Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ideas inspired by kai and Molly's "the surveillance economy"

It's Good Friday, a national holiday here in Canada.  No significant plans for the day - I love it.  Just got back from walking my dog while listening to this week's podcast episode of Make Me Smart - titled "the surveillance economy".  So many ideas I'm now scrambling to record before they leak out of this old brain of mine.

I work for a software company that innovates and sells encryption technologies.  Many times a week I try and explain to companies and organizations that we can help protect personally identifiable information (PII) while retaining the analytic value of their data.  Many global customers are either required to protect PII for regulatory (legal) reasons, such as the upcoming GDPR in the EU, while others wish to reduce the risk and associated cost of a data breach.  But, these same companies are also trying to get the most out of their data, trying to understand their customers better, how to cross-sell their products and services, or to find and cut back fraud.

Now let me try an segue into the news of the last few weeks about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.  I like buying stuff.  I like good advertising.  And I am influenced by advertising.  I believe it's very hard to avoid advertising and I find it a waste of space and time when I see something that I have no interest in.  How many more ads for bowel issues and reverse mortgages do I need to see when watching  TV news channels.  But on the flip side, I find it incredibly unsettling when I see an ad online for a specific product I researched just seconds ago.

Another tangent into the brilliant mind and writings of Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus.  In the later, Homo Deus, if I try to paraphrase and interpret one of Yuval's closing arguments - the impact of any one of us on the world today is diminishing and assuming your scientific beliefs eliminate the possibility of an afterlife, then what will be our legacy and what is our contribution to society?  Yuval focused on the information age, i.e. data.  We can contribute data, information, ideas, art and knowledge to an incredibly massive amount of people, perhaps all of mankind through this thing called the internet.  I am truly on that side of the fence, I do share lots of things with many people and feel I'm contributing a little to "the greater good".  I believe it's an incredible waste of one's life to keep all your passions, learnings and creations to yourself - isn't that rather selfish.  Needless to say, I'm not a very private person.

Back to my work life.  Along with many companies that wish to get more value from their data, there are just as many who wish to share their data with third party business-to-business partners.  I'm sure much of this is with advertisers, but the optimist in me believes that some of these partners are in the field of research and are perhaps trying to improve our well-being.  For example, large health insurers have massive amounts of data that can help with the research into drug interaction and root causes of disease.  Wouldn't you want to share some of your health data if it could help your neighbour or world populations?

It's natural that the more I share, the more people (and companies) know about me.  That's the deal.  Although a lot of what I share is under the somewhat psuedoanymized alias of PJMixer, it doesn't take a data scientist to figure out my real identity.  But I digress.  I feel the problem comes down to the granularity of information and precision to which advertisers target consumers.  

In my work with encryption, we are creating new ways to vary the degree to which data can be protected with the goal to protect PII, but increase the statistical value of the data once it's protected.  For example, telco and auto companies record geo-location data about us all day long.  The precise coordinates of my home and where I am at any one point in time is of course very private.  And similarly, the fact that the government knows my date of birth and that Air Canada knows the date of my flight to Winnipeg this year is data I'd prefer non-friends didn't know. But is there a major concern if you know I live in Toronto and I traveled to Chicago in the last 6 months?  Or that I am male and was born in the 60's?  That's useful, monetizable information for airlines and hotels as well as for Health Canada and the CDC.  That is something I don't mind sharing and then as a consequence perhaps seeing more ads for airlines and hotels than diapers or feminine hygiene products.  Maybe statisticians in 500 years would find it useful to know that there were large numbers of men in their fifties that traveled regularly from Toronto to Chicago in the years 2010 to 2019.  And what about those colourful student paintings on the windows between Ohare's terminals 1 and 2 - shouldn't everyone have a chance to see that beauty?







Thursday, January 04, 2018

Movie Reviews

The Frozen Titans

Amazing and crazy extreme ice climbing documentary.  I think it would be worth seeing it in HD at home (as opposed to the dinky Air Canada screen).   I can't imagine just how difficult it was, but beautifully captured for film.  Then again, they haven't had to man a trade show booth for three days straight.  8/10.

Unbroken


Incredible true tale of survival.   Humbling to think of my life with its occasional first-world problems.   A few details seemed inaccurate - why was Louie and many other prisoners always clean shaven ?   How many people could withstand that much suffering ?  How would the average person cope today ?  Is it out of necessity that soldiers and slaves are strong ?  The relationship with the Bird was fascinating, wonderfully portrayed especially with the superb non-verbal acting at the standoff.   And to think they also survived being lost at sea - what was worse ?  Unbelievable how something so horrific could be forgivable.   8/10.


