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Filmspotting Message Boards => Movie Talk => Movie Clubs => Topic started by: skjerva on February 05, 2009, 01:17:21 PM

Title: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: skjerva on February 05, 2009, 01:17:21 PM
anyone finish yet?


----

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Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: smirnoff on February 08, 2009, 09:56:28 PM
Tupac Resurrection (Lauren Lazin, 2003)

This is a documentary I would not have seen without the FDC. Not because I wasn't aware it existed, but because my musical tastes have changed. There was a good five year span between the time I last listened to a Tupac track and the release of this film. With my passing interest in the music went my curiousity about the lives of the artists responsible for it. I should say it's not that I came to dislike the music, I just tired of it that way I tire of anything I listen to. Heck, half the stuff I put on my top 20 albums list probably wouldn't be there if I took a second look at it today (sorry Rush  :(). But anyways, though I may not listen to Tupac's music anymore, it certainly left an impression on me.

With that in mind it should be understandable that I wasn't hugely psyched when I got this assignment. On the other hand I was aware of this doc's reputation as a very good film. I now agree with that general sentiment. I wasn't quite sure how this story was going to be presented, but it's just like the tag line says, "In His Own Words". You get a stitched together (quasi-auto)biography with narration by Tupac himself, culled from interviews.

Tupac's life story has become modern-day mythology, and this documentary does well not to get caught up in the romance, and hero worship. It lets Tupac say what he wants to say, and has the sense not to glorify it. It was really nice to get his side of his story. Ultimately I got the sense that he was man with a big heart and good intentions, but he had naive and arrogant side. He admits as much, and more. We all have our weak points, and use poor judgment from time to time, but we don't all have fame amplifying the impact. It goes with the territory though I guess, and different celebrities handle it different ways. Tupac's way seemed to be to ignore it. He says he follows his heart, and if people misinterpreted him there was nothing he could do. He felt that if he started taking measures to prevent that misinterpretation he'd stifle himself. It's probably one of those damned if you do damned if you don't situations.

When it was all said and done I was glad to have watched it. His is an interesting life to look at with the benefit of hindsight. Thanks to Gobman for the memorable experience. I would happily recommend the film to others.

(http://www.poster.net/tupac/tupac-ressurection-4900928.jpg)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Melvil on February 09, 2009, 02:34:05 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/9kvx36.jpg)
Los Angeles Plays Itself (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379357/) (2003, Thom Andersen)

Los Angeles Plays Itself is a nearly three hour long documentary that you can kind of look at as a history of film as it relates to the city. It's presented in a way that examines many different aspects of LA (which I now feel guilty for calling it) as portrayed in movies, and then contrasts them with the reality. It may not sound that interesting, but I assure you it is.

The source of entertainment is, primarily, the many clips and sequences from films that are shown one after another to present the filmmakers points. Dozens (hundreds?) of films make appearances, used to show common elements, the differences in portrayal, stereotypes, etc. of many different subjects over the course of the movie. A lot of the clips are really fun, and it really did make me excited to see some of the movies. The narration is also well done and usually very interesting, tying different things together nicely, and both expressing the filmmakers love for his home city, and admonishing the film industry for the issues he addresses within.

Which brings me to my one and only complaint about the movie. The narration, as written by Thom, often goes way too far in annalyzing the films he's using to make his points. He reads significance into everything, and then treats anything short of reality as a great injustice. He makes generalizations that are often contradicted, and assumptions that are unfair and unlikely. And while I realize the scope of the movie does not really extend beyond LA, many of the points he brings up are true of filmmaking in general and not just applicable to one city, but you wouldn't know it from the way he tells it. None of this affected my enjoyment of the movie that much, but I occasionally found myself annoyed at some off-the-wall claim he would make.

I really had a good time with this movie. In fact, I kinda wish this was a series of movies all based around different cities. :)

Unofficial Bonus Dictation:

(http://i42.tinypic.com/c5ogl.jpg)
Titicut Follies (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062374/) (1967, Frederick Wiseman)

Titicut Follies is about the Bridgewater Correctional Institution in Massachusetts (that is, a prison for the mentally unstable). The movie is basically a series of scenes from daily life there. There's no narration, not much structure, and no attempt to explain anything or give it meaning, so you're really left taking the things that are shown for what they are. It really examines two things, crazy people, and the place where the crazy people are kept. The patients vary in craziness, some of them seem pretty normal on the surface, others, well, they're at the other extreme. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty in watching, as if just by observing they were being made a spectacle of, but I guess that's the difficulty with this kind of subject. The whole thing is very sad to witness, with the worst part being the conditions they are forced to live in. Their treatment seems to vary based on their mental condition, but many of them are treated more like animals than humans. They're kept naked much of the time, hosed down in place of baths, in one of the more difficult scenes to watch, a man is force-fed through a feeding tube while being held down on a table. There are multiple instances of borderline abuse from the staff, and although the administration seems to have the best intents, it's shocking to see what the result is.

I'm aware this film was controversial when it was made, and while I can see why, it seems to me the issues it raises awareness on, intentionally or not, were needed at the time. Since then times have changed a lot, so none of that may apply directly today, but it remains an interesting historical movie.

skjerva, many thanks for introducing me to both of these movies, I owe ya' one!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: duder on February 10, 2009, 09:25:04 AM
Los Angeles Plays Itself

None of this affected my enjoyment of the movie that much, but I occasionally found myself annoyed at some off-the-wall claim he would make.

Yep, I got that as well, especially when he makes assumptions about people for praising a certain movie (usually one he doesn't like), but I was willing to accept it as an inevitable by-product of his intense passion for both the city and the movies.


I really had a good time with this movie. In fact, I kinda wish this was a series of movies all based around different cities. :)

Kinda makes me sad that no one's making movies in my city. Thought it was a nice coincidence that the only movie that has scenes in my neighbourhood (that I know of), also made it to this documentary :)   


Titicut Follies

I'm aware this film was controversial when it was made, and while I can see why, it seems to me the issues it raises awareness on, intentionally or not, were needed at the time. Since then times have changed a lot, so none of that may apply directly today, but it remains an interesting historical movie.

I'm not so sure you can reduce it to an historical document. Its themes are timeless, but even if you want to get specific, people locked up against their will based on questionable psychiatric diagnoses? Stories of abuse in psychiatric hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes? Hardly a thing of the past.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Melvil on February 10, 2009, 11:24:16 AM
I'm not so sure you can reduce it to an historical document. Its themes are timeless, but even if you want to get specific, people locked up against their will based on questionable psychiatric diagnoses? Stories of abuse in psychiatric hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes? Hardly a thing of the past.

Yeah, you're right. I didn't mean to be that dismissive of it's value, there's definitely more to it that is still relevant.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: worm@work on February 10, 2009, 05:29:42 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/34gn6yx.jpg)(http://i44.tinypic.com/20qnxcg.jpg)
Le Sang des bÍtes (Georges Franju, 1949)

Awww, were you looking for something to watch with that special someone on Valentine's Day? Here it is. See, all those lovely images of French kids playing Ring-a-ring-o'-roses in the park and beautiful young lovers kissing?

Just make sure you turn it off after like the first minute or so! This is a really short documentary that essentially looks at the working of a slaughterhouse right at the outskirts of Paris. It starts off really casual, almost disarmingly so. Just images like the ones above and a voice-over describing this particular locale outside Paris. The voice then goes on to describe the instruments or tools of slaughter. Here again, the description is mechanical and the voice is decidedly neutral. And then the white horse comes in.
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2hfjbz8.jpg)

From this point on, the movie is just relentless. It patiently goes through the procedural details of slaughter. The various methods in which these animals are killed, the process of disembowelment and skinning. I didn't have a good time watching all this. None of it was shocking necessarily. I was quite aware of the process involved even before watching this. Despite this, watching it was still really difficult and affecting. If I wasn't watching this for the dictator club, I might have closed my eyes at points but under the circumstances, I felt obligated to really watch it. I am not going to post too many screenshots here for obvious reasons but if this here bothers you too much, then you may want to avoid this.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/29e6r80.jpg)

In a way, this reminded me of High School in that the camera just seems to be at this place chronicling whatever is happening around it. There is a voice-over here but the voice-over mostly just discusses technical points. What makes this truly powerful is that the film never feels exploitative or jingoistic or sadistic. It manages to maintain a distance at all times and it never seems to be judging the process. The other thing that struck me is that the doc not only talks about the process but also takes great pains to highlight the skill and danger involved on the part of the people working in the slaughterhouse. Plus, its visually really stunning. Every frame is really poetic and moving and so many of them, even the ones outside the slaughterhouse really stayed with me.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/a2qhy9.jpg)(http://i44.tinypic.com/302w4kn.jpg)

Admittedly, this is not an easy watch. Nevertheless, I think it's a great documentary to watch. It's great filmmaking for one thing and is incredibly thought-provoking. Thor, thanks for a truly excellent recommendation. My dictation, however, is by no means complete. I am looking forward to watching the rest of your recommendations (albeit with a modicum of caution :) ).

I shall strike you without anger and without hate, like a butcher-Baudelaire

Grade: B+
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: roujin on February 10, 2009, 05:35:25 PM
fun!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on February 11, 2009, 02:01:26 PM
Woohoo!

I assure you that's the toughest one! I think...
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: maŮana on February 11, 2009, 08:18:01 PM
Los Angeles Plays Itself and Le Sang des bÍtes would, if I had one, go in my queue. They both sound pretty awesome.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Bill Thompson on February 12, 2009, 10:10:25 AM
Touching The Void (2003)

(http://img26.imageshack.us/img26/1171/430void26050ul8.jpg)

Letís get one thing out of the way, I donít care for documentaries at all. So those of you who will be puzzled by my dislike of this film, keep that in mind. I wouldnít even take the time to watch a documentary like Touching The Void, but being a member of Filmspotting I participate in the Movie Dictator Club and this month we covered the topic of documentaries. A good guy Smirnoff, the name already speaks for itself, I canít come up with any funny nickname to make Smirnoff any better or quirkier, assigned me Touching The Void. Long story short, I was taken by certain aspects of this film, but on the whole I was left disappointed and without satisfaction.

