Friday, June 9, 2017

Nightcrawler

Year 9, Day 160 - 6/9/17 - Movie #2,655

BEFORE: I'm up in Massachusetts for the weekend, a solo trip to visit my parents.  Came up by train on Friday after work, there's a German picnic tomorrow in the town next door to my home-town, and I like to visit that each year, provided it's not in conflict with the Newport Chowder Cook-Off that I've been attending for years.  (But that event has changed venue from Newport Harbor to Ft. Adams State Park, which is much more difficult to get to - anyway they have "red" chowder as a category this year, and I think most right-thinking people will agree that tomato-based clam chowder is a culinary abomination, so my friends and I have decided to boycott that event until some event planner comes to their senses.)

A bit about my parents, they're not that technologically savvy, but my Dad has made strides to figure out e-mail and the internet, though he mostly uses it to print out photos of their grandchildren - yes, print, because who just saves photos on their computer?  That's crazy talk.  Their generation believes that the photo's not real unless it's on paper. My mother, on the other hand, has figured out how to watch TV shows and movies on demand, which is a huge step forward for her.  I think there are two competing shows she likes on Tuesdays, so she saves one of them for Friday to watch on demand.  (I'd love to get them a DVR, but I think it might short-circuit their minds - plus it's another thing to learn, and I have a feeling they might have trouble deleting shows or perhaps recording too many shows, and then the drive would fill up and not record the new shows they want, and that would defeat the purpose.  Perhaps it's best to leave well enough alone here.)

Anyway, Moms was freaking out because their On Demand channel does not, for some reason, have the season finale of "NCIS: New Orleans" available.  She was one step away from calling CBS to complain, but I calmed her down over the phone and pointed out maybe someone was on vacation last week and didn't post the episode they should have, or maybe they'll post it next week, so she should just be patient.  Meanwhile I recorded the episode to VHS from my DVR in New York, and brought it up with me to surprise her.

But this meant I had to get a VCR working in their house, in order for her to see it - plus I have to get a DVD player working, if I'm going to watch movies this weekend (I figured if I can't, that's OK too, losing two days right now isn't much of a big deal, in fact it could help me line up my chain with "Spider-Man: Homecoming", as I've described previously.)  Now, I usually have a DVD player and VCR daisy-chained into their TV, just for emergencies like this, but they got a new cable box a few weeks ago, and as I figured, the technician from Comcast didn't respect my set-up, and while plugging in the new cable box, of course he unplugged my VCR - because, who still uses VCRs these days?  Well, I do.  Sometimes, like in this situation, that's the quickest way to get a show or movie to be seen by someone in a pinch.

Within 5 minutes, I'd managed to accidentally unplug their cable box, thanks to some spaghetti-like crossed wires behind their TV.  But I stayed calm, found my mistake, got the cable box plugged in again, and found the component cables to hook up the VCR (and the DVD player, whose signal runs through the VCR to the TV) into the "cable" input on their TV.  This is bound to be confusing when I explain it to them tomorrow, how the cable comes in on the "HDMI" input and the VCR now comes in on the "cable" input.  Mom and Dad still don't understand why they have to turn on the VCR, under my system, if they want to watch a DVD - I've probably explained that a hundred times.

Anyway, next problem - the next film in my chain is "Nightcrawler", with Riz Ahmed carrying over from "Jason Bourne".  I wanted to watch this film last year, and use it as my link between my Jake Gyllenhaal chain ("Everest", "Southpaw") and "Rogue One", only no cable station ran it on the time-frame I expected they would - but fortunately Forest Whitaker was also in "Southpaw" and made the connection to "Rogue One", so I didn't need "Nightcrawler" for that.  Even now, I haven't seen "Nightcrawler" running on any channel, so I chose to borrow an Academy screener.

Now, the screeners are technically supposed to be ONLY for Academy members to watch before making their nominations - but it's been THREE YEARS already, how long am I supposed to wait for this movie?  Look, I pay for all the premium channels, and I promise, as SOON as one of them runs it, I will record it and burn it to DVD and add it to my library - but I need the link NOW, plus it does seem like an interesting movie.  And just like with "The Zero Theorem", after watching over 2,650 films for this project, for me to have any desire at this point, to actually WANT to see something instead of just linking and going through the motions, that's huge.

