Review: Catfish by Jamie

I thought long and hard about whether or not to make this review spoiler free or not and, in the end, I came to the conclusion that not mentioning spoilers would make this film particularly difficult to write about so yes, there will be spoilers in this review. Due to the nature of this film I would heartily suggest that you go and watch the film before reading further. To make sure that you don’t accidentally read anything that will spoil the film for you, I’ll place a video underneath this paragraph.

Hahaha, that never gets old. Yes, there’s nothing quite as funny as a chimp sexually violating a frog. It’s true what they say, they’re so like us. Anyway, on with Catfish then. I assume that we’re all finally on the same page here, all having watched the film. If you decided to read on anyway without watching the film then I guess that’s up to you. I can’t stop you.

The film begins in New York when professional photographer Nev Schulman receives a painting of one of his pictures from Abby Pierce, an eight year old from Michigan. Nev begins an online friendship with Abby and, by exension, Abby’s family including Abby’s mother, Angela, Abby’s brother Joel and Abby’s older half-sister Megan who Nev takes quite a shine to as they chat online and via phone calls.

Nev’s brother Ariel and his friend Henry Joost begin documenting Nev’s relationship with the family, in particular his developing romance with Megan. It turns out that Abby isn’t the only artiste in the family and that Megan herself is quite the proficient dancer and prolific songwriter. She sends him copies of songs she has recorded and he is quite impressed. Impressed, that is, until he finds that the songs have pretty much been taking from YouTube videos. This leads to the guys investigating some of the other claims the family have made.

For example, Megan had claimed that they had purchased a gallery in order to hold shows for Abby’s work and had sent them pictures of the building. Through some online sleuthing they discover that the building is actually an old JC Penney’s which is actually still up for sale. Determined to find out the truth behind the story of the family, the filmmakers decide to head out to Michigan to confront the family.

The first place they head to is a horse ranch which Megan supposedly owns in the middle of the night, which actually turns out to be quite a creepy scene. Upon arriving they find that find that no one is there and there is certainly no sign of any horses. Furthermore an investigation of the mailbox reveals that it’s full of postcards which Nev had sent Megan on his travels proving once and for all that the British door-based letter slot is far superior than the American mailbox system.

The next morning the three guys decide to just show up at the family’s house. There they find that Angela and her husband doesn’t look anything like their Facebook pictures, Abby isn’t an artist, Megan is no where to be found and Angela is in fact a housewife who cares for two disabled sons and is the actual person behind the paintings. The filmmakers come to the conclusion that it is Angela who has essentially fabricated an entire life on Facebook, creating fictional profiles for a large network of family and friends and that she is, in fact, in love with Nev

Nev eventually gently confronts Angela about all this and the truth finally comes out. The last half hour or so of the film is spent basically interviewing Angela and her family in order to try and get some kind of handle of just who she is. It’s revealed through these interviews that she basically carried out the lie in order to vicariously experience a life she had given up on in order to have the family she has now. During most of her interviews, Angela is seen making a sketch of Nev. When everything is all over Nev returns to New York where he finally receives Angela‘s portrait of himself.

So yeah, that’s basically the film. And it’s a well told story with many interesting turns and twists and you never really lose interest but by far the biggest question surrounding this film is it’s veracity. Are the events pictured real or is it all an elaborate hoax. It does seem as though things play out so nicely that it’s almost unbelievable but I’ve let documentaries slide for that before, the fantastic ‘King of Kong’ being a good example.

Still, there’s something else that just drives me to believe that the whole thing is fabricated and that’s the way people speak, especially the three filmmakers. It just seems to me as though they are saying things that they had planned out and trying to make it sound natural. I’ll admit this could be simply due to the presence of a camera. I’ve seen people just talking about stuff and coming off completely differently simply because they are being filmed. Still, these guys just come off so unnatural to me that I have a hard time believing that the film is a true documentary.

There’s also a scene where they’re talking about chickens and apparently none of them knew that chickens lay one egg a day. Really? Are you shitting me? Who the fuck doesn’t know that? I know that they live in New York but surely they must have learnt that at some point in their lives. The whole thing, again, comes of as something written that they thought would be a wacky little conversation because seriously, I refuse to believe that there’s anyone who has heard of chickens that doesn’t know that they lay an egg a day. I mean Jesus fucking Christ!

Ahem. Whether or not the film is real there are a couple things that just rubbed me up the wrong way. The first is the unrepentant douchebaggery of the three main characters. They just seem so smug to me that I just found them genuinely annoying and I was kinda glad that they’d been played for fools. The second thing is the style of the film. Something about how heavily it relied on the internet imagery pissed me off as well. Yes, I understand it’s a documentary about people meeting and forming relationships over the internet but do I really need to see Google Maps every time they go travelling? And I swear this film had showed Facebook more fucking times than ‘The Social Network’ did. It just seemed as though they were saying “Look! The internet exists and we’re using it a lot in our movie! Aren’t we current and up to date!” It just irritated the hell out of me and I realise that’s more my problem than the films but still.

Despite these flaws, it is a interesting story, true or not, about the perils of relationships with strangers over the internet and one which is certainly relevant right now what with the release of ‘The Social Network’ and Mark Zuckerberg being name ‘Times’ man of the year. Yes, 2010 was the year of Facebook and ‘Catfish’ is another part of that. Overall I’ll give it 3 out of 5.

