Catfish

We-Live-in-Public

Last week, National Geographic debuted a three-part documentary special called The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? Although it didn’t spend a lot of time on the rise of the web, the history of that period obviously noted some of the more significant moments in the early days of the Internet’s widespread popularity. There was the dot-com bubble, the breaking of the Clinton/Lewinski scandal on the Drudge Report, the first browser war, the screech of dialup and the reason Apple started naming products starting with a lower-case i. It was a great piece of nostalgia, reminding me that this month marks my own 20th anniversary of using the Internet — an occasion I know of because it coincided with a pre-college program I attended in the summer of 1994. Also last week, the New York Times posted a new Op-Doc by Brian Knappenberger called A Threat to Internet Freedom. The short film tackles the net neutrality issue in a brief yet concise five minutes, and there’s not a better director out there for this particular topic. Knappenberger continues to be the best documentary filmmaker when it comes to presenting histories, biographies and current events and debates of and related to the Internet. In fact, his two most recent features are both among the top 10 documentaries about the Internet. Those and the eight others are all from the past 13 years, none of them produced in the ’90s, and few of them even focus on subject matter pertaining to the net during the 20th century. The further we get from the dawn […]

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Catfish

MTV’s Catfish doesn’t always save the big catches for its season finales – the first season finale centered on a tale so classic that it seemed as if it should be served with a side of fries and some coleslaw, a genuine romance marred by one half of the couple sending pictures of someone else and lying about her life (they eventually worked it out, at least for a bit), while the second season ended with a somewhat similar storyline (though this one was elevated by the revelation that the Catfisher had already run this same game on the Catfishee before) – so while we’ve come to expect blockbuster season finales from most other shows, the reality program seems disinterested in delivering that kind of television. Unless, of course, there’s a supermodel available to assist hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph as they go about their searching (read: stalking, Googling, making that Spokeo money). For last night’s third season finale, Schulman and Joseph were joined on the road (and in their investigation) by supermodel Selita Ebanks, who apparently tagged along because she’s a big fan. No, really. Catfish, a show that has never really tried to deliver a truly shocking season finale, appeared to randomly do just that – but not because of the actual story at the show’s heart, but because an (obviously very nice) supermodel wanted to come to North Carolina and Iowa and watch two people be humiliated on camera. Let’s never do this again, okay?

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SpaceCamp 2

It may not have cracked the top ten this weekend after finally entering wide release, and it probably will be left empty handed at the Golden Globes tonight, but Spike Jonze‘s Her is one of the best movies of last year (it was #4 on FSR’s aggregated top ten, #3 on resident critic Rob Hunter’s list, #2 on our best sci-fi list…) and if you haven’t seen it already, you must go out as soon as you can and fall in love with this movie about love. If you don’t already know from our coverage and praise, the futurist sci-fi film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man recently separated from his wife who rebounds with his computer’s sentient operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. That plot has reminded me of other movies since I first heard about it, and I’ve continued to recall related recommendations before, during and after seeing it. It’s not necessarily derivative so much as the next step for cinema that deals with the idea of love as a concept, what it means to be in love and how much it’s in our heads as opposed to heart and how much is really a mutual experience. This week’s list of movies to watch mostly involve those same themes, though not all. As usual, some come from connections made by others. I’ve decided to leave out one particular movie, WarGames, as it’s not about love and I already highlighted it in relation to Her in the special year-end […]

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kumare2

Is Bad Grandpa a documentary? That’s not easy to determine. There is definitely a lot of reality and real people involved in the new movie from Johnny Knoxville and the makers of Jackass (the films of which I’d say are without a doubt docs), but there’s also more fictional plot and character than truth. The documentary material is confined to a few shocked expressions in Candid Camera-type scenarios with the occasional longer moment involving genuine people. For me, the conclusion lies in what the film means to show us. If it’s a statement about truth, then it’s a documentary. If it’s just an excuse for laughs with little insight into anything real or arguable, then it’s not. Bad Grandpa is mostly a fiction with some nonfiction people roped in, not unlike Forrest Gump only with newly shot rather than archival material. To contrast it with more qualified examples, as in those with predominantly real situations, I decided to highlight some genuine documentaries centered around fictional characters devised to illustrate, provoke or prank the real world and real people. READ MORE OVER AT NONFICS

