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Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

The Look of Silence

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

tn_lookofsilenceI’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, THE ACT OF KILLING was, unexpectedly, one of the best movies I’d ever seen. And you might’ve said then, and might say now, “Okay, yeah, I heard I should see that, but did you say it was a documentary about genocide in Indonesia, and how the people that did it are still in power and treated as heroes and talk openly about what they did as if it’s something to brag about?”

Yeah, okay, when you put it that way it sounds like not a good thing to watch on a Friday night. But sometimes it’s good to learn about the bad things in this world, and there are worse ways to do that than watching an absolutely fascinating, gorgeously shot film that works as an expose, a parable about the power of cinema, and a dark, sick, you-would-be-buckled-over-laughing-if-it-wasn’t-such-a-nightmare joke about the mundanity of evil. Parts of it play like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but it’s real footage of actual war criminals trying to make a weird art movie glorifying their own atrocities.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s followup is a companion piece that’s less surreal, more intimate, but similarly profound. He continues on the same topic, but instead of focusing on the perpetrators he goes back to his original idea of following one of the survivors. To me that sounds like it would lose the unique hang-out-in-the-living-room-of-evil, give-them-enough-rope-to-hang-themselves power of the first movie, but it ends up being just as impressive because of the amazing person they focus on. (read the rest of this shit…)

Powaqqatsi

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

tn_powaqqatsilucasminusstarwarsGeorge Lucas and his big homey Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO) are executive producers of Godfrey Reggio’s POWAQQATSI (Life in transformation), the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Qatsi trilogy that began with KOYAANISQATSI (Life out of balance) in 1982 and ended with NAQOYQATSI (Life as war) in 2002. If you’ve seen either of those, or the ones by Reggio’s cinematographer Ron Fricke (I reviewed his SAMSARA in 2011) then you got a pretty good idea what this is like. Which is good, because my words might not cut it.

We could classify these as “experimental documentaries,” but they don’t have much of what anybody thinks of when they think of documentaries. No interviews, no narration, no onscreen text, no people talking at all. No storyline or argument made. No easily encapsulated subject or premise. Just themes.

They’re like cinematic paintings, or photo essays, or poems. They rhyme by having similar shots and images over and over again, all set to very repetitive (in a good way) scores by Philip Glass.

(read the rest of this shit…)

When We Were Kings

Monday, January 19th, 2015

tn_wwwkIf you were going to build the prototype for the ultimate man, wouldn’t it pretty much be 1974 Muhammad Ali? He’s a badass, a fighter with style. I don’t even really like boxing that much but I love to watch him dance around, swinging his fists so fast. Even Bruce Lee liked to watch him.

He’s handsome in a manly way. He’s charming, eloquent, and funny as hell. His humor is mostly based around making preposterous boasts… but it’s not some Danny McBride overconfidence thing, because he usually delivers. In this movie there’s an interview where he goes into detail about high speed photography and how one of his punches was proven to take only four one hundredths of a second, like a blink or a camera flash, and all this is setup for him to claim “Now, the minute I hit Sonny Liston, all of those people blinked at that moment, that’s why they didn’t see the punch.” A tall tale, but based on a true, provable incident.

Of equal importance, Ali has integrity of the Stickin It To The Man variety. He didn’t believe in the war so he refused to sign up for selective service, knowing it would endanger his career, reputation and freedom, and he held his head high the whole time. And he was outspoken about racism too. And he was right. (read the rest of this shit…)

Citizenfour

Monday, December 8th, 2014

tn_citizenfourWhen you hear that CITIZENFOUR is a really good documentary about Edward Snowden, you don’t really picture what it actually is. Or at least I didn’t.

I figured it would be a really powerful documentary about the exiled NSA whistleblower and the programs he exposed, the issues they raise about privacy, governmental overreach and technology. It would be really upsetting at times, sometimes shocking, it would use news footage and interviews to tell this story. Hopefully a well put together version of these advocacy documentaries that draw our attention to an important thing going on in the world and tell us some facts about it that we might not’ve known, get us real riled up.

Well, it’s most of those things, except it’s not at all a talking head documentary. What I didn’t know going in is that this movie is part of the leak itself. Before Snowden even met with journalist Glenn Greenwald about the National Security Agency secretly working with telecommunications companies to spy on the phone calls and emails of Americans not even suspected of any crimes, he contacted documentary director Laura Poitras to document it. So this is not a movie telling the story of what happened. This is actual footage of it happening.
(read the rest of this shit…)

For the Love of Dolly (and my trip to Dollywood)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

tn_dollyNOTE: It’s October now, and you know what that means: Slasher Search and horror review avalanche. I have saved some action reviews to include for variety and will do some new releases but otherwise I’ll be on a strict slashers and monsters diet for the next 31 days. But before we kick that off I really need to polish off an unfinished project from months ago. Way back in May I visited the state of Tennessee, I had a great time, wanted to write a little about it, and found an excuse, starting with this documentary about Dolly Parton fans.

* * *

I used to think I hated country music. I mean, I watched the Mandrell Sisters Show and some Kenny Rogers movies in the ’80s, that’s about it. To me, Dolly Parton was just the lady from BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS and 9 TO 5 and stuff. It wasn’t until way after the fact that I noticed what a saint that lady was. Remember she did a song for TRANS AMERICA? She just seems so relentlessly positive and non-judgmental. Also, some of that stuff she sang when she was real young – “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors” – I realize now that I like some of that stuff.