Somm



Proof again (for me) how good documentary movies can be.  Edge of your seat stuff.  Showing more of the science of wine more than the art I feel.  Very interesting process, intensity, personalities, drama and twists - kind of like a good bottle of Cabernet.  8/10






Tomorrowland

Two wolves. Darkness and despair. Light and hope. Which one wins ?
The one you feed.  

Watched the second half on 9/3.  

Laurie played a good meanie.   Good action and effects again.  Pretty good ending.  7/10


Would have been better with some bigger stars - but I liked it.  Lots of ugh bits, but entertaining for a hopeless romantic (like me).  6/10.


Some pretty good laughs and a decent cast, incl. fun supporting cast.  Over the top new take on old classic but it worked.  The boys were hilarious (albeit walking a fine line).   Entertaining.  6/10.


Unintelligible dialog, wafer thin plot, but amazing action, stunts, creativity and production.  Bizarro, but pretty darn entertaining. 8/10


Loved it.   Not sure what the critics didn't like.  Great mix of Sci-fi creativity, action, comedy, music and story.  Highly entertaining, with a re-watch or even a buy with all the extras.  Gangster extras were fab. 8/10





Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Loved it.

Tweet: "Felt like a little kid again as I gobbled up #StarWarsTheForceAwakens special screening today; lived up to the hype for me; thx @Acrodex #fb"

Wasn't sure about certain aging details, but I'm sure there's a good explanation.  

Loved the throw backs to the original.  Good mix of plot, action and even some decent humour.  Didn't feel too lost and got most references.

New cast members were solid, especially Ray. 8/10


Fun adventure bonanza; a few good bits of humour but I wasn't a fan of the plot.  Amazing action FX. 7/10


Really good.  Great cast with Damon super strong as the lead.  Loved the problem solving and tech.   A few iffy bits, but thoroughly entertaining. Liked the simple words at the end about solving problems one at a time - eat that frog.   Worrying scenes balanced nicely by humour.  Political aspects felt glib.  No one mentioned it featured a Bowie track.  8/10.


Superb cast deliver heavyweight performances all around.  Great job in making the massively complex situation of 2008 make a little sense.  But more importantly, it gives a human face to the mess of the financial world.  It delivers a very serious punch without over explanation and wasted dialog. 7/10


I don't really understand, nor like the investment business; but I don't feel I can say no to playing in it.  I don't find it that interesting, so why did I go to see it ?  (Afterthought: because of the personal drama - interesting people and very stressful situations).

I usually like a movie where I can escape everyday troubles - but this one is too real (for most people).  

I don't like money - just the things it can buy.   The retirement benefits are not quite as tangible as a new Nikon...

Is my life and retirement plan better than those with pensions ?

And what about my job and my customers - banks, insurance companies, healthcare, cars...am I being a hypocrite ?

Definitely lots of humour (even cameo farce) but rightly turns very serious.   

Constant contrast and tension.  A fine balance between the seriousness of the situation and the colourful characters.  8/10 

Burnt

Better than I expected; yes, lots of yelling and plate smashing, but there was just enough meat on the bone to keep it entertaining.  Definite story weaknesses, but well acted and the food visuals were beautiful and tasty.  7/10









About Time

Quite different to what I was expecting. Quirky, odd plot parts and far from stylish.  But it worked, lots of heartfelt moments, humour and well acted drama.  Charming soundtrack. And time travel elements done quite well with only one tricky bit. I found it very entertaining.   7/10






While We're Young

Very different to what I expected, well the second half at least.


I definitely got suckered in.  Which I think makes a point.   And one I'm not that comfortable with yet.

Driver was really good.  Cool for sure, as cast, but could have been more perhaps.

Interesting on a few Different levels. 7/10
Ashby

Quirky.  Endearing.  Odd mix of emotions and plot elements.  Rourke was rock solid as usual. Nice surprise find.  7/10











World of Tomorrow


Animated short I found on Netflix while traveling in the US.  Very odd, but very deep.  Imaginative, creative work. 7/10


Really good versus really bad; nicely played by James and Blanchett.   Fun bits, tracks trad story with some interesting additions.  Nice Coogan bit. 7/10


Beautiful and charming, simple story.   Funny, feel good gem made all the better by De Niro and Hathaway.   Had to wait a week to see the end.   Not sure if it was the lapse in time or the movie, but the ending was a little week. De Niro does seem to be getting the hang of these lighter roles - perhaps a goal he set for himself after so many very serious roles.   7/10


Very long and slow.  Not much dialogue and when there was some it was hard to understand.   A pretty average plot.
Aw
But superb acting, magnificent cinematography and gritty FX and stunt work make this a true epic.   Long, beautiful shots of the wilderness with lots of wide angle close ups.  Amazing visual treat.  Dicaprio was brilliant and almost made his heroics believable.  I even noticed the score.   8/10.


Loved it.  A few bits went on too long, but the concept and execution was really cool.  Missed a few bits, but will re-watch again.  Very entertaining.  8/10








Some fun bits and nice chemistry between the lead actors.  Lovely scenery (those cliffs), locals and jigs (and a nice rendition of Only Love Can Break Your Heart).

My wife says "oh m God - can this movie get any worse".  It's like the worst movie ever.

Sweet in a bad romantic comedy kind of way. 6/10


Wow, very powerful piece of work.  Superb acting by a brilliant star cast (with some fantastic young performances too), creatively shot.  Very hard to take at times - can the state of things really be this bad in some places.  Only one glimmer of salvation for our protagonist.   Some odd camera work, but some lovely scenes.  Great writing that seems to sidestep predictability.  Very dark but very good.  8/10


Very interesting story and psychology, but the film seemed to lose its momentum a little.  Still loved the production, acting and getting a glimpse into Milgrim's experiments and conclusions.  

I feel one of my weaknesses is my poor reading ability of people.  I was thinking that my excuse may be, in business at least, that I don't have the luxury to study people as I'm the one doing the presenting.  It's a skill I'd like to learn or improve.  

My daughter is interested in studying psychology and I'm quite fascinated by the possibility, but wonder how much she is studying me. 7/10

Ted 2

Filthy language throughout.  Highly inappropriate at times.  Borderline uncomfortable. Ridiculous and awkward storyline.  But hilarious dialog and really entertaining. 

Love the cameos and the Comicon bit.  Gags throughout. 7/10






Spectre

Dark.  Sinister.  Subtle.  Fast and dangerous. Stylish and savvy. Loved the pendulum swing between dramatic action and plot dialog. Liked the modern plot foundation. Flawed torture scene and battle consequences. A little humour and a few surprises.  Fab villains and superb action scenes. 2 part airline viewing with a little help of a AC delay. 8/10


Great concept well executed.  Yeah, sure a few missteps, but it didn't detract from the story and drama.  Good action scenes, ok acting and some nice locales.  Nice to see a few Downton Abbey actors in modern times. 7/10


Lots of laughs and awkward lewd bits (as expected).  Outtakes would have been a movie in its own right I suspect. Thomas Haden Church as excellent in his supporting role. 7/10


Great story of passion, family, friendships and business (based on a pretty incredible real-life story).  Great acting all around with some comedic aspects.   Tough but tender - superhero again from Lawrence.

Maybe because I watched in two parts - but I thought the ending could have more developed. 7/10


Very well made and important film.  Amazing the layers of cover-up, negligence and abuse.

Subtle elements show the impact and along with the credits, suggest abuse may still continue.

Wondering how this story connects to the world wide exposure. 8/10


Incredibly violent, rude and funny.  Great stuff if that's your thing.

So many laughs, situation, Canadiana bits.  Sexual innuendo on roids, industry and film samples, and self-references.

Groovin sound track and music references.

Loved it. 7/10


A bloody masterpiece.

Superb dialog, storytelling and acting.

So many great bits.   Tarantino at his best.

Lived up to the hype and maybe tipped it over the edge. 8/10


I was a big fan of the show, but I have to agree with one reviewer that said it was pretty shitty.  There were a few funny bits, but not much to hold this together.   Lots of lose ends which I suspect will be in a follow on.   Music ok.  Locations okay.  Laughs not enough.  6/10


I don't remember watching it - so I guess it's not very good.   Good cast, very loose plot. 5/10


(Partial viewing on AC...)

Plain plot that probably takes some liberties with the real story, but
still fun and hard to believe he actually did it.

(Finished almost a month later).  

