Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Ginger Baker in Africa

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

tn_gingerbakerWell, I’m feeling good, my new book is getting good reviews, I got the next two days off work. What should I do? How ’bout review something even more obscure than the other day’s comments-killer THE DEADLY ART OF SURVIVAL? I mean, if I had to guess I’d say this one was probly a little better known that that one, but I can’t even find it listed on IMDb. So everybody’s gonna think I made it up. They need documentation and records. But I swear to you, I watched GINGER BAKER IN AFRICA on an officially released DVD and everything.

Before you get too excited, I gotta tell you that GINGER BAKER IN AFRICA is not at all like SHAFT IN AFRICA. It’s much more experimental. It’s about how in 1971 Ginger Baker, the drummer from Cream, wanted to build a recording studio in Nigeria, so he flew to Marrakech and then drove across the desert. Although it’s real footage it’s not really what you would usually think of as a documentary. It doesn’t really explain much, but it also doesn’t linger on scenes long enough to be direct cinema. It’s pretty confusing. It doesn’t matter. (read the rest of this shit…)

Party in Rio

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

tn_partyinrioCITY OF GOD, CITY OF MEN and NEWS FROM A PERSONAL WAR got me interested in what’s going on in Brazil. For further research I decided to check out this video I’d always meant to see, an enlightening travel documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger visiting Rio De Janeiro during Carnaval.

You young people probly think Schwarznegger is merely the governor of California who used to star in great movies like COMMANDO and TOTAL RECALL, but in fact he is also the former Mr. Universe and notorious horndog. This was 1983, after CONAN THE BARBARIAN but before THE TERMINATOR, and it’s the sort of video that probly mostly played after midnight on Cinemax.

(You young people probly think Cinemax was merely a channel that showed movies. In fact it was what kids used to see boobs before the invention of the internet if they couldn’t find their dad’s stash of Playboys.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Capitalism: A Love Story

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

tn_capitalismI think the end of the Bush era killed most of the demand for left wing documentaries. I think I heard Robert Greenwald is managing a food co-op or something.

Remember when FAHRENHEIT 9-11 came out? It was a phenomenon. I remember I tried to get tickets online and literally every show in Seattle was sold out. I had to go out of town to wait in a long line to see it. It seemed like such a huge deal then because it was like shit, finally. Finally somebody saying something.
(read the rest of this shit…)


Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

tn_rankOkay, my last two reviews brought out everybody’s expertise of mixed martial arts competitions and professional wrestling. Let’s see how you guys do with this sport.

RANK is another John Hyams documentary in the tradition of THE SMASHING MACHINE, but this one’s in the world of professional bullriding. In both sports Hyams has documented so far the athletes break parts of themselves that they aren’t gonna be able to fix. And the filmatistic approach he used in SMASHING MACHINE ain’t broke so he doesn’t fix that either: it’s almost-direct cinema (just following people around, but they do talk to the camera sometimes), hypnotic score, themes that make themselves apparent and don’t need to be underlined. This time around it looks like he got better cameras, though. The cinematography is outstanding. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Smashing Machine

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

tn_smashingmachineTHE SMASHING MACHINE is a documentary about Mark Kerr, at the time an undefeated fighter in UFC, Pride and other mixed martial arts competitions. The director is John Hyams, whose UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION was so unexpectedly great I felt compelled to watch everything else he’s directed. In fact, Van Damme’s admiration of this movie is apparently what got Hyams the gig on the ol’ UNISOL.

The opening got me right away because it’s a voiceover on top of fight footage, and something seems wrong. The gentle, almost nerdy voice that’s talking to us doesn’t seem to match this muscleman we’re watching use his bare hands and feet to take flesh that God shaped in His own image and reconfigure it into an ugly pile of of bruise and injury. If Mark Kerr called you on the phone and said, “I’m the Smashing Machine,” you’d hear his voice and you’d never believe him. You’d hang up. But it’s true, he’s the Smashing Machine. And also a nice, thoughtful guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Good Hair

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

tn_goodhairMan, this movie made me feel naive. It’s a documentary about black women’s hair, and it’s not really made for a white audience, it seems mainly designed to inspire discussion about beauty standards among the black community. But it was also fascinating for a white dude like me, and maybe more surprising. I had no idea. I never really thought about some of this stuff.

The director is Jeff Stilson, a writer for Letterman, The Chris Rock Show, Ali G, etc. But the movie is in the point of view of Chris Rock, who narrates and goes around talking to celebrities, hair stylists and experts. He explains that one of his young daughters asked him why she didn’t have “good hair,” and this sends him on a journey to understand why so many black women grow up hating the way their hair grows naturally. He explores straightening combs, relaxant and weaves, asking questions that draw out the absurdity of it all but rarely judging or directly commenting. Though sometimes the look on his face says it all. (read the rest of this shit…)

Steven Seagal: Lawman – Episodes 11-12

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010


The LAWMAN season finale is on tonight, so before that airs I thought I should catch up on reviewing the previous two episodes. The show continues to be interesting to Seagalogists, each time throwing in a few new elements instead of simply repeating itself. These episodes include shit-talking Jean-Claude Van Damme, being mistaken for another famous action star, a sad look at the War on Drugs and a genuinely cute moment that will make you say “Aaaahhhhh, that was a genuinely cute moment.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

Steven Seagal: Lawman – Episodes 8-10

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

tn_lawman(sorry guys – playing catchup on reviewing the last three episodes before tonight’s new one)

Medicine Man

“I like you, my wife loves you. She love that man. I don’t know why.”

This is the rare episode that begins in the daylight, with the Squad checking out a report of a suspicious person in front of a liquor store. They end up chasing a black kid all over the place, driving, cutting through yards, hopping fences. And I think they would be the first to admit that this chase scene is more like a scene from GRUMPY OLD MEN than DISTRICT B13. To their credit I guess there’s a little POINT BREAK in there. (read the rest of this shit…)

Elvis Presley Gladiators: The 1974 Elvis Karate Legacy Project

Monday, January 11th, 2010

tn_elvisgladiatorsI know Elvis never meant shit to Chuck D, but I kind of like him. I’m not a huge fan or follower, never been to Graceland (yet), but he’s kind of interesting to me. I’m mostly fascinated by his earlier music and his later persona. And I’m especially interested in the fact that he did karate. Maybe if this portion of his life had been made more public it wouldn’t seem that cool, but as it is it’s kind of a mystery. Here’s this iconic part of pop culture, now more of a character than a human being, and you associate him with certain things, but kicking ass is not usually one of them. The juxtaposition of The King and karate is kind of hilarious and awesome to me. (read the rest of this shit…)

Facing Ali

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

tn_facingaliFACING ALI is a great new documentary about Muhammad Ali (out on DVD last week) that tells his story through the eyes of 10 of his opponents. You still get clips of the champ talking, training, fighting, but you hear about these legendary fights from new interviews with the other guys.

Each of them tell a little about their backgrounds, so they have their own interesting stories. Then they tell about the lead up to the fight, what happened, how they felt about it. Some have nothing but respect for Ali, they admire him, even idolize him. Some are still bitter about the way he insulted them, thought he was too mean. But more than one cries when talking about Ali’s Parkinson’s. (read the rest of this shit…)