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Entries in documentaries (155)


Interview: "Dior and I" Director. Film and Fashion Are More Connected Than You'd Think

Jose here to bring you and interview as the new documentary Dior and I opens in select theaters.

In April 2012, Raf Simons was announced as the new creative director at Christian Dior, fashion experts all over the world were surprised that they’d chosen a minimalist Belgian designer who up to then had mostly been known for his menswear, and when his first couture collection debuted, the house of Dior was once again giving people something to talk about, as Simons sought to pay tribute to the man whose “New Look” revolutionized fashion in the twentieth century. What few people knew was the behind-the-scenes drama that had the introverted Simons become the hero at the center of a thriller which had him try to deliver a couture collection in two months, as opposed to the six most designers are given to work with.

In his provocative documentary Dior and I, director Frédéric Tcheng gives us access to this exclusive world in which art and commerce are at constant odds with each other. Tcheng has amassed an admirable nonfiction filmography comprised of some of the greatest fashion films in recent years, he co-produced and edited the Oscar short-listed Valentino: The Last Emperor and co-directed the delicious Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, but as he explained during our chat in New York City, he’s not interested in being “a fashion filmmaker”, but instead wants to tell compelling stories that transcend into the universal.


JOSE: Something that never becomes clear in the film is why he would agree to do the collection in eight weeks? Did you ask him about this?

FRÉDÉRIC TCHENG: (Laughs) I think the timing just happened to be that way, I’m not sure what was actually said at the meetings when they were negotiating his arrival, so I can’t speak for that. What I gather is that Dior wanted him to start with couture as a statement, not ready to wear, but couture, which happens only twice a year. Everyone was waiting for Dior to announce a new designer, and it took them almost a year to do it, so I don’t know what happened in those meeting rooms.

This time element gave you the tools to make a thriller! [More...]

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April Foolish Oscar Discussion: Animated Features

These two specialized categories can be perplexing from the outside, documentaries moreso, as to what is eligible, why it's eligible, and what motivates people to vote as they do. The official eligibility lists don't arrive until later in the year but for now on the new charts we'll add documentary titles as they make some kind of mark and we'll dive right into animated features, which apart from the foreign produced entries, are much easier to track.

Pixar vs Pixar this year?

This upcoming Oscar season, Walt Disney Studios Animation will be out of the mix after two consecutive wins. Their next features Zootopia and Moana, which both look quite promising, aren't due until March and November of 2016. To fill that giant vacuum, Pixar will likely come roaring back after an uncharacteristic absence last year with two titles Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur

But the contest that's most curious might not be a contest... at least in terms of Oscar. We have two features that are trading on collective international nostalgia for 2D classic properties: The Little Prince and Peanuts Movie. But they're both getting the CG or mixed media approach. That's not so odd since contemporary cinema loves to regurgitate and "update" (shudder) but what's unusual is that both films are clearly trying to mix the endearing flat linework and visual style of these beloved gems into newly three dimensional worlds. A safe bet: these films, particularly The Little Prince which looks "schizophrenic", will be divisive. 

Check out the charts! Which of these films are you most curious about and do you agree with the April Foolish guesswork? 



Visual Index ~ Paris is Burning's Best Shots

For a film that's less than 80 minutes long, Paris is Burning contains at least that many worthy topics of discussion presenting quite a challenge for Best Shot participants. You could write 80 articles on it on entirely different subjects. The documentary was an instant sensation winning the Sundance Film Festival in January 1991, and opening that summer to big box office ($3.7 million... which was quite a lot for a documentary). It landed on top ten lists, won critics prizes and generated yet more press when it was horrifically snubbed by Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category. The film documents NYC's ball culture in 1987 with a few scenes from 1989. By 1989 you can already feel the scene changing, being coopted, and about to be appropriated for one of Madonna's biggest hits. 

My choice and a few more words on this landmark film after this gallery of incredible images. PLEASE NOTE: Next week's topic for Tuesday March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) is the classic THE QUIET MAN (1952) set in Ireland starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Like Paris, it's available on Netflix Instant Watch so I expect y'all here Tuesday night with your choices.

Best Shots according to 21 Fine Cinephiles Round the Web

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Next Tuesday... a Ball 

We're multi-tasking again. Cinderella week has already kicked off here at TFE but don't forget to watch Paris is Burning on Netflix Instant Watch (or Amazon instant rental) this weekend so you can maximize the fun of Hit Me With Your Best Shot Tuesday night. Let Jenny Livingston's classic documentary school you on Ball culture. It's only like 70 minutes long so you'll have time. You might even wish it were 700 minutes long when the credits roll.

