Day: September 14, 2023

Automated evaluation and security platform startup Patronus AI launches with $3M in funding
Automated evaluation and security platform Patronus AI Inc. today launched out of stealth mode and announced that it has raised $3 million in seed funding. Founded by machine learning experts Anand Kannappan and Rebecca Qian, both former Meta Platforms Inc. employees, Patronus has been designed to tackle the difficulties of evaluating artificial intelligence outputs and

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Apple reportedly told employees to keep quiet about iPhone 12 radiation levels

Apple this week had to deal with France urging the company to halt all sales of iPhone 12 units and even announce a recall due to concerns about radiation standards. While the company disagrees with the accusations, other European countries seem to agree with France. Amid this situation, Apple has reportedly asked its employees to keep quiet about the radiation levels of the iPhone 12.


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‘The Royal Hotel’ review: An intense feminist road trip that takes one wrong turn

“The Royal Hotel,” Kitty Green’s follow-up to “The Assistant,” rides a fine line between genres. Review. Jessica Henwick and Julia Garner in

Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel is a concise, nail-biting movie about the world as experienced by women, and the aggressive (and often unspoken) impositions that define the male spaces around them. It follows Liv (Jessica Henwick) and Hanna (Julia Garner), two American backpackers in the Australian outback as they spend a couple of weeks bartending in a rural mining town to make some cash. It’s a keenly observed piece that blooms in jagged and discomforting ways, with skin-crawling detours where nothing necessarily goes off the rails, but the possibility always lingers.

However, it also builds to a climax whose cathartic framing feels ever so slightly unearned, and whose narrow perspective (from a racial standpoint) leaves a bitter aftertaste. As a whole, it stands as both a feminist filmmaking triumph, yet one that exposes the limitations of both white feminism and Western feminism, in a broader colonial context. Which is unfortunate, because its climactic flub is a mere matter of a handful of concluding shots to what is otherwise a spectacular artistic feat.

The Royal Hotel follows a vacation gone wrong.

Jessica Henwick and Julia Garner in "The Royal Hotel."
Credit: NEON

Green — whose last film, The Assistant, was a much quieter deconstruction of male power — begins her latest with pulsating energy, at a nightclub aboard a fancy yacht in Sydney, where Liv and Hanna introduce themselves as Canadian tourists. “People like Canadians,” Liv explains. It’s a film keenly aware of global geopolitics, as well as the disruptive place Americans tend to occupy in travel stories, even if it eventually mishandles this dynamic. The outgoing Hanna hooks up with a Norwegian tourist, while the more reserved Liv tries to buy them drinks. When Liv’s credit card is declined, the two friends are forced to improvise for a couple of weeks.

With the assistance of a work-travel program, they’re able to score a temporary job, albeit one of the less-desired ones given their late application: a bar in the middle of nowhere called The Royal Hotel, where they’re set to replace a pair of young English women passing through. The hesitant Liv isn’t too keen to stick around, given their shoddy lodging space above the bar itself, but Hanna reminds her that they’ve been seeking adventure. This could be exactly what they’ve been looking for.

Their new boss, Billy (Hugo Weaving), is rough around the edges and a heavy drinker, but he guides the pair through the bar’s ins and outs with military efficiency. His girlfriend, Carol (Burarra and Serbian actor Ursula Yovich), an Aboriginal woman and the bar’s head cook, provides the only hints of warmth and feminine presence they can feel for miles around, except for one older bar patron who laughs heartily at the men’s demeaning jokes. However, Carol is often too preoccupied with kitchen work (and with managing Billy’s drunken outbursts) to offer much comfort.

The patrons are mostly gruff, uncouth men with their own sense of routine and camaraderie as local miners. Since they comprise the majority of Billy’s customer base, he’s willing to let the odd condescending or sexist comment slide if it means a steadier income. There’s immediate, silent friction at the Royal between the American newcomers and the embedded Aussie crowd — though at least some of it is cultural, like their respective discomfort and ease with the word “cunt” — and while it starts out routine and familiar, it begins to slowly cascade. Things start to seem out of place. Before long, Green begins employing full-on genre flourishes to tell her story, transforming The Royal Hotel into one of the year’s most effective thrillers. 

Kitty Green borrows the language of horror and thriller films.

