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More recent films usually have a live person on both ends of a chat-line, both of them reciting whatever they type; War Games instead had a tinned, eerily inhuman computerized voice simulator speaking for the world-threatening mainframe. Attempts to make computer communication exciting and cinematic have gone downhill ever since. Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986)"Computers are not friendly! " A woman's seductive voice echoes everything the website says in print, but the filmmakers mostly avoid having the users respond out loud by limiting their sides of the conversation to brief questions, short and simple enough to be read off the screen." Whoopi Goldberg's boss barks at her when she starts actually communicating with her online customers at an international bank. Meanwhile, montages of disturbingly violent, grotesque, and sexual images flicker by at near-subliminal speeds, edgy soundtrack music plays, screams and metallic buzzes echo in the background, the point of view blurs, distorts, and reverses, and in general, the film pulls every J-horror trick under the sun in order to make viewers forget they're looking at people looking at a website. Rick (2003)In adapting Rigoletto for the modern era, director Curtiss Clayton and writer Daniel Handler are kinder than most filmmakers about assuming the audience can read, or that they can get the general idea about the mundane sex chat between "BIGBOSS" (Aaron Stanford) and "VIXXXEN" (Agnes Bruckner) just from context, and don't actually need every steamless line read to them.In a typical hilariously awful bit, she and a few other people with garish 16-bit icons chat online about how "No one leaves the house anymore. Leave it to Hollywood to hilariously misunderstand both trends.
Most of the movie's key scenes involve Goldberg typing out messages to him in increasingly wacky casual poses—perched on a desk imitating Ray Charles, lying sideways across several desks, presumably just for visual variety—and talking loudly to herself, reading her messages and his, at least until her terminal starts speaking in his voice. Meanwhile, on the other end of the chat session, Clayton keeps his camera swirling rhythmically back and forth in semi-circles around Bruckner and a female friend, who giggle over their end of the chat, talk about other things, and chatter with Pullman on the phone.
Given Penny Marshall's extremely basic direction, all the tension relies on the prospect of her contact getting caught, and on Goldberg's up-cuttery, as she does silly voices, makes silly faces, spins around in her chair, sings to herself, and otherwise tries to be wacky yet endearing. Clayton achieves his excitement mostly by contrasting Bruckner's excitement with Stanford's comically blasé amusement, then throwing Pullman's obliviousness to the situation into the mix, all while cutting faster and faster as the scene reaches its—ahem—climax. Closer (2004)In the film adaptation of his stage play Closer, screenwriter Patrick Marber finds ways to bring each possible pairing of his four star-crossed leads—Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts—into proximity, sparking sexual and social tension from the way their needs push and pull at each other.
But a basic truth quickly emerged: No matter how resonant or culturally up-to-the-minute a given film was, images of people staring at computer monitors were tremendously boring. Looking at the other films on this list, they could have been way worse. Fear Dot Com(2002)In this so-so rip-off of The Ring, a scary website kills everyone who visits it, 48 hours after their first exposure.
War Games pioneered a whole visual language of people talking to and through computers, and that language still gets used today, whenever computer users in films read their screens out loud for the audience's benefit, saying what they're typing as the camera aggressively cuts to extreme close-ups of key words onscreen. When users first log on, the site initiates a primitive chat session, calling them by name and asking questions like "Do you want to hurt me?
Then again, the rest of the movie leans heavily on that shtick too, so there's no reason the computer scenes should be any different. The Net (1995)Films about computer use run the risk of being visually dull and predictable, but The Net typifies another problem of the genre: obsolescence. But the weakest pair-off of the lot comes when Owen and Law, unaware of each other's identities, wind up in a "London Sex Anon" chatroom, with Law pretending to be a woman ("blonde. epic tits.") and demanding "sit on my face fuckboy." Director Mike Nichols handles all this with dry comic restraint; both men read and type with silent fixation and casually amused expressions, as if mildly aroused but not wanting to commit to more.
Already dated when it was made, this cyber-thriller looks downright hysterical today, as shut-in Sandra Bullock orders pizza and plane tickets through her many computers, using interfaces that were meant to look cutting-edge 12 years ago, and now look as dated as Atari 2600 games. But Nichols cranks Mozart's operatic score up extra-loud, communicating with big explosive booms and crashes all the things the two men aren't about to loosen up enough to express even while alone and anonymous in separate rooms. The Perfect Man (2005)By 2005, the Internet had profoundly affected the way people communicated with the outside world and the way they searched for potential mates.What's a family comedy without creepily incestuous undertones? Trying to do for text messaging what Black Christmas and When A Stranger Calls did for phones, Cry_Wolf sets a serial killer with an extensive buddy list loose at a snooty prep school.Man makes the situation slightly less unsavory by having Duff lure hunky dreamboat Chris Noth to play the role of Duff's mystery cyber-suitor IRL. (Maybe because there's nothing scarier than a knife-wielding psychopath hovering over a Mac desktop, save maybe a menacing pop-up ad.) There's actually a reasonably clever origin story here: A group of pranksters, looking to exploit an unsolved murder in the area, decide to invent a serial killer and forward his profile to every student e-mail account on campus.The older brother wants to ask her about her "bosoms," but the younger one suggests the more deviant (yet strangely, endearingly innocent) idea of pooping into each other's buttholes. When you are searching for Benaughty coupon code, you are guaranteed to receive the most current and useful promotion deals and discounts. War Games (1983)The beginning of the personal-computer age brought new convenience and new capabilities, but also a share of new paranoias: fears that technology was moving too fast, that the average user wouldn't be able to keep up with the rapidly changing personal and corporate culture, that untested and possibly flawed machines were rapidly gaining control over people's lives. Voiceovers clue the audience in to what they're typing, from their mutual love of their hometown, New York, to—get this—why men love The Godfather!