love

Author Topic: DOCember Group Marathon 2016  (Read 19227 times)

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 17641
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #190 on: December 25, 2016, 01:04:45 AM »
Lo and Behold (like the recent Into the Inferno) is a good-but-not-great Herzog doc. I always enjoy it when he allows his documentaries to go off on tangents and just explore the things he finds fascinating. To hell with a narrative throughline! But I think what messes this one up are the chapter intertitles. It makes it feel too much like a series of bullet points rather than a stream-of-consciousness flow. Still, the perspectives he finds are, for the most part, really interesting. Also, the point/counterpoint of the ending is absolutely sublime. Someone bring me a banjo!

(80/100)

PeacefulAnarchy

  • Elite Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2132
    • Criticker reviews
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #191 on: December 26, 2016, 12:57:45 AM »
Le tombeau d'Alexandre (1992)[The Last Bolshevik] 8/10
Interesting mix of biography and political documentary. Marker takes us through Medvedkin's life and work all while deliberating on the flaws of the Soviet Union and the trials of being an film director driven by a personal vision, and does it in a way that is interesting no matter where you're coming at it from. I can't say any of this was of pre-existing interest to me, but the film made me want to pay attention and I got a wealth of information from it. I was afraid it might be dry and overly political, but thankfully neither is the case. Marker's directorial style is pretty lighthearted, not least in the cute little intermission, and while politics plays a big part in the film it's more about how the situation affected the people involved than an ideological debate in either direction. I'm also now much more interested in seeing Schastye, though I kind of wish I had seen it before watching this.

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 22967
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #192 on: December 26, 2016, 10:50:04 AM »
Asperger's Are Us (2016)

Thankfully, this documentary tackles the elephant in the room early on, the grammatical error in the title, taken from the name of the improv troupe of individuals on the spectrum. Well, sort of, apparently the grammatical error they were concerned about was the Are Us, and not the Asperger's. True, the shorthand "Asperger's" is common, but being a possessive form, it really needs a noun like syndrome (though ironically, usually when followed with syndrome the possessive is dropped).

The troupe, and the documentary, focus on the stereotype of people on the spectrum as not having a sense of humor, owing to an excessive literalism that could interfere with a lot of the bases of humor. It is reasonable to presume that not all humor will work the same across the neurotypical divide, but being on the spectrum, and I like to think often providing humor to those around me, I didn't really need to be convinced of the ability for humor to align with autism. In fact, I'd say that perspective can often be key to comedic successes, in that the non-NT perspective finds absurdity in things that NTs take for granted until it is called out. But I don't think the doc really explores really any of this.

It was then a bit of a concern when the bulk of the film revealed no great comedic skill from the apparently first improv troupe on the spectrum. They were not necessarily representing us well. By the end, there are at least a few moments to appreciate, and at least bring them on par with the generally low level of humor found in most improv troupes. Without a lot of amusement coming from the performance itself, and the personalities not really being engaging enough to carry the time, the lack of deeper insight leaves the whole thing feeling a bit lacking.

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 22967
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #193 on: December 26, 2016, 07:41:39 PM »
Democrats (2014)

One of the telling moments in this documentary is when a draft of the document is leaked to the media, and as a result the representative of President Mugabe's party is placed under pressure for agreeing to a clause that would render Mugabe ineligible to run for reelection under the new constitution. Whether the anger he shows in the aftermath of this reporting is genuine or not, it does force him to fight hard against that provision (which is probably a good one), compromising the document when it is removed. There is a lesson here for any governing process, not just in places with very marginal protections. It is hard to imagine how our own Constitutional Convention would have fared were the proceedings widely public, and as much as the dogma of open government has become the norm, seen as preventing corruption, it is fair to say that the best governance right now is that which is most secretive. It is, after all, easier to defend a whole product, with pros and cons, than it is to defend each amendment to a bill that might prove necessary to pass it in the long run.

That said, I found the documentary a bit lacking. We see the increasing respect of the two opposition party representatives, but less clear are the actual issues for debate. This doc is more interested in process than substance. Of course there's that whole reality thing, and the years since the focus of the doc have hardly been a source for optimism. This is where reality sucks. One wants to see the hard struggle for overcoming obstacles to get a constitution to be rewarded with a functioning democracy. That is how Hollywood says such a film should end. In life happy endings are far less certain.