Julia Garner in "The Royal Hotel."
Credit: NEON

Despite the flaws in its perspective, The Royal Hotel is far from didactic in the way it creates and evolves compelling character dynamics. There’s a reciprocity to each moment of care and hostility, and a sense of genuine community that Liv and Hanna stumble into. The bar’s frequent customers include the quiet, mysterious Dolly (Daniel Henshall); the helpful and sensitive Teeth (James Frecheville); and the rowdy but inviting Matty (Toby Wallace); their interactions with the two women, and with their fellow patrons, help us form a base of understanding of who these people are, and the place in which Liv and Hanna find themselves.

After a few days, as the young Americans spend time with a handful of local Aussie guys, the prospect of romance arises, or at the very least the prospect of sexual encounters. However, in the dim confines of the Hotel’s living quarters, these possibilities rest on a knife’s edge. A signal misread or ignored, coupled with fragile and volatile egos, could so easily make things nasty. The mere shapes of these men — from their silhouettes, to their imposing, inebriated shuffles across darkened hallways — becomes instantly terrifying.

Of course, things look a little different in the sunlight, but as the days go by, and as Liv and Hanna become more acquainted with men like Dolly and Matty, the film’s aesthetic and narrative perspective begins to morph in unsettling ways, becoming more intimate and claustrophobic. It increasingly makes Hanna its sole protagonist, severing her POV from that of Liv’s in a manner that both causes friction between the two friends and isolates them from one another during vulnerable moments, especially as Liv gets increasingly caught up in the allure of a liberating foreign adventure.

At the drop of a hat, simple bar conversations become imbued with razor-wire tension, perfectly embodying the notion that in women’s lives, there’s a thin line between a road trip movie and a horror film.

The Royal Hotel is a step up from The Assistant.

Ursula Yovich and Hugo Weaving in "The Royal Hotel."
Credit: NEON

Green’s last two movies make for an intriguing back-to-back case study. The Assistant, which casts Garner similarly in the role of an observer, has its protagonist react to the odd and uncomfortable environment created in the office of a powerful film executive (implied to be a Harvey Weinstein type, though he never appears on screen).

It’s effective on occasion, especially when Garner’s eponymous assistant comes face to face with a ruthless, borderline sociopathic HR head played by Matthew MacFadyen. But for the most part, it seeks to capture the way working in this helpless environment infects one woman’s daily routine. At times, it’s molded in the vein of filmmaker Chantal Akerman, and her observational masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles — the appearance and technique of which The Assistant borrows heavily, though it pales in comparison to its inspiration. 

Where The Assistant plays like a mere impression of Akerman, The Royal Hotel is much more spiritually in line with Jeanne Dielman, whether by accident or intent. Green’s latest couldn’t be more different from Akerman’s 1975 feminist landmark in style or subject matter — Akerman observes her character quietly moving through her own kitchen at a distance; Green frequently makes the edges of the frame close in on Hanna in a foreign locale — but they’re strikingly similar in spirit, capturing the slow and volatile buildup of impositions and indignities that eventually boil over into striking violence. The Assistant, on the other hand, simmers at a constant temperature.

However, The Royal Hotel is also marred by an over-eagerness to wrap things up in a neat, cathartic bow that ends up constricting it. Its conclusion doesn’t feel entirely befitting of the nuance and substance it captures prior. Like Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, it’s another example of a film whose desire for cinematic justice pushes it to a strange and blinkered place, where its version of feminism transforms from a bristling portrayal of the contours of gendered violence to a “Fuck, yeah!” fist pump. The too-tidy ending sweeps any lingering discomforts under the rug, in favor of a distinctly white feminist vision of retribution.

While the movie’s climactic images are incendiary in nature (and are best left unspoiled), they fail to be truly provocative. The only challenge The Royal Hotel presents by the end is regressive in nature; where it seeks to symbolically dismantle one power structure, it simultaneously upholds and embodies another: that of Western colonialism. While it attempts to get around this by conveniently removing its Aboriginal characters from its purview, simply ignoring its own racial implications doesn’t mean they cease to exist. Not when the ripple effects of Liv and Hanna’s actions have direct consequences for Carol’s ongoing plight at the hands of white men — a victimhood that isn’t treated as worthy of the same rigorous cinematic inquiry as theirs. Which is a shame, considering the fine-tuned artistry at play for about 90% of the preceding film.

The result, despite Green’s deft tonal control and masterful genre transformations, is a victory that rings hollow at a moment when artistic precision matters most. 

