Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Catfish

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer

    May 9, 2003
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    Studio: Universal/Rogue Pictures

    Year: 2010

    Length:  1 hr 28 mins

    Genre:  Documentary

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    BD Resolution: 1080p

    BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

    Color/B&W: Color


    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps)

    French DTS 5.1

    Spanish DTS 5.1

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

    Film Rating: PG-13 (Some Sexual References)

    Release Date: January 4, 2011

    Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

    Film Rating:    2 ½/5

     It would be almost impossible to discuss Catfish without spoiling its secrets, so I’ll give the quick version here and then the next paragraph will be for those who want a more in-depth description.  The movie purports to be a documentary about the online relationship between Nev Schulman and a little girl’s family he encounters on Facebook.  It was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 and was acquired by Universal for distribution, hence its release last week on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD.

    SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH:   Okay, now that we’ve got the basic description out of the way, we can begin to deal with the controversy around Catfish.  What we’re looking at here is an assembly of high definition footage created by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost around the Facebook friendships of Ariel’s brother Nev with a Michigan family.   What drives the picture is Nev’s curiosity about the many impossible contradictions and outright falsehoods put forth by members of the family in their messages to him – particularly the older sister of the little girl whose paintings started the whole ball rolling.  The deeper Nev looks into the rabbit hole, the deeper the hole gets, until both Schulmans and Henry Joost are driving into Michigan to find out what is really going on here.   And it’s when they get there that the real point of the documentary becomes clear – and it’s something that I won’t even spoil here.  But I will say that it is a little more gut-wrenching than you might expect, and it is a sobering reflection on the ability of people to create alternate identities and realities in the online world.   The controversy around the film has centered around an understandable belief that the whole thing was staged for the cameras.  I don’t hold to that.  I do think that some scenes clearly have been staged, particularly what look like reenactments of Nev receiving bogus materials and emails, and a suspicious bit where the trio encounters a mailbox in Michigan containing several letters and materials sent by Nev to his online pen pals.   But the crucial later scenes of this piece, which clearly are the basis for making the documentary in the first place, feel quite genuine to me.   What I think we’re looking at here is a hybrid of the real footage and some reenactments which have unfortunately spoiled the wine for many people.  But the point of the exercise is well-taken, and I don’t believe that it’s a false one.  In the end, the piece is a meditation on not only truth and fabrication, but on how people deal with the choices they have made in their lives.  I think it’s an interesting one, although not one that I’d wish to revisit any time soon.

     Catfish has been released on DVD and Blu-ray last week.  The Blu-ray includes a 1080p VC-1 transfer, a DTS-HD MA sound mix, and a single extra – a staged mutual interview between the Schulman brothers and Joost in high definition..  Aside from this, the Blu-ray includes the usual Blu-ray functionality, including  BD-Live, pocket BLU and the My Scenes bookmarking function, as well as D-Box functionality. 


    Catfish is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer that is a bit limited by the HD cameras used by Schulman and Joost in making this piece.  It is attractive enough during the daylight and well-lit scenes, as well as the occasional computer graphics.  But night scenes understandably show very little, and the limited lighting resources available for the crucial late footage leaves them looking a little harsh.  I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.


    Catfish is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, along with DTS mixes in French and Spanish.  There’s not a lot for the mix to do, given that most of the film consists of conversations between two people, which pop up in the front speakers.  Of course, there’s plenty of songs and music also played during the film, which gives the surrounds something to do from time to time. 


    The Blu-Ray presentation of Catfish comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity, pocket BLU, D-Box and My Scenes functionality, along with a single special feature made specifically for this title.

    Secrets Revealed: Exclusive Interview with the Filmmakers (25:06, 1080p) – This is a mutual interview conducted between the Schulman brothers and Joost, wherein they talk about the movie and the various rumors that have circulated about it.  There’s nothing fancy here – the guys just hold index cards and sit on stools, discussing how they made the movie and occasionally justifying their actions in doing so.  They continue to insist that the documentary is factual.

    BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. 

    My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.

    Pocket BLU– This phone-related functionality is available for viewers with the right cellular equipment.

    D-Box– The usual D-Box functionality is available for those viewers who have this equipment.

    The film and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu. 

    IN THE END...

    Catfish is an unusual Blu-ray release in that it really is neither fish nor fowl.  I ultimately found it to be an interesting experience  with some poignant thoughts about humanity and identity.   And the Blu-ray does the best it can to present this ultra-low-budget movie in the best possible way.  I leave it to the readers to decide if they wish to rent this title for themselves.

    Kevin Koster

    January 12, 2011. 


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