For the first thirty or so minutes of Touching The Void I was very interested, the visuals were impressive, the talking heads were interesting and I had yet to be pulled from the reality of the film. Unfortunately that interest waned as the movie droned on, the visuals were still impressive but they were more of the same again and again, the talking heads remained interesting, and the docudrama film making completely killed my ability to care about what was happening. But, for those first thirty or so minutes I enjoyed what I was seeing and I was into the story.

The docudrama style has never done it for me, because the only pull documentaries ever had on me was bringing me into a realistic situation, but the docudrama style removes the reality. Instead of watching them climb the mountain I am aware of the fact that actors are combing a mountain and a camera is filming them. In short, the actual climb the film is discussing isnít actually happening. In fictional films I can be transported to a place and even though I know it is being filmed the cameras donít register with me, but in the docudrama style they do and every docudrama scene took me further and further away from the picture. The other problem for me was the nature of the storytelling. I honestly believe Touching The Void would have been much better as a motion picture as opposed to a documentary, because then it would have been incredibly interesting. In the documentary format the story loses steam fast and Touching The Void becomes a boring, almost lifeless film, I know these men are going to survive, I have been taken out of the film by the docudrama style and this has created one boring middle and end to what started out as a promising movie.

Well Smirnoff, I tried, but this documentary just wasnít for me. I recognize the craft that was on display in creating the visuals and reenacting the climb. But, there needs to be substance to go with that craft, and in that department Touching The Void is sorely lacking. All the film needed to do was make me care, but it couldnít. So, with this foray into the world of documentaries over with I donít see myself revisiting said world any time soon.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on February 12, 2009, 10:47:30 AM
Just the facts, Ma'am.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: smirnoff on February 12, 2009, 02:51:53 PM
First off, thanks for giving it a shot Bill.

On the bright side at least you didn't find any of it "misleading", or if you did you didn't mention it. I'll consider that a small success, as that was partly what turned you off of documentaries in the first place you said. It's too bad it came up so short in other areas.

We certainly had different experiences with this one, but you are not wrong. Given how you and the storytelling style didn't gel, what follows is understandable. Personally I felt this docudrama achieved a perfect synergy of the two elements, but artistic tastes are a bit of a coin toss that way I guess.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: ses on February 12, 2009, 04:59:17 PM
Touching the Void is a gripping book.  I've never seen the movie, but I highly recommend the book.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on February 12, 2009, 08:15:02 PM
Touching the Void is a gripping book.  I've never seen the movie, but I highly recommend the book.

Agreed, the book is awesome. Careful though, it is also a reconstruction of real events, not things that are actually happening as you read them.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: worm@work on February 12, 2009, 08:16:37 PM
Touching the Void is a gripping book.  I've never seen the movie, but I highly recommend the book.

Agreed, the books is awesome. Careful though, it is also a reconstruction of real events, not things that are actually happening as you read them.

:D
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: THATguy on February 12, 2009, 08:21:45 PM
Alright... I was dictated by _Keith_...

(http://i110.photobucket.com/albums/n110/smitten06/Lost%20in%20La%20Mancha/297_LILM1_jpg.jpg)
Lost in La Mancha (2003, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe)

Terry Gilliam is going to finally shoot The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, with a solid independent European backing and a strong cast that included Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort... what can go wrong?

As someone who'd love to make films some day, I found this look at Murphy's Law in filmmaking pretty enthralling.  I appreciated the parallels between Quixote's vision and reality, and Gilliam's vision and reality.  Obviously, you know the outcome of this going into it, but still find yourself rooting for Gilliam, not only on the strength of what you're seeing on screen, but also the belief that it's the tip of the iceberg of what this brilliant movie could've been.

As one of the more light-hearted drawings in the DMC, I can't say there's a ton of discussion per say, in the themes or subject matter.  There's not a strong message, except that perhaps sometimes, everything that can go wrong, will, and that's with genius talent involved.  Regardless, I enjoyed this immensely.  Thank you, Keith.

****
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Bill Thompson on February 12, 2009, 09:28:10 PM
Touching the Void is a gripping book.  I've never seen the movie, but I highly recommend the book.

Agreed, the books is awesome. Careful though, it is also a reconstruction of real events, not things that are actually happening as you read them.

As someone who spent most of his life in history books, the two main characters simply telling their tale would work wonderfully in book format, heck, it would even have made a good documentary.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: worm@work on February 14, 2009, 12:29:37 AM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2zqge0z.jpg)
Chronique d'un ťtť (Paris 1960) (Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch, 1961)

So this is the second installment of my verdict in response to Thor's doc-marathon dictation. I just need to say this first though. Previously, I looked at the list Thor sent me purely in terms of the subject they were covering and picked the ones that sounded most interesting to me. After watching the first 2 of the 4 I'm hoping to finish by the end of the month, I am convinced that Thor's picks were even more brilliant and well considered than I originally gave them credit for. Both of these docs have really raised a ton of questions in my head about the form itself. This one actually begins with a conversation about this very topic. The filmmakers, Rouch and Morin spend the first few minutes discussing whether or not it is even possible to be honest when one is put in front of a camera. With this Rouch pretty much introduces his intention of making a "cinťma vťritť". Filmmaker Rouch and sociologist, Morin then employ two market researchers to go out and interview Parisians on the street and ask them just one simple question, namely, "Are you happy?".

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2mwugzl.jpg) (http://i40.tinypic.com/xcuqmh.jpg) (http://i40.tinypic.com/11gk0tv.jpg)

Initially, as one would expect, the question is met with mostly frivolous responses. People either shrug off the interviewer by giving them strange looks or answer them flippantly. But soon the filmmakers pick a group of people and dig deeper into their lives and emotions. I was watching the movie pretty attentively and despite this, I can't quite tell you how or when the doc went from people simply flippantly discussing their daily lives and annoyances to the revelation of intimate personal secrets and stories.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2qscj7d.jpg) (http://i40.tinypic.com/9rpwm8.jpg)

The central cast of characters we encounter and learn more about include Marceline, a Holocaust survivor; Angelo, who works at a factory; Landry, a student from the Ivory Coast; and Marilou, a young but seriously depressed Italian immigrant. In a lot of ways, this is really different from most documentaries. For one thing, Rouch and Marin are present for large parts of the film and are visible in front of the camera and interacting with the subjects. Secondly, they are not just silent observers. They actually actively provoke the participants and ask them rather personal questions.

So here's where I found myself being really conflicted about some of what I was watching on screen. I thought the initial concept of asking people whether or not they were happy was a brilliant one. However, some of the provocative techniques used by Rouch and Marin to acquire richer and more personal responses from their subjects, I found to be rather disturbing. For example, they ask the student from Ivory Coast about the numbers tatooed on Marceline's arm, presumably knowing fully well that he has no understanding of their significance. Similarly, they never hesitate to coax Marilou into talking about her problems and her depression in front of the camera. I'm a social scientist by profession and regularly work with and talk to anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists. So, some of their techniques, I could understand from the standpoint of executing an experiment. But the idea of getting all this on film for generations to watch still bothered me considerably.

In an even more interesting turn of events, the filmmakers eventually get all the subjects to watch the footage and comment on it. Excerpts of their comments and a discussion between Rouch and Marin form the final third of the film. The reactions from the subjects were utterly fascinating to me. For instance, the Holocaust survivor who seems to have really exposed herself in front of the camera claims later on that she was just 'acting'. The audience seems to criticize the people who they think are clearly pretending for the camera but also disapprove of Marilou for being so raw and completely revealing her inner self to the filmmakers. A point that Rouch and Marin discuss that I think is also really pertinent here is whether the people who seem to or claim to be play-acting are even aware of whether or not they are being honest in front of the camera.

All of this really brings into question whether the camera is even capable of capturing reality or does it fundamentally change and meddle with whatever is going on in front of it? I can't say that the documentary answered these questions for me but it was most definitely a completely absorbing and constantly thought-provoking experience.

Any criticisms I've raised about the filmmakers approach to the documentary is not really a criticism of the doc itself. As a documentary, I think it did everything I hoped it would. It was entertaining, informative and definitely challenged my notions about a lot of things. I think my only reservation is that Rouch and Marin's approach somehow kept me from being as emotionally engaged and moved by the movie as for instance, Blood of the Beasts.

Most definitely recommended.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: skjerva on February 14, 2009, 01:54:44 AM
Great write-up, makes me want to find the film with sub-titles :)  where might i do that?   ;D

second, why would you ever admit to being a social scientist? 

third, for both worm and Thor, have you experienced Inquiring Nuns?  an early ('68) kartemquin doc that was inspired by Chronique - the two nuns are filmed in different spots around Chicago asking the same question - are you happy?  there is something i liked about the film, but something that really bugged me.  anywho, kartemquin's back catalog is in the process of getting transferred to dvd and Nuns is next up for a May release.  it's worth a look, i'll happily check it again on release
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: °Keith! on February 14, 2009, 03:48:50 AM
heck, it would even have made a good documentary.

can't say i'd agree with that at all.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Melvil on February 14, 2009, 12:08:54 PM
Chronique d'un ťtť sounds awesome.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: edgar00 on February 15, 2009, 01:18:05 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2zqge0z.jpg)
Chronique d'un ťtť (Paris 1960) (Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch, 1961)


That film sounds very good. You're quite lucky to have been dictated several movies.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: thatguy_sam on February 15, 2009, 01:28:50 PM
ah damned stupid backwards country, cant find a copy of Hoop Dreams anywhere
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FroHam X on February 15, 2009, 01:49:26 PM
ah damned stupid backwards country, cant find a copy of Hoop Dreams anywhere

What country? Because I think it's on HULU if you live in the US.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: skjerva on February 15, 2009, 02:04:16 PM

That film sounds very good. You're quite lucky to have been dictated several movies.

you are lucky, too!  i dictate thee La hora de los hornos.  also very good :)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: THATguy on February 15, 2009, 02:12:52 PM
ah damned stupid backwards country, cant find a copy of Hoop Dreams anywhere

What country? Because I think it's on HULU if you live in the US.

