Friday, August 26, 2022

If You Like Documentaries...

[I review some new documentaries: "The Princess," "Trainwreck: Woodstock '99," "The Most Hated Man on the Internet," and "The Tinder Swindler."]

 

The Princess (2022)


Marking the 25th anniversary of her death, a look back on the life of Princess Diana.

There have been many books, movies, TV shows and documentaries about Princess Diana in life, and, also, since her untimely death at the age of 36, but what sets this latest documentary apart is the fact that it contains no talking heads, no dramatizations and no narration, just the chronological telling of her story since her engagement to Prince Charles, using nothing but reportage, news coverage and various comments from the public and media.  After Princess Diana's and Charles' wedding, one commentator said that this is what fairy tales are made of and fairy tales end with "And they lived happily ever after."  Well, not this time.  In fact, right after the wedding as Prince Charles helps Diana out of the carriage, he already does not look happy. No need for narration.  The footage speaks for itself.

Of course, now we all know this was a marriage of convenience for him.  He was in love with another woman.  I

Despite a bad marriage, Diana was able to mature into an accomplished woman, a spokesperson for AIDS and leprosy patients, children, the disabled, the homeless and she also helped in the call for an international eradication of land mines, something her son Prince Harry has also taken on now.

This is Diana's story through the media coverage that hounded her, and some say, contributed to her death.  She began as a shy young girl whom everyone loved. During the 80's, when England was in a recession with cultural unrest, support for the monarchy was at 50-50.  When Diana entered the picture, it became 80-20. But then as Diana matured, she upstaged Charles and created upheaval in what was a constrained and strait-laced monarchy. She became a problem for the monarchy, and thus began her love-hate relationship with the press. As much as the press loved her and needed her, they also villified her.  One commentator actually said she was a monster. 

Did this documentary reveal anything about Diana that we didn't already know?

Not really, not for me anyway, but I am one of those devotees who stayed up all night watching the hearse take her casket to Althorp, crying all the while.  But the documentary did include news coverage I had never seen.  I knew that people in the UK and the U.S. took Diana's death hard but didn't realize people were crying all over the world. And the lack of talking heads and narration creates an eerie foreshadowing. Without anyone saying anything, it is easy to see the cracks in the marriage just from the news reporting.  An example?  Just one hour after bringing baby Harry home from the hospital, Charles hops in his car and heads out to play polo.  And who was in the audience?  Camilla.

Written and directed by Ed Perkins, this documentary shows that now, 25 years after her death, Diana still casts a huge shadow.  So amazing that one woman could have such an impact on so many, that so many who had never met her would feel an emotional connection to her. I certainly felt that connection.  I wrote a tribute to her early in my blogging career ("Remembering Princess Diana").  For some strange reason, I found it comforting to know she was in this world that I, too, inhabited, even though we didn't know each other and existed thousands of miles apart.  I still think of her and feel sad we no longer share this world together. From this documentary, I see I was not alone in that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it was sad to relive Diana's story knowing how it would all end.  I cried once again, but I was also happy to be reminded of how, despite the odds against her, Diana went from a naive 19-year-old to a force for good in the world.  She deserves to be remembered. (HBO)


Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 (2022)

The sequel to Woodstock 69.  Don't I always say that sequels suck?

Well, I might not say it exactly like that, but I don't like sequels.  This time it's not a movie sequel but a sequel to a success, an almost once-in-a-lifetime event, and what happens when you get dollar signs in your eyes and try to recreate it.

Remember Woodstock?  Even if you don't remember it, you have probably heard of it.  Michael Lang was the man behind that 1969 music festival, where almost 500,000 people showed up and they all got along, they embodied peace and love.  Well, Lang tried to recreate Woodstock in 1994, which was supposed to be a 25th anniversary of the first one, and it was a failure because it rained every day.  So, that didn't work?  Let's try it again, but this time let's call it the 30th anniversary.  Well, that one didn't work, either. It was a riot - literally.