The Royal Hotel was reviewed out of the Toronto Film Festival. It opens in theaters Oct. 6.

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New S.O.S. initiative online rating system targets teen safety

Social media, search engines, and gaming platforms would be rated in new rating system of S.O.S. initiative created by experts with advocate Kenneth Cole. Illustrated version of a girl being handed a phone that's emanating a red cloud.

Imagine letting a child or teen to see a movie without any guidance about the film’s appropriateness for their age. You might settle into an animated feature that surprised you and your 8-year-old with nonstop profanity. Or discover that the action flick your 13-year-old watched depicted graphic sex.

Parents typically like to avoid exposing their kids to inappropriate content and count on movie and TV ratings, however imperfect, to help them do exactly that. But as mental health advocate and fashion designer Kenneth Cole argues, parents have no such resource or guideline when it comes to the internet, which is where their kids and teens spend a significant amount of their time.

“We allow them to exist in this treacherous space with unfettered access to content anywhere, put out by anyone,” Cole told Mashable.

That’s why Cole, founder of The Mental Health Coalition, has convened a group of expert advisers, including in mental health and online safety, to create a “first ever” rating system across social media, search engines, and gaming platforms.

The Safe Online Standards for Kids’ Mental Health (S.O.S) initiative launched Thursday with the ambitious goal of developing tested safety standards for youth and young adults ages 13-24. The multiyear project will begin piloting standards next year and aims to implement them in 2025.

Dr. Dan Reidenberg, a suicide prevention expert helping to lead the initiative, told Mashable that while there have been improvements to online youth safety features, much more work needs to be done. One area that he said deserves more attention is the ability of youth to direct message each other with bullying, violent, or threatening content.

Reidenberg noted that eventually standards could be developed around technology used to detect and block such content, and perhaps prevent it from reaching the intended recipient. (For many years, Reidenberg has served as an unpaid adviser to major tech companies on features to improve youth safety.)

Reidenberg and Cole both emphasized that the initiative doesn’t consider tech the “enemy.” Instead, they hope to work in partnership with major tech companies, which they characterized as lacking common standards followed by the industry at large.

Cole said that it’s “unreasonable” to expect the companies to adopt a best practice if their competitors decline to do the same. Ideally, he added, the companies subject to the standards would embrace them uniformly. In Cole’s opinion, while the companies might see screen time decline upon following the standards, a universal approach would prevent a loss in market share.

While household names like Google have been supportive of the initiative, Cole said, it is not being supported with funding from tech companies, nor have the expert advisers declared related conflicts of interest.

Tech companies may be keen to join the initiative as a gesture of cooperation, particularly as they look to retain the protection of a longtime federal law known as Section 230. The provision largely immunizes the companies from responsibility when their users post inappropriate or violent content, or when they harm each other.

Reidenberg said that the initiative would consider every aspect governing online safety, including Section 230.

“I think we need to look at everything,” he said.

In the future, Cole said there could be an enforcement mechanism created by legislators. Currently, a patchwork of state laws aim to enhance online youth safety; some of those bills have been challenged by tech companies. Proposed federal legislation would, among several measures, impose penalties for companies that expose children to harmful content and crack down on advertising to minors.

The initiative’s launch comes in the wake of a Surgeon General advisory on the risks and harms of social media use, as well as new guidelines on social media use issued by the American Psychological Association.

Among the initiative’s experts are Dr. Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer of the American Psychological Association; Dr. Matthew K. Nock, a Harvard University psychologist and researcher; and Larry Magid, CEO of the nonprofit Connect Safely.

The Mental Health Coalition includes members such as The Trevor Project, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Child Mind Institute.

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A Guide to Disney Parks Halloween, More Holidays, and the Frozen and Zootopia Lands

Holiday trips to Disney Parks make the best core memories and Halloween kicks off the end of the year vacation fun with spooky goodness. From now until new themed land openings inspired by Frozen and Zootopia abroad, fall festivities lead the way to end of the year Disney destination trips.

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Rivian CEO suggests leasing is coming soon, unlocking $7,500 EV tax credit

You may soon be able to lease a Rivian electric vehicle. Rivian’s CEO, RJ Scaringe, spoke about leasing and how it could unlock more price incentives for customers at Morgan Stanley’s 11th annual La

The post Rivian CEO suggests leasing is coming soon, unlocking $7,500 EV tax credit appeared first on Top Tech News.

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