Documentary

Last week, filmmaker Joe Berlinger tweeted about a review of West of Memphis at DocGeeks in which the writer wrote, “I’ve never had the time or the energy to watch all 3 Paradise Lost films and, having seen West of Memphis, I’m glad I never bothered to.” As the co-director of the Paradise Lost trilogy, Berlinger had a right to be annoyed with that opening line and not just because West of Memphis probably wouldn’t exist without Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s coverage of the West Memphis 3 cases over the last 20 years. If there’s one thing we as film critics and/or fans should be good at it’s considering the distinction of individual works and the independent perspectives that go into their storytelling craft. With more and more documentaries being made it’s understandable that multiple films will tackle the same specific story. Sometimes they will seem like competitors, and sometimes, as in the case of this year’s two AIDS treatment docs, How to Survive a Plague and United in Anger, they’re actually linked through overlapping producers. Another new film, which just won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 DOC NYC documentary film festival and also recently received the Best Documentary Feature award at the Austin Film Festival, is one of the greatest examples of why it’s a wonderful thing that so many docs are being produced, even if some appear to be redundant on the surface. Titled Informant, this film tackles the exact same incident already covered by the […]

read more...

Fresh from its Audience Award win at AFI FEST yesterday, the amazing and beautiful nonfiction teen movie Only the Young has a brand new trailer, and we’re happy to unleash it out into the world. Directed by newcomers Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, a duo who can’t seem to get away from being called the filmmakers of tomorrow, this candid look at a trio of evangelical skate punks in a Southern California desert town is one of the most honest movies I’ve seen in a long time. And it deserves to be seen no matter any of your prejudices against documentary (you’ll often forget it is one), religious youth (you’ll forget all about Jesus Camp) or the plethora of lookalike skater films (beyond its skin, there are no similarities between this and 2011′s Dragonslayer). Believe me that you’ll fall in love with this movie, as  I and so many festival audiences have already. Only the Young introduces us to best friends Garrison and Kevin, goofy teens just hanging out and growing up with little to do in a suburban community that’s clearly seen devastating effects of the economic crisis. Along comes Skye and a new kind of close relationship for Garrison, but more girl friend than girlfriend. In fact, Garrison eventually starts dating another girl at school. There’s jealousy, heartbreak, tears, but also a lot of warm, heartfelt talks and many laughs. It really is a lot like a real-life John Hughes movie, as is hinted at in a blurb […]

read more...

Last night, at a special event in conjunction with the AFI FEST, the nominees for the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors were announced. And once again, the titles contending for the ten feature categories, all of which focus solely on nonfiction films (to make up for the Oscars’ minimal recognition), represent the year’s best in documentaries. As someone who professionally concentrates on docs elsewhere, I tend to feel kinda useless or redundant when Cinema Eye names its nominees, because now when someone asks me what’s great this year I can just point to their list of 31 features. Of course, some of these films are only up for specific honors, like those for original music score and graphic design, and may not be quite as necessary as the six up for the top award or the 10 nominated for the Audience Choice Prize (which sadly, for publicity-sake, lacks a Justin Bieber movie like last year). Also, I could name a bunch of exceptional docs that haven’t been recognized, such as This is Not a Film, The House I Live In, Under African Skies, Beware of Mr. Baker, Last Call at the Oasis, The Queen of Versailles, Girl Model (though its directors are up for Downeast) and The Invisible War. Still, I’m very excited that one of my top three nonfiction films of the year, The Imposter, is one of the most-nominated titles, while I’m even more ecstatic that the CEH could bring more attention to brilliant, lesser-known works like Only the […]

read more...

