setting. Things start smoothly enough, then went downhill fast. Eventually, after the new millennium, the NY Police and Fire departments shut the experiment down believing the experiment was actually a doomsday cult.

Though that experiment was over, he wanted to test his theory further by moving in with his girlfriend and installing net-cameras in their apartment. An incident that nearly leads to rape causes her to leave, and soon Harris has a mental breakdown. While Harris is considered an artist by some, there are some signs that he may have been insane in the mainframe before the breakdown.

Josh Harris as Luvvy the clown.

Afraid of clowns? You will be!

The Point of the experiments? It should be obvious now that the technology has caught up to Harris’ ideas what the point is: How much of our privacy will we sacrifice for connecting to others, or for fame itself?

Josh Harris

“Everything is free… except the video that we capture of you. THAT we own.”

If you’ve ever encountered targeted ads, you already have seen the tip of the iceberg. Worse yet, the information they gain from what you willingly surrender they can now sell to others. Harris’ “Quiet” experiment was a not-so-quiet warning about where we were headed… rather, where we are now.

 

Conclusion. Call Josh Harris what you want… visionary, entrepreneur, voyeur, prophet, ca-ca-cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs… the message he sent with his experiments is only now being realized by a small handful of people. For the rest, they may not realize or even care about how much “exposure” they’re really getting for their 15 minutes. Looking for a treatise on the negative effect of technology? We Live In Public answers that question in no uncertain terms.

This post has been filed under Documentary, 5 Star Rated Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – current by Mr. Roboto.

Beyond Human

July 30, 2010

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2001

Directed by: Thomas Lucas

Written by: Rob Goldberg

IMDB Reference

Rating: 7 out of 10

“A strange new era is dawning… an era of revolutionary experiments. Wired torsos, chip-implanted brains, creatures of silicon and steel… welcome to the age of cyborgs and androids. As humans become more machine-like and machines more human, the line between biology and technology is starting to blur. And in the process, we may just be reinventing the future of our species.”

Overview: I was looking for the Jean Claude Van-Dame movie Cyborg when I came across this series. Originally made in 2001, Beyond Human has been on the Internet on tube sites like Hulu, and YouTube (part one of nine, “The Cyborg Revolution,” is above), and on singularity and cyborg sites like The Singularity Symposium. A websearch will lead you to many other sites where the entire series can be viewed online or downloaded (read “torrented”) for offline viewing.

Beyond Human is split into two parts with a total of nine “chapters:” The Cyborg Revolution, Invasion of The Inhuman, The Cyborg Mind, The Age of Androids, How to Design A Humanoid, Emotional Robots, Can A Robot Be A Person, Robot Soccer, and Erasing The Line Between Man and Machine. The first three chapters deal with the possibilities of humans becoming cyborgs, with the rest showing the efforts to make robots more human.

David Brin

“What about the whole business of them causing cancer? What about the possibility of an immune reaction? I’m not going to stick one of these things in my head until one million other people have.” Haters gotta hate.

The Invasion of The Inhuman chapter may make one second-guess their plans to get brain implants, especially with the comparisons with Tetsuo scenes. This is one of the perils of the advancing cyber-technology; With the technology overwhelm us? Plus the social, ethical, and possibly legal issues raised in the Can A Robot Be A Person chapter shows more potential problems. The final chapter asks “What will happen when robots become commonplace?” Will they be just property, or will they have rights? Will they become cohorts of humans, or their destroyers?

Equal Rights for Robots

Nine years later, we’re still asking these questions. Obviously, this documentary/series was made to highlight the state-of-the-art at the turn of the 21st century, so it is well past its expiration date. But documentaries like this wasn’t meant to show the current cutting-edge. Instead, I see this as a milestone to show not only how far we’ve come, but how much further we have to go.

 

Conclusion: Like a time capsule in a backyard or a building’s cornerstone, finding stuff like this a surprisingly fun find. While not meant to be current by any means, it works best as a comparison to where we are.

William Gibson: No Maps for These Territories

February 3, 2006

Year: 2000

Directed by: Mark Neale

Written by: Mark Neale

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Rating: 3 out of 10


screen capture

 

Overview: I notice the decent IMDB rating for No Maps, but honestly, I just don’t see it. I have hard time coming up with something positive to say as No Maps for These Territories as a documentary on Gibson fails in virtually all aspects possible. You have to look long and hard to find a documentary with this little attention to detail across the board. No Maps has horrible lighting, haphazard editing and “FX” choices which detract even more from the mess that’s already on screen. In short, this film seems to be sending the message that William Gibson is a meandering scatterbrain who occasionally comes up with an interesting idea or two, but who, for reasons not of his own making, was able to become wildly popular. None of this is true of course, which is why this documentary resonates so badly with me.

