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Friday, September 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 55.0° F  Fog/Mist
The Daily
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Mama Madison: Facebook's instant nostalgia fix
The neighborly film festival idealizes the moments of our lives

Normally I'd be pretty excited about checking out the 2014 Oscar-nominated documentary shorts that are screening at Sundance this coming week. There's always been something about fact-based film -- the artfully edited portrayal of real life -- that has appealed to this movie maven.

Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.

I was immediately sucked in from the moment I clicked on my very first flick. I had forgotten how stinking cute my girlfriend's baby was when he was six months old, and what an adorable toddler and then preschooler, he had grown into. It was a refreshing break from the winter-that-would-never-end to revisit precious pics of her annual family vacations up north, everyone looking so tan, healthy and happy. I loved being reminded of how charming her older daughter had been at that first gymnastics tournament a couple years back, standing on the podium, receiving a highly coveted silver medal.

Watching the "Look Back" was so enjoyable that I clicked on another. And then another.

Forget the polar vortex. I had slipped into a video vortex, a Facebook Movie binge. I watched movie after move filled with other people's birthday parties, brisses and baptisms. I re-witnessed first tooth losses, first place ribbons, high school graduations, and homecoming dances. I loved everything about these little "documentaries," even the syrupy, inspirational music.

About the 20th montage in though, I started to realize that these films I was inhaling weren't really documentaries at all. Sure, the events documented real events in my friend's families' lives. But I was just viewing the highlights reels. In the Facebook movie world no one has red-eye, gets cut from the soccer team or eats at anything less than a four-star restaurant. Where's the C on the report card? The zit? The drive-though McDonald's with kids screaming for more McNuggets from the backseat?

Even my own Facebook movie kind of felt like realistic fiction to me. Based on those 60 seconds, you'd think I spent most of the past six years singing karaoke and going to Obama rallies. Somehow on Facebook, my hair is never too frizzy and all three kids are always smiling with their arms around each other. And based on my own "Look Back" you'd think my kids were nothing but clever. Yes, they do say a lot of funny things. But it's not like I am ever posting the frequent times they tell me (but in more polite terms) to go to hell.

So I guess if it's real life I'm looking for in cinematic shorts, I'll need to head over to Sundance after all. And I can plan to take a serious, but flattering, selfie while standing in line to get my popcorn and cappuccino and upload it with a thoughtful meditation on the vital importance of documentary film.

Maybe it will make next year's "Facebook Finest Moments" montage.

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