Currently streaming on Netflix is the doc An Honest Liar from co-directors Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014, the film also won the Audience Award for best feature at the AFI Docs Festival that same year. The doc was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised just under $247k (almost $100k more than its goal) and it tells the life story of famed magician/scientific skeptic James Randi. Inspired by the work of Harry Houdini, Randi became a skilled escape artist (here he is escaping a straitjacket while being suspended by his ankles over Niagara Falls) before retiring from magic and devoting his life to investigating those who claim to have psychic/paranormal powers.
As its title indicates, the primary theme of An Honest Liar is deception. Randi bases his life’s work on the idea that deception is a double-edged sword that can either be good or dangerous. When used transparently for the purpose of entertainment, it’s the former. When cloaked under the guise of psychic/paranormal powers, it’s the latter. The film is at its most exciting when it details some of the larger figures that Randi has proven as being fraudulent (he deserves some sort of prestigious medal for his investigation of “faith healers” such as Peter Popoff). It’s most compelling, though, when Randi is forced to confront his own illusions in the film’s moving, albeit slightly jarring, final 25 minutes or so. If you’re a Netflix subscriber who enjoys docs, An Honest Liar is not to be missed.
All sleight of hand aside, let’s get to this week’s Top 5: