Tiger King Season Two: Series Overview

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

All of the supposed Tiger Kings and Queens are back for a follow up.

The biggest question I have for this show after watching it is did we need the second season at all? What did it add? In many ways, it just showed us more of the same and doubled down on a lot of the themes and narrative through lines of the first season. Including more of the unethical issues that many decried the first series for, to see an example of what I and others are talking about consider the issue of bias within the second season of Tiger King. There are clear heroes and villains in the overarching narrative of the show and this is less to do with who is or isn’t guilty but rather who the public latched on to. Yes, I am talking about Joe Exotic. The second season is incredibly in love with him, and decides to ignore his rather obvious animal abuse charges and instead paint him as some kind of falsely accused, for the murder for hire plot, folk hero whilst painting all of his enemies even the ones not convicted of any wrong doings as villains. You can see why Carole Baskin didn’t want to come back.

In the sense of a true documentary this series is and always has been an abject failure. It does not care about the truth but rather what is the most entertaining narrative, as such it is more akin to reality TV. It is in this sense I come to my review score because whilst this season did not need to exist I did find it entertaining whilst it was on, I enjoyed the roadshow as much as anyone else so whilst I can stand here and say it is bias therefore it is a bad documentary series, I think it is already aware of that and doesn’t care.

Furthermore, in some ways this second season provided comfort to me as we got to see a lot of the worst characters from the first season go to prison, or be on their way there, which restores some of my faith in humanity.

Overall, though it was unneeded and incredibly bias, I did still enjoy my time with the series.

Pros.

Dumb fun

The absurdity

Seeing some of the cruel animal abusers facing consequence

Cons.

The clear bias

It was needless

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Operation Varsity Blues: Matthew Modine Rocking The Bowl Cut

Written by Luke Barnes

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is a drama documentary film based on real events, told using dramatic recreations and talking head interviews with those involved. The film explores the issues surrounding the college admissions scandal that saw a number of rich and in some cases famous people face jail time after bribing college officials to allow their children entry into the most prestigious universities in the United States.

Much like Netflix’s Fyre documentary this film will see you laughing and taking a small amount of joy out of seeing these privileged people be reminded that the rules do apply to them, and that they can’t just do what they want.

Also much like Fyre this documentary is fairly trashy and salacious, making sure to cram in and shame as many famous faces as it possibly can during its runtime, which is not inherently a bad thing more so it places this film firmly in the category of junk food documentary.

Something that bothered me about this film is the way they structure the ending sequence. As is fairly common practice the ending of a documentary usually features some text about ongoing events or updates that have happened since filming. This film decides to list the legal sentences that each culprit got instead, which is a novel idea, however, where it goes wrong is that in some cases certain people hadn’t been convicted or tried by the time of filming, and as such when the film shows them in the end credits it just says how they pled and not the conviction, which becomes jarring and confusing quickly.

Another thing that is quite confusing about this film is the use of recreations and talking head interviews, as we will be shown the real perpetrators on screen in an image but then for the purpose of the film be shown an actor standing in for the person, as they clearly didn’t want anything to do with the documentary, this again becomes confusing. More so when the film starts to blend the lines of based on true events drama and a standard documentary.

Overall, Matthew Modine sinks into his role as the mastermind of the scheme, Rick Singer and there is a lot of interesting and infuriating fun to be had here, however, several artistic choices hurt the film and I think the concept as a whole should have been better refined and adapted, the talking heads and the recreations together don’t work.  

Pros.

Modine

Trashy fun

A few interesting points raised

Cons.

An incomplete ending

The format doesn’t work as the recreations frequently clash with the talking heads

2.5/5

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Beware The Slenderman: A Look Into The Dark Heart Of The Internet

Written by Luke Barnes

Beware The Slenderman is a documentary directed by Irene Taylor, centring around the internet creepypasta figure of Slenderman, and the real world nightmare that saw two young girls stab one of their classmates multiple times in an effort to appease the fictional being.

I remember when I was a teen and Slenderman was all the rage, it was a huge moment in internet folklore history. I think the idea of a shared communal myth is so fascinating, and that is really what Slenderman is, an idea added to over and over again and turned into something much bigger than it began as.

This documentary is very bleak, but you knew that coming in. Tragic is the word I would use to describe the events that this documentary highlights, it raises questions around how does the content we view affect us on a psychological level and, where is parental accountability when it comes to policing what your kid watches and doesn’t watch?

I think the documentary does quite a good job in explaining what Slenderman is, they also have folklore experts as talking heads to talk about the idea of building and creating myth which I think is a truly strong choice in this regard.

I think using the girl’s families as talking heads to explain the events that transpired is both a pro and a con, it is a con in that there will inevitably be a degree of bias there especially when it is parent child as it is here, however, it is also a pro as it allows us to have a uniquely personal view into the incident.

Overall, a strong documentary that raises a number of good points and provides a thorough and well thought out investigation into internet urban legends.

Pros.

The personal access to the case

A good explanation of Slenderman and the internet urban legend

A number of thought provoking questions are raised

A solid pace throughout

Cons.

Bias creeps in

4/5

The Mauritanian: Deeply Uncomfortable, But Needed Viewing

Written by Luke Barnes

The Mauritanian is a drama film directed by Kevin MacDonald. The film serves as an adaption of the Guantanamo Diaries by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, with the plot recounting the experiences of Salahi as he was detained by the United States Government, without a charge, for 16 years in Guantanamo Bay.

This is a powerful film. Tahar Rahim’s central performance is simply magnificent; it is no wonder that it is receiving so much awards attention. Rahim plays the character in a very human way, and that is fundamental to the film. We see the torture he endures, and it makes for very uncomfortable viewing but also very needed viewing, as it causes us to rethink our society and see where we are going wrong.

Jodie Foster has a supporting turn as Salahi’s Lawyer who spends the film fighting for his release and gives almost as good a performance as Rahim, but not quite. Foster commands the screen and makes for some very memorable scenes. The acting across the board in this film is great.

My one complaint of this film is that it is a little overly long, about 80% of this film is vital and is must watch, however there are a few scenes that run too long, or could have done with being cut out to make the film tighter.

Overall, a magnificent film that makes you rethink the world and that proves Rahim as a name to watch out for on the big screen for years to come.

Pros

Rahim

Foster

Showing the torture and doing it in an impactful way that provokes a strong response#

Recontextualising history

Cons.

A few pacing issues

4.5/5

Fyre: People Have Too Much Money

Reviewed by Luke Barnes

Fyre is a documentary film directed by Chris Smith. Of the two Fyre Festival documentaries out there this is the Netflix one, which seems to be the more well praised of the two. The documentary tells the story of the infamous Fyre Festival, a musical festival on a private island that ended up tricking influencers and other minor celebrities out of millions. The film analyses the days leading up to the inevitable disasters and tries to explain who was responsible.

My, my, the things people spend money on. Some people can afford 800,000 wrist bands for exclusive private festivals while others have to choose between heat and food, what a world.

So, this is a fun documentary to watch, yes it would be sad for the people who fell pray to the scam, but to those watching at home it is a nice trashy documentary to sink our teeth into. Much like junk food we know this has no artists value, but we consume it to take a little bit of joy out of watching these entitled influencer arseholes get dicked over, no? Just me?

I appreciated that the film had talking head guests who were actually there and involved, it allowed it to feel believable and trust worthy and though they might have some bias at least they have first hand knowledge and aren’t ‘web sleuths’. I also appreciated that though there have been developments since, this film tried to package everything together into one ultimate Fyre Festival narrative.

Overall, a nice bit of documentary junk food.

Pros.

A fun watch

Sustaining junk food

Interesting and somewhat reliable talking heads

A complete story, for the most part

Cons.

It has no artistic value

4/5  

Framing Britney Spears: Justin Timberlake Is A Bad Dude

Framing Britney Spears is a documentary film directed by Samantha Stark. The film explores the ideas around the #freeBritneyMovement and the fact that despite being only 39, Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008, with her father managing her estate and finances: this film aims to understand why that is.

This will make you angry, there is no other response you can have. It highlights flaws within the American legal system that are rife for abuse, it shows how the public’s obsession with celebrities can lead to destroying said celebrities life, and finally it show us just how sleazy Justin Timberlake is; in case you didn’t already know.

I think in terms of professionalism this is a solid documentary, as they speak to knowledgeable people on the matter and stick to the facts. Unlike other recent documentaries such as Netflix’s one about Elisa Lam, this documentary only gives a limited amount of time to online sleuths and activists, which makes for a more believable watch as you are not being bombarded with conspiracy theories.

I think the documentary is very needed, it deals with issues surrounding how women are treated in our society and the additional spot lights they are placed under, it is a very saddening watch especially when considering the impacts of self-reflection on how we the viewer see celebrities, though it does end with a message of hope, which personally I needed.

Overall, a well-done documentary.

Pros

Limiting the amount of online sleuths featured in the documentary

Using knowledgeable sources that had close ties to Spears

Causing inward reflection on celebrity

Pointing out holes in the legal system

Cons.

It is too short.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Cancel Culture Debate

Written by Luke Barnes

Hey everyone, this piece will be slightly different than my normal fare and will be more in the vein of the old blog I used to run or a few of my other posts, on this site, where I share my feelings on a particular issue.

Of course I am going right in at the deep end and am writing about cancel culture.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I see people complaining about cancel culture any time I go on any, social media platform these days, honestly it is boring, so I thought I would write a piece about my thoughts on the issue and whether I think it is a good thing or a bad thing.

Well first off, the issue is far more complex that good and bad and strays frequently into grey areas. Yes, people are allowed to say what they like under free speech, but if you actually look up those laws/ rules there are actually quite strict exceptions within them. Moreover, private companies can do what they like as you are choosing to use their service and have agreed to a TOS.

