Tag Archives: entertainment

Papel da fofoca em nossa evolução

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Elysium (2013) Review

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Elysium: Wagner Moura and Matt Damon

Elysium: Wagner Moura and Matt Damon

Written, co-produced and directed by Neill Blomkamp, Elysium means a place or condition of ideal happiness. The movie happens in 2154 but it is an obvious metaphor for life on Earth nowadays. It is so obvious that when the director was asked about his science fiction, he answered “No, no, no. This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.” – of course. All actors are perfect for their characters, including Matt Damon, Judie Foster, Diego Luna, Alice Braga, Sharlto Copley, and – specially – the Brazilian Wagner Moura is brilliant as Spider.

Wealthy people with freedom: access to health and everything else in the orbital community known as Elysium, miles away from our planet. All the others, the people on Earth, are not allowed to enter Elysium as well as no access to anything else: freedom, health, etc. Moreover, Elysium is seen from people on Earth and it looks like a star. If an Elysium citizen gets sick, he/she has immediately access to treatment while the others, if they get sick, will die knowing that if there were Elysium’s citizens they would be cured in a matter of seconds. That is exactly how almost all nations are organized nowadays. The director pays special attention to the USA, focusing on immigration and deportation aspects, the health care system, the inequality and its social aspects, the inexistent freedom of ordinary people, the technology and the lack of jobs, the government illegal actions, corrupted politicians, etc.

Escrito, co-produzido e dirigido por Neill Blomkamp, Elysium significa um lugar ou condição de felicidade ideal. O filme acontece em 2154, mas é uma metáfora óbvia para a vida de hoje na Terra. É tão óbvio que, ao ser questionado sobre sua ficção científica, o diretor respondeu: “Não, não, não. Isto não é ficção científica. Isto é hoje. Isto é agora.” – É claro. Todos os atores são perfeitos para seus personagens que inclui Matt Damon, Judie Foster, Diego Luna, Alice Braga, Sharlto Copley, e – especialmente – o brasileiro Wagner Moura que está brilhante como Spider.

As pessoas ricas e com liberdade: tem acesso à saúde e tudo o mais na comunidade orbital conhecida como Elysium, a quilômetros de distância do nosso planeta. Todos os outros, as pessoas na Terra, não são autorizados a entrar Elysium, bem como não têm acesso a qualquer outra coisa: liberdade, saúde, etc.  Além disso, Elysium pode ser visto pelas pessoas na Terra e se parece com uma estrela, um lugar perfeito. Se um cidadão de Elysium fica doente, ele/ela tem acesso imediato à tratamento, enquanto os outros, se ficarem doentes, vão morrer sabendo que se fossem cidadãos de Elysium seriam curados em questão de segundos. Esse cenário é muito próximo da atual realidade de quase todos os países no planeta. O diretor dá atenção especial para os EUA, enfocando aspectos de imigração e deportação, o sistema de saúde, a desigualdade e os seus aspectos sociais, a liberdade inexistente de pessoas comuns, a tecnologia e a falta de empregos, as ações ilegais do governo, os políticos corruptos, etc.

From the Right Side: Wagner Moura, Diego Luna and Alice Braga with other actors and Matt Damon -  Elysium.

From Left: Wagner Moura, Diego Luna and Alice Braga with other actors and Matt Damon – Elysium.

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.

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago: Review

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Chicago Museum of Science presents a Wrong Color Definition

Chicago Museum of Science Color Mistake

According to the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL) “the color of an object is determined by the specific wavelengths of lights that it absorbs and reflects” but THIS IS NOT TRUE. This wrong definition is presented in the Color Booth and situated in the Science Storm Exhibition. Here are some explanations about why color is NOT determined by the specific wavelengths of lights that it absorbs and reflects:

“Many people believe that color is a defining and essential property of objects, one depending entirely on the specific wavelengths of light reflected from them. But this belief is mistaken. Color is a sensation created in the brain. If the colors we perceived depended only on the wavelength of reflected light, an object’s color would appear to change dramatically with variations in illumination through- out the day and in shadows. Instead patterns of activity in the brain render an object’s color relatively stable despite changes in its environment.” – by John Werner, Ph.D.: UC Davis, Center for Neuroscience.