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 22967
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #194 on: December 27, 2016, 12:32:08 AM »
Into The Inferno (2016)

La Soufriθre is one of my favorite things Herzog has done. Nearly four times the length, Into The Inferno delivers maybe a fourth of the experience. It isn't that I lack interest in volcanos. If you set aside humans, who turn them into disasters through our frailty, there is something fascinating about the geologic power of these natural phenomenon. But Herzog's style manages to dull the edge significantly and in this case fails to provide the respective philosophical depth. Everything just felt dragged out, especially a section of digging fossils in Africa.

oldkid

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 18937
  • Hi there! Feed me worlds!
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #195 on: December 29, 2016, 12:49:07 PM »
Tickled

One of the best, "Well, that escalated rather quickly" docs of note.

Um.  Not sure what to say because everyone's been so careful about spoilers with this one. 

It's worth watching.  I'm not sure it's worth the ten bucks I paid for it.  But perhaps my ten bucks will go toward court costs...

4/5
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 35726
  • Marathon Man
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #196 on: December 30, 2016, 11:54:14 PM »
Bondo, I didn't want to forget to thank you as always for hosting this every year. Documentaries is one type of film where I need the annual kick in the pants.

pixote

  • Administrator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 34200
  • Up with generosity!
    • yet more inanities!
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #197 on: December 31, 2016, 11:17:56 PM »


Alone in the Wilderness  (Dick Proenneke & Bob Swerer Jr., 2004)

There's an interesting intertextual study to be made here. You've got Proenneke's original footage; his diaries as reworked by writer Sam Keith; Swerer Jr.'s reading of Keith's book, as narration, in the guise of Proenneke; additional footage shot by Swerer Jr. and (distractingly) intercut with Proenneke's; and additional narration by Wendy Ishii, which is distractingly incongruous in its own right. As an editorial effort, Alone in the Wilderness is something of a mess — but not so much than it can mask the glory of Proenneke's original effort. I pride myself as being a very patient person, having being raised in the wild by a band of jigsaw puzzles, but this guy puts me to shame. As if the intricate the labor he puts in to build his cabin in the Alaskan wilderness isn't painstaking enough, he's doubles down on the monotony by filming the process himself (mostly). It's impressive to behold, to say the least, and I'd love to see more of his primary text someday, without the layers of interference.

Grade: B-





Law and Order  (Frederick Wiseman, 1969)

Years and years of Cops makes this film less singular that it must have been in 1969, when it won the Emmy for Best News Documentary, but the tableau created by Wiseman's film creates perhaps a more vivid portrait of not just the police but also those policed. The threat of violence is everywhere, on both sides, but always just a threat: a kid being cut loose despite making threats to kill cops; a guy threatening to kill the guy who molested someone if the cops don't do something about it; a policeman's brutal chokehold on a prostitute. Even when the cops are putting together a crib to temporarily house a lost kid, it's their holstered guns that draw the eye's attention. There's a timelessness to this pervasive sense of threat, but also a specificity here to a year (1968) and a place (Kansas City, Missouri). That place, more specifically, is a predominantly black neighborhood that's patrolled by a predominantly white police force; a neighborhood that saw rioting in 1968, apparently, with the ripple effects still being felt. It's all pretty interesting, to be sure, especially the way some of these very real people seem like over-the-top performances from a fiction film.

Grade: B





Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.  (Errol Morris, 1999)

I remember being lukewarm on my appreciation of this film, but now I find that I actively dislike it — with reservations. Morris' style here really bugs me. It's a very slow film, with about half an hour of material stretched to ninety minutes, and every cut to black (of which there are many) felt like a gut-punch to my engagement. The reenactment footage is a bit ugly, and the other very foregrounded stylistic choices did little to enhance my appreciation of the story being told. All that being said, Leuchter is a very interesting subject — a living, breathing example of how very ordinary men can do extremely bad things, convincing themselves all the while that they're in the right. So, you know, it's timely and stuff.

