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Entries in Review (62)

Wednesday
Mar132019

Doc Corner: Fyre Festival, Jean-Luc Godard and Eureka in First-Quarter Round-Up

By Glenn Dunks

We sometimes get so carried away with Oscar and all things award season adjacent that we forget there are very real movies being released in those first couple of months of the year. After last week's very topical Leaving Neverland review, we're going to back back into January and February and pluck out a few titles we have seen: Fyre, The Image Book, and The Gospel According to Eureka. 

FYRE 
It's not very often that Shoah comes up in conversation at a party, but there we were when somebody asked me about Fyre, the new documentary from the director of American Movie, Chris Smith. I had said I would rather watch all nine and a half hours of Holocaust testimonials than I would watch another 90 minutes of Fyre (including the adjacent Hulu documentary Fyre Fraud that I have no endured). I may have been several margaritas down and it may come off as unnecessary flippant, and yet here I am weeks later and it is a sentiment I would stand by...

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Monday
Mar112019

Review: Captain Marvel

An abridged version of this review was previously published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

 

by Nathaniel R

Captain Marvel‘s “Vers” (Brie Larson) can’t remember a thing about her past life. She has only known this: training with her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and fighting with her fellow Kree warriors in Starforce. 

Their mission is to wipe out the evil shape-shifting alien race known as The Skrulls. Though Vers can’t recall her origins, Marvel Studios has their origin template memorized by now, 21 films into their world-conquering juggernaut franchise. It’ll involve:

  • comic sidekicks (☑️☑️☑️)
  • training sequences (☑️)
  • losing an early battle (☑️)
  • questioning old beliefs (☑️☑️)
  • forming new alliances (☑️☑️)
  • and the hero/heroes finally coming into their own, more powerful than they were before (☑️)

Cue end credits. But we'll get to those in a minute...

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Tuesday
Mar052019

Doc Corner: 'Leaving Neverland'

By Glenn Dunks

Please note this review discusses topics that will be upsetting to some readers.

How long is too long for a film like Leaving Neverland? Not long enough, it would seem. Don’t get me wrong – watching Dan Reed’s four-hour document of the physical and psychological abuses heaped onto two underage boys in the 1990s by the most famous man in the world, Michael Jackson, is rough-going. It’s sickening, it’s confronting, and its hard to sit through. It’s also compelling and I, for one, believe them. --  I figure I should get that out of the way right at the top.

Reed does something great with with this material, which could so easily have been sensationalized or turned into cheap, ghoulish true crime fodder. His approach is elegant, refined and simple and yet holds the weight that such a discussion deserves...

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Thursday
Feb142019

Doc Corner: Ranking the Best Documentary Short Subject Nominees from Least to Most Depressing

by Glenn Dunks

After doing this ranking system two years ago, we took 2017 off because – in a rarity for the Best Documentary Short Subject category – most of the nominees were actually not entirely miserable! This year the branch has gone back to films that make us feel deeply sad about the world in which we live. That’s not a bad thing since, if any category should be able to confront the inequalities, the traumas, the tragedies, the inhumanities of this world, then documentary short films are it.

This year’s nominees cover themes both familiar and yet distressingly contemporary: the refugee crisis, race, the rise of fascism and Nazism in mainstream politics, third world inequalities and death.They’re certainly not the happiest lot of film you’ll ever see. They do, however, make for a solid roster of nominees...

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Wednesday
Jan092019

Doc Corner: From the Short List - 'The Distant Barking of Dogs' and 'Communion'

By Glenn Dunks

The Academy’s documentary shortlist often throws up a few left of field choices – titles that really do earn their primary flutter of American attention simply by being chosen among the 15-wide selection. A 2018 rule change for the category no doubt helped two such films from Europe, austere portraits of youth that are among the shortlist’s most accomplished albeit small scale choices.

The Distant Barking of Dogs was the most unexpected addition this year and was for me the title that I was most happiest to see. It is, after all, the best work of contemporary non-fiction that I saw all year (give or take a Yours in Sisterhood, which will hopefully appear on next year’s eligibility). It is a film that took me completely by surprise when I used it to fill a vacant morning slot at the Sydney Film Festival in May of last year thinking if nothing else I could at least nap. Lo and behold, this remarkable film from the rural warzone of Ukraine has lingered with me longer than probably any other documentary of 2018...

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Thursday
Dec272018

Doc Corner: From the Short List - 'Free Solo'

By Glenn Dunks

Easily queasy viewers beware – Free Solo can be a daunting prospect to watch. And not just for the extraordinary climb that the film is all about, but if even just the poster churns your stomach, it’s probably not for you. Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin follow up to Meru (of which I was less a fan for reasons I honestly don’t even remember – I watch too many movies to remember these things, apparently) charts Alex Honnold, the world’s most famous free solo rock climber, as he sets out to conquer his biggest feat yet: El Capitan, the 3000-foot vertical rock face, a granite monolith that has loomed over Yosemite for millennia.

The why of Alex’s mission remains a tantalizing carrot that dangles in front of the audience through his death-defying stunts.

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Wednesday
Dec192018

Doc Corner From the Short List - 'Won't You Be My Neighbor'

By Glenn Dunks

Now that the 15-wide documentary short list has been announced, we're going to be looking at some of the titles we've missed throughout the year (primarily due to access issues - this particular column is written from Australia) in the lead up to our top ten documentary list and more Oscar talk in the new year. Up first, the crowned champion of 2018's doc class: Won't You Be My Neighbor?.

Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? has proven to be one of the hardest films I’ve had to write about all year. It’s not a film that throws up thorny issues that demand one’s full attention or a documentary that challenges the mind. Instead, it’s the documentary that America has embraced to the tune of some $23-million box office and the title of the 12th most successful documentary ever made (!) It’s a film that people have taken to their heart and yet I sat here with my Word documentary open on a blank page for far too long...

What about this movie failed to inspire me in any way good or bad? Is Neville’s film my own personal answer to the long-quipped mystery of “can you ever just be whelmed?” (yes, but it turns out not just in Europe).

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