Location:     New Zealand
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FroHam X on February 15, 2009, 02:14:20 PM
ah damned stupid backwards country, cant find a copy of Hoop Dreams anywhere

What country? Because I think it's on HULU if you live in the US.

Location:     New Zealand

I hate not living in the United States too.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: THATguy on February 15, 2009, 08:54:58 PM
As yet another person stuck outside the US, it pretty much is awful when it comes to getting films.

Of course, there are ways around Hulu (Hotspot Shield for example).
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FroHam X on February 15, 2009, 08:56:56 PM
As yet another person stuck outside the US, it pretty much is awful when it comes to getting films.

Of course, there are ways around Hulu (Hotspot Shield for example).

I just find Hotspot Shield goes too slow for me.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: thatguy_sam on February 15, 2009, 09:40:05 PM
ah damned stupid backwards country, cant find a copy of Hoop Dreams anywhere

What country? Because I think it's on HULU if you live in the US.

No im from New Zealand
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 15, 2009, 10:19:36 PM
All this talk of Hoop Dreams has me ready to post a reflection on it, I guess...

Hoop Dreams - I have come to understand that this documentary carries a ton of weight around these boards, and going over previous reviews elsewhere it seems to critically carry a load of high opinion as well. The film is the welcoming bell for the resurgence and recent Golden Age of newer documentaries, it is one of those films that tackles so many issues that it can be compared with many modern and classic cinema epics, and it is filmed with great care and beautiful style. I can agree with the majority of that, the film does so much right as a documentary that it is hard to fault it, so many techniques seen here have made appearances in other documentaries that I have seen this past year and from years after this film was released, granted that number is not incredibly high, but still, the influence that this film has clearly had on the medium is noticeable, for the better, and commands a good deal of respect. Sure there are talking head portions, but they feel like something more, allowing the viewer to get close to these people and understand the problems they are going to encounter while still remaining in the position of observer. Hell, it even works on an emotional level, relying on the viewer to pull for William and Arthur despite the two just being common children who do not directly play a role in most audiences's mind. It does tackle a various number of social topics too, ranging from the high school experience, the dirty manner in which sports operate even from such a young age, and the class issue in the country. These are heavy topics to cover, and to imagine that the filmmaker could hit them all in a film following two boys playing basketball in high school for four years is incredibly impressive. And then there is the style with which the film is shot, a roving camera that conveys the beauty of the sport along with the harsh reality these children and their families face, even that surgery scene had me both engaged and horrified. A ton is done right with this film and I can understand why it is considered so great and such an important film.

However, it is far from flawless and for everything great the film does at least one aspect is handled with little care and does not work. While the film does tackle a great number of subject in the hefty three hour run time, very few seem to be fully explored and would have benefited with, and I know this sounds hypocritical, a bit more time. Both Arthur and William were captivating figures and I was glad to spend time with them, I never minded watching them on screen and the film seemed to flash by when they were on there, which was great, I would have taken more of that. Still, the filmmaker seemed to scratch the surface of so much without ever going too deep on any particular issue that I found myself only gaining surface knowledge of most of what the film was talking about rather than being able to explore the corruption fully, or the high school experience, or the family turmoil, or anything really. Even that thing between Arthur and Shannon and William's problems with the coach in regard to his family, as well as the problems he had with his own father, were only mentioned shortly. The film also felt very constructed at times and the natural feeling was displaced, particularly later when William and Arthur reunited in their senior year. I guess they could kind of relate to each other, but they never were seen interacting as freshman so the idea that one had any sort of investment beyond passable interest in the other was unbelievable and unnecessary. Oh, and that voice over thing during the games, it was painful and detracted from some great sequences. The film was capable of speaking on its own, no voice over was needed.  There is a lot of good, there is a lot of bad, and I guess I can agree with the film's importance, but it is far from flawless. And that music that started playing during the credits seemed like it would fit better in one of those late night HBO movies rather than this documentary. Still, I am glad I got a chance to watch the film, it drew me in emotionally and given how detached I am from the basic premise that is impressive in itself, but the film has power far beyond that, and that is great stuff too, but it either needed to be more compact and to the point or longer to give the needed attention to everything the filmmaker attempts to tackle.

B-/B or 3.662134953201532
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FroHam X on February 15, 2009, 10:33:16 PM
I didn't read it yet, but I already think you're crazy.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 15, 2009, 10:35:14 PM
I didn't read it yet, but I already think you're crazy.

To be fair, did I need to post this for you to think that?
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FroHam X on February 15, 2009, 10:36:46 PM
I didn't read it yet, but I already think you're crazy.

To be fair, did I need to post this for you to think that?

Nope. Your avatar and general opinions on things had me believing that long ago. Nice write-up though.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 15, 2009, 10:40:14 PM
I didn't read it yet, but I already think you're crazy.

To be fair, did I need to post this for you to think that?

Nope. Your avatar and general opinions on things had me believing that long ago. Nice write-up though.

Well thank you kindly sir, on all three sentences and implications.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: pixote on February 16, 2009, 02:46:47 AM
The film also felt very constructed at times and the natural feeling was displaced, particularly later when William and Arthur reunited in their senior year. I guess they could kind of relate to each other, but they never were seen interacting as freshman so the idea that one had any sort of investment beyond passable interest in the other was unbelievable and unnecessary.

They kept their friendship a secret from the filmmakers.

pixote
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FroHam X on February 16, 2009, 02:48:12 AM
The film also felt very constructed at times and the natural feeling was displaced, particularly later when William and Arthur reunited in their senior year. I guess they could kind of relate to each other, but they never were seen interacting as freshman so the idea that one had any sort of investment beyond passable interest in the other was unbelievable and unnecessary.

They kept their friendship a secret from the filmmakers.

pixote

Really? I gotta get myself that Criterion edition.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 16, 2009, 01:03:17 PM
The film also felt very constructed at times and the natural feeling was displaced, particularly later when William and Arthur reunited in their senior year. I guess they could kind of relate to each other, but they never were seen interacting as freshman so the idea that one had any sort of investment beyond passable interest in the other was unbelievable and unnecessary.

They kept their friendship a secret from the filmmakers.

pixote

Really? I gotta get myself that Criterion edition.

I guess that makes sense, though they also kept it a pretty good secret from the audience too, either way the film made it seem unrealistic.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: skjerva on February 16, 2009, 02:34:15 PM

That film sounds very good. You're quite lucky to have been dictated several movies.

you are lucky, too!  i dictate thee La hora de los hornos.  also very good :)

do it! do it!  do it!  (are you gonna do it?)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 16, 2009, 08:23:03 PM
So, I may get my second dictation done this weekend, Jonas Brothers comes out this weekend.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: skjerva on February 16, 2009, 08:51:37 PM
The film also felt very constructed at times and the natural feeling was displaced, particularly later when William and Arthur reunited in their senior year. I guess they could kind of relate to each other, but they never were seen interacting as freshman so the idea that one had any sort of investment beyond passable interest in the other was unbelievable and unnecessary.

They kept their friendship a secret from the filmmakers.

pixote

i kinda wonder about that, more how much a friendship they really hid and how much was James framing it as something more than it was
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 16, 2009, 08:54:54 PM
I have not been crucified yet for my review, this has been successful.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: pixote on February 16, 2009, 08:55:59 PM
i kinda wonder about that, more how much a friendship they really hid and how much was James framing it as something more than it was

Check out the commentary on the Criterion disc, if you haven't already.

pixote
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: skjerva on February 16, 2009, 10:26:36 PM
i kinda wonder about that, more how much a friendship they really hid and how much was James framing it as something more than it was

Check out the commentary on the Criterion disc, if you haven't already.

pixote

i have, i just wonder about how the story is being represented
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: worm@work on February 17, 2009, 03:45:03 PM
Great write-up, makes me want to find the film with sub-titles :)  where might i do that?   ;D

Just realized I never read the rest of this post :).

Quote from: skjerva
third, for both worm and Thor, have you experienced Inquiring Nuns?  an early ('68) kartemquin doc that was inspired by Chronique - the two nuns are filmed in different spots around Chicago asking the same question - are you happy?  there is something i liked about the film, but something that really bugged me.  anywho, kartemquin's back catalog is in the process of getting transferred to dvd and Nuns is next up for a May release.  it's worth a look, i'll happily check it again on release

Wow, I had not heard about this one at all but am very curious to watch this now. I'll definitely look out for the dvd in May. In case of Chronique, I think the political situation in France at the time played a pretty key role in how people responded to the question - especially in the roundtable discussions. Wasn't 1968 the year the riots took place in Chicago?
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on February 17, 2009, 04:07:11 PM
Love the write-up W@W. If only we could get Bill to watch it now.

Wasn't aware o that KTQ film. Will have to check that out.

Can't believe the criticism of Hoop Dreams of "only scratching the surface". How much more film should they have shot??
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Bill Thompson on February 17, 2009, 05:00:55 PM
Can't believe the criticism of Hoop Dreams of "only scratching the surface". How much more film should they have shot??

Personally, they did leave a lot of stuff out. Like how the basketball players, including Will and Art, would take random IHM students to the "tunnel" and bang the hell out of them. Or, how a teacher was fired a few years after they left for fixing grades, and he admitted to fixing their grades, or how while they were filming one of the two was allegedly having sex with a female teacher.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on February 17, 2009, 05:58:59 PM
Can't believe the criticism of Hoop Dreams of "only scratching the surface". How much more film should they have shot??

Personally, they did leave a lot of stuff out. Like how the basketball players, including Will and Art, would take random IHM students to the "tunnel" and bang the hell out of them. Or, how a teacher was fired a few years after they left for fixing grades, and he admitted to fixing their grades, or how while they were filming one of the two was allegedly having sex with a female teacher.

I did not know this, but as I said in my review, I would not have minded if they left a few of the things they focused on out to further zone in one two or three of the topics. I never felt like I gained an incredible understanding of any specific parts of their life or the world of high school sports because the film was too concerned with also showing the neighborhoods the boys grew up in, and their family problems, and a few other things. I guess these things were all supposed to culminate and give me a better understanding of William and Arthur, but that did not really happen. I look to that single scene between William and his father. Sure the dad was not there for the whole film, and when he contacts him again it is presumably to capitalize on his son's future success, but that event just felt irrelevant because little to no mention of his father was previously made, and they did not mention him after that point either. Things like that were only touched on the surface, and I'd rather they have been cut than handled with little care.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Emiliana on February 24, 2009, 03:53:21 PM
(http://www.cifom.ch/media/InfosESTER/images/super-size-me.jpg)

This was neither edgar's nor my first choice, but my dear old friend availability was of the opinion that we should settle for this. I had been mildly curious about it back when it came out, but not enough to make an effort to see it.
 
SuperSize Me was definitely worth my time. I didn't expect very much from it (ok, this guy is going to eat McD for 30 days, and he'll get sick, and we'll have learnt that McD is bad for you), and while it gave me more than that, I can't say that I'm now overly enthusiastic about it.

Morgan Spurlock is a likeable guy, and you enjoy the time you spend with him. A definite plus for the film is its cast of minor characters - I particularly liked the interactions with the general practitioner and Spurlock's girlfriend - and the fact that it doesn't only focus on the experiment itself: Spurlock tries to educate his viewers about the impact of fast food on the general population of the United States, and about the food served to children in schools in particular. All this is presented in a nicely edited and pacy way, so that I felt that the film was over in no time at all. The only real problem I had were with the film's closing monologue, which felt clunky and amateurish, but otherwise, not much to complain.

I didn't gain profound new insights from the film, but not every documentary has to give you that. But then again, I hardly eat any fast food (maybe once every two months), so I didn't need the film to act as a wake-up call for me. The closing montage indicates that SuperSize Me has effected some changes already, and I can absolutely imagine that some might reconsider their eating habits after watching the film.

What it comes down to for me in the end is that I was very well entertained for an afternoon, which was exactly what I had hoped for from this film. Thanks Edgar!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: saltine on February 24, 2009, 08:06:05 PM
(http://i39.tinypic.com/2ryg4nk.jpg)

I enjoyed Burden of Dreams, especially since Fitzcarraldo is in my Top 10 films. The documentarian Les Blank finds the parallels between Werner Herzog as filmmaker/adventurer and Fitzcarraldo opera patron/adventurer, examines the ego of Herzog, and questions Herzog's nihilistic view of the jungle.     

Watching this making of- documentary intrigues me about others that I have not seen including Hearts of Darkness and Lost in La Mancha.  Thanks for the assignment, Bill.  (I'll be sure to watch your first choice for me, Crumb, once I return stateside.)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: jbissell on February 24, 2009, 11:19:03 PM
(http://i41.tinypic.com/2vltbo9.jpg)

Titicut Follies 8.5/10

I watched this a week ago and I've been struggling to write down some thoughts about it.  This is my first Wiseman experience.  It takes a lot to shock/disturb me but this might just be the most uncomfortable I've felt watching any film.  I've read a decent amount about the treatment of psych patients in the 50s and 60s so I wasn't exactly surprised about what happens, but it definitely hit me on a much more visceral level than just words on the page.  There's just something profoundly disturbing about seeing a stark naked man stomp around a room in a circle, being treated not much better than an animal, constantly being badgered by the guards.  There are quite a few rants, some of them are fascinating and make little sense but I was completely drawn in by the rhythms.  Others are so incoherent that it became frustrating.  The scene that has stuck with me the most is the scene towards the end of the film where one of the patients pleads his case for release.  It is clear that it is a fight he will never win, with the only solution (in the minds of the doctors) being an increase in medication.  One element that really surprised me is the key role music plays, most notable in a performance that bookends the film.  There are many shots of the patients and wardens singing and playing music, and some of the rants have a strangely musical quality.  All said, I respect this film and think everyone should experience it (and it really is an experience), but I'm in no hurry to revisit it (I do plan on tackling more Wiseman though, High School is next on my list).

(http://i42.tinypic.com/30mbqs4.jpg)(http://i43.tinypic.com/29yja6d.jpg)(http://i41.tinypic.com/2nl5nc6.jpg)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: worm@work on February 24, 2009, 11:23:51 PM
Hmmm, sounds disturbing but I have to watch it, especially given how much I liked High School.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: maŮana on February 26, 2009, 04:02:06 AM
Los Angeles Plays Itself

treats anything short of reality as a great injustice. He makes generalizations that are often contradicted, and assumptions that are unfair and unlikely. And while I realize the scope of the movie does not really extend beyond LA, many of the points he brings up are true of filmmaking in general and not just applicable to one city, but you wouldn't know it from the way he tells it.

Those are all valid criticisms and I think most of them occurred to me as well. But like you, I really enjoyed the film, in fact I'd say it's pretty darn awesome. 
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: edgar00 on February 26, 2009, 11:54:02 AM
(http://www.cifom.ch/media/InfosESTER/images/super-size-me.jpg)


Your review echoed my thoughts towards the film closely. It's one of those movies where you know you won't get much out of it, but there is this sense that it might be worth watching purely for the entertainment value. I'm relieved it served at least that purpose for you.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: edgar00 on February 26, 2009, 06:34:57 PM
(http://community.travelchinaguide.com/photo/7072/70726212621200.jpg)

When We Were Kings (1996, Leon Gats)


Of all my weaknesses when writing about cinema on these boards, my greatest is undoubtedly my lack of experience and ability to analyze documentaries. Part of the reason is that I watch far too few. Another explanation is that I find it far more easy to criticize a piece of fiction, someoneís writing and direction of a made up story. There is a wall of separation, no matter how powerful the product, between myself and the story being told. With a documentary, Iím watching a director show me bits and pieces of reality. What he or she chooses to show and to hide and in what order he or she chooses to show these bits of reality make for interesting debate. Is it as objective as can be? Is there clearly an agenda at stake, etc? Yes, I can discuss those matters, but even when being beaten over the head with a commentary, I hesitate before crying: ĎWell that was a documentary and it was just plain bad.í Was it? Does the intentional passage of a political agenda make that documentary Ďbadí (Oxford: 1.Poor in quality; well below standard. 2.Unpleasant)?

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2l8epgx.jpg)
challenger

(http://i39.tinypic.com/rv9jtc.jpg)
Champion

(http://i40.tinypic.com/96kihl.jpg)
Organizer
(http://i39.tinypic.com/n3uvf4.jpg)
Host


Itís with great trepidation therefore that I write down these thoughts on the film ses was gracious enough to dictate to me this month, When We Were Kings. Being about as knowledgeable about boxing as I am about medicine (I was a political science major), I knew next to nothing about the ĎRumble in the Jungleí that so many Americans, and in particularly, boxing fans, remember fondly. I did of course know who Muhammad Ali is was somewhat aware of George Foreman (heís the chap who cooks steaks, right?), but overall, my knowledge of the event was hazy at best. Having watched the film last night, I can say for sure that I understand it a lot more now: itís significance within the boxing community, for many Congolese, for African Americans, Americans at large. It was, for the lack of a better term, a spectacle, a once in a lifetime kind of event.

When We Were Kings doesn't spend time on the life story of either heavyweight boxers involved. The strict necessary is shared. I can confidently say that, for those who know little about both titans, the movie still does a suitable job at showing the curious viewer how highly anticipated the matchup was. Ali, the Black Muslim American who refused to wage war in Vietnam, thus hated by mainstream Americans, and George Foreman, the Goliath, the champion, the destroyer, were to butt heads and fists in Africa, in an outdoor stadium, in front of perhaps a hundred thousand spectators (and so many more on international television). B.B. King and James Brown were invited to play some music in the festivities leading up to the mouth-watering confrontation. All this in the land of Mobutu Sese Soko, the leader of Zaire (as the Congo was known back in the 70s), a leader so ruthless and unsympathetic to democracy as well as many of his own people, it makes one pause before spitting yet another anti-Bush quip.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2wmmkw3.jpg)
So happy the fight's coming to town their performing flips.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2rhxlpv.jpg)
]Music to my ears.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/15dwhnm.jpg)
Celebrations

As I was saying, the focal point of the film is the event and the preparation leading up to it. Much archival footage featuring interviews and press conferences attended by Ali himself are featured. What I found interesting was how director Gast didnít merely leave the archival footage to itself. While that could have been effective in the sense that the viewer would be invited to conclude his or her own judgements regarding Ali, Gast has invited several journalists to comment on what they saw. Each has smart and sometimes colourful comments and memories to share (the ĎAre you still with that old man!?í story had me laughing pretty hard). Ali was often, well let me correct that, always quite confident and quick witted when in front of the cameras. It was widely known that Foreman was an absolute monster in the ring. The size of his biceps (shown frequently throughout the film) were more than a little intimidating and the manís technique was practically second to none. But Ali, never letting down his fans, remained cocky and witty during the months, weeks, days and minutes leading up to the fight. Some journalists praised his courage, while others believed that perhaps this was his way of hiding an underlying fear of his opponent. Who was right, who was wrong (personally I think Ali was too talented/insane to be afraid of anyone at all, but thatís just me) matters little in truth. It was this storytelling through various anecdotes and eye witness accounts that added a lot of charm to the film. I wonít divulge my full thoughts on the sport itself, but I wonít deny that I was... swept in the spectacle of it all. The people involved, the bizarre setting (not that it was done in Africa per say, but more that it was done in Mobutuís land), etc. Every interviewee pitches in with comments about Ali, Foreman, Mobutu, the anticipation, the preparation, James Brown sweating on stage and then looking high as a kite during an interview, Spike Lee not hiding his pride (which never bothered me particularly, although I know he gets on some peoples nerves), Don King's tireless effort but devious nature,  the delay that occurred when Foreman was cut during a practice session, the context of the fight, and much more. The movie isnít about boxing in general, but more about this one boxing match. It obviously meant very much to a lot of people and, their passion for the subject matter spilled over onto me as I listened and watched. Even their account of how the battle was won and lost was compelling and filled me in on some interesting boxing tid bits.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2rdk9r5.jpg)
Spectacle

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2w6xjll.jpg)
It begins

(http://i40.tinypic.com/jp7g40.jpg)
Artists at work

Through it all however, I felt a little bit sorry for the eventually loser of the match, George Foreman. Praise is given to both participants for their technical and physical prowess, but actual affection is provided to Muhammad Ali, the charmer, the joker. Virtually none is afforded to his opponent Foreman. Perhaps this was more due to both personalities involved. There is no question that both were supremely confident in their abilities to emerge victorious from battle, but while Ali displayed a certain flair and dare I say friendliness in his boasting, Foreman was the more introverted of the two. A mammoth of a man, he did, in essence, come away much more as the Ďvillainí between the two, if only because of his posture, tone and choice of words, which were few. So much ĎAli boom-ba-yay!í that there are no left over for the man who, from what I gather, turned out to be a pretty decent bloke in his later years. Oh well.

