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Sci-Fi Saturday: When Virtual Friends Are a Real Addiction

This animated short begins with the thirtieth birthday party of a rather glum young man

“Best Friend” at DUST by Nicholas Olivieri, Shen Yi, Juliana De Lucca, Varun Nair, David Feliu (Feb 16, 2021, 5:31) “In a near future, a lonely man is addicted to a product called Best Friend which offers him perfect virtual friends.”

As is hinted in the title (so this is not a spoiler), we suddenly learn — via an effective plot maneuver — that all of the partying friends are virtual realities. I had already begun to wonder about the animated objects cheering along with the crowd but then maybe in the future our kitchenware will have enthusiasms …

But no. It’s all in his head, as long as he keeps replenishing the supply of a chemical cocktail to a port into his brain. As is the way with addicts, our hero cannot use responsibly and ends up doing desperate things. But no one who has dealt with an addiction — their own or that of a loved one — will be surprised by that or by the eventual resolution.

Well worth the watch, especially when so many people we know are emotionally addicted to social media and selfies. Animation works well here because it eliminates some problems with the treatment of virtual reality. If the filmmakers are so inclined, the theme merits a longer, more detailed treatment.

Note 1: “Best Friend” appears to be another sci-fi film produced in 2018 that only made it to DUST in 2021.

Note 2: The featured photo is courtesy engin akyurt on Unsplash


Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files:

Sci-Fi Saturday: Watch what you wish for. There IS a tomorrow! Carl, a lonely guy, is determined to proceed through the warning and try the Luvsik procedure, to make him fall in love at first sight. The short film features strong performances by Momo Dione and Samantha Lester, and the surprise ending avoids cliché.

Sci-Fi Saturday: We have met the aliens and they are… comb jellies. The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined.
Definitely watch it for the sense of isolation when our technology bubble evaporates and for the “comb jelly” space alien.

Sci-fi Saturday: The disabled robot vet gets a job grooming cats. Definitely worth your five minutes, in part in order to see what cartoonists can do in sci-fi with animated stills. In a research paper, Max Planck scientists concluded that it is not possible to hobble the danger from intelligent AI. This film offers a good illustration.

Sci-fi Saturday: A girl with kinetic powers faces a choice. Should she help relatives with activities she knows to be wrong? “Kinetic” is well executed but it breaks a fundamental rule of science fiction: There must be a clear science basis for the story premise.

Sci-fi Saturday: An asteroid lingers near Earth and devours time Or, at any rate, it devours our perception of time, as one man discovers. Flyby: As the asteroid Chrono-7 hazes Earth, a man wakes up in the morning to find that he is living in his future, one he had never imagined.

Sci-fi Saturday: A robot helps an old fellow rediscover life The robot is very well done and how he gets a name is charming. Lots of people abandon their elderly relatives, of course, so finding a helpful robot in the back yard is a pleasant fantasy.

Sci-fi Saturday: What if an old man could see his mother again? It is a hard film to watch if you lost a loved one, but worthwhile. The old man is paying to use his own memories, retrieved via neuroscience imaging.

Sci Fi Saturday: A fight for the winning ticket In a 2040 superstorm, engulfing the planet, a young woman gets hold of a ticket out. But does the way out really exist? Or is she just hanging on and clinging to a fragile hope?

Sci Fi Saturday: Terrified by a Scrap Monster Well, if you have never been terrified by a Scrap Monster, you are clearly missing out. It’s fun watching a middle class South Korean business executive try to cope with the Scrap Monster.

Sci Fi Saturday: What if there were serious wars over clouds? In a world that still has technology but is desperately short of water, such wars could happen. The short sci-fi film Oceanmaker features pirates who steal precious water from the clouds and a pilot who challenges them

Sci Fi Saturday: Can video games save a lone survivor? The film features fine animations of apocalyptic scenes of post-civilization. The “game” that turns out to be an existential struggle usually benefits from a longer treatment but the animation is well imagined.

Sci Fi Saturday: Can a Robot Find a Better Planet Than Earth? The trouble is, the robot is governed by Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics. After 55 habitable planets, the—by then very old—fellow is beginning to suspect something about the robot’s judgment.

Sci Fi Saturday: Kiko: A great short but key questions unanswered A lonely retail service robot longs for a world beyond her store. An agreeable short but it never addresses the question of how Charlie acquired a robot that would “want” something different than its programming.

Sci-fi Saturday: What if next-stage evolution children appear?A sci-fi short from Sri Lanka looks at the possibilities. The story is very well done as a parable of the social risks of continuous internal warfare.

Sci-Fi Saturday: Can parents get back a dead child as an android? They aren’t even united in their grief; they just think they must “do something” to get back a facsimile of what they remember. They have no philosophical or spiritual resources to fall back on in order to avoid this dead end.

Sci-Fi Saturday film: The robot tries to learn about grief An elderly woman buys a robot to help her when she finds herself all alone, due to tragedy. Investigating the woman’s unhappiness, the robot discovers more than it was, perhaps, intended to know.

Sci-Fi Saturday film: “Speed of Time” at DUST A computer nerd writing a pizza delivery program discovers that his work is way more important than he, or anyone, thought. Imagine what happens when an accomplished ground warrior busts in from another time on a quiet family at the breakfast table…

Sci-Fi Saturday film: “Alone” at DUST. Space engineer Kaya Torres, the only survivor of a black hole, contacts an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company until she dies. She manages a desperate escape but then experiences one of the astonishing implications of time travel.

Sci-Fi Saturday film: “The Beacon” at DUST. Refreshingly realistic, especially the harrowing Arctic encounter where the grieving husband finds out what really happened. Not to be missed is Mark’s encounter with the bureaucrat from hell.

Sci-fi Saturday film: Rescuing lost people. Animated, in French, with English subtitles, but don’t let that deter you. The professional relationships sound pretty real and make it worth the watch. The animation is very good.


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Sci-Fi Saturday: When Virtual Friends Are a Real Addiction