Documentaries

Tees Maar Khan

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Back to the Future 2 Glasses

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Lester Bangs

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Poetic Justice

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Smaug - The Hobbit

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Barton Fink

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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IntroBehindScenes

It seems very rare that a behind-the-scenes documentary will earnestly try to show how the movie is made over trying to sensationalize the process. After all, who exactly is the demographic watching these things? Is it people who are genuinely interested in learning the techniques, or is it casual fans of a particular movie peeking behind the curtain? A good documentary caters to both – but above all should be honest in how the film was made. I’d like to explore some of the most earnest examples that I’ve come across. Either as stand alone films or DVD extras – these are documentaries that show, for better or for worse, the good and the bad aspects of the movie making process. This is stuff that no film goon should miss.

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Happy People

After spending time the jungle to film Fitzcarraldo, legendary director Werner Herzog came away from the experience with the unique perspective that instead of being a landscape that represents life and beauty, the lushness of the jungle was an obscene, vile place that exhibited interconnection only in its collective murder. Given his apparent distaste for the jungle’s denseness, which leads to the screeching of the birds and the screaming of the trees, maybe he would have a better time traveling in the frozen vastness of Siberia? Seeing as that’s where he’s gone to film his latest documentary, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, we’re likely to get our chance to find out. We’re going to have to wait until the film is actually released to get his full impressions of this gigantic expanse of wilderness, however, because while the film’s new trailer does open with the soothing sounds of that patented Herzog voice over narration, he mostly just introduces the setting and then let’s the gorgeous landscape photography he and co-director Dmitry Vasyukov have captured do the rest of the talking.

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The Central Park Five Trailer

The form and aesthetic of Ken Burns’ documentary work has become so well-known and so well-defined at this point that there are probably people out there working in the audiovisual arts who know how to use the “Ken Burns effect,” but have no idea where the term came from. From the breakthrough doc, Brooklyn Bridge, that launched his career, to his big documentary series that defined it, like The Civil War and Baseball, Burns has continuously proven himself to be an icon of the documentary filmmaking game. So when a new trailer for one of his movies comes out, you pretty much know what to expect. The only real questions are going to be, “What’s this one about? What new subject is he going to be poring over archival documents to research?” This time around Burns has made a film (alongside co-directors Sarah Burns and David McMahon) called The Central Park Five, which details the conviction and incarceration of five teenagers who were wrongly accused of committing a rape in Central Park back in 1989.

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Science Fiction Land

Anyone who’s seen the trailers for Ben Affleck’s new thriller, Argo, knows that it’s about a real life mission wherein the C.I.A. created a fake science fiction film as a cover for sneaking operatives into Iran and sneaking American hostages out. What not many people know, and what our own Christopher Campbell has brought to our attention over at the Documentary Channel blog, is that the fake movie from Affleck’s film wasn’t fake at all. As a matter of fact, it was, at one time, going to be a pretty big production, and the story of how it fell apart might be just as interesting as the story of how it was used as a tool for the C.I.A.

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Room 237 Teaser

There are a ton of horror classics that get revisited by movie fans around this time of year, but perhaps none are more dense, rich, respected, and downright creepifying as Stanley Kubrick’s unique take on Stephen King’s story of old hotels, hauntings, and Jack Nicholson going crazy, The Shining. Apart from being one of the greatest horror films of all time, The Shining is often just considered one of the greatest films of all time, period. And that’s why it’s developed an over thirty-year history of ongoing post-film discussion. The Shining’s legions of fans are devoted, so much so that many of them spend countless hours poring over ever little detail of the film, trying to suss out and decode what every little splatter of blood, every surreal image, every number on a hotel room door means in the greater scheme of things. The cult surrounding this film is so interesting that director Rodney Ascher and producer Tim Kirk decided to make a documentary about it. Their film is called Room 237, and they describe it by saying, “Room 237 is a subjective documentary feature which explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and its hidden meanings. This guided tour through the most compelling attempts to decode this endlessly fascinating film will draw the audience into a new maze, one with endless detours and dead ends, many ways in, but no way out. Discover why many have been trapped in the Overlook for 30 years.”

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The American Scream Trailer

For tons of film geeks, Halloween is the best time of the year. We get to layer our movie weight under comfy sweaters, the squares suddenly show interest in makeup and demons and all sort of other strange stuff, and we can gorge on all of the cheesy horror movies we want without anyone thinking it’s weird. The new documentary from Best Worst Movie director Michael Stephenson follows subjects who feel much the same way about our calendar’s most Karo syrup-obsessed holiday. The American Scream is about three ordinary families who all share the same obsession: they take decorating their houses for Halloween way too seriously. If you’ve seen Best Worst Movie, you probably know what to expect here. The American Scream makes a group of weirdos its focus, and manages to milk their weirdness for some laughs, but it also clearly has a deep affection for them, so things never feel mean or exploitative, and you might even get some insight into the human condition. When he took it in at Fantastic Fest recently, our own Luke Mullen called the movie, “another captivating window into a world of passionate fans.”

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Last Wednesday, Austin Film Society moderated a discussion at Austin Studios between Kelly Williams, Kat Candler, David Zellner and Clay Liford titled Short Filmmakers Bridging the Gap to Features. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that event, but it’s existence did prompt me to begin pontificating about the various strategies that Austin filmmakers are employing in attempting to take their careers to the next level. Short films definitely seem to be the most obvious place to begin. Most of us who studied film in college understand some of the roles that short films can play in establishing one’s career. Shorts are like calling cards in the film industry. You can make shorts as an economic way to prove to others that you know how to write, direct, shoot, edit and/or act. Personally, I have always liked the idea of shooting a segment of a feature film and releasing that as a short in order to rally up interest and support for the feature. This gives potential funding sources the opportunity to see the vision of the filmmaker and gain a better understanding of the style and tone of the yet-to-be-made feature.

