Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Lore of Unexpected Consequences

Every computer user whose fingers touch a keyboard understands that actions have consequences. But what happens when the consequences are not what the user expected? What happens when things go wrong, when systems fail, or when quality assurance breaks down?

I once learned this lesson the hard way while flying from London to JFK in first class aboard a TWA 747. The flight attendant offered me some mixed nuts. 

I love mixed nuts! 

One of those nuts was a Brazil nut. 

I love Brazil nuts! 

Unfortunately, it was a Brazil nut gone bad. Trust me when I tell you that nothing diminishes the allure of first class air travel quite like puking your guts out at 30,000 feet as  you haul your sorry ass across the Atlantic in an aluminum tube.

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Several shorts being screened at this month's San Francisco Asian American Film Festival offer horrific new insights to the question "What could possibly go wrong?" In Mel Melcer's 10-minute video entitled Guns, we meet a film runner working on a British/Pakistani movie set. When he goes to a supplier to pick up a load of plastic guns to be used in the movie, his naivete becomes painfully obvious to the man supplying the fake guns.

As the young man (accompanied by a friend) drives his van in the middle of the night, they get hassled by a group of extremely racist thugs. The accomplice gets the brilliant idea of pulling out one of the mock AK47s and aiming it at the other car. The thugs beat a hasty retreat.

Things could have ended there, but after the van breaks down and the two young men end up in a 24-hour convenience store, everything that could go wrong quickly does go wrong. A group of petty thieves tries to rob the convenience store. Thinking that this could be their chance to become the kind of action heroes they've seen in so many movies, the two film runners once more break out their plastic guns. Needless to say, they are wrong.

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In the 22-minute Korean short entitled Good Night, a well-meaning mother unwittingly sends her less-than-brilliant son down a path to vampirism in order for him to get better results on his SAT exams. When Do-jin's mother opts to have her son undergo a radical new 'no sleep for 5 years' surgery,' he graduates from high-school with honors and enters Seoul National University, the best university in South Korea.

Unfortunately, the effects of the operation which drained some crucial fluid from Do-jin's brain can only last for five years. As its potency starts to wane, he begins to crave sleep. The merchants of the pretty blue sleep serum are every bit as merciless as methamphetamine dealers. When demand outstrips supply, they drive a hard bargain.  If Do-jin wants to sleep, he needs to bring them more heads.

"I'm always chased by time," notes the film's director Ming-Gi Chae. "This world asks us to sleep less than others and use more time wisely than others to be a better person. I chose 'no sleep surgery' (which is quite unrealistic) to talk about today's problem. What would happen if this world is filled with those people who never sleep?"

Chae, who has done a beautiful job of directing his film, benefits from an attractive male lead and some great cinematography. If you thought Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire wrapped it all up, he's got a great new story to tell you.

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If you like bizarre thrillers, you will love Ning Li's spooked out 30-minute nailbiter, Still For Now. As an artist, Henry (Paul Dailey) has started to woo his latest model. His wife, Serota (Amy Chang), is feeling more insecure as her husband becomes less and less solicitious. When the young couple moves into a new apartment, they start to hear strange, frightening noises coming from the basement. 

A first look down a dark stairway reveals what seems like a black cat scurrying across the floor. As tensions develop between Henry and Serota , they find a dead rat left for them as a gift in their hallway. Meanwhile, the hole in their basement ceiling keeps getting larger. As their relationship continues to deteriorate, the beast in their basement similarly grows in size and ferocity.

"Our film explores this delicate psychological fabric that struggles to contain the primal unconscious terror lying beneath the surface," writes Ning Li. "Upon moving into an old apartment Henry and Serota discover that behind the door there are dreams so dark they will swallow you." 

Li's fierce editing -- combined with Darren Methlie's eerie cinematography and Fernando Cordero's outstanding production design -- have resulted in an extremely well-crafted thriller with a surprise ending. Let's just say that bestiality never seemed quite so alluring!

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Thankfully, not every situation ends up in death, murder, or destruction. In their hilarious six-minute video, Self Absorbed, Yasmine Gomez and Eric DuPlessis focus in on a young Asian woman whose narcissism knows no bounds. After she selfishly refuses to give a moment of her time to a volunteer collecting signatures, the strangest thing happens. The young woman gets turned into a blue mophead. As she runs through the city, looking like an escapee from Sesame Street, she encounters a young man who has been transformed into a strange creature with a unicorn-like appendage that magically attracts stray bagels and donuts.

Together, they find a strange kind of domesticity which takes full advantage of the woman's incredible new superpowers.

1 comment:

Lew said...

It could be worse: Imagine puking your guts out at 30,000 COACH...from the middle seat!