Monday, February 15, 2016

Sex Tape

Year 8, Day 46 - 2/15/16 - Movie #2,247

BEFORE:  Now I see where the linking was leading me.  Maybe I wasn't crazy about what film fell on Valentine's Day, but we all know what happens right after that, right?  Just as you're hoping to get a kiss on New Year's Eve, if you're in a relationship, or looking for one, things get a little more serious on February 14.  So here's a film about what happens next.  

I also love the day after Valentine's Day, because it means I can get heart-shaped boxes of chocolate at the drug store for 50% off.  I would never cheapen out on the gift for my wife, but there's nothing that says I can't buy discount chocolate for myself.

Ellie Kemper carries over from "They Came Together", and so does Randall Park.  

TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, Feb. 16:
Alexis Smith carries over from "The Adventures of Mark Twain" to:
"San Antonio" with John Litel carrying over to:
"Black Legion" with Paul Stanton carrying over to: 
"Bachelor Mother" with David Niven carrying over to:
"The Guns of Navarone" with Irene Papas carrying over to:
"Z" with Yves Montand carrying over to:
"Grand Prix" with Eva Marie Saint carrying over to:
"On the Waterfront" with Lee J. Cobb carrying over to:
"Anna and the King of Siam" with Rex Harrison carrying over to:
"The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" with Anna Lee carrying over to:
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" with Bert Freed carrying over to:
"The Gazebo"

I've seen three - "The Guns of Navarone", "On the Waterfront" and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" so totals are now 57 seen, 123 unseen with 4 added to list. 

THE PLOT:  A married couple wake up to discover that the private sex tape they made the evening before is no longer private. 

AFTER: It's plain that technology's been moving pretty fast, when you realize that our English language just hasn't caught up yet.  The name of the film is "Sex Tape", but there was no tape being recorded.  We all still say "sex tape" or "celebrity sex tape", but nothing's been shot on tape for years now.  We should be saying "sex video" or "sex movie" or "sex digital file", but somehow it's not as catchy.  It's kind of like how "answering machine" had to turn into "voice mail" over time.  Remember when that film "Phone Booth" was released, about a decade too late?  I doubt there were any phone booths left in major cities at the time. 

Similarly, the plotline for this film on IMDB says that the couple wakes up to find that the sex tape in question is "missing".  It didn't get lost, it got uploaded to the cloud and transferred to several synched iPads, that's not the same as being missing - they knew exactly where it was at all times, the problem was that it was on the iPads of 6 or 7 other people.  Accidentally uploading a file or accidentally creating copies of a file is just not the same as losing it, because as the author of the file you'd still retain a copy.  Did some writer or publicist think that if you upload a file, you don't have it any more?  That's just not how files work, it's not like sending a letter through the mail.

Sure, it's a huge contrivance that these iPads were all synched, and that Segel's character had given iPads to his friends and family and the mailman, all because he wanted to share music with them, and for that matter it's a contrivance that he worked at a radio station and got a ton of free iPads, when it should really have been free iPods, because they're more music-oriented, but that's no excuse for getting the film's premise wrong in the tagline. 

I admit I've only been working in the digital film business for a year or two, having spent 20 years in an animation studio that still shot on film and delivered things on Beta and HD Cams.  But I've got a second job now, where I've been learning the basics of uploading files via FTP and Dropbox.  It's really been a godsend, where I used to have to ship large 35mm prints around the world, now I can just mail a DCP on a thumb drive, or even better, upload a file or have someone send a link to a downloadable version instead.  But at the end of the day, we do have to wonder how many copies of that film are being retained on various servers in different countries.  

Heck, we're all speeding toward a world where everything's a digital file available for download or streaming somewhere - if it's not already posted somewhere, somebody is surely working on it.  I feel like I learned how to burn CDs and DVDs not too long ago, and now those technologies are already close to being obsolete.  Now you take a video with your phone, upload it to the cloud and a million people can download it within a day or two.  So the film got the problem correct, it just messed up some of the details.  

