Tag Archives: Cinema

About Brazilians…

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“As Tom Jobim says, “Brazil is not for beginners…”,

how come you live in a place where stamps come unglued,

sopa melts almost before you can use it,

rivers run too fast to the sea?

I would like to understand this unbearable joy Brazilians have,

this constant urge to celebrate,

and there is your melancholy, it’s drama,

it’s flamboyance, it’s abandon.

To a North American, in particular to one like me,

it is… out of proportion, excessive.

Kennedy’s assassination, such mourning,

such outpourings of grief.

The doormen, cab drivers, cleaning ladies…

Why? What is it you lost?

But when the military coup happened

and you lost your freedom,

I was there, I saw it;

you went on playing soccer on the beach.

The longer you stay in one place,

the less you understand it.”

 

I don’t really know if Elizabeth Bishop wrote this about Brazilians… but that is how is portrayed in “Flores Raras”, the movie about her years in Brazil living with Lota Macedo Soares. True or not, it is a very good picture about Brazilians to the eyes of a North American (as to my own eyes).

Left: Elizabeth Bishop; Right: Lota Macedo Soares

Left: Elizabeth Bishop; Right: Lota Macedo Soares

Flores Raras e Equivocadas por Alfredo Brito

Flores Raras e Equivocadas por Alfredo Britto

Elizabeth Bishop.

Elizabeth Bishop

 

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The Fifth Estate, the Movie

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The_Fifth_Estate

“It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionized the spread of information. So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.” by Bill Condon the director of The Fifth Estate.

Julien Assange & Daniel Domscheit-Berg

Julien Assange & Daniel Domscheit-Berg

It was not approved by Julian Assange but it is worth watching. Why? It does not matter if Assange is paranoid or not, if he is manipulative or not, if he is weird or not, etc. What matters is the fact that he and his collaborators, including the author of the book in which the movie was inspired,  Daniel Domscheit-Berg, changed the history of how information is released, making possible to expose tons of war crimes and government’s corruption. What matters is to expose how much we are manipulated with stupid stories just to distract us. What matters is to see that Democrats don’t differ much from Republicans. This is all that matters. Access to the truth that we have the right to. Access to know that real criminals are free while Assange cannot leave the Equator Embassy in London, Chelsea Manning (former Bradley Manning) was tortured by the US Government and will be in jail for 35 years, Edward Snowden is in Russia and we have no idea if he is safe or not, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and don’t feel safe to come home. This is what matters.

Note: Assange’s son and mother have moved and changed their names. They are not safe.

wikileaks24f-1-web

Netflix: The Big Brother and the Entertainment Manipulation

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by Kate Epstein

The Snowden leaks and ensuing debates about our government, big data, and privacy have led to more Orwell allusions than I’ve heard in all of my (admittedly post-1984) life. It’s hard not to compare the constant surveillance of twenty-first-century America to the ubiquitous presence of Big Brother in the prescient 1949 novel. And that’s not to mention the doublethink involved in our never-ending war with an ever-shifting enemy to keep the homeland safe (war is peace), our ballooning prison population, up 790% since 1980 (freedom is slavery), and the current administration’s brutal crackdown on truth-tellers and public education (ignorance is strength).

But big data has another side, better predicted by Aldous Huxley’s very different 1932 dystopia Brave New World. In that version of the future, consumer desire, and not thought-policing, keeps the citizens of the World State in line in a year defined not by A.D. but by A.F., or “After Ford.” Sex-hormone chewing gum, the ecstasy-inducing drug soma (“one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments,”) and recreational sex are all encouraged, as is attending the popular “feelies,” which combine sight, smell, and touch to create the ultimate entertainment experience.

In many ways we are living out some bizarre combination of 1984’s total surveillance and perception management and Brave New World’s post-Fordist corporatocracy, in which our actions are monitored and our perceptions managed just as much to shape our desires and then fulfill them as to root out dissidents and quash dissent. It is, after all, corporations like Booz Allen that conduct most of the government surveillance in our brave, deregulated, new world. Although one function of all that data is “security,” which is a lucrative enough industry on its own, an even more profitable function is the better understanding of consumer decision-making that can be assembled from the over 2.8 zettabytes of data that exists in the world.

Like the characters in Huxley’s dystopia (most of whom believed they lived in a utopia), we exist in an entertainment-saturated society. Much of that entertainment is delivered to us through one company: Netflix, which caters to approximately 30 million viewers and is more watched than cable television. I thought of feelies, and of Huxley’s broader vision, when I heard about Netflix’s new strategy for creating original content, employed for the first time with “House of Cards” this past February—one that involves using billions of data points to better understand what its viewers want to see.