I think, since I wasnít alive at the time, that the film captures the peoples feelings and the general mood leading up to the fight. The anticipation and festivities surrounding it were as titanic as both competitors involved. I certainly got that sense from the sounds and images in the film.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/a3lao5.jpg)
Unforgettable

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2jb6wes.jpg)
A big mouth, but a bigger heart





Final thoughts:
(http://i41.tinypic.com/qn2uls.jpg)
Don't pay attention to the haters. Do what you do.



Iíd like to finish by thanking ses very much for this dictation
.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: joem18b on February 26, 2009, 07:42:07 PM
most excellent!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Junior on February 26, 2009, 07:53:25 PM
(http://community.travelchinaguide.com/photo/7072/70726212621200.jpg)

When We Were Kings (1996, Leon Gats)

All of what edgar wrote

Iíd like to finish by thanking ses thatguy_sam very much for this dictation
.

Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: edgar00 on February 26, 2009, 08:21:07 PM
most excellent!

You're the master writer around these parts, so that means a lot.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: ses on February 26, 2009, 08:54:14 PM
Great write-up edgar!! :)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: 'Noke on February 28, 2009, 04:32:43 PM
Grizzly Man

(http://www.dickinson.edu/departments/sustainability/grizzly%20man.jpg)

"I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder." Werner Herzog.

             I don't watch a lot of documentaries. I've seen a couple, but none well known or very memorable(with the exception being last year's Man on Wire). I have just never been one of those people who really get into documentaries. So to see a movie like this is such a revelation for me, because I thought docs were just people telling a story to the camera, the strength of the doc being what they were saying. This is really a compilation of images, clips, and interviews, all trying to grasp at something.

(http://msnbcmedia4.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/050817/050817_grizzlyMan_hmed.hlarge.jpg)

           This movie could have gone a lot of ways with the Timothy Treadwell story. It could have explored Treadwell's fight against the government or people trying to kill the bears in the wilderness. He could explore just what Timothy did in the wilderness. But Herzog is doing something else, something much more interesting. He seems to be grasping for something, looking for the drive that Timothy Treadwell had in him to live among what Herzog thinks is a very destructive landscape. He is circling Timothy's character through Timothy's friends, his parents, people who thought he was nuts, his archival footage, and himself.
          Herzog doesn't let this become a talking head doc. He does make himself acknowledged by not placing the camera directly on a close-up of someone or by having it in the same place every time they speak. He also makes himself acknowledged in the conversation once or twice, but doesn't get involved other then the compiling of footage and the voice-over narration.

(http://blog.dvdideas.com/images/grizzly_man.jpg)

          And Herzog pulls it off really well. He puts great clips of Timothy, each one focusing on him more then the bears(you'll notice there are a lot of foxes, more then you would've thought, I think because Timothy cannot get as intimate with bears as he can with foxes.) and the strange drive that caused him to live in the wilderness on end. We get little tidbits from Timothy's life, each one adding to the next, giving us a picture of him and yet really leaving us with nothing but our own thoughts.

Verdict: The first doc I can really recommend to people. Fantastic. Thank you so much Zarodinu for dictating this to me.
5/5

Bring on march!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: zarodinu on March 01, 2009, 12:26:23 PM
Great review gman, I am glad you liked the film.

I think Herzog is fascinated with this drive that causes people to do crazy and exceptional things.  He makes movies about visionaries and madmen whose obsessions consume them.  Its a common thread in many of his films.  In Timothy Treadwell, he found a real life Fitzcarraldo or Aguirre.  I suspect that Herzog himself is such a man.  Thanks for the great review.

...and just so this post doesn't get too pretentious, here is a great parody of Grizzly Man.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIiwhB38M1A
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FifthCityMuse on March 02, 2009, 09:01:01 PM
Murderball
My first dictation, and damn, it was a good one. A cheat in some ways, as it was a film I heard about when it had theatrical release, and I was keen to see it then. That said, getting it as a dictator film pushed me into seeing it probably months, if not years, earlier than I wouldíve otherwise. And for that Iím glad, cause this is in a lot of ways an exceptional doc.

I will note that major spoilers will follow. Iím not gonna be coy and dance around things. If you havenít seen it and want to, you may want to not read the following. Of course, I donít know that knowing the outcome of the film would change the impact of the learning that takes place.

The film focuses on several people involved in the elite levels of a sport known as wheelchair rugby, quad rugby, or, by itís initial name, Murderball. This includes Zupan, a current player for the US team, Andy, Scott, and Bob, who also play for the US, Joe, once the worldís best player, and then also Keith, newly quadriplegic, and Chris, who was directly involved in Zupanís injury. It charts the subjects in the lead up to the 2004 Paralympic games, the games, and the immediate aftermath.

The first thing that is of course, hugely obvious, is that this is a fascinating subject for a doc. How many of us go and sit in a hugely customized wheelchair and ram into other people in similar chairs? How many of us even know this goes on? So thereís a lot to be learnt here, and itís stuff thatís interesting, and the subjects are as fascinating as the other elements.

The thing is tho, the filmmakers have managed to take this, and make a strong, well-crafted doc. Itís fantastically constructed, well edited, and provides an insight that is just fascinating.

My first experience with a doc was Bowling For Columbine, and itís sort of made me wary. The first time I saw Columbine I laughed, I was shocked, and then I saw it again and was just horrified at how manipulative it was, and how much Moore plays us for suckers.

This is where Murderball is a far superior film. It is manipulative, of course. In the opening scenes, when Canada beats the USA at the 2002 World Championships, despite only a small amount of time dedicated to the players, we are made to feel upset that the US hasnít won. Itís the same at the end, when the US team doesnít win the gold at the Paralympics.

That said, this isnít unreasonable. Of course we should create an emotional connection to these characters. Itís a sign of good doc making, at least to my mind, that we do manage to make emotional ties to characters.

I think the subjects are perhaps one of the most interesting things present here. Zupan is a really fascinating main subject (although Iím not sure that he is the main subject - more on that later). Early on, he swears. A lot. Heís an angry guy, heís a strong guy, heís a very outspoken personality. Yet, as the film progresses, he matures. The person we see at the 2002 world champs is not the same person that competes at the 2004 Paralympics. He stops swearing in front of camera, he mellows, he is less outspoken, and it makes for a great profile across the film.

Kieth, the young man who has just been injured, also presents a fascinating view. He only becomes directly related to the sport late on, but through him we learn what it means to become a quadriplegic, and how big those changes are. Itís nice to see some hope at the end.

Of all of this, Joe is easily the most fascinating subject on show here. Previously the player in the world, he was passed over for selection in the US, and so went and coached Canada. Right at the beginning we see him lead the Canadian team to victory at the World Champs, the only time the US has only been beaten, at that stage. He says to the US team, who are drinking their sorrows away, ďIíd be happy for you if youíd beaten us by one point.Ē Which is fantastic, because later, in a competition to decide the seedings for Athens, the American team does beat the Canadians by one point, and Joe isnít happy for them.

Still, some of the best stuff with Joe is what we see of his son. Joe is a strong, athletic man. His son is not. He gets very good grades. He plays the viola (thatís right, not even the violin, the viola). He wears glasses. Heís a quiet kid. And itís obvious that Joe doesnít know how to respond to this kid. How to react to him. How to give him what he needs, as such. The scene at the BBQ is so fantastic. Then we watch the son dust his fatherís trophies, of which there are many, and we get the impression that this is a regular thing.

And then Joe has a heart attack. Itís an amazing turning point, and just like Zupan, Joe mellows. When he goes home to his childhood home, we watch him talk to his old neighbours, and he talks of his son, and he does it with pride. Itís really, really great. Joe even makes an effort to get home from the competition in Vancouver to go to a concert, and heís late, but heís there, and this is obviously huge.

To me, Joe is the main subject here. I would say he gets more screen time than anyone else, and his journey is the most fascinating. Itís a joy to watch, and I had such fun with him.

There are, of course, other things going on in here. There is a sense of education. Within the first half hour or so, a group of the US athletes talk about how they live. They speak of the issues they have, the adjustments they have had to make, the reconciliations that have gone on within themselves. They talk candidly of their accidents, their illnesses, their rehabilitations, not leaving the house through fear and shame, public reactions to their disabilities, their annoyances, itís all fantastic. They even talk candidly of sex, and dispel a lot of rumours and miseducations.

This is so fantastic because it is genuine education. These people talk to us in a way that is never condescending and the filmmakers give them the space to do that while making sure that it never overstays itís welcome.

It is also a very well structured film. It almost doesnít work, but it has a short attention span that works in its favour. It stays on subjects just long enough to provide the current insight, then moves to the next. Itís great editing that ensures the success of the disparate elements.

All in all, itís a thoroughly fantastic, incredibly engaging and informative doc. More than worth a look. Many thanks to THATguy for a benevolent dictation.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: THATguy on March 02, 2009, 09:36:42 PM
It sounds like you liked it even more than I did, Muse.

So I'm glad I dictated it to you.

Originally, I found several of the characters kind of annoying, but they endeared themselves to me by the end of the story.

