September 24, 2010, - 2:00 pm
Because of Jewish holidays and scheduling conflicts, I did not review anti-Semite/Hitler fan Oliver Stone‘s movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (which is probably an anti-capitalist piece of BS just like the original “Wall Street”), nor did I review “You Again.” I will probably see both when I’m back from the Jewish holidays and Sabbath and post my reviews, as well as reviews of movies for which I did not post reviews on the day I had a bad migraine headache. But I did see “Catfish,” which has been getting a lot of buzz on the net through masterful viral marketing. And here is my review:
In 2007, Yaniv Schulman, a photographer and filmmaker based in New York took a photo which, like some of his other work, was published in a newspaper. Soon after, he received a photo of a painting by Abby, an eight-year-old girl in Northern Michigan, which looked exactly like the photo. Thereafter, Schulman, who goes by the name “Nev,” started an online, Facebook friendship with the girl, her mother, her beautiful model-esque half-sister, etc. He was sent more and more paintings and fell in love with the half-sister, with whom he’d only spoken on the phone. This idyllic family seemed so perfect. But was it? And how much did the filmmakers really know about their subjects?
Schulman’s brother and fellow videographer/photographer, Ariel a/k/a “Rel” and their partner, Henry Joost, see something going on here and decide to start filming a documentary about it. That’s a hint, right there.
The rest of my review contains spoilers, so if you are extremely naive and won’t figure out what’s going on in this movie from the very beginning and don’t wanna find out, stop reading here. For everyone else . . .
**** SPOILER ALERT ****
If you’ve been an online writer and/or web-based personality for a while, you learn to spot fakes, scammers, and put-ons very quickly. You learn to use google, to check things out, and double-check stories. I’ve had so many people try to put one over on me, but I always catch them. Sadly, even with all of these research tools at hand, some people–even people with big names whose faulty research skills are unduly respected–are stupid and lazy (like Michelle Fraudkin, who quickly and easily fell for scammer Eitan Gorlin, posing as “McCain campaign adviser, Martin Eisenstadt”–think about that the next time you read her “work). They accept things at face value and don’t think twice. In short, if you weren’t a critical thinker who questions things, you won’t become one just because there’s an internet. In fact, you’ll become easily scammed–all the more easily online.
That’s what happened with Nev Schulman, if we’re to believe he’s that gullible. And perhaps he is. Or perhaps he pretends to be to make this movie and really knows better. But I spotted what was going on in this movie from the very, very beginning. It was so obvious, I saw it a mile away and I believe that you, my critically thinking readers, would easily spot it, too.
The eight-year-old girl is never available to speak on the phone, and yet her mother and half-sister are available, though never at the same time. While the shallow and not-too-sharp Schulman is discussing having sex with and taking the virginity this voice and picture he’s never met, he’s being had. He’s a “smarter-than-thou” big city guy with a stupid tramp-stamp tattoo on his lower back, who’s been bested by a far more clever, overweight small-town woman with a very sad life.
The Schulman brothers and Joost suddenly start to question things when they realized a song the beautiful half-sister “recorded” is actually one ripped off from someone else whose song appeared on the show, “One Tree Hill.” They find other songs ripped off from professional artists on YouTube. And they decide to take a trip to small-town Northern Michigan to meet the alleged 10-year-old and her “charming” family, uninvited.
Nothing turns out as it seems, and upon seeing who this woman really is–this middle-aged overweight woman, who is all the personalities she created online, but who is nonetheless a talented artist–I felt for her and was kind of disgusted that the movie was made. The woman is the mother to two severely mentally and physically disabled twin boys. Her life is not one anyone would envy. It’s heart-breaking. And I can understand why she made up this fake life as a 10-year-old phenom artist and her gorgeous half-sister.
I don’t condone online fakery, as people try to scam me all the time (but aren’t successful). But that’s what people do online all the time, every single second. Is it unethical? Yes. But is it a crime that justified making a movie about ambushing this pathetic woman and her tough life? No way. Making this movie off of this woman’s back and embarrassing her to the world–instead of just cutting off contact with her and moving on–disgusted me, and it’s even more unethical. She apparently gave her consent or the documentary couldn’t have been made, but I felt for her, despite her internet fakery. What she did wasn’t nearly as bad as what the filmmakers did, in order to become the stars and darlings of Hollywood.
Yes, the movie was somewhat clever–if you didn’t figure it out two seconds into the flick. And it was definitely entertaining, if long and slow at times. But to me, this movie was yet more liberal Hollywood/New York disdain for small town, main street America. And the elitism long ago grew old, stale, and rancid. And that’s the bottom line here. The people who made this movie are too arrogant, too self-important and smart by half, to realize they are the idiots here.
Why is the movie called, “Catfish”? Well, the smartest thing said in this movie is uttered by the woman’s real-life, small-town Michigan working-class husband, and he says catfish were put in shipments of other fish from Asia to keep the other fish on their toes, so they didn’t get slimy and dead.
I have more admiration for the scammer catfish in this movie–the small-town Michigan woman with the fake Facebook persona–than I’ll ever have for these smug dudes who thought they’d get her by ambushing and embarrassing her on the silver screen.
TWO MARXES (entertaining but elitist and easy to figure out)
Tags: Ariel Schulman, artist, Catfish, Documentary, Facebook, filmmakers, Henry Joost, Ispheming, Michelle Malkin, Michigan, movie, Movie Reviews, Nev Schulman, New York, photo, photographers, photos, Rel Schulman, spoiler, spoiler alert, spoilers, Yaniv Schulman