Thursday, December 1, 2022

Unfriended (2014) is actually great


When Unfriended originally came out, I was a teenager, and a pretentious teenager at that. I thought myself a film connoisseur  because I'd seen Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and liked it. Needless to say, I thought I was above the teen horror movie about a ghost that attacks its old friends via the internet.  I'm sure I saw the YMS video on Unfriended and blindly agreed that the movie was bad because YMS sounded smart. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Owed to Digital Video (DV)/miniDV

Basically, everyone is familiar with VHS (Video Home System). Even young people know that at one point, before the "digital age," the ubiquitous means of watching movies at home was on these hunks of plastic containing magnetic tape. Likewise, most people recorded home movies on VHS cameras. Some even took to making feature films on the consumer-grade format. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Scenesters and Mumblecore movies


For about a week, I accidentally watched exclusively mediocre movies. I saw Cry_Wolf (2005), Wind Chill (2007), Dog Soliders (2002), and Event Horizon (1997); all of which were huge disappointments. I especially hated Event Horizon (sorry, Paul).

Sometimes I find myself in a funk where I only come across mediocre movies. When I get in these funks, it often feels like I'm being prepped to stumble across an amazing movie. That movie just so happened to be The Scenesters.

I came across a DVD of The Scenesters at the Bull Moose in Portsmouth, NH. The first thing I noticed was all the festival awards at the top of the cover, which indicated that I'd stumbled across an indie film. What's more, it seemed to be a mumble-gore movie.

I have a love-hate relationship with Mumblecore. I find that most Mumblecore movies and their respective directors are pretentious and bourgeois. The biggest offender is Joe Swanberg and his horrific nightmare is Silver Bullets (2011). 

There are, however, standout directors and work. Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess (2013) is one of my all-time favorite movies. Sometimes, the limitations that come with Mumblecore lead to intoxicating and provocative work. 

It's always fun to come across something that might be considered "mumblecore," and to roll the dice. You'll either get a Computer Chess, or you'll get a Silver Bullets

As it turns out, The Scenesters is neither. It is, in fact, the anti-mumblecore masterpiece. 

The film opens up on a trailer for a fictional mumblecore movie, directed by the in-movie character Wallace Cotton. The fictional movie is apparently two hours long and features three random white people talking about nonsense in a backyard. I actually said "Jesus Christ," thinking that it was real when the film opened. Truly, it's the perfect parody of mumblecore movies. 

Such an opening sets the stage for a brilliant satire of the early-2000s indie filmmaker scene. 

Essentially, Wallace Cotton has been cut off financially from his dad, so he needs to start working. He starts as a freelance crime scene videographer. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose, and the only one who realizes it is a crime scene janitor. 

Basically, Cotton and his producer convince the janitor not to go to the police because they want to make a documentary about it. The film cuts between a courtroom, the noir-style documentary, and behind-the-scenes footage of Cotton shot by unpaid interns. 

What I find so interesting about this movie is the decision to make the in-universe documentary in the style of a noir film. Both the lighting and dialogue of this mockumentary are hyper-stylized. Such stylization directly contrasts the improvisational realism of a mumblecore movie. 

Essentially, The Scenesters uses genre to critique a film movement. It utilizes mumblecore tropes (i.e. improvised dialogue, poor shot framing, and arbitrary quick zooms) to parody the genre itself; while also using noir (i.e. the inverse of mumblecore) to further elaborate on its critique. 

Its critique posits that filmmakers cannot claim realism while placing people within a fictional context. Both Cotton and his producer severely alter the life of the janitor in order to produce a hyper-stylized documentary, which borders on plain fiction. 

The critique extends to mumblecore filmmakers, who attempt to create something "real" by using fiction. The Scenesters declare that such a thing simply cannot exist. This is, I think, why the film uses such contrasting styles -- to establish the "real" and the "fictional," and to say that the two cannot exist in the same space. 

Also, it generally points out how pretentious mumblecore filmmakers are, and how incestuous their scene is. I love it.

In the end, the janitor shatters the facade. He decides that he will not be a character in a film, but a person with autonomy. He decides, ultimately, to break from the filmmakers' direction. Thus, the weak adhesive that glued the real world and the fictional world is melted away.