I also really, really liked the Keith scenes.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: joem18b on March 03, 2009, 12:30:55 AM
Murderball
My first dictation, and damn, it was a good one. A cheat in some ways, as it was a film I heard about when it had theatrical release, and I was keen to see it then. That said, getting it as a dictator film pushed me into seeing it probably months, if not years, earlier than I wouldíve otherwise. And for that Iím glad, cause this is in a lot of ways an exceptional doc.
Good stuff! Thanks for the great review.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Mandrake on March 05, 2009, 10:43:53 PM
(http://www.atacta.com/bridge/bridge0.jpg)

(http://www.atacta.com/bridge/bridge.jpg)

A little bit of gonzo doc!

From IMDb:

"The documentary caused significant controversy when Eric Steel revealed that he had tricked the Golden Gate Bridge committee into allowing him to film the bridge for months and had captured 23 suicides which took place during the filming phase of the project.  In his permit application to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Steel said he intended "to capture the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature that takes place every day at the Golden Gate Bridge."
 Steel interviewed relatives of the suicide victims, not informing them that he had footage of their loved ones' deaths. Later, he claimed that "the family members now, at this point, have seen the film, [and are] glad that they participated in it."
 The filmmakers captured 23 of the 24 known Golden Gate suicides in 2004."

(http://www.atacta.com/bridge/bridge5.jpg)

The film opens with a beautiful montage toggling between tourists and would be victims competing for space on the Golden Gate Bridge.  There is early emotion and eerie juxtaposition of witness testimony and bucolic nature scenes in San Francisco.  The eyewitness accounts are very effective early on and the family member accounts so creepy, sad and very difficult to watch.  Heartbreaking to hear these folks describe, in detail, the nature of the victims' behavior up until death. 

(http://www.atacta.com/bridge/bridge6.jpg)

However; the stories, given the nature of the affliction these poor people suffer, turns out completely unsurprising and this is the biggest fault of the film Ė the filmmakers forgot the distinction between making a film about suicide and making a film about a bridge where people commit the act.  And in between dramatic bits we get rather stock footage of the bridge at its eerie best Ė fog, wind, rain, whatnot.  And the sound editing, wellÖ.(technically the film is a disappointment).

15 minutes in the filmmakers build the blocking of shots to allow the viewer to slowly adjust to the projective of the bridge in all its massiveness.  But I wanted to see more history of the bridge Ė the history of what had taken place.  30 minutes in I am ready for a new story.  The prophetic observations of the victim when he visited the bridge for the 1st time fell flat.  In the last 1/3 of the film itís still engrossing particularly the details of victims', friends' and familiesí plight (other than two interviews with friends who acted oddly complicit).  The woman preparing for another chance to illegally give a friend prescription medication and trying to talk him out of doing himself in is genuinely unhinged.

(http://www.atacta.com/bridge/bridge2.jpg)

Thank you FifthCityMuse for the assignment!  Overall, I give the film a cautionary recommendation.

** 1/2 / *****





Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Colleen on March 05, 2009, 11:38:28 PM
The Kid Stays in the Picture

This documentary tells the story of Robert Evans, small time actor and big time Hollywood producer and studio head.  Evans started out as a successful businessman (helping found the design house Evan-Picone along with his brother) and was "discovered" by Norma Shearer in the 1950s and invited to be in a movie she was making.  For a time he worked in several movies while continuing as a businessman but then moved to Hollywood and threw himself completely into the show biz life.  He made the move into producing by purchasing the rights to a best selling book (The Detective) and hanging onto them until the movie was made in the late 1960s.  At the same time he became involved in development of movies at Paramount, ultimately heading up a legendary string of Paramount hits from Rosemary's Baby through The Godfather movies and Marathon Man.  AT the same time he himself was a celebrity--good looking, popular, he became gossip magazine and tabloid fare with his many romances and his marriage of several years to Ali McGraw when she was at the peak of her own fame.  Eventually hard living and cocaine took their toll, and Evans was in the wilderness through most of the 1980s, making a comeback in the 1990s although his credits in the 1990s and 2000s have been nowhere near his renowned heyday.

The documentary is an adaptation of his memoir of the same title, which was published in 1994.  This is both the major strength and weakness of the movie.  The strength is that Evans is a classic old time Hollywood raconteur and can tell stories naturally.  The narration is all in his own voice and the accompaniment is documentary minimalism--clips and still photos that illustrate the spoken narrative.  The main thing is the storytelling in Evans' own voice, complete with its raspiness and his impersonations of other speakers in his recounting of conversations.  He provides an overview of a fascinating time in movie history--the transition out of the studio system into more independent production; the generational transition of the late 1960s from the moviemaking sensibility of Hollywood's golden age, reaching its last gasp in productions like Paint Your Wagon to the sort of movies Evans produced--Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, The Godfather. 

Most of the time in the documentary is spent on this period and Evans lovingly narrates the details of production of the movies, including his take on his handling of Mia Farrow during her marital crisis with Sinatra in the midst of production of Rosemary's Baby, his romance and marriage with Ali MacGraw in the midst of the Love Story madness, his legendary battles with Coppola over the Godfather movies, and the development of Chinatown.

He glosses over the downward slide of the 1980s, focusing on his struggles to retain his beloved home while throwing out only tantalizing asides about the real source of his problems--ongoing addictions and a drawn out murder case in which his involvment remains murky. 

Thus the close focus only on Evans' own version of events ultimately left me frustrated because he does gloss over so much.  It feels like there is much left unsaid about his experiences in the 1980s and more reasons for his exile than he gives.  And his return is less than triumphant (Sliver? Jade? Really?) as much as he tries to pump these movies up with focus on the grosses when these films are largely forgotten movie-channel fodder and come nowhere near the level of a Chinatown or Godfather.  In the end its a bit pathetic.

More bothersome was the streak of misogyny that runs through his ramblings.  He constantly refers to women as "broads" which is consistent with the parlance of the time he was talking about, but still.  He is proud of his manipulation of Mia Farrow, proud of his reputation as a playboy (there are LOTS of paparazzi shots of him dating LOTS Of women, some quite famous).  The only relationship he dwells on is his failed marriage to MacGraw which ended when she left him for Steve McQueen.  From the documentary you would never know that he married again, yet he's been married 7 times all together.  The omissions and what he does tell about his relationships seems significant--they are much more an accessory to his fabulous lifestyle than anything else.  He spends more time dwelling on his beloved home and its loss in the 1980s than on any of the women in his life.

The filmmaking style is uninteresting, about the level of your average A&E Biography episode.  It's more nearly an illustrated audiobook than any vision of a documentary filmmaker.  The story itself is compelling to a point, but Evans' egomania really began to grate on me as did the way he was obviously editing a great deal of detail out of the bad times that would make the fact that he was virtual exile for over 10 years more understandable.  Thus it wasn't even as informative as it could have been even given the limits of Evans' own viewpoint as the sole focus of the movie.

It's something I have meant to see for years so I'm glad I had this dictation, but its not one I'd be all that interested in revisiting or heartily recommending to others.  I would grade it a C+.

The fact that I was not blown away by the movie should in no way suggest that I didn't like it as a dictation or that it wasn't a good choice.  I always appreciate the push to watch something that was on my back burner or off my radar all together, and this month is no exception.  Thanks for the dictation and thanks for the opportunity to participate!

Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Clovis8 on March 05, 2009, 11:58:22 PM
All this talk of Hoop Dreams has me ready to post a reflection on it, I guess...

Hoop Dreams - I have come to understand that this documentary carries a ton of weight around these boards, and going over previous reviews elsewhere it seems to critically carry a load of high opinion as well. The film is the welcoming bell for the resurgence and recent Golden Age of newer documentaries, it is one of those films that tackles so many issues that it can be compared with many modern and classic cinema epics, and it is filmed with great care and beautiful style. I can agree with the majority of that, the film does so much right as a documentary that it is hard to fault it, so many techniques seen here have made appearances in other documentaries that I have seen this past year and from years after this film was released, granted that number is not incredibly high, but still, the influence that this film has clearly had on the medium is noticeable, for the better, and commands a good deal of respect. Sure there are talking head portions, but they feel like something more, allowing the viewer to get close to these people and understand the problems they are going to encounter while still remaining in the position of observer. Hell, it even works on an emotional level, relying on the viewer to pull for William and Arthur despite the two just being common children who do not directly play a role in most audiences's mind. It does tackle a various number of social topics too, ranging from the high school experience, the dirty manner in which sports operate even from such a young age, and the class issue in the country. These are heavy topics to cover, and to imagine that the filmmaker could hit them all in a film following two boys playing basketball in high school for four years is incredibly impressive. And then there is the style with which the film is shot, a roving camera that conveys the beauty of the sport along with the harsh reality these children and their families face, even that surgery scene had me both engaged and horrified. A ton is done right with this film and I can understand why it is considered so great and such an important film.

However, it is far from flawless and for everything great the film does at least one aspect is handled with little care and does not work. While the film does tackle a great number of subject in the hefty three hour run time, very few seem to be fully explored and would have benefited with, and I know this sounds hypocritical, a bit more time. Both Arthur and William were captivating figures and I was glad to spend time with them, I never minded watching them on screen and the film seemed to flash by when they were on there, which was great, I would have taken more of that. Still, the filmmaker seemed to scratch the surface of so much without ever going too deep on any particular issue that I found myself only gaining surface knowledge of most of what the film was talking about rather than being able to explore the corruption fully, or the high school experience, or the family turmoil, or anything really. Even that thing between Arthur and Shannon and William's problems with the coach in regard to his family, as well as the problems he had with his own father, were only mentioned shortly. The film also felt very constructed at times and the natural feeling was displaced, particularly later when William and Arthur reunited in their senior year. I guess they could kind of relate to each other, but they never were seen interacting as freshman so the idea that one had any sort of investment beyond passable interest in the other was unbelievable and unnecessary. Oh, and that voice over thing during the games, it was painful and detracted from some great sequences. The film was capable of speaking on its own, no voice over was needed.  There is a lot of good, there is a lot of bad, and I guess I can agree with the film's importance, but it is far from flawless. And that music that started playing during the credits seemed like it would fit better in one of those late night HBO movies rather than this documentary. Still, I am glad I got a chance to watch the film, it drew me in emotionally and given how detached I am from the basic premise that is impressive in itself, but the film has power far beyond that, and that is great stuff too, but it either needed to be more compact and to the point or longer to give the needed attention to everything the filmmaker attempts to tackle.

B-/B or 3.662134953201532

(http://91.121.132.199/gifs/11493.gif)
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: zarodinu on March 06, 2009, 12:22:56 AM
(http://i39.tinypic.com/es3uki.jpg)

Is a documentary about a woman named Susan Tom and her eleven adopted "special needs" children.  I have encountered a few such people in my health care career and always wondered what makes them take on such a burden.  I guess I always assumed it was religious zeal, or a welfare scam of some sort.  The movie really opened my eyes to the challenge of taking care of such children.

Susan has done something no government institution could ever do; she forged these disabled kids into a family.  There is clear camaraderie and friendship among the children, they may have terrible disabilities, but they go to school, have Halloween parties, even participate in community theater.  The movie stresses the individuality of the children, and shows how beneath the most terrible physical conditions there is a human soul yearning to be loved.  Susan is also selfless when taking care of the physical needs to the children including a frequent wound washing ritual for one of the boys that takes hours at a time.  The fact that these kids receive this kind of close medical attention, as well as a genuinely loving environment, clearly makes a huge difference in their lives.

Not everything is well in the home though.  There is a constant health care crises brewing since several of the kids have life threatening conditions.  Susan's oldest adopted daughter who is not disabled and shares the burdens of taking care of the kids, has a breakdown.  Susan is unable to console her because of other domestic crises.  There is a pretty clear implication that the house is overcrowded and Susan is struggling to keep control.  The biggest crises is a meth baby named Joe who grows from an aggressive, and unbalanced child, into a dangerous teenager who is increasingly out of control.  Joe is being verbally, physically, and probably sexually abusive towards the other kids, and should not be living with the rest of the children.  I started getting the feeling that perhaps Susan was doing harm to the kids by hanging on to a child that clearly should be institutionalized.          
    
(http://www.jedensvet.cz/ow/2004/images/photos/Krev.jpg)

My biggest problem with the film is that while it shows a great portrait of this family, it is too wide is scope.  It skips from one narrative to another, often touching on some great thread only to move on to the next thing.  The best documentaries explore the human soul, and this one misses some great opportunities to do so.  There are at least three absolutely amazing characters in the film Susan, Susan's adopted older daughter, and little Joe.  Each one of these could be the subject of a documentary focusing solely on him or her.  What drives Susan to adopt all these kids?  We get hints here and there, but never anything deep.  How is Susan's daughter handling the demands of college and the burdens of taking care for her adopted siblings?  We see the breakdown but its handled as just another one of a series of crises.  Lastly Joe is an absolutely fascinating child, we get a feeling for his complex psychological problems, but so much more time could have been spent with this one child, we only get a few seconds of interview which is just a shame.

I would have loved to see what a Herzog or an Errol Morris would do with this subject.  
Either way an interesting documentary.

7/10  
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: pixote on March 06, 2009, 12:40:27 AM
I haven't seen Flesh and Blood yet, but the 1977 Oscar-winning documentary Who Are the DeBolts? (And Where Did They Get 19 Kids?) would offer a good companion screening.

pixote
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FifthCityMuse on March 06, 2009, 12:49:06 AM
Thanks Mandrake, I'm pleased to see we had a pretty similar reaction. I too had problems with the fact that there was a lot of time spent with stories we had heard before. I did perhaps think some of the interviewees were slightly more interesting tho.
Here's a few more thoughts I had:

The Bridge
It's strange to watch a documentary that is about submitting immediately after one about overcoming.

Again, it's an interesting topic in it's own right. But unlike Murderball, I don't think the craft on display here is as strong. At times it is morally and emotionally complex in a massive way, but it often labours under bad interviewees. That said, some of them are brilliant and add so much, and in those moments, there is a glimpse of what this movie may have been.

I'm a bit shamed to have dictated this without having seen it, but I think there is perhaps enough here to make it not a total waste.

2.5/5
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on March 06, 2009, 09:39:54 AM
Really great write-ups everyone! I should do one of these sometime!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on March 12, 2009, 02:15:00 PM
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised AKA Chavez: Inside The Coup (Kim Bartley, Donnacha O'Briain, 2002)
False media, we don't need it, do we?

This is one of those documentaries that immediately had me looking on the tubes for more info, and then predictably being drawn into a time-sucking spiral of reading the many sides of an ongoing and unresolved argument. Which is normally a sign that a) this is some pretty hot shit right here, and b) there's more to the story than what's contained in these incendiary 74mins. Well, for everything outside the documentary, I leave you to you own devices; on the issue of the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez, you can find any viewpoint you want, and will no doubt side with the one that fits best with who you is and who you ain't.

As for the film itself, I highly recommend it, mainly because it has the good fortune of showing unprecedented footage from inside a real, yet ultimately unsuccessful attempt to illegally takeover a government, and is brilliantly gripping in presenting the chaos, hubris and murky machinations involved in such a situation. I guarantee you've never seen anything quite like it, and beyond the filmmaker's good fortune in being such a situation, they deserve praise for some pretty nifty camerawork at the time, and for assembling a pretty convincing (see paragraph above) argument that the whole thing was a despicably corrupt clusterCINECAST! encouraged by the US government in cahoots with the media-controlling, entitled echelon of Venezuelan society, only to be triumphantly repelled by the will of ordinary people in support of a democratic process.

It's a one-sided view, at times bordering on hagiography in the early scenes of Chavez (who himself led a failed coup in 1992, and only became a political player after making a winning appearance on TV when arrested, ahem, ahem), but even in that is just fascinating in terms of the candid access it has to Chavez and his ministers during the coup. The kernel of the doc is the superbly-edited footage from inside the presidential palace as it surrounded by army forces threatening to bomb the palace unless Chavez resigns. The volatile footage of the Venezuelan media manipulating footage of riots also has to be seen to be believed, as does the repulsive arrogance of the circle-jerk post-match analysis by dumb stooges on TV after the coup accidentally admitting the whole thing was pre-planned in coordination with the TV stations (not the 'official' line, which was to claim it was the will of the people). Bartley and O'Briain cut here to shots of the supposedly supportive public getting massacred on the streets on Caracas, and the effect is devastating, as you realize the human effect of this buffoonery. Truly, the message of the film is that whole control the media controls the mind's of the people, a point that is shown not to be limited to Latin America when the film nicely cuts in footage of the head of the CIA, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and Colin Powell spouting total balls about the US involvement in the coup...

Another thing that I couldn't shake off was how funny the whole thing is. I couldn't tell if this was an intentional tactic by the filmmakers, or just because I'm so emotionally dead inside or whatever (probably a bit of both), but there are moments of irony and incompetence in here that are just hilarious, despite the generally gripping tension. One moment in particular had me guffawing: when the Vice President arrives back at the palace and calls an emergency meeting, to which everyone storms off to with their important faces on, only to find that the door to meeting room is locked and no one has the key, had me thinking unavoidably of This is Spinal Tap. "Rock and roll!, Rock and Roll!"

STONKING!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: roujin on March 12, 2009, 02:26:34 PM
Glad you liked it. The whole thing is stonking fascinating!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Thor on March 12, 2009, 02:29:49 PM
Yes
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: FLYmeatwad on March 13, 2009, 04:53:48 PM
(http://91.121.132.199/gifs/11493.gif)

Hold on to that animation Clovis, you're going to need it again!

Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience - My own personal documentary dictation for the month of February comes in the form of this little 3-D...excuse me, 3D...film currently running throughout theatres. I know it's not February any more, but the point is my self-dictation was completed! Also, when I saw it I had the whole theatre to myself! Fresh off the heels of the Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour in 3-D about a year ago Disney gives the guest stars of that film, the three Jonas Brothers, the 3D concert treatment, chronicling a show from their recent Burnin' Up Tour. The film starts off with some music playing and some really weak use of 3D, leaving me questioning why I was wearing these damn glasses. We see the boys's body gaurd Big Rob waking them up and telling them they need to get ready for the Good Morning America show performance. Cut to a scene at the breakfast table. The oldest brother, wikipedia tells me this is Kevin, goes over their schedule, telling everyone what the plans are and what needs to get done. During this scene one of the other two, the lead singer, Joe, I believe, starts shaking the table and saying "Earthquake" like a three year old child. Kevin begins mocking his younger brothers and we get a sense of playful, yet serious, conflict. Not the best sequence, but a little reminiscent of Don't Look Back, and I'm thinking the biggest flaw from the Miley Cyrus film, too much concert not enough personal stuff mixed with goofing off sequences, was rectified. Sadly, I was mistaken. The film's biggest flaw is that the Jonas Brothers never open up, we see nothing of concert preparations as we did in the Miley film, and we don't see them just talking as we saw in the Miley film, but as a trade off we get a few rehearsal sequences and quite a few sequences where the guys just clown around, and all work incredibly and are great fun, but the lack of any personality to these faces, I still get the younger two confused, is a bit concerning.

