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Playing Nice: Europa Report, by Sarah Brinks

29 Dec

Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that examines group dynamics in film.

**This article will contain spoilers. I strongly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** The question of whether we are alone in the universe is a question that has plagued humanity for all of time. Europa Report is a film about a group of astronauts trying to answer that question. A group of American and Russian astronauts go to Mars’ moon Europa to drill beneath an ice layer into the underground ocean and search for microscopic life. The crew is put under incredible stresses on the way to as well as on Europa’s surface.

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Playing Nice: The Jane Austen Book Club, by Sarah Brinks

15 Dec

Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that examines group dynamics in film.

**This article will contain spoilers. I strongly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** This week, I thought I would try out a new genre for this article: Romance. The Jane Austen Book Club is about a group of women of varying ages and life stages who form a book club where they will read one of Jane Austen’s novels each month. The one exception is a young man named Grigg. Grigg has never read Austen and he is the only man in the group. The book club is made up of dog-breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello), unhappily married French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt), librarian and mother Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), Sylvia’s lesbian daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), eccentric hippie Bernadette (Kathy Baker), and IT support worker Grigg (Hugh Dancy). The club is first formed when Jocelyn’s favorite dog dies. Then Sylvia’s husband leaves her for another woman and Prudie’s husband refuses to take her to Paris. As the book club progresses through the novels and everyone’s lives become more complicated and intertwined emotions run high.

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Playing Nice: Z for Zachariah, by Sarah Brinks

1 Dec

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice” a series of articles that examines group dynamics in film.

**This article will contain spoilers. I strongly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** Z for Zachariah probably has the smallest cast I would consider writing one of these articles about. There are only 3 actors in Z for Zachariah: Ann played by Margot Robbie, John played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Caleb played by Chris Pine. A nuclear event has taken place, leaving only a small valley in the mountains of the American south safe from radiation.  Ann is living alone on her family farm after her father and brother left her to search for survivors. Carving her life out of the land with her bare hands Ann has been alone for a long time until one day she sees man in a big silver suit pulling a wagon. He has a Geiger counter with him and when he realizes the valley is safe he sheds his suit and swims in a local watering hole. Ann gets him out of the irradiated water but he gets very sick with radiation poisoning. When he recovers they become close and start to build a life together even planning on how to restore electricity. One day a second man appears on their land and they let him stay and help them build a waterwheel to get electricity. At the end of the world, when so few people have survived basic human wants and needs mean that tensions and emotion run high as they try to survive.

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Playing Nice: Sunshine, by Sarah Brinks

17 Nov

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film.

**This article will contain spoilers. I strongly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** Danny Boyle, the director of Sunshine, describes it as a film about a ship and a signal. More than that, though, it is a film about a crew dealing with maybe the highest stress situation possible. Years in the future the sun is dying and as a result Earth has been plummeted into a nuclear winter. In an effort to save itself Earths best scientists and astronauts gathered together building a ship call Icarus I with a nuclear bomb on board with the mass of Manhattan Island. The hope was that the Icarus I would drop off its payload at the sun and create a nuclear event that essentially jumpstarted the sun. We learn early in the film that the Icarus I failed and the crew we meet is onboard the Icarus II. The mission for Icarus II is the same as Icarus I: Restart the sun and save humanity. The crew of Icarus II consists of a physicist to handle the bomb, a pilot, an engineer, a botanist to manage the oxygen garden, a captain, a first mate, a navigator, and lastly a psychologist (a new addition after the mysterious failure of Icarus I).  Things are pretty much as would be expected aboard the Icarus II when the film begins. The crew is stressed but performing their duties, the oxygen garden is over producing, and the ship is functioning normally. One day they have the surprise of getting to see Mercury orbit past the sun. This begins a series of events that affects the rest of the mission. The distress signal from the Icarus I is boosted by Mercury and the crew realize they have the possibility of a second bomb to restart the sun. They choose to go off-mission and to rendezvous with the Icarus I and that ultimately leads the entire crew’s deaths but also the jump-starting of the sun.

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Playing Nice: Nerve, by Sarah Brinks

3 Nov

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“Playing Nice” is a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film.

**This article will contain spoilers. I strongly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** Nerve is a bit of a departure from the films I usually write about for these articles. They tend to be films with large casts that interact with each other in a confined space or under particular circumstances. Nerve has a relatively small core cast but it becomes much larger when you add in all the “watchers”. Nerve is about a young woman named Vee (played by Emma Roberts), a smart and talented photographer who unfortunately cannot afford to go to college in California like she wants to. She has a friend name Sydney who is outgoing and bold, the opposite of Vee. Sydney begins playing an online game called ‘Nerve’. Through their phones the “watchers” of ‘Nerve’ give dares to the “players” and when the dare is complete players win money. After an embarrassing incident with a boy she likes in high school Vee decides to throw caution to the wind and become a player. Her first dare takes her to a diner where she has to kiss a stranger for 5 seconds. She finds Ian (played by Dave Franco) there and kisses him. After that the “watchers” keep Vee and Ian together as they achieve dares.

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Playing Nice with Sphere, by Sarah Brinks

20 Oct

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film. I’m not a behavioral psychologist or anything but I am an avid movie watcher and life-long member/observer of the human race. One of the things that have fascinated me over the years is how group dynamics are depicted in film and especially how they are depicted when the thin veneer of society is stripped away.