Because I also gave New Rose Hotel a horrible rating, I want to be VERY clear about something – I think William Gibson is one of the most influential writers of the later part of the 20th century. His stuff is better than great. In no way does my knocking these movies reflect at all on my opinion of his literary works or his legacy. Nor do I believe that Gibson’s works cannot be very successfully transferred on-screen. Unfortunately, Gibson has yet to find his Peter Jackson.

 

screen capture

I’m guessing the cup is a prop to get more light into the picture…

 

The Setting: A significant part of my dislike for No Maps is based on the decision to use a car as the setting. In thinking about it, it’s really hard to imagine a worse way to conduct a documentary. The entire thing takes place with Mark Neale, the director, driving a car while talking to Gibson, who is in the back seat surrounded by a few of set cameras. In using this approach, Neale was able to generate the worst of all scenarios:

  • Neale has to focus on driving so he has absolutely NO control over the cameras. This continually leads to horribly over or under-exposed shots of Gibson, grainy, and out of focus film and horrible positioning.
  • Because Neale has to concentrate on driving, whatever skills he might have had as an interviewer are compromised by the fact that he’s in massive multitasking mode – he’s driving and continually checking the recording while attempting conducting an interview. My guess is after a while, Neale just wanted to make sure Gibson was talking, and stopped bothering listening to what was being said.
  • Every now and then, Gibson would utter a terrific insight, such as when he mentioned that the internet all but ensured the end of the nation state. This would have been a great time for a prompting follow-up from an astute interviewer, but unfortunately, we get absolutely NO follow-up on this and many similar fascinating comments.

 

screen capture

Notice that the left window scene doesn’t match with the rear window – this was intentional.

 

What the Cinematography Conveyed: Probably the most dissapointing aspect of No Maps relates to the unintentional visual symbols the “road trip” documentary provided. Gibson is known as a trailblazer – a thought leader in setting the course for science fiction, yet the interview in the back of the car makes him seem like someone happy to follow along someone else’s path. The title, “No Maps for These Territories ” is supposed to convey that Gibson went into un-chartered waters, yet everything in this documentary, from the meandering and repetitive music to the monotonous car ride, makes Gibson come across as someone who basically just intellectually wanders around and hopes he happens upon something interesting. In short – there was a map of the territory – it was in Gibson’s mind. This film works hard to obfuscates that fact:

  • The constant penchant to splice in absolutely random images in rapid succession whenever Gibson philosophizes tends to make Gibson’s message come off as incoherent.
  • The repetitive music consistenty has this meandering quality, which again, reinforces the message that Gibson wanders around through life and occaisionally gets lucky.
  • The “special effects” where Neale haphazardly transferred separate drive-by the images onto the side and rear window and back side of the car so that what was coming through rear window no longer matched the side window (see image directly above for an example) served NO PURPOSE AT ALL other than to distract the viewer from Gibson’s oratory.
  • The complete inattention to lighting or setting makes the entire project comparable to a neighbor’s home movie. It’s almost as if Neale was consciously trying to make Gibson (and Sterling) look as shabby as possible with the hopes that it made them more “edgy” or “real.” If this was the intent, my apologies for missing how this was helpful.

 

screen capture

No, I didn’t have to look hard to find quality lighting shots like this one.

 

Perhaps the goal was either to break up the monotony of staring at Gibson in a back seat of a car for 88 minutes, or maybe it was done with the hope of making Gibson’s oratory seem non-linear, but what seems to be conveyed is that Gibson’s ideas aren’t really connected in any real way. In line with this, Gibson as the “meanderer” is re-enforced by poor editing decisions. While a few segments such as the internet one seem to have a nice flow, most segments are all over the non-existent map. What Neale unintentionally seems to convey is that if you keep a camera on Gibson long enough, like the rest of us, he’ll eventually come up with a a number of half-formed, off-the-cuff comments that go absolutely nowhere.

 

screen capture

Was this shot intentional? Does Mr. Sterling own a gas station and like Marlboros? If so, probably they should have worked the camera better, as often only half of the gas station is showing.

 

Neuromancer’s Legacy: One thing we do learn from No Maps is that Gibson, like many great innovators, is probably the worst person to talk about his place in history, and in particular, the relevance of his earlier works like Neuromancer. When it comes to discussing his legacy, Gibson is extremely modest. He’s also a perfectionist when it comes to evaluating his prose. As he gets older, he negatively judges his earlier and discounts their value and overall importance. In discussing Neuromancer, Gibson calls it a simplistic book – as simplistic as cheesy three-chord progression songs in Album Oriented Rock music in fact, and that only teenage Goths should ever find it appealing. Never mind that it won all possible scifi awards (Hugo Award, Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, Nebula Award, Seiun Award, and Ditmar Award) and defined a whole new genre of science fiction, or that it changed the vocabulary and concepts the world over (the concept of cyberspace, for instance), Gibson still considers it pretty sophomoric. This leads to the clear implication that those who see something more in Neuromancer, or any of his 80s works, are also of the intellectual caliber of teenage Goths. Yet, in his five minute interview at a cheesy restaurant (also with shitty lighting), Bruce Sterling is able to provide more context on Neuromancer’s place in history than Gibson does for the rest of the film. Sterling points out clearly that while Gibson as an older man looking back at his life may have the right to criticize himself, but this doesn’t change the fact that he was a damn good writer back then who transformed the face of science fiction – I only wish there was an interviewer in this capable of pinning Gibson down on this. While Gibson may or may not like the prose, the ideas proposed clearly had intrinsic worth, and every so often, even Gibson acknowledges this.