For Woodstock '99, a three day weekend music festival, Friday started out okay with 250,000 kids attending the festival which was set up at a decommissioned military base (no bucolic farm setting this time), and it was hot, hot, hot with no shade provided.  The concession stands were all privatized, and no one was allowed to bring in food or water and the concessionaires were charging huge amounts of money for food and water ($4.00 for a bottle of water which would be the equivalent of $7.00 in today's dollars). Korn was the headliner on Friday night. Needless to say, they riled up the crowd. 

By Saturday, it all starting falling apart. 

The toilets were overflowing (again, sanitation had been privatized and they just weren't up to it) and trash was everywhere.  One of the volunteers, a woman who had attended the original Woodstock, took it upon herself to go around handing out garbage bags and asking the kids to clean up.  The reply?  "I paid $150 to come here, you clean it up."  The infrastructure in place just could not support the people.  The attitude of the concertgoers was that if the venue didn't care, why should they care?

While Lang and his cohorts were being interviewed and cluelessly basking in what they deemed a successful festival, outside, 1000 people were being treated for heat stroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion, there was no shade, there was price gauging going on by the concessionaires, no one was dealing with sanitation and there was little security.  

By Saturday night, everyone was really pissed off and the concert goers started throwing things at the tower where the MTV coverage was taking place, and when people realized they could do whatever they wanted with no consequences, all hell broke loose. 

When Limp Bizkit came on Saturday evening, lead singer Fred Durst didn't help matters.  He really enjoyed ramping up the crowd and instigating them to go wild, so by the time Fatboy Slim came on chaos had taken over and he had to be lead off the stage.  By Sunday, women had been molested, the showers didn't work, the toilets were overflowing, mud was everywhere (and I won't elaborate on what was actually swirling around in that mud), and there was a riot going on. Now water was $12 a bottle. 

But the festival went on. Sunday night the Red Hot Chili Peppers came on to end the festival - Flea was naked, of course - and there was a rumor that someone really big would come on last as a surprise- the Stones? Michael Jackson?  So when it turned out the final act was handing out 100,000 candles for an anti-gun vigil and that was it, the festival was over...what?  No Rolling Stones? No Michael Jackson?  No surprise artist to end the festival? That's it?  After everything we have had to put up?  So with no way to protest, what to do?  Well, let's tear the place up. And look, we have lighted candles. Okay, let's start some fires.  And that's what the kids did. It didn't help that the last song the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed was the Jimi Hendrix song "Fire."

An animal mentality took over. That's what happens when people are treated like animals. It was "Lord of the Flies," except with 100,000 pissed off kids who had no way to protest their bad treatment. The vendors were vandalized, the sound towers were brought down, the trailers were set on fire and anyone associated with MTV was a target (they had to hide or get the hell out of there). Then the trailers exploded and the State Troopers arrived.

Mic drop. 

But not in a good way.

So what went wrong?  

Was it using a decommissioned military base with no shade, instead of a bucolic farm setting?  Was it not letting attendees bring in food or water and then selling the concessions to a private company that overcharged for food and water?  Or was it selling the event to Pay Per View where the cameras filming the event encouraged bad behavior?  Or was it Lang's lack of awareness about new bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, angry bands that can really ramp up a crowd and not in a good way?  Was it good old-fashioned greed? It was probably all of those things together that sent this concert spiraling down with rape, rioting, fires and explosions. 

This is an engrossing tale of what can happen when people are treated like they don't matter.  It's also a tale of greed and incompetence. There are some dynamic musical performances, but it's the antithesis of the first Woodstock.

The first Woodstock was all about The Peace and Love Generation - 500,000 people who gathered together to smoke pot, make love not war and listen to music.  Nothing bad happened.  Woodstock '99 was the MTV and Pay Per View Generation, all about ecstacy and greed.  Never the twain shall meet.

Rosy the Reviewer says...you know what they say about trainwrecks, right?  You can't look away and you won't be able to look away from this three-part Netflix series that reminds us that when you have an initial wonderful success, forget the sequel.  Sequels suck.  (Netflix)



The Most Hated Man on the Internet (2022)


The story of Hunter Moore, the self-proclaimed "Life ruiner."