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Catfish

While the good folks in charge of programming at MTV might not have known just how bad this year’s Video Music Awards were going to be (read: pretty bad, thanks to Miley Cyrus’ complete transformation into a culture-appropriating pop art nightmare and twenty seconds of *NSYNC attempting to fire up the Nostalgia Machine, amongst so many other things), they must have known just how incredible the latest episode of Catfish was going to be. After all, they moved the episode from its normal Tuesday night slot in order to serve as the lead in to the VMA pre-show and the actual ceremony itself. The result? Approximately four and a half hours of television that left our collective jaws on the floor. Hyperbole aside, I watched just about every minute of this stuff with my mouth hanging open, only pausing to routinely ask, “what the hell is going on? What the hell is going on?” Catfish has, in only its second season, reached its pinnacle. Even though hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph already promised fans a very new breed of Catfish in the season’s second half (this news was delivered during the show’s midseason break, presumably months after the episode had been filmed, and Nev and Max still looked bewildered while talking about), there was no way anyone could have been prepared for what happened during the “Artis and Jess” episode, if only because it reminded us that reality television can still be unexpected, original, and just completely bizarre. If […]

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catfish

(Spoilers ahead for the fourth episode of Catfish, which aired last night on MTV.) Four episodes into its second season, MTV’s Catfish finally managed to put together an episode that was genuinely shocking, if only because it featured something we’ve never seen before. Nev Schulman and Max Joseph’s series has so far seen every possible permutation of potential outcomes – people who aren’t who they said they were and don’t care about their paramours, people who aren’t who they said they were and do care about their paramours, people playing pranks, people working under misguided attempts to “help” the other person, men pretending to be women, women pretending to be men, and every other situation in between – well, except for one. Catfish has never documented a relationship in which one or both parties weren’t lying to each other in some way, shape, or form. Despite the rise of Internet-based relationships and the relative normalcy of people meeting their mates online, Catfish still exists in a world where finding someone online is strange, foreign, and basically just a really cool way to get lied to and shamed on national television. Sure, it makes for great TV when people discover that their hot European vampire-loving dude is actually a transgender California girl (that happened, and it actually ended with a really sweet love connection) or that the guy they’ve been texting with for years is just some girl who was pissed off that they were talking to a shared crush (that […]

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Catfish

Last night, MTV premiered the second season opener of its erstwhile docu-reality series, Catfish, the television arm (fin?) of the tiny empire started by Catfish film star Nev Schulman that now swims unstoppably, improbably on. Like the eleven episodes before it that only focused on the couples caught in the net of Internet romance (we won’t count reunion episodes, because who would?), this episode is titled after its paramours – “Cassie and Steve.” Even if you’ve never watched Catfish, “Cassie and Steve” is a strangely prototypical episode of the show, one made season premiere worthy by its even more strangely heightened emotions and situations. Sure, Cassie is now in love with a guy from the Internet who she has never met in real life, but they are engaged. He doesn’t send her a lot of hot pictures, but they frequently have phone sex. He’s in the studio a lot because he’s a rapper/producer, but his songs sound totally amateur. Oh, and he came into Cassie’s life unexpectedly after a major traumatic event in her life. This sounds really, right? Guys? Right? Like most people who watch Catfish the show, I’m enthralled and flummoxed by the bare facts that 1) people continue to go on it, despite the fact that not a single episode has ended with both people on the other end of the modem (just go with it) being exactly who they’ve said they are and a true romantic connection that translates to the real world (a handful episodes […]

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I could probably make this review incredibly brief and make everyone happy. If you liked the first two films you’re likely to like the the third.