Netflix, much like the NSA, knows a lot about us. Think about what your viewing patterns (what you watch, when you watch it, how often you pause it, etc.) expose about you. It was concern over privacy in video renting that brought about the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records were published a newspaper. Congress was outraged that such personal information could be made public (consider it the “meta data” of the time), but the bill hasn’t been updated since, despite certain developments, including the invention of the Internet.

Consider just how much Netflix must know about you given that, according to GigaOm, it also collects geo-location data, device information, metadata from third-parties such as Nielson, and social media data from Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the more obvious “data events”: over 30 million plays per day, 4 million ratings, 3 million searches, and all pauses, fast-forwards, rewinds, and replays. (Nielson is the original market research company, founded in 1923 by Arthur Nielson who coined the term “market share.” It tracks global information on what consumers watch and buy for advertisers and corporate clients including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart, CBS, NBC, News Corp., and Disney.)

This information has long dictated what content Netflix decides to license and recommend to different viewers, but “House of Cards” was the first time any company had ever used such data in the creative production process for a T.V. show. It started when Netflix noticed that there was significant overlap between the circles of viewers who watched movies starring Kevin Spacey and movies directed by David Fincher from beginning to end, and viewers who loved the original 1990 BBC miniseries “House of Cards.” Subscribers were shown one of ten different trailers for the series based on their consumer profiles. The producers also knew, from studying viewers’ watching patterns, that releasing all thirteen episodes at once would promote and reward the binge-like behavior demonstrated by their target audience. The new strategy paid off, with ten percent of Netflix subscribers watching the series within two weeks of its debut, and 80% of viewers rating it “good” or “exceptional.”

On the heels of its “House of Cards” success, Netflix premiered a new series, “Orange is the New Black,” on Thursday, July 11. Described as a “hilarious, heartbreaking, and critically acclaimed series based on the true story of Piper, an upper-class New Yorker who finds herself sentenced to fifteen months in a women’s correctional facility for a crime she committed long ago,” the show has indeed already garnered critical acclaim. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it achieves a “new definition of television excellence.”

Just as retail companies like Target can know when a teenager is pregnant before her own parents through the mining of extensive data sets, entertainment producers across industries are becoming savvier about the potential of big data to transform the creative process, and to meet consumer demand in unprecedented ways. The idea of computer algorithms displaying what we would normally think of as uniquely human creativity is relatively new, but it’s rapidly spreading. Algorithms that sift through and crunch the exponentially-growing pool of data can now grade essays, compose music that imitates Bach so well many can’t tell the difference, and write news articles on events no journalist attended. (See “Can Creativity Be Automated?”)

“We know what people watch on Netflix and we’re able with a high degree of confidence to understand how big a likely audience is for a given show based on people’s viewing habits,” Netflix communications director Jonathan Friedland told Wired in 2012. “We want to continue to have something for everybody. But as time goes on, we get better at selecting what that something for everybody is that gets high engagement.”

Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this new entertainment environment to the feelies and obstacle golf of Brave New World, but it’s hard not to be a little skeptical of an industry so in tune with consumer preferences that it can use an algorithm to create The Ultimate Television Program. Despite the reality that we face crises of drastic proportion—environmentally, economically, socially, and politically—we are overwhelmingly marketed a very different reality. In over 3,000 advertisements a day, we are presented with a world in which the consumer is sovereign, freedom of choice reigns, and painless, constant pleasure is possible. Art and entertainment that fail to constantly please, however socially valuable it might be, represents a smaller and smaller proportion of what most Americans consume.

As technology advances, corporations are developing both more precise ways to monitor our behavior and smarter algorithms to crunch that data. Last year, Verizon applied for a patent for a type of monitoring technology that uses infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behavior—such as eating, exercising, reading, and sleeping—in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device. Embedded in cable boxes in living rooms across America, this Orwellian tool would presumably help companies get to know us just a little bit better. Marketing firms use eye tracking to measure how elements of advertisements are perceived, retained and recalled, and corporations use facial recognition on billboards’ hidden cameras to detect age and gender brackets to display targeted ads. Surely these developments raise many of the same privacy concerns as the U.S. intelligence community’s blanket spying programs. When did we agree to give all this personal data away for free? And do we even know it’s happening?

As founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings told Businessweek, “We’re able to do more and more calculations and big-data statistics so that what we do is represent Netflix more and more as a place where you come for relaxation, escape.” Sounds almost as good as a hangover-free soma holiday.

Kate Epstein is a lawyer and activist who manages the blog The Lone Pamphleteer. She can be reached at katepstein@gmail.com.

Netflix: Quando o Entretenimento nos Entorpece

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Netflix e Espionagem – O Admirável Mundo Novo do Banco de Dados  Por Kate Epstein, no Counterpunch

“Os vazamentos de [Richard] Snowden e o debate que se seguiu sobre nosso governo [dos Estados Unidos], banco de dados e privacidade levou a mais alusões a [George] Orwell do que eu já havia escutado em minha (admitidamente pós-1984) vida. É difícil não comparar a vigilância constante do século XXI nos Estados Unidos à onipresença do Grande Irmão na visionária novela de 1949. Isso para não mencionar o pensamento duplo que envolve a nossa guerra sem fim, com um inimigo que vive mudando de lugar, para manter a pátria segura (guerra é paz), nossa população carcerária que está explodindo, um aumento de 790% desde 1908 (liberdade é escravidão), e a brutal repressão atual, por parte do governo, a quem fala a verdade e à educação pública (ignorância é força).

Mas o grande Banco de Dados tem um outro lado, que Aldous Huxley previu muito bem em sua distopia de 1932, “Admirável Mundo Novo”. Nessa versão do futuro, o desejo do consumidor, e não o policiamento das ideias, mantém os cidadãos do Estado Mundial na linha, no ano definido não por D.C. mas por A.F., ou “After Ford”(depois de Henry Ford). Chicletes de hormônio sexual, a droga soma para induzir o êxtase (“um centímetro cúbico cura dez sentimentos melancólicos”) e sexo recreativo são incentivados, como também participar das populares “feelies”, que combinam visão, cheiro e tato para criar a última experiência de entretenimento.

De diversas maneiras nós estamos vivendo uma combinação bizarra do monitoramento total de “1984” com a administração das sensações de “Admirável Mundo Novo” na corporatocracia pós-Fordista na qual nossas ações são monitoradas e nossas percepções são administradas o suficiente para determinar nossos desejos e então satisfazê-los como forma de eliminar os dissidentes e esmagá-los.

São corporações como a Booz Allen, afinal de contas, que conduzem o trabalho de vigilância do governo em nosso fantástico, e desregulado, mundo novo.

Apesar de uma das funções de todo esse banco de dados ser a “segurança”, que é uma indústria lucrativa o suficiente por si só, uma função ainda mais lucrativa é entender melhor a tomada de decisão dos consumidores, o que pode ser construído a partir dos mais de 2.8 zettabytes de dados que existem no mundo.

Como os personagens da distopia de Huxley (a grande maioria achava que estava vivendo em uma utopia), nós existimos em uma sociedade saturada de entretenimento. Boa parte desse entretenimento nos é entregue por uma empresa: Netflix, que atende aproximadamente 30 milhões de telespectadores e tem mais audiência do que as tevês a cabo.

Eu pensei em “feelies” e na visão ampla de Huxley, quando ouvi falar da nova estratégia do Netflix para criar conteúdo original, usada pela primeira vez em fevereiro passado com o seriado “House of Cards” – uma estratégia que envolve o uso de bilhões de dados para entender melhor o que seus telespectadores querem ver.

O Netflix, assim como a NSA (Agência de Segurança Nacional), sabe muito sobre nós. Pense o quanto o seu padrão como telespectador revela a seu respeito (o que você assiste, quando assiste, com que frequência interrompe o programa, etc.).

Foi a preocupação com a privacidade na hora de alugar um vídeo que forçou a adoção do Ato de Proteção de Privacidade nos Vídeos, de 1988, depois que os dados sobre o aluguel de vídeos do juiz Robert Bork, indicado para a Suprema Corte, foram publicados em um jornal. O Congresso ficou ultrajado ao ver uma informação tão pessoal tornada pública (considere isso o “metadata” da época), mas a lei não foi atualizada desde então, apesar de certas novidades, incluindo a invenção da internet.