Furthermore, though people may be entitled to their opinions and the right to express them, it does not mean that they are free of the consequences of their actions. As the saying goes you can’t have your cake and eat it, you can’t have, an often-bigoted, opinion and then complain when people don’t like it, by the same logic used to justify you being allowed to say what you want, they can call you out.

Now cancelling itself is a rather simplistic term and can be easily misused. There have been many times when people innocent of what they are being accused of, have been harassed and attacked on social media sometimes to the point of suicide- without the accusers having a shred of evidence. In those cases we need to take a look at what we have become and question the value of the mob on social media.

Writing this I can only think one thing, maybe social media itself is the problem. The internet has made the world hyper connected and everyone can interact now, but maybe that isn’t a good thing. Both sides of this debate have said and done bad things, things that have had a negative impact on this world, and neither can be seen as in the right. Not to sound too much like an old person who doesn’t like technology, but maybe if we all just put our phones down and focused on our own lives things would be better.

An argument can be made that those that are ‘cancelled’ in some cases feed off the attention and use it to further their own aims, so by fueling them with your online outrage you are only helping those you intended to deplatform.

Ultimately, to not put too fine a point on it, when it comes to cancel culture there really aren’t any winners, those who do wrong should face more than the internet mob, they should face actual legal charges something far scarier. We as a society are becoming ever more divided, and this is just further proof of that, the internet and social media has just become a beckon for rage and hate.

Maybe it is time to unplug?   

Misbehaviour: Bringing Down The System

Misbehaviour is a historical drama film directed by Phillipa Lowthorpe. The people revolves around the 1970 Miss World competition and the actions of a branch of the Female Liberation Movement to disrupt it and show the eyes of the world the harm the competition is doing to society.

This one is a little politics heavy, right from the off, so if that isn’t your thing don’t watch it.

Personally, I think this film makes a lot of great points about society and the balance of the sexes. It shows us the audience the predatory nature of these competitions and how the woman are treated like meat. The scene when all of the girls have to turn around in their swimming costumes and the mostly male judges spent an awfully long time staring at their arses at it is an uncomfortable scene.

This film makes you question society and the messages it creates: because competitions like Miss World were aimed at a family audience, so you would have little girls watching it and thinking the only way a woman can have value is to be pretty; which is a bad message obviously. This film really begs the question to beauty pageants and competitions have a place in 2020?

Keira Knightly as Sally Alexander is commendable, she is one of the most underrated actors working today, turning in solid performance after solid performance. This film also features Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Jennifer Hosten aka Miss Grenada, Mbatha- Raw does a great job in this film and has a strong presences throughout, her character was the first non-white winner of the Miss World Competition, and her ending serves as a true inspiration; also the conversation she has with Sally about representation vs change is fascinating to think about.

This film has Greg Kinnear as Bob Hope, as I suppose the villain of the film, he is hateable from the moment he appears on screen and when his performance get cut short it feels like a true victory.

Overall, this is an important film as watching it forces us to consider elements and aspects from our society we might not otherwise think about, this film presents us with the lessons of the past and asks us to learn from them.

Pros.

Knightly.

Mbatha-Raw.

The Message.

Something to think about.

Cons.

It is a little long and could be trimmed down a bit.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Super-Size Me: Ronald McDonald’s Day In Court.

Super-Size Me is a documentary film directed by and staring Morgan Spurlock. The film explores the role that fast food plays in our modern lives as well as asking what degree of responsibility the fast food/ junk food companies have in the rising tide of obese people in the world today. The answers hit hard and close to home.

Before I get into this review, I just want to say that Morgan Spurlock has admitted to a history of sexual misconduct and that Jared, the peado, from subway also makes a rather unsettling appearance, so be warned. While I was watching it, I managed to separate the art from the artists, so it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the film.

This film is fascinating because it tries to show where the line between personal responsibility ends and corporate responsibility begins. Is it McDonald’s fault there are more and more people becoming obese and suffering from things like heart disease? There is no clear answer as the film shows. However, it also exposes cultural practices that try and trick consumers and create a cycle of addiction; which isn’t the best look for Ronald and Co.

The best thing I think this film does is show you just how important the fast food industry is as well as how baked into society it is. People are conditioned to think a certain way about it and even crave it, even though it is slowly destroying their bodies. I think it is almost impossible to watch this film and not rethink eating fast-food; even if that thought is only fleeting. The film does such a good job convincing you and winning you around to its viewpoint that it is very hard to argue against.

Overall, a reverting documentary that asks a lot of hard questions about our relationship with food, highlighting what it can do to us if we are not careful. A cautionary tale for sure.

Pros.

Fascinating.

Not afraid to ask hard questions.

Or show their answers, even if they’re unpleasant.

Will have an effect on your life.

Cons.

The people involved make it off putting to a degree.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke