Hank’s Recommendations 01/22/13

hank_paperEND OF WATCH — This movie, the title of which suggests multiple meanings, offers some somber shading of the mainstays of the buddy-cop film. It offsets cliches with fine acting and, at times, riveting suspense.

Jake Gyllenhaal (JARHEAD, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, ZODIAC, OCTOBER SKY) and Michael Pena (TOWER HEIST, THE LINCOLN LAWYER, SHOOTER) show good jocular chemistry as they prowl their beat in the notouriously dangerous South Central district of L.A. On their watch they often watch themselves, playfully and sometimes clandestinely filming their encounters with felons, drug dealers, gang bangers, murderers—as well as those who simply need their help. The playfulness is no doubt compensation for their quite sober and sometimes life-saving professionalism. Whether the camera style is cinema verite or fixed, it doesn’t prevent us (or them) from keeping an out for what’s just around the corner. While not a path breaking film, we’re with these two characters all the way: this is an eminently watchable film.

In the wake (so to speak) of the scandal regarding Notre dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake online dead girlfriend, the movie (and subsequent terminology) CATFISH was often mentioned in the news. According to the New York Daily News, the term refers to enchanting someone through the Internet—reeling them in through an escalating torrent of emails and social media messages: in short, “catfishing” is engaging someone in a fake relationship online.

In the spirit of full, enlightened disclosure, here is my review of Catfish.

IMPERSONATION AND OBSESSION:

CATFISH — Web TV, a combination of computer and TV—internet surfing on your TV set—is all the talk these days, at least by manufacturers and programmers looking through rose-tinted glasses (some are no doubt 3-D) at the future embrace of this format. The idea of this combination has at least taken hold in some movies.

The movie Catfish is about a group of young men having fun social networking on Facebook—in this case establishing long distance “friendships” with a precocious twelve year old oil painting prodigy, her mother and much older beautiful sister. Photographs appear on the men’s computer screen, along with many paintings in the mail, and eventually a vicarious sexual relationship develops for one of the guys with the older sister. Until, that is, these computer-savvy guys happen to discover a couple of disturbing anomalies in the women’s ongoing “narrative.” And so they decide to take a cross-country trip to visit the family and see who they really are. It’s here that this combination of the web and TV takes on the gripping drama and suspense, the poignancy and scariness we might associate with many a good mainstream film, providing a cautionary tale for our time, and concluding in ways we don’t anticipate, no matter our filmic or computer savvy. This is an absorbing movie, not simply about Facebook (such as THE SOCIAL NETWORK), but actually utilizing its process on screen to dramatic effect. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is about Facebook. This absorbing movie uses its process as part of its impact.