I wrote that review while waiting in the line for the men’s room.

Like Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel to its predecessor. It takes place in the month of September of 1988 when the two sisters of the first two films were little girls and the referenced beginning of their experiences with the invisible, kitchen furniture-hating demonic figure began. Seriously, this demon really hates kitchens. I think he hates everything but camcorders.

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Remember the salad days, when commercials tried to tell us that Paranormal Activity was the scariest movie ever made? And remember when you finally saw the film, and it had one jump-scare, and that was it? Just me? Well, we can talk about that later. It was a bit of a no-brainer that Paranormal Activity would spawn a franchise – after famously being made on the cheap, and gathering serious word-0f-mouth buzz by way of the Internet (a sort of modern day The Blair Witch Project approach to viral techniques of marketing, paired with a sense of the secretive), Paramount would have been stupid to let the “found footage” smash hit go without pushing out a few more sequels. There was Paranormal Activity 2, which served as the chocolate wafers to the cookie cream that is the Oreo that is the Paranormal Activity franchise. That’s a yummy way of saying that the events of the first film fit into the middle of the second film, making it both a prequel and sequel. Clever! Now we get a real prequel, one that goes way back to the childhood of Katie and Kristi, the sisters at the center of the mystery. Check out the second trailer for Paranormal Activity 3 after the break, which expands on the first glimpses we got of the film from its earlier teaser, glimpses that show us that young Katie and Kristi were, well, pretty damn hard to handle.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s like that time your boyfriend promised to call, but he didn’t. Then he called, like, way later and you still forgave him anyway because you love him. It’s exactly like that. Nathan Adams and Cole Abaius team up to handle the post this evening (hint: Nathan wrote the funny ones), and we lead off with some new pictures from The Daily Mail of Spider-Man swinging around in the air on wires. They mostly just look like Spider-Man swinging around in the air on wires, but I think that’s pretty cool because those last movies looked mostly like cartoon Spider-Man swinging around in the air on wires. If I wanted to see that I would just watch cartoons. I like that they’re making the effort of actually hauling some poor sap up there for practical effects.

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Criterion Files

I had the privilege of seeing the surviving Maysles brother, Albert, do a Q&A after a public screening of Grey Gardens (1976). During the discussion, somebody asked him the inevitable question regarding how the presence of the camera changed the very subject he was documenting. It’s an interesting and essential question for any documentary filmmaker to consider, especially when one is engaging in the direct verite style rather than a traditional retrospective style, because it’s simplistic for the filmmaker to consider themselves “objective” or “invisible” when putting a camera on their subject: the presence of the camera changes things. Albert Maylsles responded with an amusing story about how the conversations the brothers heard between “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” outside the house when not filming were exactly the same as when they were inside. While this is no doubt the case as the eccentric Beales would certainly “be themselves” no matter the occasion or circumstance, with all due respect Mr. Maysles’s assessment of the question was a bit too narrow. Putting cameras within the aging walls of Grey Gardens did, in fact, change everything.

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This Week in Blu-ray

Welcome to the first edition of This Week in Blu-ray for 2011. Want to know what my New Year’s Resolution was? 52 consecutive Tuesdays with Blu-ray advising for my adoring fans. Needless to say, we’re off to a good start. That is if we consider timing and completion to be the pinnacle of success with this column. This week’s releases won’t exactly blow you away, as we’ve got some very middling movies to talk about (I’m looking at you, Dinner for Schmucks, Catfish and Machete). However, there are some winners in one back-breaking horror film and a back-catalog release that will likely cause a backdraft of fireballs aimed right at your pocketbook. Does anyone else see a theme here? And why does my back hurt all of the sudden? Quick, you read the column while I go stretch.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome to 2011! The doldrums of last week have been left far behind, and the powers that be have returned from the break to release a torrent of titles onto DVD and Blu-ray. There’s nothing truly great out this week, but there are at least two titles entertaining enough to buy. There are also a couple surprising ones to avoid, but as usual the bulk of this week’s new titles fit comfortably in the nether region between the two extremes. Which of course means they should be added to your Netflix queue… Titles out this week include Robert Rodriguez’ ridiculous action romp (Machete),  Joe Maggio’s foodie abduction thriller (Bitter Feast), the other social media movie of the year (Catfish), a mediocre remake of a very funny French film (Dinner For Schmucks), and more!

