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Entries in documentaries (197)

Tuesday
Jun282016

Doc Corner: 'O.J.: Made in America' a Compelling Success

Glenn here with our weekly look at documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we're looking at ESPN's much-buzzed five-part documentary about O.J. Simpson.

Even more coincidental than the release of ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America so soon after Ryan Murphy’s star-studded FX mini-series, The People v. O.J. Simpson, is that the rise to fame of their subject coincided so precisely with the rise to prominence of the African American civil rights movement. The irony was not lost on Simpson with the handsome man who everyone thought “had it all” never being able to out-run the shadow that his own meteoric ascent cast over seemingly the United States’ entire black population. Nor is it lost on director Ezra Edelman who makes the parallels the structural spine of this exceptionally thorough, exquisitely compiled, and exhaustively compelling five-part documentary. It’s not called “Made in America” for nothing – another coincidence it’s worth noting, Made in America is also the name of a pretty good 2008 documentary about the Crips and Bloods war in L.A. by Stacy Peralta – and across 463 minutes, Edelman and his collaborators have crafted a powerful demonstration of the dichotomy of race, fame, and justice in America.

Starting in the 1960s with Simpson’s rise in college football, Edelman’s film wisely doesn’t focus exclusively on the murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman and the trial that followed. In fact, it takes until the third episode to even bring it up, instead preferring to spend time examining these early passages of his life for clarity and for clues. Unlike the FX series, O.J.: Made in America is more concerned with attempting to find out how a man like Simpson and the country came to be. [more...]

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Tuesday
Jun212016

Happy Birthday, Juliette Lewis!

We don't get many screen talents that defy simple categorization as much as Juliette Lewis. One minute she's raw and dangerous then vulnerable and timid the next, her humor at once bawdy and passive. Even when playing a supportive girlfriend trope, she always draws you in with a flash of the unexpected. She's so consistently arresting and specific that you forget how disimilar some of her characters are.

Filmmakers of late aren't giving her the type of heavy lifting she can handle, even though her heyday 90s work (including her Oscar nominated Cape Fear performance) still deliver on repeat viewings. Of course her most unpredictable turn was in the early 2000s with the launch of her rock band The Licks, developing a rock persona as vivid as her screen performances and then some. Of her screen peers that have stuck around, none of them kick this much ass.

Michael Rapaport's documentary short on Lewis, Hard Lovin' Woman, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. It's a fun look at her career but also a reminder of her ferociously versatile talent - and you can watch it online for free!

What is your favorite Juliette Lewis performance?

Thursday
Jun162016

Doc Corner: 'My Love' a Romantic Gem

Glenn here with our weekly look at documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. We're a bit late this week due to internet problems, but we're here now looking at the fan favourite hit, My Love, Don't Cross That River.

The opening shot of Jin Mo-young’s My Love, Don’t Cross That River is one of breathtaking beauty. An elderly woman sits at a grave, the ground and trees covered in snow, her crying a distinctive cut of a knife through the serene nature. If this were a fiction film, people would crow about how artfully it is composed and how even without knowledge of its subject or circumstances it is able to immediately create wells of emotion in the audience. By the time Jin’s film returns to this tableau some 80 minutes later, it does so with the complete story behind it and if the reserved simplicity of it had somehow alluded the viewer in its opening moments then surely the impact will well and truly be made now.

My Love is a film about a marriage. Jo Byeong-man is 98 and Kang Gye-Yeol is 89, and the pair who met when she was just 14 have been married for 76 years. Without that opening shot foreshadowing events to come, one might struggle through the opening half of Jin’s movie which captures the pair in almost unbearably cute form as they play child-like games while doing yard work, wear matching colourful silk outfits on day trips, pick flowers, and take care of their dogs (one of which is named Freebie because, well, he was free). But when Jo becomes increasingly sick, the film takes on a deeper resonance as Kang must confront the inevitability that she will be alone for the first time in nearly eight decades.

