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Entries in Doc Corner (164)

Wednesday
Oct162019

2019 Critics Choice Documentary Award Nominations

By Glenn Dunks

they shall not grow old

We do a good job here covering documentaries. Especially since I have a 9 to 5-Monday to Friday day job. But we cover, I want to say, somewhere between 50 and 80 films a year in Doc Corner. I only say this to preface the news of the 2019 Critics Choice Documentary Awards because my gosh there are still just so many we do not or can not (or will not) get to. There are an estimated 300+ docs released every year. That is, to put it mildly, quite a lot.

Which brings us to their nominees for 2019. The list features many that we have already covered, more that we plan to upon their theatrical release or as we get deeper into the season, and even some that we do not want to review. Leading the pack with six nominations are Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm (more good news this week for Parasite distributor NEON) and Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old (which some would consider a 2018 release).

Read on the see the nominations in full...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct092019

Doc Corner: Chinese Rappers, Wildfires, Queer History and More in These 8 Documentary Shorts

By Glenn Dunks

Short films, whether they be documentary or fiction, are a curious form. What may work in a feature-length film may not work in a short and vice versa, and this can make critiquing them a sometimes tricky prospect. To sit down and watch one often means to set aside the sort of internal critical devices we may use for a feature-length film, typically eschewing the things we may normally look for in films.

By their very nature, we don’t get to spend enough time in their ephemeral worlds but I do not care for short films that feel like truncated version of larger stories. They don’t necessarily have to tell an entire story, but they have to feel like a completed thought, mood, or idea.

Some of the short documentaries that I have been watching have been just that, others less so.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct022019

Doc Corner: Asif Kapadia's 'Diego Maradona'

By Glenn Dunks

It is a case of diminishing returns for British director Asif Kapadia and the latest of his video tape collages, Diego Maradona. As one of the few dissenting voices to his Oscar-winning Amy – more on ethical grounds than technical – but an admirer of his earlier Senna, this portrait of the superstar Argentinian footballer never reaches the narrative heights of either. While Ayrton Senna and Amy Winehouse proved fascinating subjects in their own ways outside of whatever one thinks of Kapadia’s grave-robbing approach to their personal lives, the athletic hero at the center here is simply far less interesting and is not well served by this style of filmmaking.

As seen in Kapadia’s film, Diego Maradona’s life is something of a selfish downfall rather than a tragic response to fame or the inevitable culmination of a career of risk like his other subjects. By the time his career flamed out in a cloud of cocaine, extra-marital affairs and larrikin boozing, he had well and truly shown the world that he was one of – if not the – greatest footballer to ever live (I personally wouldn’t know more than five players off of the top of my head, but even I had heard of his feats with a soccer ball). Yet despite the dramatic highs and lows, his story as told on screen here is frustrating.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep252019

Doc Corner: 'Don't Be Nice'

By Glenn Dunks

Youthful enthusiasm can get you a long way and that is something that Don’t Be Nice has in spades. First-time director Max Powers injects his own vigour and excitement into this story of slam poets in preparation for the national championships (yes, they exist). He does this through captivating editing (he was formerly a documentary editor) and some well-used vignettes, styled after music videos. But ultimately the success of this debut comes down to its subjects - they all have a spark on camera as well as in their words and Powers gives them all the star treatment at some point across Don't Be Nice's zippy 95-minute runtime.

The doc's title comes from the idea that in slam poetry, one mustn’t be nice, but be necessary. Say what you mean and don’t lighten it up for those who don’t want to hear it...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep182019

Doc Corner: Musical Chairs with Linda, Miles, Aretha and... Bros

By Glenn Dunks

It’s that time of the year where we play musical chairs and look at some of the music documentaries that have come along because there are just too many. Not all that much connects this batch of musicians – other than I am a fan of them to a degree, I suppose – but watching the films and there is a surprising spread of style and form. Surprising, also, because the artist that comes out on top is the most unexpected of them all.

The most informal, yet ultimately least satisfying of the batch is Linda Ronstadt: Sound of My Voice. It is somewhat disappointing that Oscar-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet) decided on such a rudimentary structure considering their subject was somebody who repeatedly coloured outside of the lines of the artform.

But any film about somebody as talented and interesting as Ronstadt, there is always going to be much enjoyment even if it is assembled rather blandly.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep112019

Doc Corner: 'American Factory' has Oscar in its sight

By Glenn Dunks

Because not everybody can be in Toronto or Venice, there are still plenty of great movies to watch!

American Factory is a film that hovers over the precipice of tragedy for its entire runtime. Its subjects exist in a state of perpetual uncertainty, never sure about whether they have a future or if the rug is going to be pulled out from under them yet - again. They are all workers from the Moraine Assembly Plant, once owned by General Motors, in Dayton, Ohio, that closed down during the recession, but which has since been purchased by Chinese company Fuyao to begin operation producing glass for (cars that America no longer seems to make).

Directors Steve Bognar and Julie Reichert return to the location of their Oscar-nominated short documentary The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant. That film, which charted the factory’s production of its final automobile, filmed its subjects predominantly from inside cars as they arrive at work or in bars as they mulled over their futures. American Factory, then, is a major step up from a production stand-point, but offers just as humane a portrait of people struggling to find their place in a changing world. A world that is rapidly moving away from the old ideas of the “American Dream”.

Click to read more ...