The Wilderness Downtown

The internet is kind of nuts sometimes. Between up to the minute news, humorously captioned cat photos and videos of dudes hitting each other in the nuts, there's endless opportunities for entertainment and time wasting.*

Every once in a while, tho, someone will come along and harness the internet as a medium and you can experience new things in new ways. Such is the case with the new Arcade Fire / Chris Milk interactive film project The Wilderness Downtown. Billing itself as an "Experiment with Chrome" and "Made with our friends at Google" it delivers a personalized cinematic experiment set within the conventions of our haphazard web browsing ways. Add the always awesome, haunting sounds of Arcade Fire and you've sucked me in for the day.

Be sure to used Google Chrome, it just works better.

This comes on the heels of another web film experience by director Spike Jonze, I'm Here - A Love Story in an Absolute World. What's cool about these two projects is they both harness the power of the internet and the widespread use off high speed connections, but in very different ways.

The Wilderness Downtown attempts to create a very visceral, personal experience. It asks you for the address you grew up at, pumps in the Arcade Fire and uses Google Earth aerial views to actually take you back to your childhood. It's pretty fucking nuts. When I first viewed, I didn't even bother to see that Google was in cahoots, but immediately recognized the Google Map interface and saw where this was going.  Plus, I loves me some Arcade Fire.

With I'm Here, the the goals and methods are different, but it's still telling us a story via the internet in a new way. The website is set up like a theater, complete with show times. So you can't just virtually saunter up to the ticket booth and click play and expect to watch your movie. It counter intuitively puts restrictions on your viewing, something we're not used to doing in this age of instant web video gratification.

Secondly, there is a maximum capacity. Now, it's in the equivalent of a second run, but when I first tried to watch it, I literally couldn't get in. It forced you to watch a movie as a group. While there was no one kicking your chair, or giving a hand jobs in the back row, you had a sense that you were watching it in unison with hundreds of other people. This shared experience felt vaguely familiar. Watching this robo-relationship play out, we're reminded of those times we've all given more of ourselves to people who'll just take it. But instead of putting up images specific to each viewer like TWD, I'm Here uses the traditional metaphor to convey it's emotion, but creates the virtual movie theater experience to try and reclaim what internet videos have taken away, that communal experience.

So, what was supposed to be a short post on how awesome The Wilderness Downtown is, it has turned into a crappy pseudo essay on internet film. Just go watch the films for yourself and enjoy.

* It's kind of ironic that in a post of how films are harnessing the web, I write a pretty bland post with only two links. Usually I like to throw out a bunch, and make some jokes, but I didn't want to muddle it up lose the two most important links in the post.**


** That and I'm lazy.

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