  Editor’s note: With Bestiaire hitting limited release, here is a re-run of our Berlin Film Festival review, originally published on February 15, 2012. Before the screening of Bestiaire, writer/director/producer Denis Côté relayed a story about an audience member who approached him at Sundance and told him that she felt like the movie was less about animals and more “a movie about an audience watching a movie.” Even without planting the seed of this idea, it would have become obvious within a few minutes of watching the semi-staged documentary. It has an eerie ability to make you aware that you’re in an audience watching something, yet it does so magically without taking you out of the movie. The surrounding people are more obvious, but the images up on the screen are still transfixing. The simple way to describe this convention-bucking flick is that it’s a little over an hour of animals. That alone makes it watchable, but the brilliance of the project is in its more complex description: a film composed entirely of sequential static shots of wild beasts and humans watching or caring for wild beasts that shines a spotlight on observation and fine art.

read more...

Alzheimer’s is one of the most tragic diseases for a creative person. While physically painless, the dementia and memory loss are dreadful impairments that no mind should have to bear, and that seems to be especially the case for celebrated artistic minds like that of Edwin Honig. The late poet and critic is the subject of a new documentary by Alan Berliner, the renowned maker of deeply personal experimental nonfiction films. Previous works of his include An Intimate Stranger, which focuses on his maternal grandfather, and Nobody’s Business, which is about his father. His relationship to Honig is directly spelled out in the new doc’s title, First Cousin Once Removed. In addition to that familial bond, though, Berliner considers his mother’s cousin to be his mentor and friend; Honig’s estranged adopted kids meanwhile imply that the filmmaker was treated more like a son than they each were. Making the subject matter even more subjectively relevant is the fact that Berliner’s father and paternal grandfather both suffered from dementia. So, surely this film is as much to do with the director facing his own fear that he too will one day lose cognition. It’s also his second go at the subject, as First Cousin Once Removed is an expansion of his 2010 short, Translating Edwin Honig: A Poet’s Alzheimer’s.

read more...

One of the most difficult Oscar categories for pundits (let alone regular folk) to predict is the one for feature documentary. And this year more than ever it’s going to be hard to pick the five nominees, because changes to the rules of qualification and voting have given the race an extra element of complication: there is no precedent for how things turn out with this particular selection process in place. In a way, it’s a wide-open field with no certainty that higher-grossing films or more issue-oriented titles or discernibly cinematic works have the greater chance at a nod. Some expected the number of contenders to be cut in half as a result of the new rules; instead it grew, much to the chagrin of branch leader Michael Moore. And until the annual shortlist narrows them down to 15, we have 130 eligible films to choose from. But most of those docs aren’t plausible nominees. Many of the kind that Moore gets upset about for paying for a screen rental to qualify aren’t likely to go all the way. So they qualified. Now they have to be good and popular enough for people to notice.

read more...

After Porn Ends

In 2007, porn star Sasha Grey went on The Tyra Banks Show as part of her transition into acting that doesn’t require penetration (although she probably hasn’t ruled out working with Lars von Trier just yet). Her blunt defense of the industry as she had navigated started a new conversation about pornography which yielded a lot of discussion and hand-wringing but very little internal change. Still, it would be disingenuous to claim porn doesn’t have a firm place in our culture; it’s an industry that pulls in billions of dollars of proof that it caters to a specific need that’s in high demand. The new documentary After Porn Ends has taken a look into that fascinating industry from the other side of it. What happens when a porn star wants to quit? By interviewing and examining the experiences of stars like Asia Carrera, Houston, Randy West and others, the film seeks insight into the chapter of their lives after the bright shine of fame wears off. It sounds a bit like still being in a strip club when the main lights go up. Except the strip club is your life. The movie has reached over 100m homes in its On Demand run. Check out the trailer for yourself:

read more...

