Review: Friended to Death


Director: Sarah Smick
Screenplay: Sarah Smick, Ian Michaels
Producers: Sarah Smick, Ian Michaels, Peter Smick
Starring: Ryan Hansen, James Immekus, Zach McGowan, Sarah Smick, Ian Michaels
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 94 min.

While the internet has become a popular way for people to connect and meet casual hook-ups and potential life partners, for others it has replaced real life interaction. Some no longer feel the need to leave their houses or call their friends. What’s the point when you can update your Facebook wall and instantly spam your 400 “friends” of which you may only really know 10? Writers Ian Michaels and Sarah Smick imagined one such character for Friended to Death.

Ryan Hansen (of Veronica Mars fame) stars as Michael, a very charming, very handsome and apparently very social individual who works as a Parking Enforcement Officer. He’s really good at his job and he’s also really good at his hobby: updating Facebook a dozen times a day. As good as he is at his job, Michael and fellow co-worker Emile (James Immekus) are let go on the same day. The two have little in common but after a fallout with an old friend, Michael brings in Emile as a conspirator for his plan to test his “friendships.” Michael decides to fake his death to see what sort of response he can raise from his Facebook family and with the help of Emile, the idea goes from an overnight stunt to something which takes up not only all of Michael’s time and energy but also Emile’s – not to mention it gets the pair into a whole lot of hot water.

It’s a ridiculous sounding premise but not nearly as far fetched as it initially sounds. Most of us with Facebook, Twitter or any sort of social media presence likely follows or has followers we’ve never met. We often share information as stream of consciousness: stuff we’re thinking about, stuff we find. Some of it spawns interaction and some of it doesn’t. For most, that mostly-one-way stream of information is perfectly acceptable but for others, social networking is their connection to other people and they need to know that their posts are being seen by their so-called-friends. Michael is one of those guys and he becomes obsessed when he notices that his fake death post is engaging others, and so the stunt gets progressively more obscene including the faking of a crime scene, a death certificate and a wake. All of this to see if Michael’s real-life friend Joel (“Black Sails”’s Zach McGowan) will show up to the wake; a real friend who Michael has essentially ignored to focus instead on his Facebook cronies.

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TIFF Short Film “NOAH” [last day to view]

Just because you weren’t in Toronto the last couple of weeks doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little of what TIFF has to offer. For example, I stumbled across this short film entitled Noah which takes place entirely on a computer screen (including the closing credits). It’s an interesting look at relationships in the digital age.

It’s only a few minutes long but I actually felt a little anxious for the protagonist while watching. So for me it was what I like to call “quietly intense.” Take a look below and see what you think.

**Today is the last day the video will be available for viewing on YouTube**


Extended Thoughts: Chronicle

*Some Spoilers, Fair Warning*

Perhaps a goofy co-incidence that Facebook filed with the SEC to launch its $5 Billion (with a B) initial public offering in the same week as this virally advertised film hit cinema screens. The dollar value for the filing is itself equal parts news-catcher, market-hubris and ultimately an underscore on where society, in the here and now, lays its value: Social Networking. Even more curious that the script for Chronicle makes room for Carl Jung and Arthur Schopenhauer, but relegates Facebook and Twitter curiously to subtext. Chronicle is an interesting name for the movie; perhaps more literal in meaning (a chronological ordering of events – here by an unseen editor) but also less on-the-nose than say, “Status Update.”

I’m getting ahead of myself, perhaps.

The latest found footage movie is one of the more interesting uses of this increasingly strained sub-genre and this is why: The main character, an angry young man with nascent telekinetic powers who is well on his way to becoming a super-villain, not only self-incriminates himself by filming the process of his road to villainy but (and here is the kicker) he uses his powers control the camera’s framing of his own story. In the case of the films big climactic show-down, the full self-realization/actualization of himself as the Apex-predator, he uses dozens of cameras to capture things from multiple angles. The thing that always struck me as strange with the outbreak of social networking, is how so many young people capture themselves drinking underage, skipping school, or other such activities that are both unacceptable in society (but also loaded, perhaps, with a cachet of cool) and upload it THEMSELVES to later be prosecuted, ostracized, or whatnot by their own self-publication. To make the the unspoken, but underlying ‘thesis’ of the film is interesting to me. I wish the filmmakers (Josh Trank and Max “son of John” Landis) did not have to be so overt with every character justifying or explaining why they are filming all the time (see also George Romero’s Diary of the Dead) because, dammit, it is 2012 and rather obvious that we are race of beings whose souls are been stolen by the camera on pretty much an hourly basis – from mall and street security, to our own goshdarned phones!

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Movie Club Podcast #21: F For Fake, Catfish, Exit Through The Giftshop

The MOVIE CLUB Trick-u-mentary edition is now available at the Movie Club Podcast website. Episode #21 features lengthy spoiler-filled discussions of Orson Welles’ F For Fake, Banksy’s art disaster movie Exit Through The Gift Shop and the controversial Facebook relationship documentary, Catfish. The guest contributors for this episode are Film Junk‘s Sean Dwyer and The Documentary Blog’s Jay Cheel, Where The Long Tail Ends‘ James Gillham and local Row Three writers Marina Antunes and Kurt Halfyard. Wherein we discuss the nature of truth and documentary, the sexiest voice-over narrator, and the line between lies that lie and lies that tell the truth.

