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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blind Picks from Netflix: Series 7 (2001)

This week Netflix delivered one hell of a movie: Series 7: The Contenders. Imagine watching a version of Survivor in which contestants are given weapons and told to kill each other. The "winner" gets the most important prize of all: life. Series 7: The Contenders takes place in what looks like the present (or at least the very near future), in which the most popular television show in history, The Contenders seems to exist above the law. There are hints that the game is sanctioned and possibly even run by the U.S. Government, although this is never explicitly stated. The contestants are chosen at random on television with the use of a state-lottery-style set up (picture a smiling woman holding numbered ping pong balls). Then, without warning, the contestants are taken from their homes and handed guns. Unlike most reality shows, this one is mandatory. In this way, it is kind of like the draft, except no one is excused from service. An 18-year-old girl, a 73-year-old-man, a cancer patient, a middle-aged nurse and a 8-months-pregnant woman are all cast on the show. It features a cast of relatively unknown actors running around with handguns trying to kill each other. Sound stupid? Parts of it are. At a lean 80 minutes, however, the film consciously avoids wearing out its welcome. This gruesome satire of reality television is so pitch perfect in its presentation that you almost believe it is a real tv show. Everything from the voiceovers (done by the hilarious Will Arnett of Arrested Development) to the "previews" and "recaps" throughout the movie make Series 7: The Contenders feel eerily familiar. The main character, the very pregnant Dawn, is played by the fabulous Brooke it-rubs-the-lotion-on-its-skin-or-else-it-gets-the-hose-again Smith. Smith has been on a lot of television shows and on Broadway lately, but I really wish she would make more movies. She was great in Six Feet Under as Carolyn. The rest of the cast is almost as good, with Glenn Fitzgerald shining as Jeff the gay, cancer-stricken artist. Series 7: The Contenders is gruesome, but it also has an almost Christopher Guest feel about it. Interestingly, it's not a sci-fi movie like Rollerball. Rather, it's about the narcotic effects of television and how dissensitized we have become to the violence that is already all around us. The ending, which is utterly brilliant, really drives home the point that reality television is the ultimate fantasy.


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