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Entries in Doc Corner (106)

Tuesday
Jun192018

Doc Corner: In the Shadow of Kubrick with 'Filmworker'

by Glenn Dunks

Sometimes you really can tell a book by its cover. Or in this case, a movie by its poster. The artwork for Tony Zierra’s Filmworker shows a photograph of Stanley Kubrick on set with his long-time yet little-known collaborator Leon Vitali hovering behind him. Kubrick, normally the focus of these sort of non-fiction works, is unusually blurred. Our eye naturally focuses on Vitali despite Kubrick’s appearance that can’t be entirely obscured no matter how hard they try.

It’s fitting for Filmworker, a documentary about Vitaly not Kubrick. Although, as was probably always inevitable about a film about the people around one of cinema’s most commanding and famous names, Kubrick remains a constant presence who is too hard to ignore...

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Tuesday
Jun122018

Doc Corner: 'Nanette' Will Be a Defining Work of 2018

Rarely do stand-up comedy sets gain the sort of immediate notoriety that has greeted Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. The comedian, writer and some-time actor who is probably best known to American audiences for Please Like Me (at least the few who actually watched it) has become a rare Australian exclusive for Netflix who are releasing Nanette alongside an ever-growing roster of stand-up comedy. It would be easy for this one to slide between the cracks of the streaming service’s much larger names. Who is Gadsby to non-Australian audiences anyway and why should they watch her? What about Nanette means it deserves to cut through the chaos especially when she comes across as so hostile towards the medium itself?

Well, for starters, to call Nanette a mere stand-up comedy special would be to do it a great disservice. As funny as it is, it isn’t the sort of work that neatly sits alongside Ali Wong, Chris Rock or John Mulaney. No, because Nanette is much more: it’s a manifesto, a doctrine, a philosophy. It’s a work of such searing potency that it deserves the attention of every man and woman with a Netflix account – and those who do not. It deserves to be hailed a landmark by LGBTQI audiencs, too. If you are wanting something to stake a claim to the most essential of-the-moment work of filmed entertainment for 2018, then Nanette is probably it.

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Tuesday
Jun052018

Doc Corner: Dances with Films Festival

by Glenn Dunks

The spectre of films past linger over two documentaries at the Dances with Films independent film festival (June 7th-17th at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Los Angeles). Their ability to bring an audience back to something more innocent is perhaps one of the strongest elements of this festival that prizes the atmosphere of a summer camp rather than a crazed film festival in the snowy mountains or on the sunny beaches.

The more obvious of the two that I was able to sample is Alexander Monelli's At the Drive-In, a film that you could glimpse at a pass and suspect you have already seen a dozen times at other festivals. Film festival audiences are, after all, more naturally disposed to watch a documentary about a venue like a drive-in or a classic movie palace or a dying/dead/forgotten part of the filmgoing experience. The inherent nostalgia and cinematic reverence of these topics make them solid programming on any festival’s behalf...

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Tuesday
May292018

Doc Corner: Are 'Wild Wild Country' and 'Evil Genius' on Netflix Peak TV?

by Glenn Dunks

Peak television! One could argue that unlike film, television only grows and grows in stature as the more resources and money are thrown its way. Whether you’re part of the small screen migration or still prefer things big and silver, it is hard to deny the impact that has occurred and the major cultural and structural shift that has forced its creators to tap into new and exciting takes on the form and storytelling more generally. I don't think anybody would find that a controversial stance at all.

However, is there a point where this newfound reservoir of creativity and both financial and technical supply is actively harming storytelling? On the fictional side of TV, for instance, I have argued that a series like Westworld is definitely harmed by being offered the benefits of contemporary television's bounty – being given a monumental budget – and the expectations that that breeds from a storytelling point of view to be instantly the biggest and most Capital I Important version of itself without the option of gradually enhancing its characters and narrative through world-building.

On the documentary side, however, the issue is somewhat murkier...

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Tuesday
May222018

Doc Corner: 'In the Intense Now'

By Glenn Dunks

With the recent conclusion of the Cannes Film Festival, it’s perhaps easy to forget that 50 years ago the Festival de Cannes was shut down. The event, which had curiously opened with a restoration of Victor Fleming’s Gone With the Wind, last barely a few days with Jean-Luc Godard and Claude Lelouche spearheading a mission to close the festival down in solidarity with the student protests and union strikes that were sweeping across the country.

It perhaps says a lot about the scope of global upheaval in 1968 that this famous and dramatic moment in cinematic history isn’t even mentioned in João Moreira Salles’ No Intenso Agora (or, less elegantly, In the Intense Now). Despite its rich dive through film history, Salles (his brother is Walter Salles, director of The Motorcycle Diaries and On the Road) instead chooses to focus his attention on celluloid of an altogether different kind; assembling a quietly stunning collection of family home-movies, documentary, and observation archival footage into a visual collage that bounces between France, Czechoslovakia, China and Brazil to observe the wildly escalating political shifts and doing so with an unromanticized sense of anti-nostalgia.

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Tuesday
May082018

Doc Corner: The Notorious 'RBG'

By Glenn Dunks

There is little denying that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great woman. Sadly, however, she has not been granted a documentary of equal merit. The new documentary RBGrushes through many of her life’s accomplishments without any of the attentive analysis deserving of somebody who has been so instrumental to the shaping of society. Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West (producer of The Lavender Scare which you may have seen on the queer festival circuit), RBG is never less than full of effusive praise, but sloppy directorial choices make the film less than totally involving. It's light on the force and scope that one ought to expect.

RBG covers most of what you're expecting: her early life studying law and meeting her future husband, her efforts to fight for equality in the courts, her confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, her discenting vote in Bush v Gore and so on. The film, eager one supposes to present her as somebody of mere blood and bones, also covers her extra-curricular fun: the opera predominantly, but also her efforts to stay fit in her 80s, her late-in-life ascension as an internet meme, and her unlikely friendship with Antonin Scalia...

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