It's also very disturbing (and a NITPICK POINT) that the people with the problem didn't think of the simplest solution to the problem - if the file could be uploaded remotely to these synched iPads, then it could also be deleted remotely.  Makes sense, right?  And if they could delete the files remotely before people viewed them, they wouldn't even have a problem, and nobody would even know that the file was even there.  But no, they feel they have to go door-to-door and delete the file from each iPad in person, which only alerts everyone to its existence.  Sloppy, sloppy writing, or dumb main characters, which is it?  

So after a frantic night of collecting all the iPads this guy gave away in the last few months, which didn't have to happen, they find themselves at the offices of YouPorn, trying to smash their servers so nobody can see their uploaded video.  Here's NITPICK POINT #2: not only would a major site like YouPorn probably have a back-up of everything somewhere else, anyone who's ever encountered a blank screen on YouTube would know that all you really have to do is file a copyright complaint against the posting of a video, and the hosting web-site, assuming they're legit, would probably pull the video from the site rather than risk any kind of litigation.  So there was a much simpler solution to this problem, too, which was also summarily ignored.  

Finally, I come to NITPICK POINT #3: after getting the sex "tape" off of YouPorn, the couple feels they can relax.  But that's only one out of thousands of porn sites on the web, what would prevent the person blackmailing them from sending it to any or all of them?  Finally they end up with a flash-drive that contains the "last copy" of the video file.  How do they know this?  We were told all along how simple it is for a file to be copied, and anyone who copies it can easily keep a copy for themself, so you could never be sure that any copy is the "last copy" - that's just not how file copying works.  Even if the person who handed over the "last copy" didn't keep a copy, there's always the cloud, where some files are stored automatically.  

I'm not even going to complain about how the first 10 minutes of the film feature Diaz's character typing her blog and "thinking" the narration at the audience.  Because at least she wasn't using a manual typewriter, and at least we saw flashbacks of the couple's sexual history, so it wasn't all just a violation of the "Show, don't tell" rule. 

But there are shots within the sex video itself that would be impossible for a couple with an iPad camera to achieve - not because of the weird sexual positions, but because it's made clear that the iPad is placed several feet away and propped up in a laundry basket, which would allow for only one camera angle.  Then there are sequences during the video which are clearly shot from multiple angles simultaneously, or shot using a handheld camera that could not have been held by either of them, like a shot of both of them from over one person's shoulder.  One of them would need to have an arm coming directly out of their back to hold the camera in that position.  So that's NITPICK POINT #4.

While I'm at it, here comes NITPICK POINT #5 - what kind of upload speed do these people have?  Because we're talking about a three-HOUR sex tape here.  I've been uploading files of short films, like 8 to 10 minutes, to servers, and that sometimes takes hours.  Uploading a feature film of, say, 80-90 minutes can take all day and part of the next.  So a three-hour video would take much longer to upload than the time seen here, unless they've got super-fast internet speed at their house.  Possible perhaps, but unlikely.

I haven't addressed the first half of the film, which is really about relationship fatigue, and that's a real thing.  But it's only natural, people get older, people get busy, people have kids, people get less desperate, and let's face it, for whatever reason, most people in long-term relationships don't have sex as often or as awesomely as they did when they were younger and/or first dating.  That part of the story rings true, I just wish that the film which started out exploring that situation would have followed through and offered up some genuine solutions, rather than "Hey, let's make a sex tape!" and then gotten lost in a maze of frantic technology mishaps. 

Because if you step back and look at the story structure, there's a problem, then a complication, and ultimately a resolution, but a huge middle part that's really just stall, stall, stall.  This could have been a half-hour film if not for all the miscommunication and forced slapstick, and that's the main problem.  

Also starring Jason Segel (last seen in "This Is the End"), Cameron Diaz (last heard in "A Liar's Autobiography"), Rob Corddry (last seen in "In a World..."), Rob Lowe (last seen in "About Last Night"), Jack Black (last seen in "The Big Year"), Jolene Blalock, Nancy Lenehan (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Harrison Holzer, with cameos from Nat Faxon (last seen in "The Way Way Back"), Dave Allen.

RATING: 4 out of 10 pineapple slices

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