T here is several elements of Mainstream, Gia Coppola's dark satire on YouTube fame released in theaters this month, which looks like a stick-shaped rendering of Internet fame. The film, written by Coppola, assumes that 'a shady, technophobic wanderer named Link (Andrew Garfield) transforms, under the direction of aspiring filmmaker Frankie (Maya Hawke), into a messianic and exhibitionist star a bit of the trolling variety Jake Paul; his avatar, No One Special, seems to aim for the frenzied and ironically poisoned attention
Internet culture is changing at top speed, with generations of trends microscopic and a hyper-specific aesthetic timeline, but Mainstream isn't tied to any particular era besides the late 2010s. It's adrift in the weird valley of internet movies, summing it all up. a world of experience - parasocial relationships with influencers, the relentless fuss of building a following, the corrosive surreality of living for faceless likes - in a simple pedantic social media message: empty, tasteless, bad.
Mainstream falls flat, in part, because it's just not a good movie. But it also testifiesof greater difficulty in accurately capturing our life on screen, social or otherwise, on film. Since The Social Network in 2010, arguably still the most prominent film on social media (although this is far less about the experience of its debut on Facebook than one of the breakups dearest friendships of all time, also starring Garfield), many movies and TV episodes have incidentally entered digital life - a character looking at his phone, Instagram thumbnails and text bubbles momentarily appeared on screen. But few movies have taken social media as a premise and have managed to capture the fluidity and the weight of our digital lives.
Mainstream is a recent glaring example of media films.social aces - including The Circle in 2017, and arguably even the Netflix documentary calling the end of the world The social dilemma - which ends up mired in superficial moralism or a noisy Internet mockery. But two other or adjacent social media-themed films released this summer point a different and more promising path, focusing not so much on social media as a scarecrow, but on the pinball machine. between the guardrails of as creen, an application or a livestream.
Profile, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, is the latest in a mini-genre of so-called cinema / computer screen comprising Searching, Unfriended - both produced by Bekmambetov - and Spree, which unfold entirely in a laptop or smartphone screen and thus adhere with hyper-speciquoted to the look and feel of your screen. Sweat, a Polish-language film by Swedish filmmaker Magnus von Horn, watches a gorgeous, lonely fitness influencer struggling to bridge the chasm between her energetic online persona and her lonely personal life; the film relies heavily on a solid performance by its principal, Magdalena Koleśnik, to make a character's mental descent into an iPhone rabbit hole interesting, like internet-adjacent hit movies like Ingrid Goes West and Eighth Grade. (As with many films, the pandemic extended the already long pipeline of the festival circuit to wide release; Profile was originally created at the Berlin Film Festival in 2018, and Sweat as part of the Cannes selection in 2020.)
Movies on the computer screen work, in part, because they solve the inherent obsolescence of movies on the Internet with a stopwatchhermetic logic, up to the time stamps constantly marking his screen, his Facebook posts or his SMS. Profile, in which British journalist Amy Whittaker, played by Valene Kane, poses as a young Muslim woman on Facebook and Skype to investigate ISIS recruitment in Europe, is specifically contained at two weeks in 2015 (the film is based on the book In The Skin of a Jihadist by Anna Erelle). The genre (which Bekmambetov, one of its pioneers, aptly called screenlife) operates around one of the main dramatic obstacles to online capture on film - it's usually boring to watch people type or do scroll, and you can only watch a limited number of FaceTime calls - by mimicking the kinetics of our over-stimulating screen interfaces and scattering digital fingerprints. The more agitated Amy gets in her risky trick, the faster she bounces between the windows and morehandily she taps; there is a fragile human visible in the hover of a cursor, or in the backspacing of an iMessage.
Research, in which single father David (John Cho) searches for his missing teenage daughter while peeling back the startling layers of his online life, is by far the best of this movies. David peruses his daughter's Facebook friends, unwraps her old texts, notes the dates of her tumultuous Tumblr posts - just as much a part of her, and the truth of her disappearance, as the teenage girl outside. line he thought. they had. Even a throwaway graphic of life on screen can be an emotional punch: when David logs in as his late wife Pam, who died of cancer two years ago, an automatic popup from Norton anti -virus reminds that 694 days ago. the last scan.
The best media films on this subject,banal so to speak, do not revolve around technology but timeless human emotions - grief and nostalgia, but also envy, obsession, insecurity - whether in the disjunction between neutral screen interfaces and the emotional weight of their content behavior exacerbated by the pervasiveness of social media. Ingrid Goes West, directed by Matt Spicer, extends the current Instagram envy in Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) 's toxic and all-consuming obsession with Cali's 2017 Insta cool girl Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), with sufficiently specific observations of the work behind the above-the-plate avocado. grill some photos that some real influencers have been shaken by her reflection.
Plaza is especially mesmerizing as we watch Ingrid melt - into the baygnoire, in front of her reading, on the floor - as she scrolls and scrolls into oblivion; Eighth Grade, directed by Bo Burnham, similarly uses observational, low-key cinema to portray social media as what it is to teens - sometimes toxic, definitely worrying, a part of life too. In a sequence set to Enya's Orinoco Flow, we watch Kayla's (Elise Fisher) screen-lit face endure the scrolling through quizzes of Facebook, Snapchat, Buzzfeed - the scaffolding of a sense of inadequacy. a teenage girl who assembles in real time.
Sweat also observes his protagonist at the bottom of the parchment. The camera frequently hovers close to Koleśnik's face as Sylwia, the beloved Instagram Live fitness influencer ( "my loves! " -Camera. In one footage, Sylwia, well dressed in sponsored swag, does what many do. iPhone: switch between fire hoseimages and stimuli that are not consistent - a video of a fan, his empty apartment, a selfie of him at the previous day's workout event with the smile firmly in place, a text message, a bright light, an Instagram scroll while she spades a soft salad. There is no preaching about inauthenticity or social media as a trap, no mainstream-esque connection that touts phones as 'crack' or how the public should 'wake up'. It's just life.
Sweat and profile, like Ingrid Goes West and Eighth Grade and Searching before them, don't understand social media as a point of argument or even a subject in itself, but as a basic condition of everyday life. It is a diffuse condition and difficult to capture, but it is not impossible. Moral "social media is bad" messages expired centuries ago in the internet age, but feelings fueled and greased par our screens - insecurity, nostalgia, anxiety, even joy - are persistent.