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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Culture Warrior

With the release of Pixar’s Up, last year saw a great deal of conversation surrounding the ghettoization of animated movies at major awards shows. This debate resulted in something of a minor, qualified victory for animated cinema of 2009, as Up was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast, but then again it sat amongst a crowded bevy of nine fellow nominations, and animated films remain unthreatening to their live action competitors because of the separate-but-unequal Best Animated Feature Category. I’d like to take this space to advocate for the big-category acceptance of yet another marginalized and underappreciated category around awards time: non-fiction films.

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Sunday Shorts

With both Catfish and The Social Network, we’re thinking more and more about how the internet has affected our physical lives. This is not some grand revelation or big surprise considering how embedded in the culture our binary personae are – in fact, it was suggested decades ago and not seen as some sort of crazy prognostication by mad men. It was accepted as what would eventually happen as more and more people plugged in. One such prognostication came in the form of a short film from 2001 called The Parlor. It’s now more relevant and more entertaining than it was back then. And, in the interest of being mysterious (since that’s what sells films these days), I’ll rhetorically ask in big bold letters: WHAT IS THE PARLOR?

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The Week That Was

Here at the new (and soon to be improved, I promise) Reject HQ we are in countdown mode for Fantastic Fest 2010. I believe that several of our team members — the likes of Fure, Hunter and Abaius — are packing their bags and getting ready for a week of greasy Drafthouse food, movies in not English and sleeping on a floor littered with beer bottles and piles of Pepto. So the next time I bring you the best of the week in The Week That Was, I may be under the influence of peer pressure and bad food. But until then, it’s business as usual here in Reject Land. And by business as usual, I’m of course referring to copious amounts of shenanigans as we continue to bring you the best, unbiased, no bull-shit, non directorial ball coddling coverage of the film industry on the web today. We also wrote some articles…

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It’s difficult to conduct an interview about a film that no one’s supposed to be talking about, but there’s more fascinating things going on beyond the mystery of Catfish. In a closed door, password-protected session, I sat down for a lengthy conversation with directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman, and the subject of the documentary Nev Shulman to discuss how real everything was, the horror aspect, aborted plans to use Bruce Willis’s face for advertising, the list of possible titles, it’s Grizzly Man connection, and what they’re turning down the Justin Bieber biopic to make next. [Spoilers exist simply because we'll be talking openly about the film.]

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The Reject Report

The Machete Spanish title worked so well a few weeks back, we figured we should probably stick to a dialect a little closer to home this time around. Therefore, in honuh of The Town, as well the othuh fine films in contention this box office weekend, we’re shipping up to Boston, Dropkick Murphys style. It should be a fairly close race between the newbies. M Night is producing a horror film about some people in an elevator. Lionsgate’s got a new animated flick to drop bomb on us. Easy A is a nice throwback to John Hughes’s comedies. Some of them will hit the Green Monster (this week, that title denotes cold, hard cash) solid, and some will slip into the Charles River without so much as a whimper. Let’s see how it shapes up. It’s about to get wicked retahded in he-uh.

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The release of Catfish, a movie that will cause you to be beaten to death by the internet if you even mention its name, brings to mind a few movies of the recent past that we couldn’t talk about. These films were more than just big twists. They were entire experiences that audiences, in rare form, decided were too incredible to spoil for anyone. It seems we’re getting farther and farther away from that here in the Information Age, but Catfish (whether or not the hype is deserved) is a great reminder of films that gained mystique because you “had to see them for yourself.” Here are a few of those films.

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