Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Offline: ‘Men, Women & Children’ in the internet age

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | October 30th, 2014

Trading the comic complications and satirical stingers of “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno” for the more nakedly manipulative white whine and/or bathos of “Up in the Air,” “Young Adult,” and the critically ravaged “Labor Day,” filmmaker Jason Reitman adds another entry to his list of underwhelming missteps. The director’s sixth feature, “Men, Women & Children,” is based on the novel by Chad Kultgen, and aspires to examine the dark side of our fascination with smart phones and social networks. Good films about connectivity and disconnectedness are possible, but “Men, Women & Children” can only dream of being in the same class as “Me and You and Everyone We Know.”

Juggling a sprawling ensemble that includes a group of parents played by Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, and Dean Norris, Reitman devotes equal time to the lives of teenagers including Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Olivia Crocicchia, Travis Tope, and Elena Kampouris. These men, women, and children, slaves to a culture determined by the façade of identity construction and the relentless demands of online profile management, appear to fulfill the prophecy of diminishing face-to-face human contact. Reitman never misses an opportunity to remind us of their pain.

The extent to which the movie manages to accurately capture some, if any, of the rapidly changing uses of the Internet is debatable, and the most tech-savvy viewers will snort derisively at a few of the more outmoded references. “Men, Women & Children” continues the visually intriguing evolution of the onscreen display of electronically mediated content like text messages, and Tony Zhou’s “A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film” is a highly recommended primer for viewers either before or after they screen “Men, Women & Children.” Zhou’s short video effectively explores in five minutes several of the things Reitman struggles to do in just under two hours.

Zhou argues three key ideas regarding the dramatic increase of onscreen textual integration: it is more economical than the old manner of using close-up insert shots of phone screens, it is “artistically efficient” (in that “shot/reverse shot is slow”), and it “allows us to combine action and reaction in the same frame” via an uninterrupted view of an actor’s performance. Zhou praises “Sherlock” as the definitive exemplar of the technique’s “elegant design,” identifying several specific ways in which the BBC series has elevated the game: elimination of the display bubble containing the text, unified typeface and color – which further involves the audience by requiring the viewer to infer who is sending the message, and graphics that are (mostly) untethered to character or device. “Men, Women & Children” does not adhere to these practices.

In Reitman’s movie, the messages are indicative of a dispiriting isolationism that leads to a checklist of ills including adultery, eating disorders, bullying, sexual exploitation, fame worship, and misguided parental overprotectiveness. In case we miss the point(s), the plummy tones of Emma Thompson’s disembodied narration – accompanied by images of the Voyager space probe and Carl Sagan’s reflections on the “Pale Blue Dot” photograph – portentously interrupt the action in an effort to introduce philosophical gravitas. Thompson’s voice, deliberately or not, also recalls her similar role in “Stranger Than Fiction,” a far more thought-provoking examination of the existential crisis and moral values in the digital age.  

Recently in:

FARGO – Nearly half of the Walmart employees claiming discrimination from management at the world’s largest retail chain came before Fargo’s Human Relations Commission Thursday, to appeal for help, and the commission…

One of the most annoying things on the web is advertising that interrupts what you are doing. I’m talking about the pop-up ads, the videos that start playing as soon as your browser opens the page. You get the idea.Well, it seems…

Thursday, February 22, 7pmFront Street Taproom, 614 Main Ave, Fargo The jazz musician and independent songwriter, making music for 20 years and performing for 10. Interesting, arranges in a dynamic and unorthodox fashion. On tour,…

Editorial

Go ask ALICE

by Sabrina Hornung

I was 14 in 1999 when Columbine happened. I remember feeling the shock, horror, and overall sickness that comes with a national tragedy of that caliber.According to a February 15, 2018 article in The Washington Post by John Woodrow…

When will we learn to share wealth?Last week I wrote about how many predictions made by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 book "Brave New World" were beginning to come true in 2018.When I read the toll to travel on Interstate 66 in…

Although the temperatures were sub zero last Sunday, the crowd and competitors were certainly on fire at the Holiday Inn in Fargo for the 5th Annual Bartenders Battle.This event has become a highlight of the year for the service…

By Melissa Martin, Ph.D. Melissamartincounselor@live.com Emotional eating refers to a range of behaviors in which individuals eat for reasons other than physiological hunger; and eating is an attempt to self-soothe emotions.…

Music

​New Direction Fest 7

by Jack Stenerson

The New Direction had no shows booked in January 2012 so one of our co-founders, Charley Wang, decided to put together the First New Direction Fest out of complete necessity. He reached out to 18 local bands to play our little…

Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi, whose 1989 debut "My Twentieth Century" won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, achieved another career highlight recently with an Oscar nomination for her most recent feature. "On Body…

In my tenure at the High Plains Reader, I have devoted a lot of column inches to promoting the local music scene of the Red River Valley. However, I would be doing an injustice if I didn’t also bring your attention to another…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu Radical: Derived from the Latin radix, which literally means the root or base. In political terms it means penetrating beyond conventional explanations and getting at the root cause of a problem.In…