American Scream crew

With October on the horizon, as well as that glorious holiday there contained, many of us are gearing up for haunted house season. In many ways the last vestige of the roaming carnival days, companies come in every year, occupy some abandoned retail space, and commence with a nightly regimen of shrieks, jumps, and frights that carries us screaming into November. But what happens when those with the desire to create an effective spook house don’t have the benefit of such monstrous budgets? The more organic, love-labor-intensive community haunted houses are the results of an entire year’s worth of work by blue collar artists and their families. The process by which they transform their own homes into cathedrals to low-budget scares, called home haunts, is the subject of Michael Paul Stephenson’s (Best Worst Movie) latest documentary: The American Scream. A touching, fascinating, and deeply sincere testament to unflappable creative spark, The American Scream found easy purchase in the Fantastic Fest lineup this year. In fact, beside the theater, in what used to be a scooter retailer, the Alamo Drafthouse partnered with Manny Souza (a featured subject in the doc) to quickly, and with a MacGyver-like resourcefulness, build a miniature home haunt right next door. It was in this hallowed place that we were fortunate enough to sit down with Stephenson, producer Meyer Shwarzstein, and another featured home haunt artist Victor Bariteau to talk about the film. Even in the light of day, the appropriateness of this meeting place was not […]

read more...

There is something of a perfect storm of artistry in 1980′s The Shining that more than accounts for that film’s widely held distinction as a classic. The novel was written by Stephen King, a guy even your great-grandmother’s skittish bridge partners recognize as a master of literary horror. The inevitable film adaptation was then directed by certified mad genius Stanley Kubrick. Anyone who’s seen the film, and there are probably a few, knows that eerie supernatural atmosphere and strikingly offsetting imagery abound. What may not be so ingrained in the collective consciousness is the legion of conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining. Rodney Ascher‘s documentary Room 237 seeks to shed light on these various conspiracies with the help of a host of unseen interviewees whose explanations are then diagrammed using footage of the celebrated horror film and other inserted images. On the surface, hearing the name and digesting the premise of this doc, Room 237 offers extraordinary promise to genre fans. The idea of actual mysterious, ominous context to our favorite horror films somewhat legitimizes our fandom and presents the possibility of mining new scares out of movies we’ve undoubtedly watched enough times to have memorized  forwards and backwards. In fact, Room 237 actually suggests a new, hidden meaning to The Shining exists in viewing it backwards and forwards simultaneously; one transparently laid over the other. This feat may be difficult to accomplish, but it exists in a realm of intrigue along with the age-old theory of listening to Dark Side […]

read more...

Moviegoing is like attending church for many of us, and so I’d like to introduce a new regular feature titled “Movie Houses of Worship,” which spotlights our favorite temples of cinema around the world. I’m kicking things off with a theater I frequented often when I was still living in New York City. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email me at christopher (at) filmschoolrejects (dot) com.    Name: IFC Center Opened: June 2005 (renovated from the famous Waverly Theater/Twin, which existed from 1937-2001 in an actual former church, built in 1831) No. of screens: 5 (two of which were added in 2009, built out of a space once housing an attached bar) Current first run titles: Sleepwalk With Me; Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry; The Ambassador; Beauty is Embarrassing; Detropia; Girl Model; Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution. Jonathan Demme’s I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful opens Wednesday. Also, the StoryCorps animated film John and Joe, which runs ahead of each film as part of the theater’s dedication to shorts.

read more...

The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Is there such a thing as tobacco porn? If not, this stunning new work from Made By Hand comes close. We featured a documentary short from them almost a year ago, and two elements shine through here again. One, jaw-plunging black and white shots. Two, a focus on craftsmanship as a thing of exquisite beauty. Unsurprisingly stellar work here from a production house that gets everything right. Now wipe the drool off your screen. What will it cost you? Only 5 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

read more...

The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Our eyes are on the skies right now. Rightfully so. There’s magic up there. The subject matter is obviously compelling, but The Film Artist has made something from NASA footage and recordings that’s contemplative and slightly Kubrickian. And that last line packs a wallop. What will it cost you? Only 2 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

read more...