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Killing Them Softly

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column about movies that’s been kickin’ ass and takin’ names since the sun came up, but for some reason it still waited until late at night to bring you all the movie news of the day. It’s eccentric like that. We begin tonight with an image of Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy in Killing Them Softly, Andrew Dominik’s new film based on the adaptation of the novel “Cogan’s Trade.” They are but two of the badass names attached to said project, which includes Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Sam Shepard, among others. Not bad.

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After weeks and weeks of controversy, manufactured or otherwise, the tumultuous story of The Weinstein Company’s anti-bullying documentary Bully has finally come to a close. For those who haven’t been following all of the hullabaloo, the fun all started when the MPAA ridiculously gave a Lee Hirsch-directed documentary meant to expose the escalating problem of bullying in U.S. schools an R-rating. Even though the movie taught a good lesson, the fact that it used the F word a few too many times deemed it unsuitable for our children’s bruised little ears. Never one to take a chance at free publicity lying down, the film’s producer Harvey Weinstein made a big stink about how unjust the rating was, and vowed to have it appealed. He did as much, and he even brought one of the bullied kids from the film, Alex Libby, to speak during the appeals process. Nonetheless, the MPAA decided that the rating would stand. This, of course, led to further outrage on the part of everyone. Weinstein put the film out unrated, the PTC threatened to picket any theaters that would show it, and the MPAA continued to sit behind closed doors and do whatever evil things they do that we don’t know about. The whole situation was a mess, and in some serious need of mediation. Which must have eventually happened, because at some point they re-edited the film, re-submitted it to the MPAA, and it now has a PG-13 rating. Apparently the issue was that they […]

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The Motion Picture Association of America has a history of questionable practices when it comes to their content rating of film releases. And Harvey Weinstein has a history of going up against the organization when he doesn’t agree with harsh ratings they’ve slapped on Weinstein movies. In October of 2010, his indie project Blue Valentine got slapped with an NC-17 rating due to an oral sex scene, and Harvey successfully appealed the decision, arguing that nothing in the film was exploitative or unessential, and that the rating would be financially harming a great work of art if it was left to stand. It looks like it’s time for round 2 in the Weinstein/MPAA war. This time the fight is over a documentary called Bully, which takes a look at schoolyard bullying in the United States. The MPAA has deemed that the film should be R-rated due to “some language,” and Weinstein is pissed because a restrictive rating would prohibit the youths who need to see a movie like this most from being able to buy a ticket.

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Last week the programmers for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival introduced the main course of this year’s festival lineup, fifty-three films from all over the world, big and small, about any number of subjects. The list was so impressive I ran out and booked a hotel room. So, now that I’m financially locked in to heading up to the city of David Cronenberg and that rapper who called himself SNOW, I’ll be following future announcements by the festival pretty closely. Today brought a big one. Adding to their initial lineup of films, TIFF has added a bunch of documentary works by fairly large documentary filmmakers and a bunch of genre works from fairly deranged genre filmmakers. First let’s take a look at some of the docs. Thom Powers is the lead programmer for documentaries, and about this year’s lineup he said, “I’m thrilled at the large number of veteran filmmakers who have brought us new works this year. The line-up contains a wide range of memorable characters – crusaders, convicts, artists, athletes, nude dancers, comic book fans, dog lovers and more. Not to mention the epic 15-hour Story of Film. These documentaries will have audiences discussing and debating for months to come.” I don’t think I’ll have time for that fifteen hour one, I’ve only got five days in the city, but the one about nude dancers is definitely on my docket.

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IndiePix is the latest site to get into the game of streaming movies with IndiePix Unlimited, but their site fills a much, much needed void. While Netflix’s indie section seems filled to the brim with sex dramedies, explorations of filmmakers’ sexuality, and narrative commentary on sex and sexual relationships – IndiePix goes far beyond that by directly celebrating the best of the best in the independent film world. Its success stems from the large selection and ease of use, but there are still flaws, and the site will need to grow (even beyond its 4,000+ available films) in order to truly become a household name. Let’s take a quick test drive:

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In this season of meta (Rubber, Scream 4), Morgan Spurlock trumps all. Leave it to the Super Size Me documentarian, who has made a career out of sacrificing his mind and body for his projects, to humorously sell out his dignity to corporations for the most painstakingly self-reflexive movie of any sort since Adaptation. His POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is, yes, exactly what that above-title sponsorship suggests it to be. Rightfully disturbed by the ubiquity of product placement in modern entertainment, Spurlock sets out to spoof that synchronous blend of corporate schilling and art by crafting a documentary about his attempts to accrue corporate sponsors for a documentary about his attempts to accrue corporate sponsors for a documentary. And on and on we go.

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Balcony Releasing has unveiled a trailer for the Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel directed doc Louder Than a Bomb, hands down one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long while. This exhilarating true life story was the winner of a Jury Award at the 2010 Austin Film Festival, as voted upon by a jury upon which yours truly served. The vote was unanimous, if I remember correctly. It tells the story of kids from schools around the Chicago area who compete for school pride in slam poetry competitions. Their words, their passion, their unbridled energy light up the screen as their stories touch upon the simultaneous tragedy and beauty that makes up the human experience. If you do any one thing today, I’d recommend breathing (it seems necessary). But if you’d like to move on to a second thing, I’d recommend checking out this trailer. But beware that it might put a stop to that first thing you were doing.

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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