Grade: C+





Seventeen  (Joel DeMott & Jeff Kreines, 1983)

Seventeen, a portrait of high school kids, is mainly of interest just as an authentic-feeling document of a time and place — 1981 in Muncie, Indiana — with Q95 FM providing the rock radio soundtrack. The structure is a bit haphazard, especially as one individual girl (Lynn) takes center stage for the first three-fifths of the film but then falls too much to the background. But the content is almost always interesting, despite a few scenes running long and making me ask, "Why am I watching this?" And the sustained focus on Lynn is appropriate, for she's a white girl with a black boyfriend, which at first seems accepted by everyone as no big deal (gratifying to see), but before you know it someone has a cross burning outside their house. The film is probably at its best when it keys into the underlying racial tensions, and it could have been even better had the black perspective had been given more voice. The white, oft-racist contingent of 1981 Muncie feels like it'd be hungering to make America great again in another 35 years, giving the film special resonance right now. There's not a great sense of hope for the future here, which make the the glimpses we get into the home economics and government classes at the high school extra fascinating and even ironic. The Home Ec class, taught by an older woman, seems a bastion of 1930s ideals, largely irrelevant to the lives of these scraggly 1980s kids. And the teacher of government class is so quietly earnest in the face of his students' gross indifference that it's downright sad. Though it's not as sad as when a kid dies in a car accident and his friends get drunk and request "Against the Wind" from the radio station. Bob Seger's voice, made tinny by the film's sound recording, gave me crazy chills.

Grade: B





Undefeated  (Daniel Lindsay & T.J. Martin, 2011)

This 2012 Oscar winner is a nice look at high school sports as almost a form of social work and of character development. I really like the focus on the kids as people more than as players. It's telling that we don't even learn the first names of the guys at the star positions — the running back, quarterback, and wide receivers. Instead, it's a linebacker and a couple linemen that take center stage. The coach is a good protagonist and a tribute to the difference that one guy can make in people's lives, and how a strong sense of responsibility often carries with it the weight of sacrifice. His emphasis on character and discipline and "team first" leads to some really good emotional moments. The score is unfortunate and the editing is just okay. The success of Undefeated is found more in its individual scenes than in the flow between them. I wish that the games themselves had been better filmed; a clearer understanding of what these guys contribute on the field would have provided nice contexts for their stories. From what I understand, the filmmakers' interest here began with a newspaper article about a promising black football player living part-time with a white family to make it through high school and earn a college scholarship, reminiscent of The Blind Side. It's a tribute to the filmmakers that, once they began filming, they adapted and expanded their focus, rather than zeroing in on that original story, which, while still a good facet of the film, is one of the less interesting parts.

Grade: B





My Best Fiend  (Werner Herzog, 1999)

Herzog is quite the raconteur, but the kind that I don't really trust. His language is too often overheated, his past self too omniscient, and his present self too borderline self-aggrandizing. I wish the focus here was less on Herzog and more squarely on Kinski, even though Kinski scares me. He seems crazed to the point of being dangerous, so much so that I fear I'll regret having watched this when it negatively colors my next viewings of Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo. Those two films are disproportionately featured here, to the point where I just wanted to be watching Burden of Dreams again instead. I was playing a drinking game whereby I had a sip every time Kinski blinked. One hundred minutes later, my glass was still untouched. Despite some misgivings, I'm still glad I watched My Best Fiend. It's almost always interesting and after Genghis Blue and Buena Vista Social Club, I'm extra grateful for the strong production values.

Grade: B-





13th  (Ava DuVernay, 2016)

A tough one to review. As political propaganda, it gets points for being propaganda with which I agree. As a film ... it's alright. The interviews are filmed with annoying style, some of the editing is atrocious, and a few other choices are cringe-worthy. It's a survey lecture that's wants to avoid feeling like it's lecturing, so I understand the gravitation towards being hip and cool, or at least trying to be. But, yeah, those elements aren't for me. And content-wise, it's frustrating to me that over the course of two hours, we never address the original thinking behind that language in the 13th Amendment, or any variations to how it's been interpreted over the years. All told, 13th might prove to be more important than good.

