HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – Radioman Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)


Directed by Mary Kerr

Tickets are still available for May 5, 4:15pm: CLICK HERE

Have you ever wanted a movie with Tom Hanks, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Robert de Niro, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis and many more actors together? This doc is the closest we’ll probably get to Movie: The Movie ever being made. Those actors never appear together in scenes but individually they do share a screen with the titular Radioman, born Craig Castaldo. Radioman is a legendary figure who’s almost the best kept secret of both New York and cinema since, as Robin Williams estimates, the former probably has a longer CV than the latter (his iMDb profile doesn’t do his extensive work justice, and it’s my fake life ambition now to be a Radioman completist and watch all of his movies).

The movie showcases Radioman’s frankness. Williams also tells director Mary Kerr about Radioman calling stars ‘movie whores’, while the latter at one point hilariously questions Robert Pattinson’s Beatles-like fame and yells when Sean Penn wins his second leading actor Oscar. But he mostly does all of these in a way of good natured ribbing. Radioman assumes a rapport with these celebrities, the latter either genuinely nice to him and his company or are just forced to be nice because most celebrities don’t want to be seen as the snobby stereotype assigned against them.

Radioman is aware of his image and tells the camera how other New Yorkers don’t know him and assume he’s homeless. He’s not, he’s a stage-three hoarder who probably makes decent money as an extra. But he sees his image as a brand and that, for example, if he doesn’t have his trademark boom box necklace or bike, his actor friends would ask him why he doesn’t have those things on certain days. He believes, and it’s probably true, that he would be a nobody if he didn’t have these things as well as keeping up the dirty homeless man appearance.

The movie’s plot line is skewed, showing him as an overinflated, deluded extra to his humiliation in the Oscar season where he travels and is ignored in LA. The former happens between creation to 2011, when movies like The Dictator are being shot and are set in NYC. The latter takes place in 2009. We can interpret this trajectory in many ways. We can see this as a showing differences between two cities; that actors working in New York are more open while the LA scene is full of starlets shuttling themselves away from him and verbally abusive paparazzi. It also shows a culture more predatory than that in the east coast, where autograph hunters take advantage of celebrities and treat them as disposable goods as opposed to him who sees them as friends.

Nonetheless, they could still have chosen the more naturalistic time line, escaping the shitty LA scene and finding himself back with his ‘friends’ in NYC.  It’s as if the movie, culminating into his Oscar party snub, aims to show him how insignificant he is. I don’t necessarily mean that that’s not untrue but it still feels mean to see this anyway. I’ve been critical about this year’s trend in documentaries where directors don’t judge their subjects no matter how harsh they could potentially be. I take my words back, adding that I never want to see a movie this harsh against their subjects.

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