The Movie Club is as much for the listeners as it is the contributors. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section over at the Movie Club Page. (Comments are turned off on this post.) The Next Episode will be recorded in March and the films on discussion will be Flash Gordon and Zardoz.

Review: The Social Network

The Social Network Movie Poster

Director: David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac)
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Ben Mezrich (book)
Producers: Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Max Minghella, Josh Pence, Justin Timberlake, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara
MPAA Rating: PG13
Running time: 121 min.

David Fincher’s The Social Network is an age old tale of what happens daily in the business world. The difference here is that involves one of the biggest brands in the world (valued at somewhere in the $25 billion ballpark), best friends (one of which is portrayed as socially inept) and the fact that this all happened before anyone involved turned 25.

The Social Network Movie StillThe one thing that we need to keep in mind while watching the film is that this is a work of fiction. The people involved know what happened but that’s about it. Regardless of how well researched Ben Mezrich’s book is (from which the talented Aaron Sorkin adapted the script), we can’t take it as the bible of what happened but we know the basics and they are that in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and his partner Eduardo Saverin launched (they later dropped “the” from the name). Shortly after launching at Harvard, the site launched at other campuses before eventually going public and everyone and their grandmother having a facebook account. Along the way, Zuckerberg burned a few bridges, causing a few lawsuits (the film’s tag line accurately reads: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”) and facebook is still the biggest thing in the world. Ah, brand power overshadows much.

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Cinecast Episode 184 – Death Lottery

The 4 hour barrier is broken as The Documentary Blog’s Jay Cheel joins Kurt and Andrew on the longest Cinecast ever – you know it is even longer than the previous epic length TIFF show. What do we talk about? For starters, Kurt & Jay examine the Let The Right One In remake, Let Me In (*SPOILERS*), in painstaking detail, and how not to process American remakes of foreign language films. Next we move along for a solid hour on Never Let Me Go (*SPOILERS*) which keeps going on the vibe of comparing source material to eventual film adaptation and why you probably should not do that. More Carey Mulligan talk as Andrew skims and sums up Wall Street 2 with out spoilers. Then, a spoiler-free discussion on Catfish follows, although only Jay caught it, so it is more of a discussion on fake/faux-Documentaries, and ‘narrative-ethics’ which leads to more more talk on I’m Still Here, with a little Last Exorcism and The Blair Witch Project to round things out. Next we move along to the avant garde and barely-narrative Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a lot of other films we watched: An overview of the “Middletown” documentary series, a bit of Daybreakers-Redux, a bit of Season 6 of “LOST” (you guessed it, with *SPOILERS*), and more avant garde cinema with Last Year At Marienbad. We also debate the finer points of Steve Buscemi and the cast and crew of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Finally (finally!) at around the 4 hour mark, our DVD picks round out a show that carried us well into the wee hours of the night recording. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed chatting. It may be long, but it is a solid and whip-smart show this time around, although we are biased on that front.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Cinecast Episode 155 – Nards

Episode 155:
Wherein some of us try (really try!) to be positive about the clumsily derailed attempt at retro-love for The Wolfman character and story; it just does not seem to come out that way. The new film, with its two directors, two screenwriters and final schizophrenic outcome prove our undoing after 40 minutes of back and forth.

As a palette cleanser, we do get into quite the love-fest for anything and everything Akira Kurosawa. Especially a new brand-spanking, crisp-looking print of Rashomon, which is on tour right now. We have got some great DVD releases to mention this week as well as a teaser conversation on the micro-trend of film makers tackling movies that relate to the workings of the internet. And for those wanting to get their Cthulu, Steampunk and Serial-Killer geekery on, there is some discussion on China Meiville, Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko, specifically Perdido Street Station and Torso. Enjoy!

Thanks for listening and be sure to leave your own thoughts/lists in the comment section below!

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More Oscar Show Changes (music, speeches, presentations)


Every year, the day after the Oscar presentation, beside the winners there is all sorts of talk about what went well at the Oscar show and what sucked. And every year someone always mentions the musical performances. Some people love those bits and others tend to think they lengthen an already yawn-inducing show and just bog down the entire ceremony.

– Well, we’re about to find out exactly what an Oscar show will be like without all of the performances. Oscar producers have already contacted the nominees and told them their services will no longer be needed. Instead, the music will be played in snippets over the top of clips from the nominated film. Ruffled feathers anyone?

While in some ways I’ll miss the performances (would’ve been damn fun to see Bridges perform his song from Crazy Heart), I do agree that it tends to just slow down the night a little bit. Also, I remember people throwing a fit a few year back when “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won best song; because the on stage performance was undefendably atrocious. But I had to constantly defend the win (I still do) because within the context of the film, the song absolutely deserved to win. So placing the song within it’s film as to give it some context and depth will be a nice touch I think.

