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Okay, so I finally saw “Catfish,” the documentary indie about a guy who meets a girl on Facebook and chronicles the entire affair, including his impromptu visit to her home in Michigan.

Fair warning: there’s no structure to this review. I’m just going to jot down some thoughts I had about it.

It’s a modern film in the sense that it is entirely based on a people hooking up via the internet (Facebook in particular) and how this digital era of communication has created new and interesting ways for people to pull the wool over each other’s eyes. Despite my reservations about the film, which I detail below, somehow it felt very necessary. I think there a lot more “Catfish” stories out there than we’d care to admit, albeit with varying degrees of subterfuge, not as drastic as what was uncovered in this movie.

With that said, what bothered me about this film is the same thing that bothers me about the National Inquirer and all those media outlets that profit from other’s misfortune. On some level, this movie just smacked of a couple smart, big city hipster types exploiting the misery of this Midwestern woman who was going through a mid-life crisis and had her fair share of problems. I’m sure that they would argue that she gave her consent and that since the movie’s release, she’s sold tons of artwork and the whole experience gave her life meaning. That may be true, but I still can’t help but feel that these guys are just so smugly happy with themselves and that she is the butt of an elaborate joke. What’s scarier: that you can create fictional personas and carry on a fairly sophisticated deceit with someone thousands of miles away, or that they can document the whole thing on film and out you to the world and come out established movie makers while your life remains relatively unchanged?

In a sense, there are two cautionary tales here: one is about the vagaries of the net, the other is about this new world of electronic media where you can be filmed without your knowledge or consent and your home and surroundings can be surveyed by someone in another state with the click of a button.

Oh and P.S., since this is Indosplace where I mainly deal with curvy women and that subculture, check out the thick African American waitress they meet once they arrive in Michigan. She’s a cutie.

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Sophia Coppola's "Somewhere"

The pace of this movie is set by the opening shot of Stephen Dorff taking his black Ferarri around the track four full laps. Coppola just sits the camera on a tripod and we watch the car whiz by four times before coming to a stop. Such is the way of "Somewhere," a languidly paced but beautiful study of privilged ennui as seen through the eyes of Dorff's burned out actor, Johnny Marco. Scenes that would normally be on screen for only a few seconds are dwelled on for minutes at a time, like the charming routines of the two, blonde pole-dancing stippers that perform for Johnny in his hotel room at the exclusive Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles.
Here's what I came away with from "Somewhere": Sophia Coppola is more concerned with mood and beauty and atmosphere than the details of laying out a structured three act film or tying up loose ends. She captures the essence of places and things by not only taking her time in shooting them, but by studying details that some might consider mundane (airport announcement system, elevator chimes, street signs, etc.) but that somehow manage to capture what we remember most about experiences in such places. Her lighting choices and camera angles are just spot on.

As a story, "Somewhere" is weaker than "Lost in Translation." There is probably no more than 30 pages of dialogue in the entire movie. But if you're willing to take your time and just let this movie wash over you, as it's meant to, "Somewhere" is a moving movie going experience. It will linger in your mind after you leave the theater, and any movie that can imprint itself in your mind these days is doing something right.


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Black Swan

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called this movie "high-art trash." I think it's more of a case of Turan not being able to "just let go" -- as Vincent Cassel advises of Portman in the movie -- and enjoy the film for what it is. I don't think Black Swan is a masterpiece (as some critics are calling it), but I certainly enjoyed it. And while it's true, as Turan points out, that it is difficult to discern between the dream sequences and reality, it really doesn't matter in the long run. The movie is highly entertaining, and isn't that the point?

I should also point out that this movie has a great soundtrack.


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"Monsters" - Can You Name That Budget?

My evidence professor in law school once told us not to trust anything we read in the newspapers, that much of it would not pass the evidentiary standards used by the court system. He was a bit of cynic, but when I read the various reports of the budget to make "Monsters," Gareth Edwards' extremely impressive "indie" sci-fi thriller, it ranged from "under $500,000" to $380,000 to $200,000 to several stories reporting that Monsters was made for a mere $15,000. The truth is that the film cost about $200,000 - Edwards himself is quoted on as saying the film was made for "essentially in the very low six figures." (Walletpop, "Horrors! 'Monsters' director did it himself, didn't go broke" September 16, 2010.)

Trust me, when you see this movie and the behind-the-scenes footage of Edwards and his three person crew filming this, you will want to know how much it cost too. You will immediately be consumed by thoughts of "how can I do this too?" But don't be fooled. Edwards was a CGI tech by trade, having worked on numerous documentaries and features before making his debut. Your average person would've had to hire someone to do all those nifty effects, thereby increasing the budget considerably. Still, the movie is quite an inspiration.


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The Amercian - Virtuoso Filmmaking


At the heart of this stark tale lies the axiom "live by the sword, die by the sword."

Beautifully shot by Anton Corbijn, The American so definitively places you in Italy you'll feel you need a passport to see it.

The film has a slow pacing; no quick cuts or cinematic gimmicks. Instead what you get are precise and beautifully framed panoramas and tight shots of Clooney et al.

One scene that stands out in particular is when George Clooney takes Thekla Reuten's character to his secret hiding place to test a custom-made rifle he's built for her. A fellow assassin, Reuten just feels untrustworthy and dangerous. Maybe it's her piercing blue eyes, strong nose and flared nostrils. Whatever the case, that scene is a testament to Corbjin's virtuosity and ability to set up a tense scene without overly relying on a heavy score.

This is not a feel good movie by any stretch, but in this age of "look ma, I shot this on a camcorder," The American stands apart as a true-to-form cinematic experience. This film was crafted by industry professionals and there's no faking that.

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Dianna Agron - More than "Glee"

Dianna Agron is one of my favorites on "Glee," but what is really interesting is her blog, Fell Down the Rabbit Hole. It is a collection of eclectic and funky posts ranging in topics from music to the anecdotal (losing her car keys late one night at Barnes & Noble). What really comes thru is that this woman is not who you might expect based on the character she plays or even her looks in general. She appears to be an artistically talented, introspective young lady exuding positivity. Kudos to Agron! You've got a fan in me.

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