Disconnect Movie Review

My review of the film Disconnect

In some ways, Disconnect, the new film by Murderball director Henry Alex Rubin,
is American Beauty for our wired world, an arresting look at the complicated entanglements that technology can create. Merely calling it a cautionary tale about the dangers of the big bad Internet would be reductionistic, however–sure, none of the calamities that befall people in the movie are terribly novel and, in fact, seem directly plucked out of headlines, but it’s the acting that lends a very human touch to what could have otherwise run as a public service announcement. The film’s title could be interpreted as a reference to the disconnect and alienation the characters feel from each other and for the need for all of them to simply click the log-off button and disconnect from the webs they are so inexorably captured in.

Cindy (Paula Patton) and Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) are a married couple still mourning the loss of their baby. Their relationship strained by Derek’s stoic way of dealing with it (think the very male “I don’t want to talk about it” scenario), Cindy turns to an online support group for help, developing a cyber friendship with a man. When all of their assets are stolen by an identity thief and they seek to find the culprit, they are forced to face their own estrangement. This is one place where the movie mildly sputters, especially on the technological tip. For example, the private investigator tells them that this person “knows everything about you,” as though the fact that the thief has their vacation pictures is of the most relevance here when he has emptied out their bank accounts. Also, the explanation for how one can get a credit card number on the Internet and how a “Trojan” works was ham-handed at best and seemingly aimed at an audience that apparently has yet to learn what the definition of phishing is. The typing out of chat conversations on screen is also a bit clunky.

Jason Bateman turns in a compelling performance as a high-powered/Blackberry-indentured lawyer, oblivious to what is going on in his son’s life. When his son is the victim of cyber bullying, he plunges into a world of self-condemnation and guilt and turns to Facebook, ironically the very source of the tragedy, to “get to know” his son. Frank Grillo plays the overwrought father of Jason, the cyber bully. The film does a good job of showing how bully behavior is often a learned behavior and one that has roots at home. It also excellently portrays the vicious mean boys/mean girls school environment today’s youth have to contend with.

Nina (Andrea Riseborough) is a career-minded, unscrupulous TV reporter who convinces Kyle (Max Thieriot), an 18-year-old webcam model, to participate in her piece on the underage sex webcam industry. Initially, she appears to mean well, but quickly finds herself way in over her head and her motives become increasingly loathsome and self-serving. She uses Kyle to further her career yet does nothing to really extricate him from the life he is trapped in, especially when her actions literally endanger his life.

Disconnect thrums with suspense and maintains an undercurrent of threat to the very end. The acting is engrossing even though the character development leaves a bit to be desired. Ultimately, it does a good job of portraying just how elusive “reality” is starting to become in the superficial world of Facebook and social networking. Are the characters revealing their true selves and unspoken truths when shielded behind a screen or are they acting out an alternate identity in the digital playground? And while they somehow manage to weave their way back towards at each other, the costs are undoubtedly high. Disconnect manages to avoid the pitfall of being overly didactic and preachy, even if the subject matter could have been something plucked out of cyber security awareness month brochure.

Baltimore Tattoo Convention 2013 Report

My Report On the 2013 Baltimore Tattoo Convention

 This year’s Baltimore Tattoo Convention was slightly less raucous and frenetic than last year’s, but what it lacked in hype and clamor, it certainly compensated with the sights and sounds of hundreds of buzzing needles—almost all of the artists were assiduously tattooing, which is quite unusual considering how large the convention is. In other words, the “we are so busy” mantra I kept hearing translated to the convention as well. Tattoos are in(k) and they are here to stay, boldly splashing across the public’s imagination and remaining intensely personal yet defiantly public in their statements. Tattoos have firmly solidified their place in what is considered “art” and the artists who create them have fully reveled in the opportunity to showcase their work on mobile canvasses.
Tattoo conventions are truly communal and inclusive. They present opportunities for people to show support for their favorite artists by getting tattooed there or entering competitions. For others, it’s a chance to meet and see the work of artists they would otherwise not be able to. Then, of course there is the entertainment—sideshows, like The Enigma and Serana Rose, and suspensions (not for the faint of heart).
This year’s convention featured a lot of the local shops who were also at the DC Tattoo Expo, as well as some “celebratooists” like Ink Master winner, Shane O’Neill, and Ink Master finalist, James Vaughn, as well as the crew from VH1’s reality show Black Ink, who were funnily enough attracting Justin Bieber-like-hysteria levels of photo-op-seekers. Piercing guru Steve Truitt was also in attendance.
Marlowe Ink’s Steph Damiano and I shared a laugh over her being erroneously featured on the site as Stephanie Damiand, which she promptly called a “stripper name.” Anything referencing gemstones or diamonds definitely fits that category. James Marlowe, a really respected and sought-out artist, has been tattooing for 25 years and the shop attracts people looking for his custom work. Steph has “only” been tattooing for 5 years, but her folky, vintage-leaning style is really singular, fresh, and indelibly her own. “I have been getting a lot of requests for women’s faces with animals engulfing the top of their heads. Even though 5 years is not a terribly long time, I am going to stick with this. There is no other job where you feel like you are constantly learning and growing.”
Citizen Ink’s Joe Khay, who is originally from Georgia and has been tattooing for the last 10 years, also specializes in neo-traditional, Americana-influenced tattoos. “The tattoo industry has really changed from the 80s and 90s. The clientele has wizened up and we get a lot of people approaching us with this very European type mentality to the work—they have an idea of what they want, but also trust the artist to draw the piece. They give us more liberty and have done their homework more—it’s a matter of trust. Of course, we still get the kids that want to have ‘faith’ tattooed on their arm, but they are no longer the norm.”
Springfield’s Way Of Ink received several honors during the tattoo competition—1st place for large black & gray and 3rd place for small color. Duong has been tattooing for 15 years and specializes in Asian-themed pieces. The Way Of Ink table is also a testament to the bond that people develop with their artist—there is always a large crew, an extended family, really, who are all too happy to keep entering competitions and promoting the work of their favorite artist.
Virginia-based Rick’s Tattoos is the oldest shop in the area, having been around for 33 years.Rhiannon August, apprenticed with Rick, who has been tattooing for 43 years.  In response to what she has been tattooing a lot of this year, she responded “lots of pin ups and some abstract flower pieces.”
British Ink’s Aaron Trimiar was working for close to 4 hours on a beautiful back piece of a ship on a client who had literally just met him. “I have been doing a lot of Afro-centric pin ups this year, a lot of black and gray work. I feel like I am right where I need to be with tattooing. It allows me to constantly learn and grow as an artist. I am a tattoo artist, but I am also an artist, period. I am always working on sketchbooks and developing my art this way. It’s really the best occupation anybody could have.”
And that is a sentiment that seemed to be shared by many of his comrades in needles.