This three-part docuseries is the story of Hunter Moore, the man who created the website isanyoneup.com, a site that encouraged people to post "revenge porn."  It's logo?  "Thank you for being evil."  And this guy really was. He not only hosted the pictures but linked them to the social media pages, the emails and sometimes the addresses of the subjects. He would also get people to do outrageous things on his site, a sort of porn meets "Jackass."  I won't even get into what he had a girl dubbed "Butt... Girl" do.

In January 2012, Moore published a topless photo of Charlotte Laws' daughter, 24-year-old Kayla.  Kayla had never sent the picture of herself to anyone, so it came to light that Moore was hacking peoples' accounts.  Law decided she had to go after this guy. Don't mess with a mother! And don't mess with a woman who wrote a book ("Meet the Stars" under the name Missy Laws) about how to crash the parties of the rich and famous. She had moxy.

Laws was able to get Moore to take the image of her daughter down, but she wasn't done with him.  Now she had a mission.  She wanted to help the other women whose images had been hacked or put up on the site by a jilted lover.  By February, she had spoken with 40 of Moore's victims. She tried to get reporters to tell this story but she was told there was no story (what)?  

Meanwhile, Moore was getting attention by appearing on talk shows, and when he appeared on the Anderson Cooper show confronted by a couple of his victims, he came off as an a**hole, but that didn't seem to matter. What is the expression about publicity? There is no such thing as bad publicity.  Moore became even more famous, especially with his followers, who called themselves "The Family."  Fitting, because Moore likened himself to Charles Manson, which should tell you something about this guy.

Many efforts from various people and groups were made to stop Moore but he just kept going.  He capitalized on the media attention and went on tour, hired for parties across the country.  What went on at these parties is not for the faint of heart. 

All of this publicity and activity finally caught the attention of the FBI and Charlotte was able to share all of her sleuthing with them.  But even when the FBI is involved, the wheels of justice move slowly.  Yes, it was discovered that Moore was indeed hacking accounts, but did he get what he deserved? You decide. 

But there is a sort of redemptive epilogue. The producers said that Moore initially said he would take part in the series and then declined, but they "decided to use his image anyway."  Touche!

However, one can't help but wonder how many other Hunter Moores are out there on the Internet.

This is a fascinating documentary about the underbelly of the Internet and a really bad guy who didn't seem to have any concern or empathy for others.  When asked if he felt bad for these women whose images were plastered all over his website, he said, no, he felt nothing. They were like emojis to him.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to know how your accounts can get hacked, this is a tutorial.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I don't even know this guy but after seeing this docuseries, I hate him too! (Netflix)


The Tinder Swindler (2022)



"One little swipe can change your life forever."  That's for sure.  Especially if you meet the wrong person on Tinder. 

Meet Simon Laviev, supposed billionaire's son.  Meet three Scandinavian women who made the mistake of swiping right on Simon, who ended up swindling them.  Simon was no catfish.  He existed and actually wined and dined these ladies in Paris, took them for rides on his private jet and literally charmed the pants off of them.  And then something happened to his credit cards and he, uh, needed a little help from them.

So how was Simon able to pull off the rich man scam?  

Why, the old Ponzi scheme, of course.  While wining and dining a new woman, he would be leeching off of earlier women. He would wow the new mark on the first few dates, and wouldn't ask for money until about a month of wooing. Then he would have some hard luck story about a temporary money squeeze, could she please lend him some money? Then, when he would get the money, he could continue his lavish lifestyle. 

But then Simon meets the wrong woman, a woman who discovers the scam and is really pissed. She partners with another of Simon's victims and they decide to take him down! The first half of the film is testimonials from the women he swindled.  The second half focuses on how Simon was tracked down. Turns out Simon had been writing bad checks and swindling people since he was 18 and he was wanted by the police in several countries.

It's shocking how gullible these women were. But as P.T. Barnum once said, "No one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."  These women in the film weren't Americans but you can extrapolate that quote to entire populations who believe in the glitz and glam and overlook the lack of substance in a person. You can read into that what you want.

So does Simon get his just desserts?  Not exactly.  You will have to watch and find out.

Rosy the Reviewer says...written and directed by Felicity Morris, this is a fascinating true crime story that reminds us to beware of men who seem to be too good to be true, especially if they ask for money! (Netflix)



Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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