Considere o quanto o Netflix deve saber a seu respeito já que, segundo a GigaOm, ele também coleta dados de localização, informação de aparelhos, metadata de terceiros como o Nielsen e dados de mídias sociais do Facebook e Twitter, além dos mais óbvios data-eventos: mais de 30 milhões de plays por dia, 4 milhões de classificações, 3 milhões de pesquisas e todas as pausas, fast-forwards, rewinds e replays. (Nielsen é a empresa de pesquisa de mercado, criada em 1923 por Arthur Nielsen, que cunhou o termo market share. Ela recolhe informação global sobre o que os consumidores assistem e compram para os anunciantes e clientes corporativos como Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart, CBS, NBC, News Corp. e Disney).

Essa informação dita há muito tempo que conteúdo o Netflix decide licenciar e recomendar para diferentes espectadores, mas com o seriado “House of Cards” foi a primeira vez que uma empresa usou toda essa informação no processo criativo de produção de um programa de TV.

Tudo começou quando o Netflix percebeu que havia superposição significativa entre grupos de telespectadores que assistiam filmes com Kevin Space e filmes dirigidos for David Fincher do começo ao fim, e telespectadores que adoravam a minissérie ”House of Cards” original da BBC, de 1990. Assinantes assistiram um de dez trailers da série com base nos seus perfis de consumo.

Os produtores também sabiam, a partir do estudo do padrão de comportamento dos espectadores, que lançar os treze episódios de uma vez promoveria e satisfaria o comportamento viciado demonstrado pela audiência alvo. A nova estratégia funcionou: 10% dos assinantes do Netflix viram a série toda nas duas semanas após a estreia, e 80% dos telespectadores consideraram a série “boa” ou “excepcional”.

Na onda do sucesso de “House of Cards”, o Netflix estreou uma nova série, “Orange is the New Black”, na quinta-feira, dia 11 de julho. Apresentada como “hilariante, de cortar o coração e muito elogiada pelos críticos, a série se baseia na história verídica de Piper, uma mulher de classe alta de Nova York que se vê condenada a 15 meses de cadeia em uma prisão de mulheres por um crime que ela cometeu há muito tempo”. O programa realmente recebeu elogios. O San Francisco Chronicle afirmou que a série alcançou “uma nova definição de excelência na televisão”.

Assim como as empresas de varejo como a Target [loja de departamento dos Estados Unidos] sabem quando uma adolescente está grávida antes que os pais dela, através da coleta de uma extensa coleção de dados, os produtores de entretenimento de várias indústrias estão se tornando mais e mais especializados a respeito do potencial que o banco de dados tem para transformar o processo criativo e satisfazer a demanda do consumidor de uma maneira sem precedentes.

A ideia de que algoritmos de computador possam mostrar o que normalmente considerávamos ser criatividade humana única é relativamente nova, mas está se expandindo rapidamente.

Algoritmos que pesquisam, coletam e organizam uma quantidade de dados que cresce exponencialmente já conseguem avaliar textos, compor música que imita Bach tão bem que muitos não conseguem dizer qual é a diferença, e escrever textos jornalísticos sobre eventos nos quais nenhum jornalista esteve presente. (Veja “Can Creativity Be Automated?”).

“Nós sabemos o que as pessoas assistem no Netflix e podemos, com alto índice de certeza, entender qual é o tamanho do público potencial para um determinado programa, com base nos hábitos de programação das pessoas”, disse à revista Wired, em 2012, o diretor de comunicações da Netflix, Jonathan Friedlan. “Nós queremos continuar a ter algo para todo mundo. Mas na medida em que o tempo avança, melhoramos nossa capacidade de entender o que é esse algo para todo mundo que alcança alto grau de resposta”.

Talvez seja ir longe demais comparar esse novo ambiente de entretenimento com os “feelies” e jogos de golfes de obstáculo do “Admirável Mundo Novo”, mas é difícil não ser um pouco cético a respeito de uma indústria tão antenada com as preferências do consumidor que pode até usar algoritmos para criar “O Último Programa de Televisão”.

Apesar da realidade de que estamos diante de crises de proporções drásticas – meio ambiente, economia, problemas sociais e políticos – somos bombardeados pela propaganda de uma realidade totalmente diferente. Em mais de 3.000 propagandas por dia, nos apresentam um mundo no qual o consumidor é soberano, a liberdade de escolha reina e a vida sem dor, com prazer constante, é possível.

Arte e entretenimento que não conseguem agradar o tempo todo, apesar do valor social que possam ter, representam uma parcela cada vez menor em relação ao que a maior parte dos norte-americanos consome.