– Next up are the droning on and on speeches (“the single most-hated thing on the show,” producer Bill Mechanic said). The producers have asked potential winners to prepare two speeches: one 45-second bit for the on-stage, “what the Oscar means to you,” and then a second speech to be given backstage to a “Thank You Cam” during which the winner can thank specific people. These bits will be posted online and winners can email them to whoever they choose and even post them on their Facebook profiles.

– Amidst all of these tweaks and changes, apparently they’re going to stick with the way the presentations were given out last year: with the five previous year’s nominees reading the nominees for the Best Actor and Actress categories this year. A lot of people hated that bit last year but I thought that the ones that were done well were pretty good and more big stars is better than less big stars in my opinion. I also like the personal approach some of the actors took to their presentations; looking directly at the nominee and speaking just to them.

The Oscars will be broadcast on Sunday, March 7th. Here are the Best Original Song nominees:
“Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans” from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from Paris 36 Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyrics by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from Nine Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart Music and Lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett


Follow RowThree on Google Buzz

If you’ve been keeping up with social media these days, which is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming with all of the avenues available to us, you’ve maybe heard the BUZZ (and grumblings) about Google’s new social media linkage called…. well, BUZZ.

Social media sites are fantastic tools for hooking up with long lost friends, finding new friends, keeping tabs on (stalking) current friends and lovers, getting all the latest gossip on any subject you can think of and finding interesting articles, stories and video. The possibilities are almost endless. RowThree has been carefully linked with both Twitter and Facebook (et. al.) for some time and it really has been a blast chatting it up and sharing movie info with so many people all around the globe.

Google has, quite honestly, blown my mind over the past few years with almost every app and service that they provide (WAVE is a bit of a debacle, but leave that aside). If you’re not on Gmail, you’re using an inferior service. Period. The Google browser, Chrome, is the perfect browser that I’ve been searching for for over 3 years (and believe I tried alot of them!) and it actually exceeded my expectations. Enter Google BUZZ.

After playing around on Google BUZZ for about 2 minutes yesterday, I could tell that it continues in the excellence and innovation Google was shown us time and time again. It reminds very much of Twitter, but is capable of so much more; including posting pics and video. Not to mention you’re allowed more than 140 characters (actually unlimited I think) for your updates. Beyond the posts, followers can then comment and discuss with their own words and images. It takes everything that is great about Facebook updates, Tweets, YouTube and Picassa and smashes them all together in one great application.

Quick to join the fray, RowThree is now available to follow on BUZZ and as the days and weeks go by, we’ll continue to update and follow plenty of web sites and film fans while sharing all of the great news and op-ed stories we find in the online film world. BUZZ is yet another way to keep the spirit of RowThree expanding. We’re all about discussion here and BUZZ bridges all of us together with even more possibilities and furthers the horizon of discourse. I foresee BUZZ being quite the large bandwagon and one would do well to be on it. We’ll see you there.

For more information about Google Buzz, click here or check out the video below the seats explaining it better than I ever could in words…
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Fincher’s Social Network Adds Friends

AndrewGarfieldI‘ve been really underwhelmed by all of the activity around David Fincher’s next film. Yes, I love Fincher as much as the next film addicted fan but a movie about Facebook, a platform I loath, had nothing going for it beyond the Fincher name. Granted, I’d see it when it was finished but I had little interest in tracking the details of the production.

The film, now titled The Social Network, is being sold as a drama about the birth of Facebook and the drama that surrounded its founders in the early days. Created by three college students at Harvard in 2004, the network became popular with the college crowd before eventually making itself available to the world and changing the way we communicate online (be it for the betterment or degradation of society). Over the years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has really become “the face” of Facebook and I’m sure techies everywhere are dying to see the truth behind the myth. How much truth we’ll get here is still up in the air but the story is likely to have some appeal with the anyone who has ever wanted to be a successful entrepreneur.

But that’s all filler and not enough to get me interested. Oh no. To get my attention you need more than the fabulous Fincher. You have to give me Fincher and the amazing Andrew Garfield. If you don’t know this name, take note of it because this young talent is fantastic and he’s coming up the ranks quickly. He left a huge impression with his turn in the criminally under seen Boy A, he has a role in the upcoming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and his turn as an investigative reporter in the BBC’s brilliant “Red Riding” is nothing short of spectacular. News now is that Garfield will star in Fincher’s film as Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who had a falling out with Zuckerberg over money. The film has also cast, in a less exciting manner, Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and Justin Timberlake.

Eisenberg has had his share of good roles in Adventureland (our review) and The Education of Charlie Banks but I think Garfield is the bigger talent here and though it’s exciting to see him in a high-profile production, I can’t help but think that he would have been a better choice for the lead.

So there we are. With one announcement I’ve changed my tune about The Social Network from indifference to excitement.