“While color of an isolated light is closely related to the light’s physical properties — its energy and wavelengths — this is a misleading fact for understanding normal viewing. Color is not in light. What we see depends directly on a pattern of neural responses, not on the wavelength or energy of light that enters the eye. The simple relation between a physical stimulus and how we perceive it breaks down when the light is part of a complex scene. In natural viewing, the whole visual stimulus is a patchwork of different lights from many objects. The neural response to a particular light, and therefore our perception of it, is affected by the context of the other lights also in view.” – by Steve Shevell, Ph.D.: University of Chicago, Institute for Mind and Biology.

“Color is often thought to be a quality of light but this is not so. For example, the expression the ocean is blue uses a perceptual experience of blueness to describe the physical light. Color itself is not in the light. Color is a perceptual phenomenon determined by neural processes in the brain. The region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to humans is from about 400 nm to 700 nm, but no wavelength is endowed with a color. Instead, a particular wavelength, say a wavelength near 470 nm or 580 nm, is perceived as blue or yellow, respectively, only because these wavelengths stimulate the photoreceptors in the human eye that are responsible for the transduction of physical light into neural responses. Those neural responses go through a series of processing stages in the brain. The experience of blue or yellow, as well as all other colors, is a mental construction. The experience of a color is like the understanding of language. There is no meaning in the physical sound (the brain must interpret it) just as there is no blue or yellow in the wavelengths of light. Color is a percept that humans are able to experience through sensory neural processes.” – by Claudia Feitosa-Santana, Ph.D.: Roosevelt University, Psychology Department.

This is very old news:

Isaac Newton (1642, 1727) brilliantly wrote about in his book “Opticks“, first published in 1704: “And if at any time I speak of light and rays as coloured or endowed with colours, I would be understood to speak not philosophically and properly, but grossly, and accordingly to such conceptions as vulgar people in seeing all these experiments would be apt to frame. For the rays to speak properly are not coloured. In them there is nothing else then a certain power and disposition to stir up a sensation of this or that colour.”

Later, W. D. Wright was inspired by Newton’s words and published a book named “The Rays are not Coloured” in 1967, stating that “our perception of colour are within us and colours cannot exist unless there is an observer to perceive them. Colour does not exist even in the chain of events between the retinal receptors and the visual cortex, but only when information is finally interpreted in the consciousness of the observer.” – by W. D. Wright, Imperial College of Science and Technology, London

First published by Adam Hilger LTD, London - 1967

First published by Adam Hilger LTD, London – 1967

Therefore, if you go to this museum eager for your kids to learn science, it is better to readjust your expectations. It can be fun but not educational. Most of time you will not find an employee or a volunteer to answer your question, and if you find them it does not mean that they will give you the right answer.

Their uniforms are very misleading. They have two types: employees that are not scientists 99% of the time wear an uniform that says “Scientist”, and volunteers wear an uniform that says “Volunteer” that, although are often retiree from many different areas not related to science, you will have better chances to find a science student among them.

More alarming and very scary is the fact that they offer a “Teacher Workshop” and “Center for the Advancement of Science Education”. According to their own words, the “Teacher Workshop is designed to increase your knowledge of science, improve teaching skills and demonstrate how to use Museum programs and exhibits to enhance science curriculum.” The “Center for the Advancement of Science Education” offers an enormous list of activities like Field Trips, Science Minors, Learning Lab, etc. It would be fantastic if the museum was taking science seriously and updated but this is definitely not the case.

OBS: Before writing this review, I have contacted the museum requesting that the panel with the color definition should be fixed. The answer was NO and the explanation was once more a proof that the MSI Chicago does not have scientists enough and/or no respect for Science.

Color is in the Brain

Cote d’Azur (Crustaces & Coquillages) (2005)

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Cote d’Azur (Crustaces & Coquillages) (2005)

Cote D’Azur is a delightful comedy that talks about sexuality in a very light way. Maybe too light to be true but there is no doubt that it would be good to be true. This movie is adorable, and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is gorgeous.

Nobody Knows

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Nobody Knows

“Based on the true story of four children abandoned by their mother in a small Tokyo apartment, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s fourth film is at once harrowing and tender, an urban horror story with overtones of fairy tale. Restricting himself to the children’s point of view, the director creates an almost unbearable sense of dread in the audience; you can’t help but suspect that, at every moment, something terrible is about to happen. But at the same time, because the children themselves do not perceive the full terribleness of their situation, the terror is mitigated by a sense of wonder and adventure. The keys to this meticulous and deeply humane film are Mr. Kore-eda’s deft camera sense and the remarkable performance of 12-year-old Yuya Yagira as Akira, the oldest of the four siblings, who must somehow preserve his own innocence while protecting his more vulnerable brother and sisters.” – A. O. SCOTT.