Grade:





At All Costs  (Mike Nicoll, 2016)

In some ways, At All Costs is the film that the makers of Hoop Dreams originally set out to make: a study of the monied interests of youth basketball (e.g., recruiters, scouts, camps, shoe companies, etc.). Even though Hoop Dreams evolved into a much different film — telling a much more personal and human story — At All Costs still operates very much in its shadow. Nicoll's documentary feels like it's always pecking on the shell of its subject and only rarely breaking through. The main point of interest to me is the story of Parker Jackson-Cartwright and his very invested father — and the parallels to Searching for Bobby Fischer. Parker, despite being undersized, is so clearly a gifted athlete, but also clearly a teenage boy that's sacrificing the essence of that time of his life for a better future. That's an interesting dynamic, especially factoring in the fact that he seems privileged not just by his gifts but also by social class and familial support. I want to resent him, but his unassuming personality with its hint of nerdiness makes that impossible. This March Madness, I'll be watching Arizona's games with a strong rooting interest, injuries permitting.

Grade: B-





Muscle Shoals  (Greg 'Freddy' Camalier, 2013)

"Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers," says the Lynyrd Skynyrd song 'Sweet Home Alabama'. "And they've been known to pick a song or two." If you've ever wondered what that lyric is referring to but have been too lazy to Google it, well have I got the film for you! Muscle Shoals is a very small town in Alabama where some of the best music of the past fifty years has been recorded. There are a few good musical moments in this documentary and any number of fun facts and ancedotes; there's also an interesting personal story of tragedy and triumph. Ultimately, though, it's all a bit cursory, with nothing much to elevate it beyond, "Hmm, yeah, I guess that's all pretty interesting." And I hate when docs repeatedly incorporate their subjects into the b-roll, like models at a photo shoot, and you can just hear the director saying, "Hey guys, can you walk down this bridge towards the camera and look thoughtful?" "Hey, Rick, can you stand in front of this barn for us? Now can you turn sideways?" Et cetera. Just makes me feel bad for all involved.

Grade: B-





Last Chance U  (Greg Whiteley, 2016)

This six-episode Netflix series grew on me with every episode. East Mississippi Community College has been a junior college football powerhouse the past few years, a way station for players talented enough to play for top schools and ultimately in the NFL but lacking either the academic credentials or the personal discipline. The first couple episodes are a bit on the ordinary side, like a lesser season of HBO's Hard Knocks, but Last Chance U ultimately succeeds by being not just about college football and recruitment but also about race and life in the rural south and pathways to success and the gap between knowing what you have to do and actually doing it. Everything with Ronald Ollie is a clear highlight; it's near impossible not to root for him. The counselor who guides these athletes through their academic hurdles is a great screen presence, tough and maternal and passionate and a great de facto interviewer. The head football coach is equally fascinating, more for his flaws than his virtues. He makes a for a fascinating comparison with the coach from Undefeated.

Grade: B



Undefeated, 13th, At All Costs, Muscle Shoals, and Last Chance U are all streaming on Netflix.

pixote
« Last Edit: June 27, 2018, 01:58:51 PM by pixote »
Great  |  Near Great  |  Very Good  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Mixed  |  Middling  |  Bad

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 17641
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #198 on: December 31, 2016, 11:40:27 PM »
My Best Fiend  (Werner Herzog, 1999)

Herzog is quite the raconteur, but the kind that I don't really trust. His language is too often overheated, his past self too omniscient, and his present self too borderline self-aggrandizing. I wish the focus here was less on Herzog and more squarely on Kinski, even though Kinski scares me.

I quite agree. One of my least favorite Herzog docs.

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 22967
Re: DOCember Group Marathon 2016
« Reply #199 on: January 01, 2017, 02:43:23 AM »
Life, Animated (2015)

It makes me feel like an asshole, but watching this I get the feeling...I don't want to hang out with this guy. This is the feeling I've had when hanging out with other people on the spectrum in real life, not just in through film. Whether this is a statement of my more marginal place on the spectrum (I didn't have an ordeal of non-verbal status that needed to be overcome through the power of Disney) or just the way that people on the spectrum often can't cohere because their specific needs do not align, I don't know, but it is an issue. I don't need an assisted living environment...I also don't have a girlfriend. So screw all of this.

There is one place this resonates, and that is this statement: "He's using these movies to make sense of the world." I definitely have found movies as a means for exploring realms of life. But I'm not limited to Disney films. I watch films like Shortbus that explore far more diverse concepts. This film illustrates a more remedial version of myself. I don't know how much I should congratulate that..