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Phoenix Film Festival Review: Randy Murray's The Joe Show

Joe puts on a show.
Joe puts on a show.
Randy Murray Productions

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio can't carry a tune.

Yet America's toughest sheriff sings both the intro and outro to Randy Murray's documentary The Joe Show. Bordering on funny and sickening, he starts the show with a poor take on "My Way," made famous by Frank Sinatra. For the finale, Joe takes a stab at "Fame," the title song from the 1980 musical.

"I'm gonna live forever" has never sounded like such a threat.

These tone-deaf gimmicks illustrate the gist of what's in between: that Arpaio's zest for attention trumps all else.

See also: Clark Gregg's Trust Me Is a Hopeful Look at Cold-Hearted Hollywood

The documentary was met with groans and gasps during a sold-out screening at the Phoenix Film Festival.

It details the many scandals and stunts that anyone keening tabs on the sheriff will recognize: the walk-a-con, chain gangs, the birther stunt, inmate deaths, millions raised (and millions mismanaged), re-elections, and the resulting headlines.

But its interviews with Joe supporters, haters, and observers provide interesting new context for Arpaio's transgressions.

Ted Nugent voices support. Same goes for Steven Seagal. Larry King essentially calls Joe a villain but balks when asked if Arpaio's racist.

Arpaio's media coordinator Lisa Allen acknowledges that while her boss is "addicted to the media," it's not in a classic narcissistic way. "He's a media hound. So what?"

Allen spews a few more gems that would be funny if they weren't so upsetting. When asked about Arpaio's invitations for members of the media to interview and film inmates participating in chain gangs, she says that the inmates can't be embarrassed or humiliated; being on TV is the best part of their day.

 

Then there's Arpaio, who says, among other things, that it is amazing what he's able to do, say, and get away with. He's aware that he's powerful because he's recognizable. And he knows that to stay recognizable he has to stay in the news.

The Joe Show delves into Arpaio's love-hate relationship with the media. He ranks local news stations based on who has been nicest to him, chit-chats with Sean Hannity (his "favorite"), and has no qualms about his beef with New Times.

New Times co-founder Michael Lacey makes an appearance to discuss his and fellow co-founder Jim Larkin's 2007 false arrests, which Arpaio orchestrated after Lacey and Larkin wrote a story detailing grand jury subpoenas that were issued for New Times documents related to Arpaio stories -- and the IP addresses of readers who looked at such stories on the New Times' website.

Ultimately, the film hinges on the 2012 county sheriff race in which Arpaio faced off against Paul Penzone. Of course, we know how that story ends.

The film took home the Best Documentary award from the 2014 Phoenix Film Festival. And for good reason. It's a hard look at a man whose manipulation of the public is both savvy and sinister.

Regrets? Sinatra admits to having a few.

For Joe, there's just one.

He says the one thing he'd do differently is run for governor. That way he could run for president.

That final curtain has to close sometime. Right?

See also: The Joe Show Documents a Measly Sheriff's Rise to Celebrity and Power-Abusing Tyranny

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