 

screen capture

This shot, which we see quite frequently in No Maps, perfectly sums up the documentary.

 

The Bottom Line: On the whole, this documentary performed a disservice to Gibson and his legacy. Those who have never been exposed to Gibson will watch this and conclude that Gibson was a lucky bystander in history who seemed to be at the right place at the right time. If you’re already a Gibson fan, you may get a bunch of interesting and honest tidbits from his past, but little else will be gained. In watching No Maps, I really found myself wishing that Neale had just gotten a semi-decent interviewer to sit down with Gibson in a quiet setting and interview him. Also, far more time should have been given to Gibson’s contemporaries, who clearly have a better sense of Gibson’s significants than he does. Had Neale taken this approach (one might call this a traditional documentary approach for lack of a better description), the result would have been FAR superior to the mess that this documentary produced. Again, the problem wasn’t that No Maps was produced on a shoestring budget, the problems arose from the choices made (using a moving car as the setting, where the director/interviewer/cameraman/driver was one in the same person, and the subsequent editing decisions). Yes, the name of the documentary is VERY cool, but very little else should be saved. Gibson deserves better. If history is kind, No Maps will be forgotten, and at some point, a quality documentary will be made that highlights Gibson’s most impressive legacy.

 

~See movies similar to this one~

Tags: cyberpunk movie review Gibson Territory Maps

Because I also gave <a href=”/movie/movies-that-arent-cyberpunk/new-rose-hotel-its-not-cyberpunk-mkay/”>New Rose Hotel</a> a horrible rating, I want to be VERY clear about something – I think William Gibson is one of the most influential writers of the later part of the 20th century. His stuff is better than great. In no way does my knocking these movies reflect at all on my opinion of his literary works or his legacy. Nor do I believe that Gibson’s works cannot be very successfully transferred on-screen. Unfortunately, Gibson has yet to find his Peter Jackson.
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/Gibsondoc08.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>I’m guessing the cup is a prop to get more light into the picture…</div>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<span class=”iTitle”>The Setting: </span>A significant part of my dislike for No Maps is based on the decision to use a car as the setting. In thinking about it, it’s really hard to imagine a worse way to conduct a documentary. The entire thing takes place with Mark Neale, the director, driving a car while talking to Gibson, who is in the back seat surrounded by a few of set cameras. In using this approach, Neale was able to generate the worst of all scenarios:
<ul>
<li>Neale has to focus on driving so he has absolutely NO control over the cameras. This continually leads to horribly over or under-exposed shots of Gibson, grainy, and out of focus film and horrible positioning.</li>
<li>Because Neale has to concentrate on driving, whatever skills he might have had as an interviewer are compromised by the fact that he’s in massive multitasking mode – he’s driving and continually checking the recording while attempting conducting an interview. My guess is after a while, Neale just wanted to make sure Gibson was talking, and stopped bothering listening to what was being said. </li>
<li>Every now and then, Gibson would utter a terrific insight, such as when he mentioned that the internet all but ensured the end of the nation state. This would have been a great time for a prompting follow-up from an astute interviewer, but unfortunately, we get absolutely NO follow-up on this and many similar fascinating comments. </li>
</ul>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/Gibsondoc13.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>Notice that the left window scene doesn’t match with the rear window – this was intentional.</div>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<span class=”iTitle”>What the Cinematography Conveyed: </span>Probably the most dissapointing aspect of No Maps relates to the unintentional visual symbols the “road trip” documentary provided. Gibson is known as a trailblazer – a thought leader in setting the course for science fiction, yet the interview in the back of the car makes him seem like someone happy to follow along someone else’s path. The title, “No Maps for These Territories ” is supposed to convey that Gibson went into un-chartered waters, yet everything in this documentary, from the meandering and repetitive music to the monotonous car ride, makes Gibson come across as someone who basically just intellectually wanders around and hopes he happens upon something interesting. In short – there was a map of the territory – it was in Gibson’s mind. This film works hard to obfuscates that fact:
<ul>
<li>The constant penchant to splice in absolutely random images in rapid succession whenever Gibson philosophizes tends to make Gibson’s message come off as incoherent.</li>
<li> The repetitive music consistenty has this meandering quality, which again, reinforces the message that Gibson wanders around through life and occaisionally gets lucky.</li>
<li>The “special effects” where Neale haphazardly transferred separate drive-by the images onto the side and rear window and back side of the car so that what was coming through rear window no longer matched the side window (see image directly above for an example) served NO PURPOSE AT ALL other than to distract the viewer from Gibson’s oratory. </li>
<li>The complete inattention to lighting or setting makes the entire project comparable to a neighbor’s home movie. It’s almost as if Neale was consciously trying to make Gibson (and Sterling) look as shabby as possible with the hopes that it made them more “edgy” or “real.” If this was the intent, my apologies for missing how this was helpful.</li>
</ul>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/Gibsondoc15.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /></p>
<div class=”quote”>No, I didn’t have to look hard to find quality lighting shots like this one. </div>