Enquanto a tecnologia avança, as corporações estão desenvolvendo métodos mais precisos para monitorar nosso comportamento e algoritmos mais inteligentes para organizar esses dados.

No ano passado, a Verizon [companhia telefônica] entrou com um pedido de patente para um tipo de tecnologia de monitoramento que usa câmeras infravermelhas e microfones para seguir e registrar o comportamento do consumidor – comer, fazer exercícios, ler e dormir – nas redondezas de uma tevê ou de um aparelho móvel.

Inserido nas caixas de cabo, nas salas-de-estar dos Estados Unidos, essa ferramenta orwelliana supostamente ajudaria as empresas a nos conhecer um pouquinho melhor.

As empresas de marketing usam monitores de olhos para medir como elementos de propagandas são vistos, retidos e lembrados, e as empresas usam reconhecimento de face em câmeras secretas de outdoors para detectar idade e sexo para apresentar anúncios dirigidos.

Com certeza essas novidades levantam várias das mesmas preocupações com a privacidade suscitadas pelo amplo programa de espionagem da comunidade de inteligência. Quando foi que concordamos em dar todos esses dados pessoais de graça? E sequer sabemos que isso está acontecendo?

Como o fundador e CEO do Netflix, Reed Hastings, disse à Businessweek, “Nós podemos fazer mais cálculos e estatísticas com base em dados para que o Netflix represente mais e mais um lugar para o qual você vai relaxar, escapar”.  Soa quase tão bom quanto a festa “soma” sem ressaca.”

Kate Epstein é advogada e ativista. Administra o blog  The Lone Pamphleteer.

Via VioMundo.

Entre Nos, the Movie

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Entre Nos, the Movie

“Entre Nos is a bio/true story about a woman’s struggle to survive in New York City with her two children after being abandoned by her husband. The main character, Mariana, totes her two children from the country and culture of Colombia to reunite with her husband in Queens, New York. Her life is devastatingly turned around when her husband abandons the family. As a result, Mariana now struggles with unemployment, eviction letters, eviction notice forms, how to speak fluent English, and experiencing the earliest signs of pregnancy. With no where to go Mariana starts experience various types of stress due to her misfortunes. Mariana and her kids have to now be equipped to survive in living in a foreign country as Mariana desperately searches for jobs hiring in NYC. In the end, Mariana resourcefully navigates a surprising avenue for making some money by using recycle containers to recycle for cash. While the threats to Mariana’s family are palpable, the three manage to avoid drastic suffering. Given the maternal fortitude displayed by Mariana the family grows strong through their struggles.” (EntreNos) This is an exception in the poverty trap, fortunately for this family.

Lincoln, the Movie

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Very difficult dialogues in an old-fashioned English with a very strong accent, “Lincoln” is not an easy movie but worth watching with astonishing Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Lee-Jones (Stevens) performances. What is even more impressive is to realize that even after 150 years post the abolition of slavery, we are now discussing the fair opportunity in the exactly way they were discussing if black and whites were equal or not at that time. It is revolting to realize that we have to fight for the fair opportunity, and 150 years from now the fair opportunity is going to be something out of discussion. Moreover, it is always shocking to me that we still live in a world where lots of people think that white is superior and, mostly, inequality is nature.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Would you erase me from your life and memory?

The movie “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” underlies the scientific discussion about whether our mind is governed by localized or distributed activity in the brain. Is the neural orchestra of our mental functions localized or distributed throughout the brain? The movie starts with the localized theory that is represented by the Lacuna Inc., the company that offers the service of erasing all memories related to one’s person… A non-traditional and impulsive girl (Clementine, Kate Winslet) erases her boyfriend (Joel, Jim Carrey) from her mind with all the memories related to him. Then, Joel figures out what Clementine had just done, and hires Lacuna Inc. to do the same procedure with his memories of Clementine… but during his procedure, he changes his mind, trying to stop it but it was too late, and the company succeeds on erasing Clementine and all memories related to her. The movie then approaches the distributed theory of brain activity when Joel changes his regular routine in an unconsciousness act driven by the familiarity of the name Montauk, a special place for their erased relationship… and they meet each other for the first time (if we consider that they can’t recall the fact that they were in love before). This brilliant fiction written by Charlie Kaufman present us the both models of the relation between mind activity and brain activity that have been conciliated in the study of cognition with the help of Neuroimaging techniques, suggesting that the integrity of our mental functions is at the same time specified and distributed throughout the brain.

Note Clementine’s hair-color and her emotional state.