Werner Herzog‘s dulcet tones ripple from the screen, warming the audience with his distinctive Herzogian accent and lolling cadence. His latest topic of interest: the internet. As can be expected of the revered German filmmaker and documentarian, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is a thoughtful study of the past, present and future of this thing we call the internet; how it originated, how it binds us, and how it could lead to the end of times. Read More
There’s no debating the value of Roger Ross William‘s accomplishment. In Life, Animated – a touching documentary centered on late-onset autism “victim” Owen Suskind and how he remarkably rediscovers language through animated Disney films – he has given voice to the voiceless (technical ingenuity had him pioneer a groundbreaking method to illicit confessionals from Owen). In Owen’s journey, we discover universal truisms that extent far beyond the realm of the autistic; bone-clattering truths about life, love, loss and suffering. Original animation from Mac Guff helps fill in the documentarian voids and provides stirring and visually resplendent representations of Owen’s young years and the self-penned stories he would escape into. Framing Owen’s relationships – with family members, his girlfriend Emily and some very special friends – in such a way that rejuvenates our collective faith in humanity, William’s picture is an objective triumph, one that shines a light on a misunderstood population, that weaves triumph from tragedy and crafts a moving portrait of perseverance. It’s a tribute to an uncommon hero and is truly something special. (A) Read More
The political arena is an ugly, soul-sucking vortex before you add a sexting scandal. Weiner, the inflammatory expose from Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, documents how fiery liberal congressman Anthony Weiner’s NYC mayoral campaign went up in flames, engulfed by public outrage following ironically weiner-centric indiscretions. The pair offer up a poignant critique of media’s misguided circus-making, all the while capturing the torturous effects on Weiner’s wife and former Hillary top dog, Huma, to craft a potent and illuminating picture of gross, cheap tv-ready gossip overshadowing political ideology and the cogs that chew up candidates and dispose of them in disheveled pieces. (B) Read More
Racing Extinction, Louie Psihoyos’ second documentary following 2009’s Academy Award winning The Cove, is a call to action regarding humanity’s role in the currently-unfolding extinction event. As various experts explain, we are living in the so-called Anthropocene epoch, named for the measurable effect of human beings’ behavior on the various life forms and habitats on earth.
I hesitated, at first, over whether to include “so-called” or any other indications of controversy surrounding the fact-claims of the film; there is some question, limited mostly to the far right in this country, of whether or not “global warming,” for example, exists, and further whether it is the result of our behavior, or simply a natural development; however, I’d rather not sport with your intelligence, fine readers, and I think we can get to what really matters: the quality of the film itself.
Listen to Me Marlon opens to an analog recording of Marlon Brando contemplating the future of movies with a crude CG rendering of his face, now aged, as his mouth moves to the words spoken: words that express his synthetic representation in a place where he feels nothing is real. The tape is titled “Self-hypnosis.” One, among bags filled with hundreds of others, is Brando’s self-diagnostic foray into inner solitude, an intimate voice with rich precedence naked for the first time. The audio recordings contain his ruminations, self-reflections, observations, and personal confessions, which are spread out over a multi-textured pastiche culled together with the cooperation of the Brando estate. Read More
Best of Enemies gives a gripping account of the momentous ideological clash between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential primaries. In a bid for ratings, ABC (widely considered the “budget car rental of television news”) pitted conservative political commentator Buckley against Vidal, the creator of transsexual literary icon Myra Breckinridge and the one person (bar all communists) whom Buckley had sworn never to appear on screen with. Read More
“Everest is for f*cking p*ssies, man.” Not an actual quote from the film, but it might be a good one for you to slip in at the next kickback when the conversation inevitably shifts to what documentaries you and your significant other have been watching on Netflix and what you think of the new season of HBO’s (fill in the blank). Meru is about serious climber bros, dudes who casually remark they’ve been to the top of Everest “four or five times” and one of them has even “skied off the top of Everest.” Hell, when you weekend warriors climb Everest “you can hire Sherpas to take most of the risks.” (And those are actual quotes.) Read More
Sneakerheadz documents the intricate cultural and economic customs of Sneakerdom: an ever-expanding realm where a pair of second hand shoes (namely those of the Air Jordan variety) can fetch resellers up to $100,000. Mick Partridge and Little Miss Sunshine’s David T. Friendly trace the sneaker’s step from the retro-Converse soles of basketball legends competing at Rucker Park, to feet featuring on the runways of Paris Fashion Week. Read More
The name “Barry Crimmins” may sound vaguely familiar, but there aren’t many non-comedians who know Crimmins’ story – at least not the whole story. It’s arguable that this is reason enough for the film to have been made and for as many people as possible to watch it. His is a unique story of personal discovery and public achievement that rewards as it educates, and director Bobcat Goldthwait’s love and admiration for his subject pervades the film. Read More
Cartel Land spends most of its runtime with the men and women on either side of the US-Mexico border, but it opens amidst the men working for the cartels, gathered under cover of darkness to cook their drugs and appeal to the camera—they are people, and people have to work. After all, if God minded their little cook op, he’d smite them down right quick. And that would be that. Their peculiar bookends – given by tertiary characters with a direct hand in “polluting the populace” – provide an extra shade of depth to a documentary at first intent on chronicling the horrors perpetrated on the Mexican people in the name of the cartels that is then mixed up – like acetone, sulfuric acid and antifreeze – with the morally gray mater of self-righteous vigilantes taking up arms to protect their gente.