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Entries in documentaries (163)

Wednesday
Sep162015

HBO’s LGBT History: Middle Sexes (2005)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions.

Last week we looked at the surprisingly touching, inclusive and politically relevant Rosie O’Donnell documentary All Aboard! (it seems not a lot of you were as enthused as I was). This week we change gears by looking at perhaps the most boring HBO LGBT entry yet, Middle Sexes - Redefining He and She, a documentary on gender variance that is as entertaining as those educational tapes you’d be forced to watch in high school when your teacher couldn’t be bothered lecturing.

It’s disappointing given its exhaustive approach to the material and the many opportunities it offers in engaging narratives and insightful conversations about those living outside of the gender binary.

Middle Sexes - Redefining He and She (2005) (YouTube)
Directed by: Antony Thomas

If sexual diversity is natural, why is it so threatening?”

Oh that the doc could have taken up this question with the inquisitiveness of most of its talking heads. [More...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep092015

Bonus Podcast: We're All Headed To TIFF

Katey, Joe, Nathaniel and Nick will all be in the same place at the same time (literally the first time it's ever happened!) for the Toronto International Film Festival which starts Thursday. As we pack up to head out for 10 days of constant cinephilia, we thought we'd share five picks, chosen somewhat randomly, that we're each excited about. It's free flowing festival fever and we're dropping you right into the conversation. 

32 minutes 
Topics include but are not limited to what Charlie Kaufman's been up to, Frederick Wiseman's super ass long documentaries, Oscar positioning, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years, Midnight Madness, Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation, Sandra Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis, how we choose and much more...

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes. Have you ever been to a film festival? If so how do you choose your movies? 

Here we come TIFF

Wednesday
Sep092015

HBO’s LGBT History: All Aboard! (2006)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions.

Last week we looked at a couple of mid-2000s HBO comedies to discuss various gay stereotypes in Da Ali G Show, The Comeback and Entourage, a mere week after discussing complex characters in HBO dramas. Today we look at quite possibly the most surprising entry in this history: All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise. Yes, this is a documentary about the maiden voyage of Rosie O’Donnell’s all-inclusive (pun-alert!) LGBT family cruise. I dreaded watching this. I mean, that promotional image alone was enough to make me queasy and that was before I even pressed play.

Well, color me surprised. Not only is All Aboard! a pretty decent documentary but it is a fascinating document of LGBT life and politics in the early twenty-first century.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep062015

Biggest Foreign and Documentary Hits of the Year (Thus Far)

Since Labor Day Weekend is historically a lame box office weekend, it affords us a fine opportunity to look back at the year thus far rather than wait for box office results. Especially in terms of films that aren't usually spoken of in terms of box office. So let's look at two sets of baker's dozens: 2015'S FOREIGN LANGUAGE and DOCUMENTARY HITS.

*second* biggest-hits in Foreign & Documentary: "Baahubali: The Beginning" and "Amy"

How many have you seen?

SUBTITLED FILMS
Top Dozen of 2015 thus far
01 Bajrangi Bhaijaan (India) $8+
02 Baahubali: The Beginning (India) $6+ 
03 A La Mala (Mexico) $3+
04 Wild Tales (Argentina) $3+ Review
05 Dil Dhadakne Do (India)  $3+ 
06 Tanu Weds Manu Returns (India) $3+
07 Clouds of Sils Maria* (France)  $1+ Various Sils Maria Articles
08 Piku (India)  $1+
09 Assassination (South Korea) $1+
10 Phoenix (Germany) $1+ Nina Hoss Interview
11 i (India)  $1+
12 Timbuktu (Mauritania) $1+ Review, César Winners
13 Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel) $.9+ Review, Second Opinion

As we always see in the foreign charts in the past decade or so, Bollywood films continue to be solid imported hits without the benefit of any media attention whatsoever. That's what comes when you have distribution companies that cater to niche audiences and understand/market directly to them. This is surely what China Lion is attempting of late though they have yet to find as much regular support for Chinese language films. Aside from the Hindi language films, the top of the charts also painfully remind us that subtitled films have far teensier grosses even when they get breakout media attention than they once had. Wild Tales for example surely would have been at least a $13 million rather than a $3 million hit a decade ago. The chart also shows us that Oscar nominations help (see #4 and #12) but aren't necessary (see #10 and #13). 2015 hasn't yet had a breakout Oscar-headed hit like Ida from Poland last year (Phoenix was passed over for Oscar submission last year by Germany so it's been on its own without awards-buzz to find its audience. Happily, it's done just that). Sadly Sweden's sublime Oscar entry for this year A Pigeon Sat on a Branch... earned only $200,000 at the US box office. Maybe Labyrinth of Lies, Germany's submission, which opens September 25th can fill that semi-annual slot of foreign hit that doesn't wait for its Oscar fate to make a stir. 

* I'm fudging to include Clouds of Sils Maria I know. It's surely ineligible for France's Oscar submission as its more than 50% English. If you remove it from the list, the film that enters at the lowest rung is The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared from Swedish director Felix Herngren. It earned nearly a million at the US box office but was a huge hit internationally with an additional $50 million!