<p>&nbsp;</p>
Perhaps the goal was either to break up the monotony of staring at Gibson in a back seat of a car for 88 minutes, or maybe it was done with the hope of making Gibson’s oratory seem non-linear, but what seems to be conveyed is that Gibson’s ideas aren’t really connected in any real way. In line with this, Gibson as the “meanderer” is re-enforced by poor editing decisions. While a few segments such as the internet one seem to have a nice flow, most segments are all over the non-existent map. What Neale unintentionally seems to convey is that if you keep a camera on Gibson long enough, like the rest of us, he’ll eventually come up with a a number of half-formed, off-the-cuff comments that go absolutely nowhere.
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/Gibsondoc11.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>Was this shot intentional? Does Mr. Sterling own a gas station and like Marlboros? If so, probably they should have worked the camera better, as often only half of the gas station is showing.</div>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<span class=”iTitle”>Neuromancer’s Legacy: </span>One thing we do learn from No Maps is that Gibson, like many great innovators, is probably the worst person to talk about his place in history, and in particular, the relevance of his earlier works like Neuromancer. When it comes to discussing his legacy, Gibson is extremely modest. He’s also a perfectionist when it comes to evaluating his prose. As he gets older, he negatively judges his earlier and discounts their value and overall importance. In discussing Neuromancer, Gibson calls it a simplistic book – as simplistic as cheesy three-chord progression songs in Album Oriented Rock music in fact, and that only teenage Goths should ever find it appealing. Never mind that it won all possible scifi awards (Hugo Award, Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, Nebula Award, Seiun Award, and Ditmar Award) and defined a whole new genre of science fiction, or that it changed the vocabulary and concepts the world over (the concept of cyberspace, for instance), Gibson still considers it pretty sophomoric. This leads to the clear implication that those who see something more in Neuromancer, or any of his 80s works, are also of the intellectual caliber of teenage Goths. Yet, in his five minute interview at a cheesy restaurant (also with shitty lighting), Bruce Sterling is able to provide more context on Neuromancer’s place in history than Gibson does for the rest of the film. Sterling points out clearly that while Gibson as an older man looking back at his life may have the right to criticize himself, but this doesn’t change the fact that he was a damn good writer back then who transformed the face of science fiction – I only wish there was an interviewer in this capable of pinning Gibson down on this. While Gibson may or may not like the prose, the ideas proposed clearly had intrinsic worth, and every so often, even Gibson acknowledges this.

<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/Gibsondoc07.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>This shot, which we see quite frequently in No Maps, perfectly sums up the documentary.</div>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<span class=”iTitle”>The Bottom Line: </span>On the whole, this documentary performed a disservice to Gibson and his legacy. Those who have never been exposed to Gibson will watch this and conclude that Gibson was a lucky bystander in history who seemed to be at the right place at the right time. If you’re already a Gibson fan, you may get a bunch of interesting and honest tidbits from his past, but little else will be gained. In watching No Maps, I really found myself wishing that Neale had just gotten a semi-decent interviewer to sit down with Gibson in a quiet setting and interview him. Also, far more time should have been given to Gibson’s contemporaries, who clearly have a better sense of Gibson’s significants than he does. Had Neale taken this approach (one might call this a traditional documentary approach for lack of a better description), the result would have been FAR superior to the mess that this documentary produced. Again, the problem wasn’t that No Maps was produced on a shoestring budget, the problems arose from the choices made (using a moving car as the setting, where the director/interviewer/cameraman/driver was one in the same person, and the subsequent editing decisions). Yes, the name of the documentary is VERY cool, but very little else should be saved. Gibson deserves better. If history is kind, No Maps will be forgotten, and at some point, a quality documentary will be made that highlights Gibson’s most impressive legacy.
<p>&nbsp;</p>cyberpunk movie review Gibson Territory Maps

This post has been filed under Documentary, 3 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – current by SFAM.