Computer Chess ★★★★

When you point a Portapak directly at the sun, it could destroy the camera — this is Weak Technology, but it's strongly responsive, making its own decisions about what to record and what to spit out — which is the perfect starting point for a movie that's about Technology's shift from passive tool to active agent. "That’s my Terminator fear of where we’re at," Bujalski said in this excellent interview with Phil Coldiron, "not that the robots have become self-sufficient and are set up to destroy us, but that the robots have made capitalism so efficient that it’s become sentient and is going to destroy us." What appears to be a shot in which a person is making an active decision about what to record and is defeated by his apparatus is the first choice made by emerging, possibly sentient technology, devices that set their own limits concerning the kind of creative choices they're going to enable and what's firmly off-limits (which is how both the free market and Internet 3.0 work — it initially looks like you're presented with a landscape limited only by the sum of your choices, but in fact your choices are circumscribed by a limited toolbox of options that have to be actively articulated in order to even be aware of their presence, at which point everyone decides that the most sophisticated technology the world's ever seen can be best used to help corporations increase their profits by hiring 20somethings to make comical .gifs). At one point, the camera takes the fisheye POV of a computer monitor staring out at its subject, and the movie acts as a series of visual demonstrations on the basic idea of technology as decision-maker rather than medium. (As the sole celluloid-color interval demonstrates, it's easy to get lost in a loop lost in a loop lost in a loop.)

Watching this for a second time in a room full of novices is fun, both because it's much more orderly than it appears on first pass and because you get to watch someone yell out "WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?"