“No matter how smart or well-educated you are, you can be deceived,” — James Randi
Woohoo! Finally, I’ve got to see James Randi’s An Honest Liar. A documentary of life and career of the world-famous magician (also known as The Amazing Randi) and skeptic of the “superstitious woo” such as psychic powers, psychic surgery, faith healing, paranormal, crystal healers, dowsing, fake channeling, aura reading, and more across the world.
They typically have one thing in common; they’re scammers. In other words, they are manipulative human beings who want money from gullible people. James Randi has been diligently exposing those elaborate hoaxes of these scammers on television for over many years; showing how people got duped with just a slide of hands and illusions.
Philippine: Psychic surgery
If you read Carl Sagan’s book – Demon haunted world. The “Physic surgery” that became famous in the Philippines was mentioned there. Yes, I saw this “psychic surgery” on the television when I was young. As a kid, I for one believe it, and was transfixed on how it was done. Imagine you can have a surgery without them cutting your skin, then pulling some “guts” with their bare hands. Many people have been a fallen prey– vulnerable and desperate people who wanted help to cure their diseases. They are willing to pay without questioning the real medical benefits from it.
Here’s the clip:
Remember this classic, guys? hehe
The film also shows Randi’s life when he was a kid. Just like a typical kiddo, Randi was amazed by magic. It had his attention when a man made the woman float in the air. He joined the carnival and never went home.
“When I introduced myself as a magician “Good evening my name is the great Randal! I’m a liar, cheater and a charlatan. I will lie to you but for purposes of entertainment only, of course.”
For Randi, Houdini was an epitome of a great magician. I presumed every magician kind of treated him as their saving grace. Houdini started out as a magician, escape artist, and debunker, and dedicated his life to keeping people from being duped. And there was a scene in the film where Randi also did the stunts on what Houdini was famous for– being a great escape artist. A chapter in his life where he said this “If the man can make it, I could break it”
And yep, this was James Randi, his sweet escape!
Not only did he want to be like him, but It also became his obsession to escape faster than Houdini.
Furthermore, the film also focuses on exposing these two scammers:
Peter Popoff — This part is my favorite too. There are actually three ways to be rich in this country, and I guess, in other countries too — be hardworking, be corrupt, and be in the religious business. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being rich. It’s how you get there that is the question. Peter Popoff, a televangelist faith healer and had his own Tonight Show where he showed to his followers that he knows their diseases and their names. He is harming them to the point that they don’t have to go to the doctors anymore by believing that Jesus (through Popoff) has healed them.
After Popoff’s show, he ordered his assistants to get buckets, so people would put their money there. People are throwing 5, 10’s and even 20’s; because one of the things Popoff always tells them was that whatever they give, they will get it back ten fold. Taking money from the “desperate” in exchange with a false hope of getting healed :-/ That is sickeningly disturbing and made me vomit. Watch it here: Hello Petey..Can you hear me?
Randi’s friend from the stadium where the faith healing was made; noticed an earpiece from Popoff’s ear and he reported it to Randi to investigate right off the bat. Randi said a man who can heal the deaf shouldn’t be wearing an earpiece. So they decided they needed a technical help. And boom, Petey was busted. He’s guilty of lying to people for profit. James Randi had an interview where he told the world how Popoff had lied to his faithful followers.
Uri Geller — The man who can bend spoons using mind? Yes, Uri Geller is the man. He had claimed that he can bend spoons, keys etc. using his psychic power. So here comes Randi, and he knows what to do. Here it is —James Randi exposes Uri Geller . Uri Geller defended himself by saying that Standford Researchers are on his side (b’cos he tricked them in a test). By saying that, as well as saying that Randi is just a “magician” seems rational enough to many people– and still buys his shit. Yes, after his wrongdoing being exposed, there’s still a lot of willing victims supporting this guy. People who have hated Randi because of that. How come the man who was telling the truth; saving people from keeping their wallets away from the hands of a fraud, is the bad guy here, huh?
In this film, you’ll witness how people are still in denial even if the evidence were shown right before their eyes, which is very sad actually. 🙁
And that’s the way it’s always been– as long as there are frightened, vulnerable and gullible people, there will be scammers and charlatans lining up to take their money.
Above all, his relationship with his partner was quite a story. James Randi came out of the closet at age 81. In the photo above, you can see his partner of 25 years, Jose Alvarez (Deyvi Peña). I had mixed emotions on this part. I don’t want to spoil it for you so prepare tissues and all. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can judge it for yourself 🙂
He didn’t want to be tagged as “The Great Debunker”. He said that those people can still show if they really had this so-called superpower. In fact, he’s been challenging them up until now for his One million dollar paranormal challenge.
You can check out a lot of his clips on YouTube. They are impressive and delightful as you witness him debunking the fraudulent woos of these charlatans. Here are some bits and pieces of it. They are not from the film but watch it anyway.
- James Randi Exposes James Hydrick
- James Randi Debunks an Astrologer – special participation: Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) <3 hihi and Stephen Fry
- James Randi Evaluating Astrology with Students
- James Randi: Scientists Fooled by a Match Box Trick
My movie review of this film is quite late now. I wanted this to be very special for Mr. James “Amazing” Randi. 🙂 Your life is truly amazing. He’s not only known as a skeptic of the paranormal, but also an advocate of scientific worldview.
“Science has created and shaped much of the world in which we live. But constant vigilance can never be relaxed.”
In our simple society where science only takes you so far, knowledge only takes you so far, and you need something else – magic comes in to fill this.
We can’t all be James Randi, but we can all do something to bring reason and oust superstition from the world.