Irrisistable feel good movie.  Fun, funny and heartfelt.  Good bit of acting by Egerton.  Jackman added a little grit.  Nice cameo by Walken. 7/10


A little Avengers like - lots of fighting and FX but the characters and humour made it pretty entertaining.  80's soundtrack wasn't my 80's but kind of fun. 7/10


I really liked it.  But then again, I like most of what Woody does.  I thought it was a perfect role for Phoenix.  Beautiful cinematography, sets, design and soundtrack.  Nicely played out tragic plot reminding me a little of Crimes and Misdemeanors - very serious content, but treated with an air of comedy and lightness.  I wasn't a fan of the
ending, but thoroughly enjoyed the rest.  7/10


A great and important story of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  Heartfelt, simple showing the importance of family.  I liked how it moved along and didn't get bogged down in messy details, leaving us with a wonderful feeling of another world we should get to know better. 7/10


Finally popped up on Netflix.  Wonderful and incredible story.  Well put together that showed the enormity of the stunt. 7/10


So young.   So talented.  So powerful.  Lots of tracks I hadn't hard before.  Liked how her lyrics were shared.  But you could see the train (wreck) coming.   Complicated relationships enhanced by the craziness of fame.  More ups and downs than a Catholic wedding.  Interesting doc style that kind of set a mood of isolation for Amy.   A raw production and a tragic life.   But what a voice she left behind. 8/10


Great action and stunts, irrelevant plot, decent villain, complicated woman, just enough Pegg humour.   Luscious settings and even a little opera - just what the doctor ordered. 7/10









The Trip to Italy

Kept me laughing throughout, but I my, the scenery was to die for.

Take me there.  Brydon wins the imitation game, friggin' brilliant
talent.  Oh, and the food, mouth watering celluloid.  Winner.  7/10.









Bridge of Spies

Top class throughout - gripping story, superb acting, historical

importance and a production that definitely left a feeling perhaps
close to what those times and places were like. 8/10









Cafe Society

Light humour and light drama, beautiful production and perfect soundtrack.  Stewart and Eisenberg had decent chemistry, but Eisenberg isn't as good a Woody substitute as Owen. Woody fans should like it, but too trivial for non-fans.  6/10.










Bit of a mess of a plot and too many bad guys (although Harrelson was pretty funny with his second character), but action and tricks were cool. Liked the comedic addition of Caplan. Odd that I thought Eisenberg was better here than in the last movie I saw - Cafe Society. 7/10







The Witch

Hmm.   Not what I was expecting.  Creepy, spooky and quite frightening.  Period language, costumes and environ made for a perfect setting.  Superb acting.   But still, I expected a little more...horror.  This was a more of a subtle horrortale. 7/10








10 Cloverfield Lane

I liked the human dynamic.  Very mysterious that keeps you guessing.  Nice turns.  Did not disappoint. 7/10




Citizenfour

Very well done; tension builds throughout, coming to grips with the importance of gravity of this event.  Amazed that Poitras got to film so much of the story.  Tantalizing end with more to come ?  wow, critical viewing. 8/10









David Brent: Life on the Road

As they say in the movie - you don't know whether to laugh or cry.  Very true.  I found it more embarrassingly awkward then LOL.  Like the brief glances into the human side or the train wreck called David Brent.  6/10 










Hell or High Water

Subtle, classy high quality filmmaking.   Superb acting, simple and worthy storytelling. Don't quite see the end because the AC crew turned off the in-flight system a little too early upon arrival.   Not sure how it will end...


Finally saw the the last part (the porch bit) and remembered why I liked this simple modern western.   Solid acting, subtle plot and great pacing. 7/10




Hector and the Search for Happiness

A little bit of a weird up and down plot that almost worked but still too disjunct.  Ok for Pegg and travel fans.  6/10











Still Alice

I was naively hoping there would be some positive scraps to take the edge off this difficult subject.   Wonderful acting by Moore and Stewart.   So very sad and a frightening possibility for some people. 7/10









Lady in the Van

Wonderful performance by Smith; but a very odd film, especially with Mr. Bennett's dual personality and the ending.   Would like to understand a little more about the real story. 6/10










It Follows

Liked it.  Certainly scary but more interestingly super stylish.  Odd setting that worked very well (incl.  Detroit suburbia and rundowns fit nicely). 7/10










Finding Vivian Maier

I have a book, I like her work, but I hadn't yet the seen the movie.   Wonderful film that surprised me and enlightened me as an artist (photography and perhaps videography).  Full of controversy, mystery and the whole gamut of emotion.  Even the filmmaker John Maloof is in interesting story in its own right.  Proving once again that's life is often times stranger than fiction.  Quite the opposite of me - someone who needs to share his art.  8/10.






Beware Mr. Baker

I wonder if the Muppets' Animal was based on Ginger Baker ?   A crazy talent, but what a life story. 6/10











War Dogs

Quickly hooked as it's based on a true story - hard to believe, and obviously not in my ethics folder, but I was intrigued.


Funny ?  Sure.   Outrageous story.   Well acted and close-enough settings almost pull this off.  Funny bits immersed in very serious matters.  The ending packed an expected punch.   Entertaining in a train wreck kind of way. 7/10





Deepwater Horizon

Been a while since a watched a disaster movie.  Wow, this one was one hell of a good one (and based on the true BP disaster).   Amazing FX, but the emotion of the event was very well done. 7/10










Lambert & Stamp

Who knew ?   Crazy story that was new to me.  Weird way to tell the story but loved seeing the creation of one of the biggest rock bands in history.   Individual characters and dynamics were also new and weird.  The story behind the music and the music for the people. 6/10








The House of Small Cubes (orig. Tsumiki no ie)

Melancholy beautiful and artistic animation.   Short but enjoyable for the artistry, but sad. 6/10











Mr. Nobody

Very odd; clues of brilliance wrapped up into some captivating visuals.  Touching on all feelings at all times made my head hurt.  Casting really well done across the ages. 6/10




Begin Again

liked it so much I actually purchased it on iTunes.  I watched first time on a flight and it actually inspired me to right some lyrics.  Well acted all around, great music and highly entertaining. 8/10








Hidden Figures

A powerful mix of storytelling, super acting, historic significance, human drama, technology, science and math all based on an unbelievable little known true story.  Highly recommended and an important movie for your ladies and African Americans. 8/10



Manchester by the Sea

Actually more depressing, sad and tragic than I expected.  Superb acting and production / editing.  Love the classical soundtrack to such a simple, down-to-earth setting.   Surprised how little scenes Williams was in. 7/10









Once

Love the natural feel of this musical gem.  Superb acting and musical performances.  Simple and subtle story with lots of tender moments.  Beautiful. 8/10










Man Up

Took three goes, but got thru it eventually.  Unusual, unconventional and edgy in a few ways; but it worked for me.  Hints at Pegg's other movies but great partnership with Bell who appears to have similar comedic talents.  Great soundtrack.  7/10









Butter

Not what I was expecting - crude comedy with family feelings; great cast - quite an odd mix really.   But(ter) entertaining. 6/10











8 Mile

Saw some of this one a long time ago, so finished it with an onboard Netflix download.  Enjoyed it, especially the real life acting of Eninem.   Curious about the styles of rap and hip hop and the modern music scenes in my near hometown Detroit. Would have been very cool to see that early days battle at the shack. 7/10








The Summit

Amazing story of the dangers of K2 and mountaineering; and the complexity of memory, altitude and physical endurance.  Well done mix of interviews, video and recreations. 7/10










The Accountant

Not your typical action movie; interesting plot bits and subtle twists.  Pretty entertaining. 7/10











Lion

My wife had told me a lot about this incredible story; but there were a few bits that surprised me, including the difficulty with his adapted brother and the madness that the separation caused him.   A little slow at times, but beautifully made and well acted. 7/10









Force Majeure (orig. Turist)

Art.  Drama.   Cinematography.


Wow, very powerful movie based on a very simple turn of events.   The fragility of life, love and self.   Said so much without a lot of content.  Masterful filmmaking. 7/10







Sing Street

Loved it.  Gotta be a boy of the 80's and the hopeless romantic and a comedian.  Well crafted, perfectly balanced.   Great real world music references and edge of believability plot lines.   Charming, inspirational, and highly entertaining. 8/10









Moonlight

Powerful work of art.  Didn't realize the full weight of the plot from previous glimpses.  Simple plot with so much modern complexity.  A long way around to perhaps happiness.  Superb movie making.  Oscar worthy, but not as we perhaps expect. 7/10









The White Helmets

I'd heard that the sound of military aircraft takes on a very different context in war zones than at an airshow - this film exposes you to the terrifying reality of being under constant bombings from war planes.  Best short doc Oscar - very well put together with such strong, brave, hopeful heroes that show us the humanity beyond the newspaper front page. 7/10







La La Land

Not exactly as expected, but a wonderful movie for fans of musicals.  Loved the sets and locales, beautiful cinematography and of course the music.  Yes, I' a fan of jazz, but I don't think it's critical to its enjoyment.  Although I thought the singing was a little weak at times, I still loved the quiet lyrical content of Gosling and Stone, especially the song Stone sang at her audition. 8/10







One Chance

Enjoyed the story and Corden's performance.  Helps if you like opera. 7/10