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    Michael Fassbender in "Frank."

  • Sam Nixon

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As ingrained as they are in everyday life, you’d think that smartphones would have a bigger impact on how the plots of most horror movies pan out. Or maybe you don’t think about crap like that, ever, and I just have a lot of time on my hands.

Anyway, with how connected everyone and everything is increasingly becoming, it seems unlikely to me like the homicidal maniac chasing the college kids through the cornfield doesn’t get his face blasted across Instagram by a soon-to-be victim. Maybe with a “lol im totaly ded #yolo” thrown in for good measure.

Usually the whole issue is sidestepped by one throwaway line of dialogue. “Well butter my biscuit, no cell service!” Yeah, real bummer. I never have enough bars when I’m about to be decapitated.

Other genres can’t really pull that same card to deal with addressing how something like social media can affect a movie’s plot. This is giving rise to some films taking it another step further and directly incorporating new tech into the core of a story, leading to what I’m going to call, Twitter as a plot device. It’s an interesting topic with the potential to be horribly boring if executed poorly, but two movies from last year managed to pull it off: “Chef” and “Frank.”

“Chef” — written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau — is about a chef (surprise) named Carl who throws a superb shit fit at a critic dining in his restaurant, a video which goes viral and leads him into a bit of a life crisis. Right from the get-go, the existence of Twitter propels the plot; a conflict is stirred into something bigger because everyone has access to it. Carl eventually fixes up a food truck and drives cross country, in an attempt to return to his love of cooking and connect with his young son, who in turn documents the whole journey with Twitter. That also goes viral, lots of pictures of fancy-looking foodstuffs are shared, liked and favorited; father and son bond; and so on and so forth. “Chef” lays on the feel-good pretty thick.

“Frank” takes a different approach to the use of Twitter, one that at least seems a bit more believable than the runaway success that follows every character in “Chef” the second after any one of them posts something. Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is a really terrible musician who writes more typical Tweets like, “Cheese and ham panini. #LivingTheDream,” while sitting alone on a park bench. He gets sucked up into a whirlwind of a band helmed by Michael Fassbender as the titular Frank, a musical genius who always wears an oversized paper mache head. While holed up with Frank and friends, Jon communicates to the outside world through 140-character updates, slowly building a following for his weird-ass bandmates and leading to the climax of the film.

“Chef” and “Frank” are very different films, but they wouldn’t exist as they do now without the characters using Twitter. Carl wouldn’t be a passionate chef bonding with his kid; he’d just be a bad father with a food truck that would probably fail, due to crappy marketing. Jon would have either been driven mad by his bandmates and died in a ditch somewhere or just, ya know, called his parents and gone home without the online masses to inflate his ego. However, both movies do capture the very essence of Twitter (and social media in general) in its purest form: posting pictures of food and bitching about your personal problems.

Sam Nixon’s “Words From a Nerd” runs every Wednesday in the Colorado Daily.

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