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Black History Month: Spike Lee's '4 Little Girls'

Our black history month coverage continues with Margaret on Spike Lee's 1997 nominee for Best Documentary Feature...

Spike Lee is famously an Oscar loser. With every passing year--25 of them now behind us--it makes less and less sense that Do the Right Thing lost its nomination for Best Original Screenplay, let alone that it failed to earn Oscar nominations in the Best Picture or Best Director categories. When one thinks of Spike Lee, what comes to mind is a distinct stylization, and a reputation for incendiary cultural commentary. His inflammatory style has often been implicated as the cause of his cool reception from the film establishment.

His less remembered brush with Oscar was a nomination for Best Documentary in 1997 for his film 4 Little Girls, and that loss is more mysterious. No less artfully crafted or emotionally gut-punching than the best of his filmography, the documentary is also more formally and stylistically straightforward: other than the title card up front identifying it as "A Spike Lee Joint" it's absent many of the colorful hallmarks of the Lee's work.

The historical events examined by 4 Little Girls should be familiar to anyone who caught the recent Best Picture contender Selma.  [Read more...]

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Best Documentary Short: Sad, Sadder, Saddest...

Glenn here to discuss the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. Much gets made year in year old about how the short categories are typically the hardest to predict. It’s a sentiment that bodes true for many reasons, although with the recent boost in popularity of the theatrically-released Oscar-nominated shorts programs “nobody’s seen them!” has gone out the window as an excuse. We used to have little to go on with these films and usually, by default, most people would predict the most serious sounding of the lot. A movie about WWII? Sure! A movie about political conflict? Why not! A movie about children with AIDS? Gosh, how can it lose? It’s simplistic, but sometimes the best method.

It’s rather impossible to do that this year since all five nominees deal with subject matter that is extremely Important with a capital I. I mean, the most upbeat of the lot is the one about suicide amongst war veterans for crying out loud! PTSD, dying mothers, incurably ill babies, the oil fields of America's Midwest and death in slaughterhouses – it is a miserable collection of nominees, which makes sussing out the winner a tricky prospect.

I find myself gravitating towards HBO’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. For starters, it’s the glossiest and most watchable of the lot. Secondly, and most importantly, because it’s subject matter – suicide prevention hotline operators dealing with war veterans – ties in perfectly with that of Best Picture nominee American Sniper. If voters can’t give that immensely popular film any big prizes, they may as well give this one the statue. I certainly see it as a more likely winner than either of the two Polish entries, one of which – Our Curse – may just go down as one of the saddest films ever made. Likewise, The Reaper from Mexico, which obnoxiously parades its grotesquery around in such a fashion that I can see many voters turning it off before the end credits. The final film, the second American entry called White Earth is relatively low key compared to the rest and will likely find itself overshadowed. Maybe the fact that it’s not entirely soul-crushing like the rest will give it a boost, but this year’s prize feels like HBO’s to lose.

The Nominees:

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, dir. Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry (40mins)
Joanna, dir. Aneta Kopacz (45mins)
Our Curse, dir. Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki (28mins)
The Reaper (La Parka), dir. Gabriel Serra Arguello (29mins)
White Earth, dir. J. Christian Jensen (20mins)

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Could Win: Joanna
Should Win: To be honest, I'm not entirely sold on either, but White Earth (above) is my favorite

Apart from in select cinemas, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is available on HBOGO.


In Conversation: Oscar's Documentary Class of 2014 (Part 2)

Welcome back to The Film Experience's look at this year's Oscar documentary nominees. Glenn Dunks is again joined by Daniel Walber of Nonfics in this second part looking at the once maligned and controversy-filled Best Documentary Feature category. If you missed part one then go read that first - our thoughts on Wim Wenders' The Salt of the Earth were not echoed by you, the readers, but that's what makes this all so fun. If you're a fan, check out discussion from last year about the 1989 winner, Common Threads.

Daniel: (cont'd) The way [Virunga director Orlando von Einsiedel] orchestrates it all, particularly in the thrilling climax, is what sets it apart. In a way that makes it not unlike Last Days in Vietnam (Glenn's review). Both films take a single sequence of events, in that case the 1975 evacuation of Saigon, and tell its story with several different perspectives. I’m not sure the strategy works quite as well for Last Days in Vietnam, which is also the only nominee this year made up primarily of archival footage. Do you think that has something to do with it?

Archival power, Roger Ebert and our own ballots after the jump

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