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES
Top Ten of 2015 Thus Far
01 Monkey Kingdom $16+ 
02 Amy $8+ Review
03 The Salt of the Earth $1+ Documentary Nominees Conversation
04 Iris $1+
05 The Wolfpack $1+ Review
06 Dior & I $1+
07 Meru $.8+ 
08 Red Army $.6+
09 Best of Enemies $.6+ Review
10 Cartel Land $.6+
11 Seymour: An Introduction $.6+ Review
12 Deli Man $.5+
13 The Hunting Ground $.4+

 

The list includes only one of last year's Oscar nominees The Salt of the Earth since most of them played in their correct calendar year. The big story beyond Disney's nature epic and the Amy Winehouse hit, is the success of Sundance Award Winners since The Wolfpack, Cartel Land and Meru were all hits in release. The late Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens) final full documentary feature Iris about eccentric fashion icon Iris Apfel was also well-received.

From this list we really expected Red Army to break out a little further as the Russian Olympic hockey documentary was quite entertaining and benefitted from a highly accessible international-interest storyline. If they hadn't waited for their Oscar nomination -- which they didn't get -- they might have fared better. 

Here's a crazy colorful musical number from the year's #1 foreign language hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan starring Salman Khan called "Selfie Le Le Re"

When was the last time you saw a Bollywood film in theaters? Do you seek out the buzz titles from these categories?

Saturday
Jul252015

Links: Video Game Movies, Big Lebowski Reads, Oscar Site Purchases

David Poland won't review Pixels 'because... why?'
Variety Our Brand is Crisis starring Sandra Bullock gets an October 30th release date. With that film, The Walk and Freeheld all coming out it could be a huge year for features based on documentaries at the Oscars
TFE in case you missed it Ann Dowd is in that film, too and loved being part of the ensemble
Towleroad I interviewed the director/star of Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary on the gay voice that's out right now
The Guardian reviews the latest Jason Reitman live read (The Big Lebowski) and loves on Michael Fassbender as "The Dude" and Patton Oswalt (in John Goodman's role of "Walter" and Mae Whitman (multiple parts) in particular. Not so much Jennifer Lawrence in Julianne Moore's original part

Variety interviews legendary documentarian Barbara Kopple. My shame: I've still never seen Harlan County, USA but people always say it's amazing
Comics Alliance on rumors about "Robin" in Batman v Superman. He might be played by Zach Snyder's son Eli who has only worked for his dad but it's "not entirely" and only "sort of" nepotism. (Related: on the internet, words continue to lose their meanings)
/Film looks at upcoming video game based movies. I don't play video games so none of this means anything to me but if you do... (I amend. There's one I'll see called Assassin's Creed but that's only because Fassy and Cotillard are both in on the heels of co-starring in Macbeth)
Awards Daily loves Grandma and agrees with us that Lily Tomlin needs to be in the Best Actress conversation 
Gold Derby I forgot to mention that they were bought up by a larger media company so congrats to Tom O'Neill. That leaves David Poland, Jeffrey Wells, Sasha Stone and little ol' me as the last of the original indies still doing this. Not everyone wants to be bought up... I'm not sure who I'd be without The Film Experience... but on the other hand, money is nice. green. useful.   

Off Cinema
Esquire has a fascinating/terrifying long read on climate scientist 'what if the end of the world was your day job?' 
Stage Buddy for Kander & Ebb's 50th anniversary, a ranking of their top 50 songs. Wow this is comprehensive. The order is all out of whack (Cabaret and Chicago combined only get 3 songs in the top 25!)  but still, good job Andrew! This reminded me how much I loved the music in The Visit and how great the music is in New York New York.

Speaking of... here's your Showtune to Go from The Scottsboro Boys (2010) which I'm so sad I never saw during its Broadway run (this song "Go Back Home" which comes fairly early in the show is so gorgeous). I only heard raves and it won 12 Tony nominations but in the season of The Book of Mormon there was no oxygen for the competition. Maybe someone will one day make it into a movie?

Friday
Jul242015

The Look of Silence

Amir returns to his favorite 2014 festival film, newly arrived in theaters...

Midway through The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to the 2013 Best Documentary Nominee The Act of Killing, there is a seemingly innocuous moment that sends chills down the spine. The film’s protagonist, Adi, and a male companion are trudging through the forest as they discuss their assassinated family members. Slowly reciting the “Ashhad,” Muslim prayer for the departed, they arrive at a river that runs through the trees. The camera stops as they exit the frame. The forest’s natural humming and buzzing, and the slow movement of the water in dusk’s light lend the moment a haunting eeriness. The weight of their wounds lingers above the water; the emptiness of the space is terrifying.

This sequence is not unique to the structure of the film, a documentary whose emotional impact and, frequently, its thematic development, hinges on small, quiet moments; a shot of a motorcycle riding away toward the forests, a woman sitting still at the doorway of her house, a long gaze that captures the gravity of decades of history.  Every miniscule gesture is effective, and the cumulative impact of these small wonders adds up to a film that is, without hyperbole, one of the best documentaries ever made.

Click to read more ...

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