You never know how these film festivals are going to play out. There have been years when it seems as if I've seen documentaries and action-sports films at the expense of feature-length dramas, comedies and other genres. This year, the opposite is true.
Based on past Newport Beach festivals, I can rest assured there has been a solid slate of docs for 2013. But I can only say with certainty that … with only hours to go on this final day to change my mind … Terms and Conditions May Apply is the best I have seen.
Director Cullen Hoback has gone where no filmmaker has gone before him: to those ungodly long terms and conditions forms that pop up whenever you create online accounts on Facebook, Google, eBay, etc., etc., etc. to infinity. Hoback then goes beyond that to actually read the damn things, from start to–I swear to fucking God–finish. What he discovers is we are all likely clueless to the rights we have surrendered with nary a whimper.
If the Philip K. Dick-inspired movie The Minority Report didn't spell it out for you, Hoback's animated opening does: thanks to these online legal clearances, consumers have allowed product sellers to figure out what they need individually practically before they do. I suppose some would see that as a positive–freedom of choice is so overrated–but others see it as an invasion of privacy, including one Mr. Ronald Ulysses Swanson of Pawnee, Ind.
It would be one thing if online companies who track our habits and spending were simply handing the information over to advertisers. But, as the documentary so brilliantly hammers home, they are profiting off the information that rightly belongs to each of us. One talking head estimates consumers lose $250 million a year because of this–or enough so each of us could pull our 401(k)'s back out of the crapper.
The Big Bad Wolf in Hoback's tale of woe is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose social network originally promised to protect user privacy. Then, in the middle of one night, with no warning or fanfare, Facebook did the complete opposite. And when Zuckerberg was later confronted with the betrayal in an interview, he spun the story to be Facebook had the balls to make a smart, decisive business move in the face of criticism. Done and done!
Meanwhile, Google claims to have posted every one of its privacy policies dating back to the first one. Terms and Conditions May Apply proves that to be false. You can guess what's included in that first one Google pretends does not exist.
Ah, well, at least Google isn't the British company that was so certain no one was reading its terms and conditions pop-up, it tucked a line in there that now has it legally owning 7,000 immortal souls. Whatevs. As long as that latest YouTube from Jenna Marbles uploads quickly, all is fine.
Terms and Conditions May Apply screens at 8:15 tonight at Fashion Island Cinemas, Newport Beach. It is currently sold out, but rush tickets may be made available. Visit newportbeachfilmfest.com for more details.