Archives for March 2011

Catfish

Rating: ★★★★☆

Was it staged? Was it scripted? Was it re-enacted? Is it real? Is it fake? Is it a mixture of both? Would it be ironic if the makers of this film employed the same tactics as their subject by presenting us with something that isn’t entirely what we were hoping for? The only people who know the absolute truth to these questions are those who are directly involved in its production, and I will leave it at that.

Surely, many have their theories and opinions regarding its authenticity. That includes me, but to dwell on that subject primarily would be a waste, for there are many things about “Catfish” that we can be sure of. What we have here is an example of exploitation of the Internet. Have you ever been stalked, or even worse, spammed, on Facebook? This is creepier.

Nev Schulman is a photographer in New York who lives with his two best friends, who are filmmakers. In late 2007, Nev discovers that a little girl from Michigan, named Abby, has been drawing paintings of Nev’s photos. Because they are far apart, they communicate through the Internet. Nev gets to know Abby’s mother, Angela, and her 19-year-old sister, Megan. Soon enough, a long-distance relationship is formed between Nev and Megan, and they long for each other’s company. Can we, in some way, relate to Nev? How many of our Facebook do we really know?

Megan’s existence later becomes doubtful to Nev, and with rolling cameras, he and his friends investigate. I can only tell you that they will find something. But, once found, the truth itself is not completely shocking, but rather it is how these people respond to each other that cause interest. What kind of people would go to such an extent to be able to do what they did? Why did they do it? If real, why did the cameras keep rolling? If fake, why tell it at all?

There is one person in “Catfish” that is a voice for many of us. The revelation of this person’s motivations within the social networking world will cause us to question our own. How do we use these advantages, and why? Can we accomplish things in the cyber world that we failed at in this life? I think it depends on the goal, but for some, the mere illusion of accomplishment is enough, and that gives them security, or a hobby, or a lover. (And what about the filmmakers? Did they continue filming because they wanted this person’s voice to be heard, or did they just wanted footage?)

We can ask so many questions about “Catfish”, (Is it REAL?!), but the only answers we can find are those we can relate to ourselves. One day, maybe later, you will have a friend request. Now ask yourself, “Do I really know this person?”

You Again

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Thirty minutes into “You Again”, and a soft, lonely voice within me whispered, “You again.” This is a movie we see every year, a clichéd comedy composed of stupid people who are concocted by the idiotic nature of its screenwriters too lazy to think of better characters. The only advantage of this film from its equally unfunny counterparts is that this is actually occupied by capable actors, who unfortunately fail in the end. How they convinced Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Betty White to join the cast, I will never know.

Even the gorgeous Kirsten Bell is too good for this. She is a charming young lady who can also act (which can’t be said for all the charming young ladies in Hollywood), but all she is required to do is here is trip off ropes, fall of hills, and break plates. I’m pretty sure all household pets could do that, and I’d bet any self-respecting Labrador would turn this role down, but she’s agreed to be here anyway. May she find better use of her charm in future roles.

In this role, however, she starts out as a loser, named Marni (Bell). And because she is in high school, she will have to have braces, dorky eyeglasses, and a face full of pimples, because this is what makes a loser if you’re in high school. Marni is literally carried away from the school doors by a group of pimple-free teens, led by her arch nemesis, Joanna. The scene plays out with Queen’s “We are the Champions” playing in the background, because champions like Joanna have no time for losers like Marni. This is immature, but then again high school is a place where immaturity thrives along with the hormones, and you can pardon that.

We fast-forward a few years later, and we see Marni with straight teeth, clear skin, and eyes free of dorky glasses. She has changed so much that she is almost as pretty as the actress Kirsten Bell. Marni is also successful and is just enjoying a big promotion. You’d think she’d be happy about her bright status, and forget about her dark past, but no. When she learns that Joanna is marrying her brother, and when we learn that Joanna’s Aunt (Weaver) has also has some unfinished business with Marni’s Mom (Curtis), well, let’s just say that this is the part I heard that soft, lonely voice.

Between these women will be acts of immaturity that could even surprise Jerry Springer. We can’t really figure out a legitimate reason for their actions other than they are only there to stall the inevitable, and that is the moment where everyone learns to love her enemy. At one point, the four girls dance with a male to a Britney Spears song. Mother and daughter try to out dance Aunt and niece, which leads to bodies bumping into one another. Right.

Once the stalling is complete, and the inevitable next, we are then taken to monologues where our ladies have realized their faults, and are, in an instant, mature human beings. Thanks to “You Again”, one thing I now know, and that is you should never try to insert drama after failed comedy. That’s like trying to include the music of Queen and Britney Spears in the same movie.

127 Hours

Rating: ★★★★★

Aron Ralston is currently a known author, public speaker, and mountain climber. Prior to all these achievements, he was a piece of flesh stuck between a rock and a canyon. “127 Hours” is the thrilling and horrifying movie about Ralston, his ambition for adventure, his painful accident, his right arm, his will to live, and his cheap, Made-in-China multi-tool.

Before Ralston stumbles upon that loose rock, we see him always moving. On his feet, inside his car, riding his bike, the man refuses to stay still, which must have made things all the more difficult for the man who cuts his hair. These moments are accompanied by Danny Boyle’s eminent style of directing. I am not sure how to describe it, but it can sure make the sight of James Franco riding a bike feel exhilarating. Through the right use of quick cuts and split screens, Boyle signifies the wild nature of Ralston. He keeps moving, and moving, and moving, until he slips, and comes to a halt. Here we go.

What is to be witnessed from that point on is both an achievement in filmmaking and a triumph in humanity. The movie “slows down” as Ralston remains stationary, but it is here where “127 Hours” and Aron himself become most compelling. He is now trapped by himself, with few supplies, in the deserted canyons of Utah. I have never been stuck in a canyon before by myself, but I believe the most terrifying thing here is the thought of never being found alive.

As he continually fails to release himself, Aron undergoes physical, emotional, and mental drainage. He has eaten every ounce of his food, and is depending on the few milliliters of water he has to keep him alive. When that finally runs out, he recycles his urine in desperation, if you get what I’m saying. Throughout the movie, Danny Boyle makes us stay with Aron. We are asked to share his burden and thoughts, his grievances and frustrations. Somewhere around the movie’s midpoint, you might feel guilt as you gulp down your cold, abundant beverage with your hydrated, free arms.

In his “break” from moving, Aron has no choice but to settle down and, think. Here, he thinks about what he’s done, who he is, and who he is to others. He thinks, hallucinates, and thinks some more until he figures out his reason behind his predicament. Early on, he knew what he should do to free himself, and it is an act almost unthinkable and surely unbearable. He never actually does it for these reasons until he uncovers his ultimate motivation, and that is redemption from the imprudent decisions of his past. This leads to the movie’s most harrowing and gripping moment.

Today, Aron Ralston claims that he has regained a life more than he has lost a limb. What a guy. We could learn a lot from this man, and I’m not just talking about safety lessons when exploring deserted canyons.