Beauty is Embarrassing

You’re probably a fan of Wayne White’s artwork even if you don’t know it. In fact, that’s a bet Mark Mothersbaugh would be willing to make. The iconic musician is one of many to appear as a talking head for the new doc Beauty is Embarrassing, but he’s not the biggest one. The biggest talking head is, of course, one of White’s creations. This new trailer for the film, which is out on September 7th, celebrates some incredible art and a bizarrely beautiful mind. Check it out for yourself:

read more...

Sound City

That room. That board. With its glossy shots and ejaculatory praise from some of the best musicians of the modern era, the teaser for Dave Grohl‘s documentary Sound City is seductive, especially for those who have ever picked up a guitar or dreamed of recording in such a hallowed space. Unfortunately, it’s also too short. Check it out for yourself and get excited:

read more...

Drew Struzan Back to the Future Poster

“It’s not just an ad; it’s the first notes of the piece. It’s the beginning of the story.” That’s Michael J. Fox speaking about Drew Struzan‘s work and giving movie marketers everywhere a much-needed lesson. It’s not about slapping some poorly Photoshopped celebrity faces against a white space with a bad font; it’s about creating an indelible image that instantly makes someone want to see the movie. It’s imagery selling imagery. Now, the legendary artist is now the subject of a documentary from director Erik Sharkey, and that documentary has a trailer. Drew: The Man Behind the Poster features interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Fox, Frank Darabont, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Tom Jane, and a bunch of other artists (including Stuzan himself). It’s a celebration of a master.

read more...

The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Let’s face it. Selling six-figures worth of hard drugs in a week is not as simple as standing on the corner shouting that you have drugs for sale. It’s also romanticized heavily in movies and in television, which is why this documentary – which focuses on a dealer explaining the process step-by-step – is so fascinating. Gritty, the very definition of candid, this is a must-see doc. What will it cost? Only 20 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

read more...

The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Every year, Tropfest circles the entire globe with short films, launching careers and introducing new filmmaking talents. It’s a uniquely global film festival, and the most recent New York City edition announced Josh Leake‘s documentary Emptys as its winner. It’s easy to see why. The movie followers street canners, men and women who make a living solely by collecting empty recyclables. The subject matter is compelling, but the stories shine beyond the obvious, surface-level appeal. Leake is a strong, fresh voice who deserves to be heard. What will it cost? Only 7 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

read more...

How to Survive a Plague

David France‘s forthcoming documentary How to Survive a Plague has a title that promises important information for anyone living in the Middle Ages, but its message is entirely modern. It’s that last word, hanging like an antique from too many centuries ago. It’s hard to think of a plague still hanging around, but that’s exactly what AIDS is. It was a misunderstood disease that saw some lawmakers fighting back against finding a cure with any relative speed, but this doc chronicles a group of men and women literally fighting for their lives. Check it out for yourself:

read more...

The Imposter Movie 2012

Bart Layton‘s documentary The Imposter was warmly welcomed at SXSW (and other fests) for its icy shudder-inducing premise. It’s about…a person…but to describe that person would undercut the effectiveness of this insanely well-cut trailer. For now, know that it’s about a kidnapped boy, an emotionally demolished family, and a piece of miraculous news from across the Atlantic Ocean. Check out the trailer for yourself:

read more...

Meet the Fokkens

If the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro movies had been set in the red light district of Amsterdam with two flaxen-haired geriatrics on the verge of retiring from professionally giving hand jobs, it might have made more money. Or been better. From writer/director Gabrielle Provaas, the documentary Meet the Fokkens (Ouwehoeren in its native tongue) is a portrait of said infamous district and Louise and Martine – two seasoned, sex worker sisters who still pull in money with their talents. The trailer promises candid, quirky conversations with them about vibrators, young hookers and hopefully they’ll share their stroopwafel recipe. Check out the trailer for yourself:

read more...
  PREVIOUS PAGE
NEXT PAGE  
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Comic-Con 2014
Summer Box Office Prediction Challenge
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3