(although come on Dolly, you gotta put the responsiblity for this one on your man, not on Jolene.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Act of Killing

Friday, January 17th, 2014

tn_actofkillingBTISLMan, I don’t know how long this will last, but when I finished watching THE ACT OF KILLING I had a strong feeling that not only did that have to be the best movie I saw from 2013, it might be one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s an amazing, one-of-a-kind documentary that achieves a whole bunch of things: it shows me fascinating, outside-of-my-experience human beings in crazy situations; it’s a stunning visual portrait of places and people in Indonesia; it is deeply upsetting and shocking and yet at times horribly, uncomfortably funny; it tells my ignorant American ass a few things about a major human tragedy I never heard of but also, it sounds like, helped the people of Indonesia start to address a deliberately whitewashed part of their history. When you hear the subject it sounds like a message movie, but aside from that it has what I think is always more important in a documentary: it captures some incredible human moments that you can’t believe you’re actually seeing, including a monstrous war criminal coming to realizations about what he did.

It accomplishes this all without a single talking head, no narration and very little explanatory text. It plunges you into this world of war criminals and their supporters who are amazingly comfortable with director Joshua Oppenheimer (and un-named Indonesian co-director – at least half of the names on the credits are listed as “ANONYMOUS”). Oppenheimer is barely seen or heard but sometimes they address him by name like a trusted friend. (read the rest of this shit…)

Reincarnated

Friday, April 26th, 2013

tn_reincarnated“Snoop gets Lionized”  –headline I predict Rolling Stone or somebody will use for their review

Like anybody, when I heard that one of my all time favorite but past his album recording prime rappers Snoop Dogg was changing his name to Snoop Lion and doing a reggae record, I shook my head and laughed. Ah, what will he think of next? But I saw the trailer for this Vice-produced documentary about Snoop going to Jamaica to record the album and suddenly I had to take the whole idea more seriously. The movie looked good enough that I would’ve gone to see it in a theater if it had played here. Instead here it is on DVD in time to promote the album of the same name, which came out Tuesday.

BTISLAnd holy shit you guys, this is a great documentary. I watched it last weekend and it overshadowed all the other things I’ve been watching lately, most of which I liked. I loved it so much I decided to invent this new medal just to make sure you guys will know I’m not fuckin around. This is an acclaimed documentary now, otherwise it wouldn’t have won a prestigious medal like this. If you love Snoop Dogg, or are even open to the idea of Snoop Dogg, you gotta see this. Regardless of how anybody feels about the album this is a great document of a man trying to find himself, of a historic bridging of musical cultures and generations, of the process of songwriting, of an awesome trip to Jamaica.

(read the rest of this shit…)

G.L.O.W.: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

tn_glowDo you guys remember G.L.O.W.? Back in the ’80s, specifically 1986-1990, it was a weekly televised all women’s wrestling event. What I remember is it was taped in what looked like a hotel banquet room (turns out it was in a casino). And because of the time it happened there was alot of big hair, alot of glitter, alot of shiny aerobics type outfits. And face paint.

This movie is one of these nostalgic documentaries we’re gonna start seeing even more of because of Kickstarter. It’s HEY, REMEMBER G.L.O.W.?: THE MOVIE. Not alot of substance. But it’s an unusual topic that’s interesting to me, so I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane.

The director Brett Whitcomb and writer Bradford Thomason actually did another nostalgic documentary about a colorful pop culture oddity that only could’ve happened in the ’80s, THE ROCK-A-FIRE EXPLOSION. I recommend that to anybody that wants to see a movie about the animatronic bears and gorillas and shit that played music at the Show Biz Pizza chain, the weird guy that invented them, the crazy coke-fueled hey day when the company was on top of the world, the inevitable downfall, and the dilapidated warehouse where he still keeps all the old crap he has left. That’s real interesting stuff, GLOW actually seems kinda predictable compared to that but, you know, it’s about women who used to paint their faces and wave chainsaws around and rap and bodyslam each other on TV. I’m gonna watch it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

“The Art of Rap is the first Ice-T film.” –first line in Ice-T’s first film The Art of Rap

Some of you may know Ice-T as a kangaroo man from TANK GIRL, or a Lo-Tek in JOHNNY MNEMONIC. Some may know him for his appearances in whichever Law & Order crime drama it is. For others he’s the guy for some reason you always confuse with Ice Cube even though they look and sound totally different from each other. But you may have also heard that before all that he was a pioneering west coast rapper. I still bust out his albums Power and O.G. – Original Gangster every once in a while, and they hold up well.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Windy City Heat

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

WINDY CITY HEAT is the story of Stone Fury, the Chicago sports private eye who all the legendary athletes come to when they’re the victim of a crime. For example one of the cases he investigates in this one is when William “The Refrigerator” Perry comes to him and says his refrigerator has been stolen. “How am I gonna chill my food?” he asks Fury. “How?

Well, that’s not the WINDY CITY HEAT you’ll sit down to watch, though. That’s the movie-within-the-movie. The movie that we can get on DVD is an elaborate practical joke played on “Scary” Perry Caravello, the weirdo Sam Kinison wannabe and accomplished film extra who plays Fury. Comedians Don Barris and Mole (who always pretends to be stoned and wears an obviously fake wig) have known him for years and like to fuck with him. With the help of producers Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla they convince him he’s auditioning for, then filming, the role of Stone Fury. He’s convinced he’s a great actor (you will disagree) and of course agrees to interviews and cameras following him around for the behind-the-scenes documentary.
(read the rest of this shit…)