Videofilia (And Other Viral Syndromes)
Friday December 2 through Thursday December 8 at Spectacle, $5
As we’re constantly reminded these days, technological progress is hurdling faster and faster toward the speed of light. These days, we don’t even have to get off our asses and schlep it to the dollar store for toilet paper– we can simply press a button and the butt paper shows up like magic, encased in an obscenely large cardboard box. Then again, there are times when you’re riding the subway and you’re overwhelmed by an apocalyptic dread, having realized that every single human on board is playing Candy Crush. These things serve to remind us that End Times are nigh, and these phone zombies will be the beginning of a very dark, totally uncool end.
Something about Videofilia, premiering Friday at Spectacle, makes me think that Peruvian director Juan Daniel Molero is on the same page, albeit an upside-down one. (Because everything’s upside down in South America, right?) But instead of picturing the Four Horsemen’s arrival by way of Amazon Prime, Molero imagines the end of the world within the context of a post-cyberpunk Peru, where the lines between the IRL experience of screen-obsessed teens and the amorphous, pixelated universe contained in the interwebs become blurry, before they disintegrate altogether.
As Junior, the film’s teenaged co-hero (along with his love interest Luz) explains: “I swear, I haven’t been feeling like I’m part of reality anymore. Everything is changing, dude. Reality is like this screen. All pixelated and fragmented.” Add drugs, internet porn (both psychoactive substances in their own right), and the local Mayan mythology of the apocalypse, and you’ve got yourself a downright trippy vision of RIP Earth.
Into the Inferno
Wednesday November 30 and Thursday December 1, 3:05 pm and 7 pm at IFC Center: $14
In case you missed it the first time around, IFC Center is rerunning Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog’s latest, alongside a few more docs that premiered earlier this year (see also: Weiner and Cameraperson).
At first glance, the film might seem like just another documentary about active volcanoes, aka puking ancient rock geysers. Bore City, right? Actually, the film crew travels far and wide, taking in sweeping panoramas of burbling lava across vastly different landscapes and cultural contexts. If you’ve had the same image stuck in your head, like, forever of slow-burbling, pitch-black goo with neon-yellow stripes flowing at the speed of molasses (thanks a lot, National Geographic) you’re probably so over volcanoes by now that you wouldn’t mind jumping down one of those magma blowholes the next time you bump into one.
But trust that Herzog’s incredible eye for detail and taste for unusual vantage points, visual and narrative, breathe new life (er, poison gas, actually) into what we usually think of as a one-note 3rd-grade science project. There’s at least one thing we can all agree on: Herzog’s voiceover tops every other friggin’ amazing narration he’s ever squeaked out in that frothy, lispy, dehydrated old man diction of his.
Off the Rails
Wednesday November 30 through Thursday December 15 at The Metrograph: $15
You’ve definitely seen kids like Darius McCollum on the subway before. Back when Darius actually was a kid, he wasn’t the screaming, bratty type, nor was he one of those velcro-shoe-wearing tikes who squeeze out alligator tears only when they’re not sipping on a juice box. Nah, kids like Darius are a delight, not only because they’re polite and speak at a reasonable volume, but somehow they know the subway system backwards and frontwards, from the Bronx to Brighton Beach. They come in handy when you get thrown off track by construction or an emergency rerouting or some such MTA clusterfuck– if you listen carefully to the kids’ relentless subway babbling, you might actually find your way out of trouble.
Actually, Darius has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and although his fascination (some might say bordering on obsession) with the subway system seems rather harmless, his wealth of knowledge about the city’s complex tangle of subway tracks and lines has actually landed him in some serious trouble.
At 15, he posed as a conductor for the first time, and since then Darius’s “impersonations have led to dozens of arrests and twenty-three years of his life spent in maximum security prison,” the Metrograph explains. What the theater calls his “compulsion” has transformed Darius into “a folk hero and a tragic example of the criminalization of a person attempting to channel his passions into a productive life.”
Wednesday November 30 to Thursday December 8 at Nitehawk: $12
I can’t even remember the last time a movie made me cry. But, I can totally recall, with horrific clarity, that not too long ago a certain Apple commercial left me sobbing in front of a size large TV. What can I say? It’s an indefensible act. Horrendous. And yet, soooo predictable. After all, am I not a child of capitalism? A captive of consumerism? Does anyone actually expect me to throw out my iPhone? Or stop watching TV? Or plug my ears up and pretend like everything is la-tee-da?
It probably goes without saying, but Moonlight is the exact opposite of a soothing yet “heartwarming” Apple advert. Which is why I’m proud to admit that I wept like a baby when I saw Moonlight last weekend.
The film shines a bright, unwavering moonbeam on the life of a young black man named Chiron, aka Little, aka Black, and follows him from childhood. He’s singled out as a weakling early on, and in high school he’s relentlessly bullied by kids that see right through his painful shyness– the kids seem to pick up on Little’s queerness before he really understands it himself.
The world seems to be arranged against Chiron: his single mother is struggling to stay afloat, and eventually plunges into crack addiction. She lashes out at her son when she’s high, and freaks out even when she’s sober, demanding that Little hand over pocket change so she can score.
School is just another obstacle, and it’s all about getting through the day, while education is an elusive, alien mirage, one that seems so impossibly far from his reach that it’s never even entertained as an option.
Even when Chiron meets his savior, Juan, a father figure who scoops him up from a crackhouse, and defends him at every opportunity, the man turns out to be the local drug kingpin. It’s friggin’ heart-shredding, but Juan and his girlfriend are clearly the only positive reinforcement Chiron has ever had, not to mention Juan is the only positive male role model to come around. Though Chiron is still very much a little boy, he quickly figures out that his caretakers are locked in an ugly arrangement: Juan sells crack to Chiron’s mother, who in turn, is losing her money, her son, even her own mind, to the drugs.
The self-destructive, parasitic relationship between drug dealer and drug user is one of many cycles apparent in Moonlight, all but shackling Chiron to a predetermined fate. When he’s attacked at school, the principal tells Chiron, whose face is covered in blood, swollen, sutured, and battered, the only way to stop the violence is to “press charges.” It’s pretty clear, however, that going to the police would get Chiron killed. I won’t give too much away, but even as Chiron grows older and becomes a man, the same cycles– evidence of the impact of racism, incarceration, violence, poverty, lack of education and healthcare on people of color, and the double-bind of queerness– repeat themselves. La-tee-da? No way.