Tribeca Review: Memes & Nightmares


If there are two things I don’t understand, it’s basketball and Twitter… or X… whatever it’s called now. As far as sports are concerned, despite being taught numerous times the rules of different sports and playing some of them myself, none could stick with me. As for Twitter, even before it turned into the cesspool it is now, I never found any desire to engage with a platform that was mind-numbing at best and toxic at worst. I shouldn’t be interested in a documentary like Memes & Nightmares since it focuses solely on the world of NBA Twitter, but something about this documentary stood out to me for one reason or another. It was probably because the film advertised itself as looking at a story where a meme completely disappears, which I found a bit intriguing and wondered how that was even possible given the world we live in. 

Then I started to watch it. It’s not a bad documentary, but it’s… weird. In fact, I don’t even think I can call it a documentary at all. It’s a weird mix of documentary and mockumentary that blurs reality with fiction a bit too much for its own good. It tries to do a lot in its 82-minute runtime and even now I’m not sure what I even watched.

Memes & Nightmares (2024) - Official Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Trailer


Memes & Nightmares
Directors: Charles Todd, Matt Mitchener
Release Date: June 12, 2024 (Tribeca Film Festival)

Memes & Nightmares spends the first part of its runtime looking at Josiah Johnson, a popular figure in the world of NBA Twitter. He’s considered to be the king of the community and always has the hottest takes and best memes whenever any major event in the NBA occurs. At first, we look at the widespread importance that social media has on the NBA community and how it’s shaped the sport and developed such a strong sense of identity when compared to other major sports in the United States. Josiah takes time to explain the importance memes have on the NBA  and the importance of memes in internet culture in general. When Memes & Nightmares is focused on this and the sense of togetherness that Twitter has fostered, it’s interesting.

But then this documentary becomes more of a film with its own weird little story. Following Josiah’s retirement from NBA Twitter, the film shifts into a mockumentary style centering on podcaster Jamel Johnson as he attempts to unravel a mystery. Someone wiped an entire meme from the internet that was adored by NBA Twitter and he wants to get to the bottom of it. Given that the meme, the J.R. Smith Squinting meme, was the last meme that Josiah posted, Jamel reaches out to Josiah, who begrudgingly decides to join Jamel and his cameraman on a hunt to figure out who got rid of the meme. And so the two Johnsons go on an extended hunt through small towns, secret meetings, and Knicks fans to figure out what happened to the meme and all of the other memes that have begun to disappear from NBA Twitter.

Review: Memes & Nightmares

It’s in these mockumentary-style scenes that I lose virtually all interest in the movie. It’s not that it’s bad per se, but unbelievably corny. Both Josiah and Jamel aren’t great actors and seeing them try to emote and react to the strange situations they find themselves in just feels like bad improv. In general, most of Memes & Nightmares is a confusing watch. It’s torn between explaining the history of this subculture and the impact that memes can have both off and online and forced comedy that feels like a bad Key & Peele sketch. It’s like the film is in constant conflict with itself. If you go into it expecting a silly story about two guys trying to find a lost meme, all of the random faces that pop up that are associated with the NBA’s fandom and interject information feel unnecessary. If you look into it from the perspective of a documentary, then these nonsensical story beats grind the pacing of the film to a halt. 

At times Memes & Nightmares is a well-made film, really nailing that documentary aesthetic thanks to the cameraman who is constantly following Josiah and Jamel, but then the movie tries to overcompensate. When we’re showing any footage from the internet, it’s all over-stylized with tons of effects and super reminiscent of the kind of extreme visuals that would be commonplace in a commercial from the 90s. Again, if Memes & Nightmares wanted to focus on one angle and stick with it, either stay completely factual or go full parody, then this probably would have been a stronger film. As is, it’s too conflicted with what it wants to be and fails to satisfy anyone. 

I’m sure that people who are on NBA Twitter will find something to admire with Memes & Nightmares, but even then I don’t think they’ll leave fully satisfied. I can’t see anyone enjoying what this film attempts to do and it’s so painfully obvious how the film could have saved itself. If it decided to stay in one lane, the focus would have been tighter and the content would have been much stronger. There’s just not much to say about the film though since its single glaring flaw is the only thing there is to talk about. What you see is what you get and what we’ve got is a classic case of a movie trying to please both sides and failing to satisfy either of them. 



Memes & Nightmares can't decide whether it wants to look at the history of NBA Twitter or tell its own goofy little story, so it does both and pleases no one.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.