**This article will contain spoilers. I highly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** Sphere is a film that examines fear. After the discovery of an alien spaceship on the ocean floor a group of specialists are flown out to the middle of the ocean and sent to an underwater habitat to make contact with the potential alien life onboard. Dustin Hoffman plays Dr. Norman Goodman, a phycologist who wrote a report years ago about the group that should make first contact with an alien lifeform. He suggests a psychologist, a mathematician (Harry, played by Samuel L Jackson), a biochemist (Beth, played by Sharon Stone), and an astrophysicist (Ted, played by Liev Schreiber). It turns out it is a space ship from Earth that fell into a black hole and crashed in the ocean in Earths past. Onboard the ship is a sphere. It is large and looks like it is made of liquid metal; it is a strange object because it is able to choose what it reflects. It turns out the object can also imbue powers on people, making them able to manifest their fears, wishes, and dreams.

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Playing Nice with The Descent, by Sarah Brinks

6 Oct

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film. I’m not a behavioral psychologist or anything but I am an avid movie watcher and life-long member/observer of the human race. One of the things that have fascinated me over the years is how group dynamics are depicted in film and especially how they are depicted when the thin veneer of society is stripped away.

**This article will contain spoilers. I highly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** The Descent is not only a hair-raising horror film playing out our worst fears about the dark, enclosed spaces and monsters but it is also a film that delves into a number of dynamic female relationships. The Descent is about a group of women who get together and take adventurous vacations, pushing their limits, and challenging each other.  At the beginning of the film three of the friends: Sarah, Juno, and Beth are white water rafting. After the trip Sarah is driving home with her husband and daughter when they get into a tragic accident and Sarah’s husband and daughter are killed. A year later, Sarah and Beth join Juno and three other women for a weekend of cave exploring in North Carolina. The other three women are Holly, an Irish adrenaline junky, and Rebecca and Sam who are sisters.

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Playing Nice with And Then There Were None, by Sarah Brinks

22 Sep

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film. I’m not a behavioral psychologist or anything but I am an avid movie watcher and life-long member/observer of the human race. One of the things that have fascinated me over the years is how group dynamics are depicted in film and especially how they are depicted when the thin veneer of society is stripped away.

**This article will contain spoilers. I highly recommend you watch the mini-series first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** In this article, I will be specifically referring to the 2015 Acorn/BBC three-part mini-series. This mini-series was adapted from one of Agatha Christie’s best mystery novels: And Then There Were None. It is about a group of ten strangers who are invited to Soldier Island by U.N. Owen where they begin to die one by one. The poem “Ten Little Soldier Boys” hangs in each of their rooms and the deaths occur in the same order and fashion as the poem. The guests realize they have all been asked to the island for different reasons and that the mysterious U.N. Owen is an unknown person bent on killing them all. They search the house and each other but no one can solve the mystery of who is the unknown killer.

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Playing Nice with After the Dark, by Sarah Brinks

8 Sep

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film. I’m not a behavioral psychologist or anything but I am an avid movie watcher and life-long member/observer of the human race. One of the things that have fascinated me over the years is how group dynamics are depicted in film and especially how they are depicted when the thin veneer of society is stripped away.

**This article will contain spoilers. I highly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers.** I never took a philosophy class in high school nor did I attend an international school in Jakarta but I can only imagine they are nothing like the depiction in After the Dark. That being said, we watch movies to escape reality. After the Dark takes place in said fictitious school in Jakarta on the last day of class for a group of seniors in a philosophy class. Instead of the typical “goof off day” many seniors get, Mr. Zimit, their teacher (played by the dynamic James D’Arcy), decides to do one last thought experiment with the students. He has a box full of pieces of paper with different occupations on them and he has the students select one at random. He then describes a scenario in which nuclear fallout is heading towards them and there is a bunker with enough air and supplies to last ten of them for one full year. They must decide who goes into the bunker based on their fictitious occupation and who is left out. In the film the bunker is a real place and we see the experiment first hand. Many of the students find the exercise repugnant but when their grades are threatened they all participate. This scenario plays out three times in the film with three different catastrophic events/locations.

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Playing Nice with Exam, by Sarah Brinks

25 Aug

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Thank you for reading “Playing Nice,” a series of articles that will examine group dynamics in film. I’m not a behavioral psychologist or anything but I am an avid movie watcher and life-long member/observer of the human race. One of the things that have fascinated me over the years is how group dynamics are depicted in film and especially how they are depicted when the thin veneer of society is stripped away.

Exam is the perfect place to start this series. **This article will contain spoilers. I highly recommend you watch the film first and then read the article if you care about spoilers** This 2009 British film from director and writer Stuart Hazeldine strips away the rules that govern society and leaves a group of eight diverse individuals to solve a problem without fear of punishment or blame. The film is about a group of eight candidates, four men and four women, who are competing for a job. Jobs at this level are hard to come by and as a result the candidates are highly motivated. We see each candidate getting ready for the exam while the credits role, but the only film set we really see is the exam room. At the start of the exam the candidates are told by The Invigilator that they have eighty minutes to answer the one question that is before them. They are told that the rules of the outside world do not apply theirs is the only law in that room. The only rules are the time limit, they cannot leave the room, they cannot attempt to communicate with the guard or anyone outside the room and they have only one paper and cannot spoil it on purpose or on accident or they will be disqualified.

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