Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)

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It’s 1970 and in Los Angeles the hippie dream is slowly collapsing under the weight of the Manson murders and of government fuelled social paranoia. In the fictional town of Gordita Beach, stoner private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is hired by ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) to investigate a case that will force him to face the ‘inherent vice’ that taints L.A. souls during the last days of a fading dream. What starts as an ordinary investigation on Shasta’s new lover and real estate magnate Micky Wolfman quickly spirals out of control as Arian Brotherhood bikers, Black Panther militants, a mysterious crime/dentist syndicate known only as the Golden Fang, FBI agents, an infamous LAPD detective and an undercover saxophonist working for the US government enter the picture, thickening the fog of pot and paranoia in which the case was drenched in from the very beginning.

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Lose Control: “Relatos Salvajes” (Wild Tales), 2014

“Filmáme esto Néstor”

What happens when you are pushed to the limit of an emotional breakdown and decide to hit the gas instead of pulling the hand-brake? Relatos Salvajes (2014) tells six stories of ordinary people who got pushed to the limit of their patience and took that leap instead of backing down. Writer/director Damián Szifrón structures his brilliant black comedy around the common theme of payback to expose everything that’s wrong in 21st century Argentine society: corruption; mindless bureaucracy and gender and class inequalities.

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These “tales of ordinary madness” are all pushed to their apocalyptical consequences in a “Pythonesque” fashion and with a taste for the grotesque that is reminiscent of the early Almodóvar’s films (not surprisingly Almodóvar actually produced the film). But while Relatos Salvajes is certainly indebted to these giants of dark comedy, it’s also infused with a unique love for its characters and for their humanity that elevates the film at their same level and make it the best comedy that I have seen in recent years.

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The Human Face of Big Data

vidPosterOver the last few months I came across the term “Big Data” very often. It’s certainly a new technology trend, now becoming more and more popular. Big Data is defined as the real time collection, analyses, and visualization of vast amounts of information.

It seems that we are facing a revolution bigger than the Internet, that will have an incredible impact on humanity as it will measure and understand aspects of our existence in ways never before possible.

Last night I saw The Human Face of Big Data at Transition Film Festival in Melbourne, a documentary that explores the potential of “Big Data”. Every day we generate an enourmous quantity of electronic information and in the near future every object will be generating data, including our homes, cars, bodies. In this ocean of data there’s a picture of us: what we buy, what we say, where we live, where we go. Our lives today are being recorded and stored forever.

According to Big Data proponents we’re part of a big revolution where we’re acting to change the world we live. Data scientists actually believe the information we generate contain keys to solving our big and small problems such as health disease, social injustice, saving the planet.

The way Big Data will change the world seems to represent a new era, but will our lives also be manipulated by this further exposure to technological devices ?

Sandy Smolan, film writer and director, actually gives us not just one point of view: “what can be used for good can also be used for evil,” and the documentary explores how Big Data can also invade individual privacy, control people, and attack freedom.

We could now get lost in philosophical discussions on the way we live today and the way we are controlled by technology, but the biggest challenges with Big Data are not technological but human.

If we are conscious of what we are and what we want, Big Data can help us to make it a reality. We can actually control technology to improve our life and not just be controlled by it.

What is not clear in my opinion is how exactly those data are analysed. Maybe a documentary can not give these answers but The Human Face of Big data certainly captures the potential and dangers of this revolution.

The Human Face of Big Data documentary won the best cinematography award for a documentary at the Boston International Film Festival.