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Entries in Review (38)


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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Doc Corner: Women Astronauts and Rachel Dolezal on Netflix

By Glenn Dunks

“That’s one small leap for a woman, another giant step for mankind” is how Mercury 13 opens. Ignore that it is probably the teensiest bit too twee of a means to open a movie – and also doesn’t make much sense in so far as what they’re referencing – and consider for a moment what could have been. David Sington and Heather Walsh’s film isn’t one of speculative fiction, but rather the untold story of the women who partook in a NASA program.

In many ways, Mercury 13 feels like a blueprint for a feature narrative drama film. Watching the doc and one can almost see it playing out with actors like Emma Stone in the roles of these determined women who took to the skies and played an important part in the war efforts before being recruited for a secret mission to test whether women were fit for space travel.

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Doc Corner: William Friedkin's 'The Devil and Father Amorth'

By Glenn Dunks

It’s becoming more common for directors known for fictional narrative cinema to work in the documentary medium as well. Not all of them land as successfully as, say, Ava DuVernay who managed a Best Documentary nomination at the Oscars as her first nod, despite previous critically acclaimed narrative features including even a Best Picture nominee. Documentary is, after all, just another form of building a narrative. There’s no real reason why telling a story in that form ought to be any different to building one around real people and real locations.

The Devil and Father Armoth, now in limited release and available on digital platforms, isn't William Friedkin's first documentary. He's made short docs like 2007’s The Painter’s Voice, 1985’s Putting it Together: The Making of the Broadway Album for Barbra Streisand, and the feature-length Conversations with Fritz Lang. That latter example, a 1975 film, followed Friedkin’s one-two-three narrative punch of The Boys in the Band, The French Connection and The Exorcist.

The filmmaker and his subject

The Exorcist remains his most famous film and also lays the groundwork for The Devil and Father Amorth...

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Doc Corner: 'Yours in Sisterhood' is an Essential Film for 2018

This week we're going to the Art of the Real festival in NYC from April 26 to May 6, which will feature documentaries by big names of international cinema like Sergei Loznitsa, Corneliu Porumboiu and Kazuhiro Soda, and will open with Julien Faraut's John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection.

By Glenn Dunks

I finally just finished season one of The Handmaid’s Tale, which feels appropriate to note as I sit down to write about the incredible documentary Yours in Sisterhood. If people thought that the themes of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel remained pertinent to present day society, then what can be said about this documentary that repurposes unpublished letters to the editor of Ms. magazine from the 1970s as a reflection on the struggles of women in contemporary society.

This compelling documentary by Irene Lusztig, full of rich words and thought-provoking dichotomies, takes its name from Amy Erdman Farrell’s 1998 non-fiction biography of the history of Ms. entitled Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism. But that doesn’t necessarily make for the sort of rapturous documentary about Ms. that one might expect. Rather it asks the viewer to consider the many ways equality – and more specifically, feminism – has come, how it succeeded and how it failed, both then and in the current day, and how we look at and interact with history...

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Doc Corner: Mariska Hargitay and the Heroes of 'I Am Evidence'

**Before getting into this week's review, I wanted to mention that this column recently won an Australian Film Critics Association Award! My review of Laura Poitras' Risk was awarded the Award for Best Review of an Individual Non-Australian Film from a panel of judges and I couldn't be more chuffed. This column is a labor of love because I love watching and writing about documentaries so I was so happy to see some love of its own thrown back. Thank you to Nathaniel for having it here and to all the readers who follow along.**

By Glenn Dunks

The cult of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit is a peculiar one. For nineteen (19!!) seasons, we tune in to new instalments, binge old episodes while sick and in need of comfort television or catch the climax of an episode we've somehow seen several times before. "Oh, I love this one. It's about the talk show host who was attacked by her co-host who turns out to be a serial sex pest!" Gosh. How a show about the police investigating sex crimes became “comfort television” is something I, a fan of the series, don’t quite know the full answer to, although I suspect it involves something similar to how audiences often turn to horror movies as a dramatic vent.

Audiences get the rollercoaster of emotions that a show with such a premise offers and the rapists and the abusers always get caught and brought to swift justice in span of just 60 minutes before we move on to washing the dishes or walking the dog or going to bed.

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Review: Joaquin Phoenix in "You Were Never Really Here"

by Seán McGovern

As the credits begin to roll on Lynne Ramsey's visceral and intense film, I felt an odd feeling of relief that Joaquin Phoenix did not win an Oscar for playing Johnny Cash. In the years since, Phoenix has eschewed the mainstream and become a full-blown movie-star weirdo. His raw performance in You Were Never Really Here isn't just told his line-readings but also his back muscles, feet, scars and posture. A role for the classical leading man, this is not.

Ramsey's first film since 2011 is a singular assault. It's quite possible that you hated We Need to Talk About Kevin, which took the parental horrors of Lionel Shriver's novel and intellectualised them at a remove. But Ramsey has a knack for distance, creating a particular style of alienation that works perfectly for the story of a traumatized hired-gun...

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