Chick Flix With A Dick: Mamma Mia! by Jamie

I hate fucking ABBA. Their music is really only appropriate in two places, at a wedding party and at a New Years Eve party. In other words when people are massively, massively, massively drunk. When our pub had a jukebox I had my own personal ban on ABBA. If one of their songs came on when the Jukebox was on random play I demanded it was skipped. I did let it play if someone had actually paid for it. I may be a dick but I’m not that much of a dick. Besides, those times were thankfully very few and far between.

Which surprised me to be honest because this film, this fucking film, did better at the box office in my hometown of Braintree, Essex than ‘The Dark Knight’ did. Apparently this town is filled with repressed ABBA fans, glad for a film to come out featuring their music so that they could sit there in the dark cinema where people might not recognise them. So yeah, thanks for that Braintree.

In fact a quick check of the internet reveals that Mamma Mia! Is the highest grossing film of all time in the UK. Yep, we had an empire that once spanned the globe and now we’re going mental for films based around the songs of a 70s Swedish pop group. Rule Britannia indeed.

Anyway, back to this movie. It basically tells the tale of a woman and her daughter who run a villa on an island for some reason. The daughter has met the boy of her dreams and intends to marry him. There’s one problem though. She’d really like her father to give her away at her wedding but because her mother was something of a slut in her youth, she has no idea who her father is. She finds her mother’s diary and sends invitations to three potential fathers, without telling her mother, and waits for them to arrive. They do and shenanigans ensue.

Now, as I previously stated, I fucking hate ABBA but today I found out that I actually hate something more than their songs. It’s their songs sung by people who can’t sing. This was like watching a bunch of drunk people on a bad karaoke night. A really bad karaoke night. Except that I was watching it at work so I couldn’t drink. Dear God, I’ve never wanted a drink so bad in my life.

Well, I suppose that’s a little unfair. Meryl Streep ain’t bad. Not great but not bad. Still, the worst offender when it comes to aural raping is Pierce Brosnan. What the hell are you doing man? You were James Bond for fuck’s sake. You were the James Bond I grew up with, for better or for worse and now your singing ABBA songs whilst making a face that makes it look as if you’re trying to cough up a tortoise.

But it’s not just the singing that’s bad either! Some of the actors in this film are the worst I’ve seen outside of a B-Movie in many a year. In particular I’d like to say that the guy who plays Sophie’s fiancée Skye is a terrible actor. He was so wooden and insincere that I thought that he was being played by some kind of sarcastic puppet.

Oh, and another thing. Half the dialogue in this film seems to be delivered in some kind of strange, shrieking language that I’m fairly sure only women can understand. If you are going to do such a thing then you should probably have included subtitles for those poor bastards who got dragged along to see this by their wives and girlfriends.

Now, there were a couple of times when the film elicited a chuckle out of me. One was when a drill was used as a euphemism for a penis, telling me more than I wanted to know about exactly what childish level my sense of humour is at. The other was at the image of Pierce Brosnan dressed as a hippy. That was kinda funny. There was also one scene which I thought was kinda cool for a split second. The guests at the daughter’s hen party are looking over some kind of cliff ledge and a bunch of people are crawling up it. For one sweet second I thought it was some kind of zombie attack and I thought wow, people kept this twist quiet but alas, it was just the bachelor party on some kind of panty raid. I was sorely, sorely disappointed.

Perhaps the point where the movie really stretched the limit of believability was when all three potential fathers figured out the reason that they were invited out of the blue. They all came to the conclusion individually that they were the girls father and she wanted them to walk her down the aisle. However, they had all spent quite some time together at this point and they all knew that the other two had received equally mysterious invitations. How the fuck did they not realise that the other two were there for exactly the same reason and that Sophie hadn’t yet figured out who her actual father was? That’d be the first thing that came to my mind.

Perhaps the best thing about this movie is the fact that I watched Tremors directly before it. Man, Tremors is such an awesome film. Kevin Bacon is at his finest and you really believe that him and Fred Ward have worked together and been friends for quite some time. And who doesn’t love crazy survivalist Burt? And the Graboids still look fucking good even by today’s standards. Sure you can sometimes see the strings used to operate the tentacles in some scenes but it just adds to the charm of the movie. One thing that does confuse me though is the DVD cover. Seriously look it up now. I’ll wait.

Ok, you back? Right, what the fuck is that creature on the DVD cover with all the teeth and stuff? That looks nothing like the Graboids in the film. It just confuses me. Anyway, overall I’ll give Tremors four pints out of five.

Wait, what? Mamma Mia? Oh fine. I give Mamma Mia! one glass of white wine out of five. And you wanna know what the worst thing is? There is one ABBA song, one song that I can kind of stand. That song is Waterloo. Not sure why I don’t mind it. Maybe I’m just OK with songs based on historical events. Anyway, it’s not fucking in the film until the end credits. I kept thinking, oh just suffer through, at least Waterloo isn’t the worst thing in the world and they must have included it and then it turns out you have to watch the entire fucking film to get to it. And it takes place during this bizarre credit scene where Meryl Streep and her two friends yell at the audience asking if they want another song. Waterloo then follows filled with some of the most embarrassing dancing I’ve seen outside of a wedding reception… Which I guess is appropriate. Still, it well wasn’t worth it.

Fuck, this film has put me in a bad mood for the rest of the goddamn day. Still, if people like this kinda thing, and apparently they do, then it does give some hope for my planned film ‘Snooker Loopy’ featuring the music of Chas and Dave. Laterz.

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