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Friday
Jun102016

Sydney Film Festival: Tickled

Josh reporting on a hot find at the Sydney Film Festival.

When the credits rolled at the screening of Tickled at the Sydney Film Festival, the frantic dumbstruck reaction from the audience was palpable. You could see everyone turning to each other, wide eyed and picking their jaws up from the floor. The proceeding Q&A with the filmmakers had hands flying into the air with exasperated questions. And all this from a documentary about tickling!

Directed by Dylan Reeve and David Farrier, the latter who is also front and centre in the film, the film unravels the bizarre and gripping story surrounding Jane O’Brien Media and its non-monetised website generating videos of young athletic men tickling each other.

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Tuesday
Jun072016

Doc Corner: Mayles' In Transit is a Stunning Achievement

Glenn here. Each Tuesday we bring you reviews and features on documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we look at the final work of Albert Maysles, In Transit.

Last week we looked at Chantal Akerman's final film, and this week completely by accident I am reviewing another final film by another towering name in documentary filmmaking. In a career that includes Grey Gardens, Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Monterey Pop, Albert Maysles has made many films that are considered among the greatest non-fiction titles ever made. And while last year’s glimpse into the life of aging fashion icon Iris Apfel, Iris, was billed as his last work, it is in fact this deeply searching piece of cinema verite made in collaboration with Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu that is his last work and an incredibly fitting one, too. It’s the work of a documentarian unmistakably trying to grasp as much experience in the world and revel in the unique people and share it with audiences before its too late.

The beginning of In Transit informs us that the Empire Builder is America’s longest and busiest passenger rail, constantly shuffling people between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. The roaming cameras latch onto individuals just long enough to hear their story before moving on over its brisk 76-minute runtime and few are offered more than a few minutes of screen time at most. [more...]

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Tuesday
May312016

Doc Corner: Chantal Akerman's Finale is 'No Home Movie'

Glenn here. Each Tuesday we bring you reviews and features on documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we look at Chantal Akerman's final film, 'No Home Movie'.

If No Home Movie is any indication, then Chantal Akerman had a lot of creativity inside of her to offer at the time of her far too premature death at age 65. I have no doubt that this, her final film, will likely confound those who find their way to it out of mere curiosity, but – and this is true of many films by many filmmakers, but especially so here – No Home Movie is a film that will most definitely play as something far deeper and more personal to somebody who is more familiar with her back catalogue than somebody who isn’t.

I know that sometimes it sounds awfully pretentious to say that. Who can be expected to watch a filmmaker’s entire back catalogue? I nonetheless think that it is true that No Home Movie takes on added dimensions and weight if you have seen Akerman’s 1977 masterpiece News from Home, which was the audience’s first introduction to Natalia Akerman, the director’s mother. While she is neither seen nor heard in that earlier film – her first after the groundbreaking breakthrough Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles – her written word is narrated to us over rolling and static images of New York City to help give a sense of the fractured mother-daughter relationship at its core. [More...]

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Tuesday
May242016

Review: Weiner

To paraphrase Jean-Luc Godard: if you want your movie to hook an audience, all your story needs is a girl and a smoking gun. In Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s queasily absorbing political documentary Weiner, the two smash against one another on the dick pic-riddled smartphone of disgraced former congressman, Anthony Weiner of New York.

Capturing Weiner’s catastrophic 2013 New York City mayoral campaign from within the scrum and beyond the sack, the film scrutinizes the self-obsession of its candidate against his noble political ideals, and the media’s lethal manipulation of the former and abject disinterest in the latter. It is also a thrilling and meticulous account of a campaign staff in free-fall, with the candidate mistaking the whir of escaping air for flight. If D.A. Pennebaker’s The War Room shows us how the machinations of campaign politics successfully operate around pitfalls and personal indiscretions along the trail, Weiner demonstrates how the media can lethally wedge a dildo right between the gears.

More after the jump...

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