Category Archives: movies

Independence Day Virus

STATE THEATRE 12-19-12Today the whole family went to the State Theater in Culpepper, Virginia to watch the 1996 alien disaster movie Independence Day, which seems approporaite on the 4th of July. It was the first time we went to this historic theater since it was re-opened after twenty years of sitting dormant. It was returned to it’s 1930-era moviehouse grandeur with art deco adornment, a single screen auditorium as well as a balcony. It’s equipped for projection of digital, 35 MM, and nitrate films. The last two formats are particularly relevant given it’s around the corner  from the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus. And the two have a working relationship which means the State Theater has access to one of the greatest audio visual archives in the world.  It’s cool to see Culpepper embrace the fact that it’s poised to be a film mecca in the middle of rural Virginia. I really love the incongruence there.

As for the feature, the last time I saw Independence Day was in a movie house in Los Angeles—although I can’t remember which one. I was not a fan, but I was also at the height of my film education so my standards were a bit more stringent. The film is certainly a Hollywood pot boiler, but it laughs at itself and is a lot more tongue-and-cheek than I gave it credit for the first go around. It’s notable for bringing disaster films into the era of compuer generated special effects. And, to be honest, there’s no greater guilty pleasure on the 4th of July than an over-the-top patriotic celebration of the U.S. of A. Love it or leave it!

Independence Day Virus GIF

ID4 virus

All that said, my fascination watching it for the first time in nearly twnety years had less to do with American Empire than technology—can we distinguish the two anymore? The plotline of the movie depends on humans figuring out the weakness of these ruthless alien trawlers of our natural resources. While they’re a far more technologically advanced civilization, the story ultimately rests on infecting the alien network with a virus which needs to be uploaded into the Mothership’s local network via computer. You can view the scene that provides the explanation of this theory for giving the aliens a virus here. It’s absurd for a number of reasons, but the idea of human computers seamlessly interfacing with an advanced alien civilization’s network is foremost amongst them. And much has been written about this already on the internet.

Although if you you can suspend disbelief, the film also marks a moment wherein the idea of networking becomes akin to our own designation as an advanced technological civilization. It’s 1996, a large part of the U.S., and the world beyond, is just getting familiar with the everyday idea of networking on a personal level. With the meteoric rise in popularity of the World Wide Web, the introduction of a virus through a network to an alien species wouldn’t seem nearly as crazy as it might have just three years earlier. It’s actually something can actually relate to. The plotline of Independence Day is in many ways about a broader conceptual global shift in humanity as a highly technological civilization. We actually are beginning to understand the basic implications of networks on a rudimentary level as a populace.

This is something the film is conscious of given its playful reference to another film about dramatic advances in humanity’s evolution: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The moment when the characters played by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are heading off to save the world, when Goldblum opens his laptop he is greeted with an image of the eye of HAL and a playful “Good Morning, Dave…”

This is yet reasong to create the database of internet technology as seen in film and TV that I discussed already in this post.

Online Dating: the Movie List

Last night the group researching online dating sites did an excellent job taking us through that world. In particular, they referenced an early computer dating service started by three Harvard graduates in the mid-1960s called Operation Match. To quote the 1965 Crimson Tide article about the service:

18s41aah4eoanjpgThey were aware that computers had been used to match people at special mixers and they knew that some companies in Europe were making a sizable profit from arranging compatible marriages through various technological means. “But what we wanted was something more permanent than a mixer, and more fun than a marriage bureau,” a member of the group recalls.

In the course of the conversation, the idea of a computerized datefinding service evolved. The idea excited Tarr, and with the help of Morrill, he went out to see what might be done about it. Dean Munro, a few lawyers and certain technicians at a computer firm all assured Tarr that the idea was feasible.

Using computer-generated data to connect people is not necessarily new, as this group pointed out, but the web brought it to a another level. During the course of their presentation they shared this 2009 or 2010 infographic about the online dating industry that has a ton of interesting facts. For example, 40 million people in the U.S. use online dating annually. That number in China is 140 million people. EHarmony claims 236 members are married each day. Etc.

The group is working on a timeline that will link back to their blog posts and provide a distributed history of online dating as their final project. Lauren Brumfield and Eun Jung Kim have been doing a fine job blogging their research thus far, and I am really enjoying their findings. Lauren even kicked off her research with a shout out to Meg Ryan in the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail. Which got me thinking during class last night, is there a top ten list of films with an online dating theme? Of course there is, this is the web after all!

So, here they are copied directly from this post on Yahoo!.

And no matter if you’re a fan of online dating or the whole thing creeps you out, these 10 films are sure to entertain.

  • Because I Said So: Diane Keaton plays Mandy Moore’s overbearing mother who is terrified her daughter will never have a healthy relationship. Diane realizes she might just be looking for some love and checks things out onlineWhat to Take Away: It’s never too late to find love.
  • Catfish: This startling movie is under the radar, but forces us to ask some very serious questions. It’s a documentary based on a NY boy’s online relationship with a beautiful girl who lives on a Michigan farm. What to Take Away: Ask yourself how well you really know someone you meet online. How much stock can you put in a relationship that takes place solely through technology?
  • Eurotrip: In this goofy and screwball comedy, a group of friends graduate from high school and take the ultimate overseas adventure to meet up with a gorgeous German girl he meets online. What to Take Away: Sometimes going the distance and being spontaneous is totally worth it.
  • Hard Candy: Ellen Page is a girl on a serious mission in this crazy thriller. After she develops a relationship with a dude she believes to be a pedophile, she attempts to bring him down. What to Take Away: Things are not always what they appear to be.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: It’s not Napoleon who finds love online. It’s his awesome brother Kipp who finds love online with LaFawnduh Lucas, who travels by bus to meet Kipp in person. What to Take Away: Everyone can find love. And I mean everyone.
  • LOL: Whether it’s through text, email, or online dating, this movie is a strangely accurate portrayal of the role technology plays in our relationships. What to Take Away: How much do you really depend on technology instead of face-to-face interaction
  • Must Love Dogs: After her sister puts her profile on, Diane Lane goes on some outrageous dates before meeting someone great, who must love dogs, like John Cusack. What to Take Away: Despite the loads of crazy dates you may go on, it’s important to stick it out and keep trying.
  • Sex Drive: Josh Zuckerman plays a shy 18-year-old virgin who steals his brother’s car and goes on a cross-country trip with his two best friends in order to hook up with a girl he meets online. What to Take Away: Sometimes you need to go the distance to appreciate what’s been in front of you all along.
  • The Lionshare: After meeting on OkCupid, Matt and Jane decide to meet in person. After their first date, Jane invites Matty to her house and to her favorite BitTorrent site, The Lionshare. What to Take Away: All first dates may be a tad awkward, but you can’t push a true connection.
  • You’ve Got Mail: The quintessential online dating movie. This one dates back all the way to 1998. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet in an AOL chat room and the rest is history. If you’re looking for an easy, breezy, and sweet romantic comedy, check this one out immediately. What to Take Away: Don’t judge a book by its cover – or reputation!

What’s not to love about the internet? If you will it, it is no dream!