documentaries

  • Trailer for Best Worst Movie, a documentary about the fans of and the people involved with the 1990 horror flick, Troll 2. During my high school days, we would often spend our weekend nights renting the worst looking VHS at the local Blockbuster and Troll 2 was probably our favorite, meriting repeat viewings. The existence of this documentary proves that our experience was not unique. (via fimoculous) (5) #
    5/5/2009

Man on Wire

I'm late to the party, but man was Man on Wire an excellent film. On its face, it's a straightforward documentary about high-wire walker Philippe Petit and his 1974 walk between the tops of the Twin Towers, but the fact that he and his crew did so without alerting authorities -- at least until he was in the middle of the wire, a quarter mile above the ground -- makes the film that much more fun to watch. It comes off as part heist movie (How did they sneak in?) and part Mythbusters episode (How did they prepare and plan for it? What equipment did they use?), and it's edited proficiently. I'm still dealing with the slow trickle of 2008 films that comes with living in a 4th tier movie city, but this is one of the best I've seen from last year so far.

Tue, 01/13/2009 - 6:21pm
  • Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball) is working on a six-part, 12-hour miniseries on America's National Parks, to be aired next year. I've been a yearly National Park Pass holder for 4 years now, so I'm looking forward to this one. (I've been to only 23 of the 58 National Parks -- I still haven't been to Nevada's one park, yet somehow the Dry Tortugas got a visit!) (via ecoscraps) (13) #
    9/9/2008
  • Roger Ebert reviews Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will in his "Great Movies" series, coming to the conclusion that it's not so great, at least in his usual sense:
    It is a terrible film, paralyzingly dull, simpleminded, overlong and not even "manipulative," because it is too clumsy to manipulate anyone but a true believer. It is not a "great movie" in the sense that the other films in this group are great, but it is "great" in the reputation it has and the shadow it casts... I doubt that anyone not already a Nazi could be swayed by it.
    (0) #
    6/27/2008
  • Trailer for Religulous, Bill Maher's upcoming documentary about religion. If you watch his HBO show, you know that he views all religions, from Scientology to Catholicism, with the same amount of skepticism and contempt. Much of the trailer takes the easy route and focuses on fringe extremists -- it'll be interesting to see if he aims higher in the film. (58) #
    6/9/2008
  • Trailer for Glass: a Portrait of Philip In 12 Parts, a documentary about the famous contemporary composer (who is often mislabeled as "minimalist"). I first heard the name Philip Glass when he was mocked in a South Park episode in 1997. Soon afterwards, I saw Martin Scorsese's Kundun and bought its excellent soundtrack. This led to his Errol Morris scores, Koyaanisqatsi, his Bowie/Eno symphonies, and much of the rest of his back catalog. I'm a fan. (3) #
    4/20/2008
  • The trailer for Grass Roots, a documentary about the Nevada marijuana legalization campaign for which I ran the Internet operations in 2006. The film's distribution plans are still unknown to me. Can you spot crazymonk? I have two appearances in the trailer, and probably only a few lines in the film. (9) #
    12/21/2007
  • An interview with Tony Kaye, the controversial director of American History X, on his upcoming documentary Lake of Fire about the abortion debate. He's been working on it for over 16 years, and the 152 minute film features three actual abortions.
    [W]hat I was trying to do as a filmmaker, in a personal way, was to find out exactly what abortion was without taking any sides and without being judgmental.
    That's an ambitious claim, and even if he succeeds, I doubt it will be perceived that way. (16) #
    10/15/2007
  • Yesterday's Slavoj Žižek article led me to a few more intersting links. First, there's the trailer for Žižek!, a documentary following the eponymous philosopher during his lecture circuit, with a soundtrack by the excellent one-man band A Hawk and a Hacksaw. (I saw AHAAH's live show a year ago, and it was awesome.) Second, there's a fascinating New Yorker profile of Žižek. (via ss) (1) #
    9/12/2006

Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke

Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke

I spent four hours on Monday and Tuesday watching Spike Lee's HBO documentary on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. I was on a road trip when Katrina hit a little less than a year ago, so I wasn't able to follow the developments of the crisis at the time. I didn't even learn of the levees breaking until I read the front page of a New York Times in Boulder, CO, more than two days after the hurricane hit.

Since I was able to keep up with the ongoing crisis only with occassional spurts of talk radio thereafter, I was most looking forward to the first half of Lee's documentary, which focused on the immediate days surrounding the hurricane's landing. But it turns out that that was the part of the documentary I was most informed about, due to my finally catching up with the 24/7 news coverage and magazine stories a week later. It was in fact the latter half of Lee's documentary that I found to be essential viewing, dealing with the long-term aftermatch of the hurricane. The ongoing struggles of individual families, the politics behind the rebuilding, and the historical/racial/social context of the entire tragedy are artfully intertwined in the last two acts.

Four hours is a long time to spend on a documentary, but I don't think any of you need to be convinced that the Katrina incident is one of the most revealing tragedies in recent American history. And the documentary isn't all elegaics. One more lighthearted segment follows, via home video, the backstory of the guy who infamously double-gutted the Vice President in front of the media with a strangely polite, "Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney." And as always, there's Lee's visual/aural jazz-inspired synthesis, made more the relevant by the New Orleans setting. If you have HBO, try to catch one of the many upcoming rebroadcasts; otherwise, consider putting it on your rental queue.

Thu, 08/24/2006 - 9:41am

An Inconvenient Truth

Last night, I was faced with An Inconvenient Truth, mediated by the soothing drawl of Al Gore. Here's why you should see this movie:

  • It's not boring.
  • Seriously, it's quite visceral and compelling.
  • It presents the Global Warming problem using elegant and thorough infographics.
  • It unquestionably settles three issues which have unfairly been considered as in scientific doubt:
    1. This is an alarming problem right now, not just 100 years from now.
    2. There is incredibly strong evidence that not only does Global Warming exist, but that the "nature is cyclical" argument is frighteningly not comforting in our present situation.
    3. Some believe that since the planet has seen extreme temperatures in the past, there's no need for us to change our way of life to avoid what's inevitable. Gore particularly emphasizes that this perspective is both immoral and unethical. By not taking measures now, we will be in effect responsible for future Katrinas, and on a much grander scale.
  • Al Gore is a funny and informative lecturer.

The film could've used 10% fewer shots of Al Gore pondering, contemplating his past, etc., but the point of these scenes got across: Gore has spent a significant part of his life on this issue, he truly cares about it, and he thinks you should, too.

Wed, 06/21/2006 - 9:38am
  • Ebert's thoughts on This Film is Not Rated, a documentary shown at Sundance where a private detective infiltrates the MPAA Rating board (the 8 people who sometimes arbitrarily decide on a film's rating) and discovers that they're not the average parents the MPAA claims they are. (12) #
    2/5/2006