But before I can watch a film on an Academy screener, there's a check screen at the start of the DVD, and I have to select "YES" (to the fact that I acknowledge that this is a screener intended only for Academy voters, and I promise I'll destroy the disc immediately after viewing it - which I won't, but I have to select "YES" to watch it...) and this is a problem because I have to hit the "ENTER" key on the remote to select "YES", and my parents lost their DVD player's remote years ago.  So I wasn't quite sure this would work tonight.

And in fact, the DVD wouldn't play at first - so I also tried it in my parents' old laptop too, and it wouldn't play there either.  Aha, the disc was dirty - a quick wipe with a relatively lint-free Kleenex, and I tried again - yep, that did it, it played in the laptop, but let's try it back in the DVD player so I can watch it on a bigger screen.  Hurray, it worked, and the "PLAY" button on the player itself was a working substitute for the "ENTER" button on the remote.  Finally, after all that, I get to watch the film. That's how my life goes sometimes.

I'm lucky that all worked, because I had no back-up linking plan - tonight it was either watch "Nightcrawler" or break the chain.  I suppose I could have paid to watch it on Amazon, but the Academy screener was freakin' free. 


THE PLOT: A con man desperate for work muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism and blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

AFTER: This apparently is a real thing, people called "stringers" who record freelance video of accidents to sell to competing news stations.  It makes sense, each station is trying to get a leg up on their competition, and they can only cover so much territory with their news crews, especially if they're in a small market (not enough vans) or a large city (too much ground to cover in L.A.)  Plus, these cameramen are all probably union, which means they don't work too many hours in a row, they don't do overnights, and they won't put themselves at risk to get the shot.  (The pussies...)

Louis Bloom's character is a stringer, which means he's up all night - you know, when the crime and auto accidents all happen - and he learns quickly to listen to the police scanners, figure out all the codes, and he gets an assistant to help him navigate around L.A. quickly.  In some cases he gets to the crimes even before the police - and this gives him a chance to move evidence around to get the best shot, which I'm sure is a legal no-no.  But what else can he do, ask car crash victims to make sure they land at a more cinematic angle?

His biggest fumble comes when he arrives on the scene of a shooting in a suburban home, and gets footage of the shooters leaving the scene.  Rather than call 911 (I guess from the scanner he knew that the cops were already on the way?) he goes inside the house with his camera and records gruesome footage.  The TV station, of course, had the option to do the right thing and NOT run this footage, but hey, it's sweeps month, so guess what they do?

Bloom also has an option to simply give all of his footage over to the police, and that would be the right thing to do, the safe and humane thing to do for all involved, but he doesn't.  I won't spoil where this leads, but you can probably figure out it's not good.  He crosses some moral line when he puts lives at risk so he can get more footage - and like the journalist in "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", it's possible that he's become addicted to risk, and puts himself in greater and greater danger to get the story and the rush that comes with it.

Of course, there's a lot of blame to go around - the TV stations keep running more and more salacious stories (always with that "graphic footage ahead" warning, but come on, who turns off the TV when they see that?) and because people keep tuning in to see these stories, ratings go up and the cycle continues.  Even if you don't like the guerrilla interview tactics on a show like "TMZ", for example, you still might watch it just to see how low they can go, to remind yourself why you hate it so much.  Until people stop tuning in after being fooled by tabloid tactics, they're going to keep working.

Perhaps this is why no cable channel has run this film yet - they don't want people out there with video cameras to get bad ideas from this film and act any more irresponsibly than they already do.  Admit it, how many times have you seen footage on the web of someone getting hurt doing a stunt, or breaking their ankle while skateboarding, and you wonder why someone kept filming instead of helping that person? (And for God's sakes, people, if you're going to keep filming, don't forget to turn the camera 90 degrees to get the proper TV ratio - I'm sick of seeing those stupid bars on the sides of cell phone footage that they have to put there because someone couldn't be bothered to turn their phone. Can't someone invent an app that prompts people to rotate the camera so the image will be more horizontal instead of vertical?) 

Also starring Jake Gyllenhaal (last seen in "Southpaw"), Rene Russo (last seen in "The Intern"), Bill Paxton (last seen in "Edge of Tomorrow"), Kevin Rahm (last seen in "Alfie" (2004)), Ann Cusack (last seen in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"), Michael Hyatt, Price Carson, Kathleen York.

RATING: 6 out of 10 paramedics

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