Thankfully, most of the flaws stop right there, now it's a major flaw and hurts the film greatly, but Experience is the perfect word to use in the title, because this film is one Hell of a ride. The credits start with a bunch of screaming fans rushing the boys's limo, which leads to a drawn out, action pack, funny, chase scene that really sets the tone for the rest of the film. It all comes to a head when the guys reach the top of a city building and board a helicopter, leading us into the show and the 3D visuals that are about to be unleashed upon the audience. I would like to state that, despite what may appear to be popular opinion, I am not really a fan of these guys and they have always seemed a bit too one note for me, but damn are the concert sequences a lot of fun. There are a quite a number of obvious 3D uses, the guitar pick flicking that they closed with in the Miley movie returns twice, and the singer reaches out a few times as well as some microphone int he face things, but the depth transition is incredibly stunning and not at all a gimmick. The sight of this glow sticks throughout the audience is great, watching all the hands on stage and how they swing around helps draw the viewer in, and the stage is absolutely fantastic. The camera is used incredibly, really making you feel like you are in the audience, as the boys, back up band members, and the orchestra are not only shown in stunning detail, the picture quality truly is a spectacle, but as actual human beings as if they were sitting right in front of you. This was my first 3D live action film, so perhaps they are all like this, but I thought the 3D was great. Plus it is all highlighted by the ever changing stage, the camera is used to make it feel like, if I wanted to, I could start walking and actually be on stage, it's damn impressive. The songs are a mixed bag though, they do occasionally blend too much for my liking and the only noticeable sound change, aside from the final performance, is the semi-duet with Demi Lovato, though even this sequence seemed to focus more on the brothers than on her, she also has a very awkward stage presence, she's a really great singer but she strikes me as a very odd girl. Unlike the Miley film, where the Jonas Brothers had their own portion of a few songs, this film completely relied on the headliners. Like the Miley movie I did learn not to dismiss their music though and I had more exposure to the songs in this film than I did with hers, which is a shame because if I knew last year what I know now I would have loved to see that film in 3D since the songs were all really great. Any how, yeah, the film visually was great, musically worked well enough for a non-fan, engages the audience, and is just a ton of God damned fun. Also, someone who writes for South Park (maybe even Matt or Trey) clearly saw this film as there is a sequence right out of the recent episode where the guys have long nozzle hose things that let out a bunch of white foam and what seems to be lotion or something, it was really funny. The Taylor Swift part was cool too, she actually got her own song and there was a little call back to the Miley movie that seems to suggest if Disney releases another film like this it will feature Taylor rather than Demi, which I'd be okay with but as I now I have little interest in seeing a film dealing with either of the two. Taylor Swift also handled herself on stage incredibly, but she seemed like a total bitch the whole time she was up there, she seemed arrogant and snobby, I mean I'm into that sort of thing and even I thought it was a bit much, she's a really good singer though too. Also, the final song performed, "Burnin' Up," was stunning, the 3D was great, both gimmicky enough and still stunning, the performance was high energy, and it's a really great song, my favourite by the band. It was not on the level of the Miley/Hannah "Best of Both Worlds" duet, though I knew it would never live up to the awesomeness of that, but it was damn close.

So now all the extra non concert stuff, another strong point. The first cut we see after performances is the definition of the word fanatic as the boys talk about fanatics, and damn does the film showcase these people. Scenes of people waiting 72 hours in New York to see these guys perform for Good Morning America, what appeared to be all of time square packed, the boys called it New Years and they were right it seemed to be as full as the Times Square I see on the New Years shows, with people waiting for the midnight release of their new CD, pictures with fans and traveling through the city. It was insane, I have to imagine the comparisons to the attention The Beatles received in the 60's were not far off, these people were insane. Plus the Jonas Brothers have as many good songs as The Beatles, so that works too I suppose, though this S.O.S song would be fun in Rock Band, and The Beatles only have one song that would be a ton of fun in Rock Band, so maybe they are ahead, I don't know. Anyhow, these people were crazy, that one scene of the fathers racing for Miley Cyrus tickets was outrageous in the Miley film, but this was a whole other level, it blew my mind. Also, there is one great sequence, hilarious genuine and better than most scenes in major comedies, where the camera crews follow three Jonas Brothers imitators. It's no Mister Lonely, but these guys are a blast, flipping, leading audiences in "Burnin' Up" renditions, shaking hands, and pulling some guy off the street to say "I love the Jonas Brothers more than my wife" in some foreign language that was specified, but I currently forget. They start off their segment by saying "We are what the people who can't get the Jonas Brothers get. The Jonas Brothers are living the dream, well we're dreaming the life." It's a great sequence, I had a ton of fun with it, it was probably even better than almost all the extra scenes in the Miley film. Though the problem, as I said before, is that we never get to know these guys, we can guess, but the strength of the Miley movie was that it lacked some of this humor, but we got that glimpse into the real girl and there were a number of heart felt genuine moments. It seems to me all three of these guys are something different. Kevin seems wise to the image idea, noticeable by how he's always goofing off on stage and playing up to the crowd with crazy antics, he doesn't take himself or the idea of the band seriously, but he's also always thanking the fans, he's an entertainer. The youngest one, Nick, seems to have the most musical talent of the bunch, not only does he do some great singing (plus the primary, clearly recognizable, vocals on "Burnin' Up"), but he also played drums, guitar, possibly bass, and a piano during the film. That's a Hell of a range, plus he seems to be the most quiet of the bunch, which seems to show that he does truly care about the music. Then you have the lead singer, Joe, who puzzles me as he seems like the biggest waste of space to the band. Kevin and Nick play instruments, this guy does absolutely nothing but flip around and sing, occasionally beating a tambourine. I mean he's an okay singer, but he doesn't show a great range and he doesn't really add anything extra to the sound, or at least it appears that way to me, but he does put on a good show. I don't know, he seems like he should just be along for the ride, but apparently he's the most famous of the three, so it shows what I know I suppose. But really, these are all guesses anyhow since we don't get personality, we have a ton of fun, but there's no personality to these guys. It's a great experience, it's not like anything else I have seen in a theatre, but it's not the best documentary nor is it likely the best concert film. I'm probably forgetting a ton of stuff, the film is a blast and it's packed full of great times, but I'll end my review here.

B/B+ or 3.899782194723483

Also, I assume the Miley film would have been fantastic in 3-D, as that aspect added a ton to this film, so whatever score I gave that bump it up by 1, it deserves at least a B+ and 4 stars.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: roujin on March 13, 2009, 04:57:22 PM
(http://91.121.132.199/gifs/11493.gif)

I feel bad for recognizing so many of those anime ones.
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: roujin on March 21, 2009, 06:54:19 PM
(http://i41.tinypic.com/25s1us6.jpg)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

This was very interesting. It seems right up Herzog's alley with all that man/nature stuff. Anyway, I thought there were too many instances where footage of Treadwell going like "I could die any second" popping up (in different wordings, etc). Yeah, I get it. It's ironic/tragic that Treadwell went out the way he did and predicted it himself, yeah, yeah. Once is enough for that. Treadwell himself is also just an annoying douchebag so it's hard for me to really care about what he's doing or want to understand it in any way. One of the things I liked is how Herzog will sometimes interject and say "but this is how I differ from Treadwell" (or something like that) and give us his opinion on something. Anyway, one of the masterstrokes of this film and certainly its most emotional scene for me is when Herzog listens to the tape. I had heard about this scene when the film came out, I think, and imagined it much differently. I saw Herzog in a closed off room with the camera just outside, by the door, sitting on this chair with shadows enveloping him with this weird grimace on his face. What I got was much different (obviously) but still very effective as you don't really see Herzog's face that much, the camera stays by his side and only gets the side of his face (which is for me more powerful for some reason) all while the owner of the tape can only watch Herzog because she refuses to listen to it. It's a powerful scene and the best thing about the film. Hmmm, what else... oh, after watching this and Encounters, I really wish Herzog would get some better music in his films. Just annoying...

Thank you for the dictation. I had always meant to get around to watching this...
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Emiliana on March 22, 2009, 11:22:39 AM
Glad you enjoyed it, roujin!
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: pixote on December 26, 2009, 04:53:30 PM
(http://i47.tinypic.com/22x8x1.jpg)

Concert of Wills: Making the Getty Center  (Susan Froemke, Bob Eisenhardt, and Albert Maysles, 1997)

Big thanks to Mandrake for assigning me a very good film I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise.  Equal thanks to interlibrary loan for getting me a copy of the dvd.  Public libraries are so awesome.  Just like this forum, ya know?

Concert of Wills does a great job capturing just what a massive undertaking it is to create something like the Getty Center.  It's always amazing to me that anything like this actually gets done, given how many parties have to agree on a billion little details, how much it all costs, how many hours of labor and tons of materials the physical construction takes, etc.  The documentary gives us a glimpse into a lot of these little battles, like how the Center had to work within the limitations of a surprisingly restrictive conditional-use land permit.  The neighborhood surrounding the Getty site seems to have had a big say in things, including the color and height of the buildings.  In retrospect, it's like, you're getting the Getty! Shut up!  But I guess that's just the naive reaction of someone who doesn't actually have to live right there, possibly losing the view you're used to while gaining a whole bunch of new automobile traffic.

Many of the other battles center on the differing aesthetic concerns between architect of the center (Richard Meier) and its interior curator; and also between Meier and the local artist brought in to design the center's gardens.  It's so refreshing (compared to how, say, the History Channel would have handled this subject) that the film just lets also the discussions and arguments play out without comment; there's no narration and few if any titles.  There were a few instances where I wanted the filmmakers to fill in some of the knowledge gaps (seven years of construction is a lot to compress into one hundred minutes), but I so appreciate the film's commitment to working with just the footage they had and letting that footage speak for itself.

One thing that did bother me a little — and there were a few things like this — is that the film doesn't resolve what was probably the best argument in the film.  Meier continually argues the the artists' gardens are destroying a key view, while the artist counters that his layout is enhancing the views and creating a new experience (or something like that).  At the end of the film, everyone says their happy with how things turned out, but I really wanted to see what that particular view looked like with everyone completed and judge for myself.  It's just a small thing — one missing shot — but it sort of gets at the way the film's strength (capturing this massive undertaking) is occasionally it's weakness as well (with the scope of the project overwhelming the attempt to document it).

Regardless, Concert of Wills is a very good documentary.  It has no real highs, maybe, but no lows either.  It's just consistently interesting, especially if, like me, you're a sucker for process.  I'd love to get alexarch's thoughts on this film at some point.  Thanks again, Mandrake.

Grade: B+

pixote
Title: Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
Post by: Mandrake on December 26, 2009, 11:57:58 PM
(http://i47.tinypic.com/22x8x1.jpg)

Concert of Wills: Making the Getty Center  (Susan Froemke, Bob Eisenhardt, and Albert Maysles, 1997)


Happy you enjoyed it!