Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dope Island: A bigger Catfish to fry


At one of my part-time jobs the other night a guy asked if the Ayn Rand adaptation ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART 2 was available on DVD yet. I said I didn't think so. Then, after a moment's reflection, I told him that according to Rand's principles of Objectivism, he really should have been able to learn that for himself - not be a burden to me and my rugged individualism.

Really, I'd been waiting something like four-and-a-half years to use that Ayn Rand joke I dreamt up. Four and a half years for that moment.

Conclusion: My life blows. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll turn out to be just a FaceBook hoax, so the dumb Cleveland existence won't have to hurts so much.


Of course, the alleged FaceBook hoax everyone is talking about isn't me, alas, but that supposedly perpetrated on Heisman Trophy winner Manti Te'o, whom I am given to understand is an athlete in some kind of game called football. Loses most of my interest right there (this town is Browns Town, yeah, right), except that the name of the trick sprung on the jock-in-trouble-du-jour is called "catfishing."

Where that reference derives seems to be the only thing not discussed at length in the cyber-drama. Catfishing, as a social-media imposture, derives from a 2010 Universal Picture release that was really big about three years ago at the Sundance Film Festival (which I sometimes wish were a social-media hoax itself). Even with the buzz it generated at the time, I'll still bet that more people have been following the Te'o catfishing than have seen CATFISH. Fortunately I got a look at it, and here's the report.

It's a fairly suspenseful, if misrepresented, "reality thriller" that I did have to wonder if it would not have endeared itself to Universal so much if its premise hadn't approached some of the raunch-fulfillment of that same studio's loathesome AMERICAN PIE franchise before suggesting a steamy-erotic-stalker-genre vibe. In the feature, handsome young NYC photographer Nev Schulman is being lensed by his filmmaker-brother Ariel and their fellow roommate Henry Joost. If the backstory is to be believed, the Schulmans and Joost were doing a DIY documentary on the life of a pro photographer when what happened proceeded to transpire.

Nev becomes an online crush for what looks like an entire family of successful and desirable females in Michigan (hence my AMERICAN PIE conspiracy theory). The hunky shutterbug is enticed by e-mails, phone calls and gifts from one daughter who seems to be Lolita-esque art prodigy, and from suggestive entreaties by the mom, who is model-gorgeous in her FaceBook pix.

This goes on despite - or because of - foreboding clues that not everything about these ladies is what it seems ("They are complete psychopaths!" says Nev, detecting one falsehood). So the trio of New York City males do what any trio of New York City males would do (I guess), which is trek to Michigan to check the online facts and unravel the truth.

[SPOILER ALERT] Sure enough, a swanky regional art gallery the mother supposedly runs is a vacant storefront. A horse farm connected to the household is just a mailbox. While there are some elements of truth, the family of high-achieving sex bombs turns out to be an elaborate World Wide Web fantasy, concocted by a stoutish, middle-aged, tragedy-burdened housewife, whose husband is on disability and whose son was born with birth defects. Naturally, she wasn't expecting Nev and his entourage to turn up on her porch.

But nobody gets hurt in the end by all the no-sex, lies and digital-video. And one has respect for the filmmakers, who forgive the ruse and philosophically accept the object lesson in social-media fakery and deceit like real gentlemen. Or...is that just what they want you to think?

The title "catfish" comes from a throwaway line uttered by the husband (who seems to take the whole thing with enormous good humor). So, should "catfishing" enter the Oxford English Dictionary, this is the film what done it, and you might want to check out CATFISH yourself. As for ATLAS SHRUGGED, parts 1 or two, I have no experience, and shouldn't you Objectivists just read the novel anyway? Seriously, my Ayn Rand bit was terribly clever, don't you think? Still, my life blows.

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