Mike Builds a Shelter
Winter demons be gone, will you not?! How many of our yearly allotment of BBQs and rooftop hang outs have we lost already to this arctic blast that cares for no one and forgives nothing? How many more will we lose before we’re spared this suffering? Try not to think about it. Or rather, distract yourself with this friendly assortment of film things.
OK, can we just say we love, love, love where sci-fi films have been going recently. They’re getting spookier, smarter, and less flashy. No longer territory reserved for mainstream garbage pits of nonsense or the dopey wastelands of nerdcore, sci-fi films have taken on a new seriousness and even artfulness. Is that because, rather than the stuff of a distant future that might as well be pure fantasy, sci-fi films are confronting a future that’s not close at hand and not unlike our present. We see ourselves in these characters, particularly in the people (and cyborgs) of Ex Machina. And like some aspects of technology on our own, very real horizon, it’s difficult to tell what should exactly be trusted in the world of Ex Machina.
A dude who looks like any old filthy rich, app developing tech bro with too much money to blow and a penchant for god complex, Nate Bateman is a reclusive CEO working on an Artifical Intelligence project (that also happens to be a babe, played by Alicia Vikander). A lowly programmer, Caleb Smith, wins a competition that lands him holed up in Bateman’s home to help with his AI project. Shit gets weird, real weird and real fast after Caleb meets the bot, known as Ava. Is Ava trying to seduce Caleb? Or is she simply trying to warn him that Bateman is, well, a Bateman of sorts? Thursday June 4th through Thursday June 11th at Nitehawk: $11
The people at Light Industry never cease to wow us with all manner of rare and unheard of films they’re able to get ahold of for their bi-weekly affairs. But what they’ve dug up this time is truly impressive, even for these guys. Michael Smith, who has been dubbed the art world’s “nerdy underdog,” started creating notable video, installation, and performance art work in the early ’80s. One curator described his earliest videos as ones in which “deep-seated insecurities are conflated with pop cultural references, colliding into nonsensical, hallucinatory scenarios.”
Leave it to Smith then, in 1983, to take on Reagan-era paranoia and delusion as embodied in a US government pamphlet (distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency) instructing average citizens on how to outfit their basement to become a nuclear fallout shelter in the event Gorbachev decided he actually didn’t like the look of this bourgeois movie star of a President’s face. Smith constructed a DIY fallout shelter of his own, making like he were a bland middle American dude name Mike with room to spare down by the washer-dryer, dubbing the installation Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar.
“Mike” would have passed for a pretty boring dude if he hadn’t also managed to construct what was then a groundbreaking custom arcade-sized video game console, Mike Builds a Shelter. Being an artist with minimal computer nerd skills, he recruited Reza Keshavarz, a teenaged computer programmer, and Dov Jacobson, a computer graphics designer to help him. Light Industry has managed to obtain not only a film made by Smith about the installation but the fully restored Mike Builds a Shelter. And this being Light Industry, they’ve gone the extra mile to invite Keshavarz, Jacobson, and Michael Smith to discuss the project. Apparently this will be the first time they’ve been together since the making of the video game. Tuesday June 9th, 7:30 pm at Light Industry: $7 at the door
Leave it to a documentary filmmaker to take a relatively benign sleep disorder as far as sleep disorders go — sleep paralysis, a phenomenon that people describe as being locked momentarily somehow between a sleeping nightmare and waking hallucinations – and turn it into something way, way more intense than the lived phenomenon. It’s scary stuff, we’ve been there. Just as you’re drifting off to sleep, suddenly your muscles tense up and, as the name indicates, you become paralyzed. Try to scream, you won’t be able to. And forget about willing yourself to wake up, because in a certain sense, you’re already awake.
Oh, and did I mention that typically people see really scary shit while this is going on? Once, while I was experiencing sleep paralysis, an old friend appeared just above my line of vision. I tried to tilt my head back to get a better look (which I found I couldn’t) but he disappeared. Seconds later, my friend had transformed into something I can only describe as an amorphous demon blob that decided to pounce on me. Weirdly, and if you’ve ever experienced this phenomenon you’ll understand, you can actually sometimes feel pricks of pain, but most of the horror show comes from being unable to run away from these spooky visages.
If you’ve experienced sleep paralysis, the dramatizations in this documentary might look all too familiar. There’s not much real research about what the hell sleep paralysis even is, or why people suffer from it, so don’t expect the filmmaker to solve any of these mysteries. This is more of a horror film with the added scare-factor of real life. But hey, if you go check out the film at IFC and take issue with this, director Rodney Ascher will be on hand on Friday and you can chew him out. Friday June 5th through Tuesday June 9th at IFC Center: $14
Made in post-Yugoslav War Slovenia, this film takes us back to Tito’s Golden Days, but rather than making a Socialist Realist romp that would have been typical of previous years, these Slovenian filmmakers took all the artistic liberties they could in the post-war era. Sure, they seem to be saying, we were provided for back then, but the system ultimately failed us in its attempt to iron out differences rather than embrace diversity.
The film is set in 1979, when a Bosnian guy named Sead is uprooted from his home-republic and brought to Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia) where he must adjust to a new high school. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t much fit in and ends up skipping school to hang out with a group of punks and taking on the name, “Sid” as a marker of rebellion. Obviously, such outward individuality wasn’t tolerated very far and Sid and his friends become targets of the police. Getting in to small-time trouble quickly escalates to serious persecution, and the ending ain’t a happy one. Saturday June 6th & Thursday June 11th at 10 pm and Monday June 15th & Tuesday June 23rd at 7:30 pm, Spectacle Theater: $5 at the door.