April 10, 2010

#072: We Live In Public 3/10

We Live In Public is a 2009 documentary about Josh Harris, one of the many nerds that got rich during the internet & tech boom of the 90's. While he is an interesting character, this doc fails to put together a cohesive narrative. In other words, the story seems pointless. Enjoyed parts of it, but will give it a weak 3 out of 10.

I had never heard of Josh Harris, and most likely neither have you.  This film tries to paint him as an important and influential figure during the rapid rise of the internet.  I never quite bought it, but I cannot deny this guy was smart.  He had good ideas, and the knowledge to turn them into cash, and a lot of it.
Lots of these young entrepreneurs that raked in the dough ended up losing it in one way or another.  What makes Josh Harris interesting is how he chose to spend his money.

In New York City, in the late 90's, he set up a "hotel" that was rigged with hundreds of cameras.  It wasn't a hotel at all.  It was a bunch of bunks set up in a warehouse that was transformed into a small self-contained city.  He began interviewing people to stay at his hotel.  They didn't need any money.  He would provide everything.  They just had to agree to have every minute of their lives recorded.  The feeds were broadcast over the internet.  It was a huge experiment and he was the man behind the curtain pulling the strings.  It might seem he had invented the first reality tv.  Most of the stuff that went on in the hotel definitely couldn't be shown on national television.  He had created Big Brother with no rules, goals, or conclusion.

The hotel section of the documentary was pretty interesting.  Sadly, it was under-explored. When it was over it felt very anti-climactic and irrelevant. I wanted to know more, but it is left in the dust and we continue to follow Josh's life after the internet bubble burst and into the 2000's.

A lot of the things Josh Harris chose to do in his life didn't make much sense or seem to have a point.  As I am watching it play out I begin to realize that this film shares those exact same qualities.  A documentary doesn't have to have a story in the traditional sense.  However, it does have to have a sense of general direction.  The audience has to feel like it is going somewhere.  I never had that feeling and in the end I was left shaking my head.  It was all just kinda... lame.

This doc is available on Netflix watch instantly.  If you have that, it is probably worth firing up and seeing if you like it. If you don't have Netflix instant it will probably be somewhat difficult to get ahold of this film.  It doesn't warrant any effort on your part to track it down.  Just forget about it and move on.  You really aren't missing out on much.

Filed Under: ,