Fooled Ya – Ten Hoax Movies

In honor of both Lance Armstrong admitting his Tour de France victories were a sham, and Manti Te’o getting caught up in some weird catfish-nonsense about his online-girlfriend, it seemed a good time to run out a list of movies you could draw from to program your Hoax-themed film festivals this weekend.

10.  I’m Still Here (2010), Dir. by Casey Affleck

Yeah, so remember that part where Joaquin Phoenix said he was quitting acting to be a hip-hop artist, and then had Casey Affleck document it?  Turns out that was just a joke.  Thank god it was, too, otherwise you’d really have to worry about Phoenix’s sanity.  But hey, he had a great comeback in The Master which, even if the movie has puzzled me, he was good in.

9.  The Amityville Horror (1979) Dir. by Stuart Rosenberg

Yeah, so remember when the Lutz’s bought a house they basically couldn’t afford and claimed it was haunted and that’s why they moved out?  And that was also why a previous resident went on a murderous rampage?  And then they turned that story into a book and a movie?  Turns out there were basically lying.  Although, I don’t give a damn about truth, because the movie still freaks me out.

8.  Blair Witch Project (1999) Dir. by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Okay, this movie wasn’t so much a hoax by any of the participants, but for a while they weren’t going out of their way to make it know it was fiction, either.  And honestly, it’s a good thing they didn’t, because playing up the truthiness of the story – like what I did there, dropping in some Colbert on ya? – it covered up the fact the movie was basically about 75% boring, the main characters were pretty much insufferable, and the only mildly-interesting-yet-completely-predictable part of the movie came at the end.  If there was a hoax at all here, it was that the movie was scary.

7.  Argo (2012) Dir. by Ben Affleck

Come on, who doesn’t love a movie where the main characters basically create a fake movie, all because it’s the only way they can think to get hostages out of Iran?  Even better, people think the movie is the god’s-honest-truth about what happened even though it’s basically based on a true story and when necessary, dramatic license had to be taken.  Still, that a plan like this even worked, in any way at all, says volumes about the willingness of human beings to believe any story they’re told, as long as it comes attached to a movie.

6.  Shattered Glass (2003) Dir. by Billy Ray

Oh yeah, remember that hot young writer for The New Republic, which likes to think of itself as the ‘In Flight Magazine of Air Force One’?  The one who wrote about the debauchery at the CPAC convention in 1997, which basically showed conservatives as a bunch of out-of-control hypocrites?  Well, he definitely made that article up.  He also definitely made up some others.  Turns out 27 of 41 he wrote contained fabrications or were entirely created from whole cloth.  Oops.

5.  Catch Me If You Can (2002) Dir. by Steven Spielberg

What can I say – Frank Abagnale Jr. was a living hoax.  But played as charmingly-smooth as he was by Leonardo DiCaprio, who cares?  Admit it, you’d totally let that guy rip you off.

4.  Melvin and Howard (1980) Dir. by Jonathan Demme

Would you believe the will Howard Hughes was alleged to have left, giving Melvin Dummar 1/6th of his fortune, was ruled a forgery?  Sure, I’d believe that.  But given Hughes’ eccentricity, I’d just as likely believe the will was 100% genuine.

3.  The Hoax (2006) Dir. by Lasse Hallstrom

Just to prove how much people will believe about an eccentric recluse – this time, it’s Howard Hughes again – consider this: when Clifford Irving claimed to have actually collaborated on a genuine Hughes autobiography nobody thought he was lying, experts included, even after the eccentric recluse appeared by telephone to debunk it.

2.  F For Fake (1973) Dir. by Orson Welles

Ostensibly a film about Elmyr De Hory, and based in some part on a book by Clifford Irving – yes, the fake biographer from the film Hoax – it’s really hard to sum up F For Fake in an cohesive way, because of the various threads that run through it.  But though hard to summarize, it’s never a jumble or a mess.  In fact, it’s downright mischievous.  In the end, all I can say is there is truly a magic and art to hoax-making.

1.  Catfish (2010) Dir. by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

You remember that online relationship you had, that turned out not to be exactly what it was?  Yeah, that happened in this movie.  You also remember the documentary that nobody really believes was a documentary?  Happened to this movie, too.  But who cares – if the movie’s good, does the truth matter?

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