Unfortunately, The Scenesters is seldom talked about. It only has 127 views on Letterboxd, and most of its reviews are either lukewarm or flat-out negative. 

I'd really like it if The Scenesters got more attention because it's the perfect time capsule of 2000s indie movies. It's also one of those movies that's works because it prompts you to think about it later. Not like 2001: A Space Odessey or Eraserhead, where you're prompted to decode the movie later, but more like Hellraiser or Repo Man. The events that take place in the movie are clear, but you're prompted to think about the movie's form, and how it uses its form to critique the real world. 

Obviously, this is an insanely pretentious blog post, but I just love this movie, and I want to share it with anyone who's listening! 

TikTok beats Meta!

 I recently purged all my social media apps from my phone. I still have all my accounts active because, without them, I'd face social isolation. Many of my friends are from different parts of the world, so I communicate with them through Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Basically, I can't fully remove myself from these tech giants, even though I'd like to. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

4K-8K video is a scam

In 2008, a format war began. It was between HD DVD and Blu-ray. Both could store high-definition images (i.e. 720p-1080p), and both were meant as a successor to standard definition DVDs. Of course, Blu-ray won out eventually. The question, though, is did we need a successor to DVDs in the first place? 

Well, of course, you could see the difference if you watched high def on a high def TV. However, if you had a CRT TV, the difference wasn't really as clear. Both high definition and standard definition looked pretty much the same. 

The inverse was not true, however. If you played a standard definition DVD on an HD flat-screen, then the DVD looked terrible. Likewise, there was lag. If you played any old games (i.e. Playstation 2 and older), then you could fully see the lag. If you pressed a button on your controller, the game would react slightly slower.

This lag is why I can beat Castlevania in under 30 minutes on a CRT, but I can't get past the third level on an OLED falt-screen.

I'm no expert on the mechanics of OLED screens, but basically, the image on an OLED is a digital image, meaning that it's subject to refresh rates. Those refresh rates create lag. Likewise, since the OLED is displaying a digital image and not a signal, you can see the pixels on the screen.

Basically, a CRT can play anything, but OLED TVs can't. To see a 4K image in all its glory on a flat-screen, you need a 4K TV. However, you can still see 4K images properly on a CRT TV because resolution rates do not apply. 

There are people who know more about this subject, so I'll link to them:

Wikipedia - TV Comparisons

Reddit Thread 



Basically, we got it right 20 years ago and there was no reason to change tech. DVDs looked great on old CRTs, as did all the games of the time. 

So, did we need to upgrade at all? 

No, we didn't.

What I mean by all this is that there was no need for high-resolution video in the first place. We were fine with standard-definition DVDs. The only reason people needed Blu-rays was that their DVDs looked like crap on their brand new HD TVs. 

The same goes for cameras. Standard definition cameras looked great on CRTs, yet they looked terrible on HD monitors. So, we had to switch to HD cameras.

Now we're going through a new cycle - the 4K-8K image resolution. 

Basically, 4K TVs came out and all the consumers flocked to Best Buy. So, in turn, we need to change our DVD formats, games, and cameras. 

The problem, though, is that we don't need 4K, let alone 6K or 8K. If you plug in regular old SD footage into a regular old CRT TV, then the footage looks just as good if not better. 

I think anything past 1080p is a scam to sell more high-end equipment. The high-resolution TVs create a need for comparable high-resolution games, cameras, and DVDs.

The high-end, high-resolution tech only exists to sell new stuff. It's a scam. If the old stuff was more reliable and produced better quality, then there was no need to make the leap to new tech in the first place. 

When money flows toward new technology, then companies will tell consumers that they need new stuff. The companies will make it seem like the older technology is inferior when that's not necessarily true.

So, when your favorite movie gets released on a 4K Ultra HD DVD, don't bother spending your $50, and especially don't bother getting a new TV and a new disk player. Just stick with your old stuff. You can usually buy almost any movie on DVD for less than $10. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

 In November of 2006, Comcast in partnership with Genex attempted to create a user-created-content competitor to YouTube. It was called

Do you remember Ziddio? No? That's fine because it only stuck around for two years. The beta version was launched between Oct 29-Nov 2 2006 and it was subsequently discontinued on Aug 19, 2008. For at least a year, though, Ziddio seemed like it would be the next big thing.