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what i watched last week

Catfish (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2010). I’m not going to reveal any of the narrative of this movie; if you ever watch it, you deserve to come to it cold, as I did (I had no idea beforehand what it was about). The film can be taken in a number of different ways … you might find the protagonists charming (lead Nev Schulman has screen charisma) or you might find them obnoxious in an old-school frat boy manner. You might find the story engrossing … you might find it misleading … you might think it is both. I think most people will ultimately find the movie untrustworthy, although that is not a value judgment, just a comment. Me, I thought it was all of those things, charming and obnoxious, engrossing and misleading, certainly not to be trusted. Yet a beautiful character emerges in the film’s final half hour, and while I’m not going to tell you which person it is, I think you’ll know who I mean if you see the movie. I know I haven’t said anything concrete here, but in this case, that is appropriate. And it’s only 87 minutes, so even if you don’t like it, you won’t have wasted too much time. 7/10.

Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, 1994). Phil Dellio had this at #21 on his Facebook list. I’m a big fan of Zwigoff’s Ghost World, and I'm old enough to have been reading Zap Comix when they first came out, so it is to be expected that I’d like Crumb (even if my favorite underground comic artist was S. Clay Wilson). What I liked best about the film was the insight it gave into the creative forces that drive Crumb’s art. And it allowed Deirdre English to present a reasoned critique of Crumb (she is far less pompous than Robert Hughes, who speaks in Crumb’s favor), although I admit that “Joe Blow” is one of my very favorite Crumbs, and while English makes a good case against it, I wasn’t convinced. The problem with the film is also what makes it fascinating: Crumb’s family, in particular his brothers, Charles and Maxon. Charles Crumb is an intriguing person with serious emotional problems (we’re told at the end of the film that he committed suicide a year after doing his interviews for the movie). He provides depth to the portrait of his brother, giving a sense of what R. Crumb escaped from with his art. But I’m not convinced he really wanted to be a part of the movie, which gives an unpleasant sheen of exploitation to the project. 8/10.

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