The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles

It seems strange to fondly reminiscence about Lauren Greenfield’s fascinating documentary The Queen of Versailles on the verge of another potential American economic collapse, but the filmmaker’s weirdly funny and strangely endearing look at the uber-rich Jackie and David Siegel remains a steadfastly engaging documentary. Oh, and now it’s one with a bit of an update. If you’re in need of a catch up on the film, hop on over to my review of the film from Sundance 2012, or just sit tight for a compact version right here. Greenfield’s doc focuses on the Siegels, incredibly wealthy Floridians who were, at the time Greenfield started filming, best known for their attempt to build the United States’ largest single family residence, one they modeled after equal parts the Palace of Versailles and the top three floors of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. They sound so fun, right? As the filming process wound on, however, the Siegels (David is founder, owner, president, and chief executive officer of Westgate Resorts, one of the world’s largest real estate and timeshare companies, Jackie is a homemaker) were unexpectedly plunged into dire financial straits (dire, of course, by their measure). While The Queen of Versailles was originally meant to chronicle eye-popping excess wealth in America, it ended up capturing the flipside to economic fat-cat-ness, and it did it with finesse and humor. The film was a hit at Sundance – and the Siegels’ pre-festival campaign and lawsuit against both the festival and Greenberg certainly built buzz […]

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The Best Documentaries of 2012

2012′s best documentaries understand people. It’s as simple as that. They include beautiful character portraits, from group pictures like Indie Game: The Movie and El Gusto to individual pieces like Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Marley. Even the most issue-oriented films achieved their strength through keeping things personal, building powerful political and social arguments through the lives of their subjects. They chronicle the lives of victims who are also heroes, filmmakers who are also subjects, and unique characters who end up representing us all.

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THR Directors Roundtable 2012

One of the highlights of the Oscar season is the series of round table discussions produced by The Hollywood Reporter, and for good reason. We spend much of the fall and winter comparing drastically different films only on the most basic of levels, who is deserving of awards and who isn’t. Any real conversation between the creators of the best movies of the year is therefore worth watching. Unfortunately, the list of the participants is not often as diverse as the films themselves. This year’s directors’ round table was made up entirely of men, as was the one last year. The same is true of this year’s writers’ panel. Meanwhile, the one real opportunity for us to hear a genuine dialog between women in cinema, the actresses’ panel, was bungled by the typical soft and silly questions that plague American actresses. As Monika Bartyzel so astutely points out in her piece over at Movies.com, it might not be intentional on the part of THR but that doesn’t make it any less problematic.

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The Queen of Versailles

As October slowly winds to a close, the air turns crisper, the leaves go red(der?), and the mailboxes of film critics everywhere find themselves stuffed quite fuller, as we enter into (drum roll, please), Official Awards Season. As we approach the bevy of awards shows and spectacles, it’s time to start rolling out the first wave of big-time nominations. Today, that wave includes documentaries. The 28th International Documentary Association Awards have today announced their five nominations for their Feature category, and there are certainly some recognizable names among the picks. Most notably, Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles, Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man, and Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War all made the cut, joined by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon’s The Central Park Five and Peter Gerdehag’s Women With Cows. Versailles and Sugar Man have both consistently played on the festival circuit this past year, and Invisible War has frequently been discussed when it comes to awards consideration (though our own Chris Campbell presupposes that Sugar Man is an Oscar lock). But who should win? Who is worthy of such love? Fortunately for all of you dear readers, we’ve reviewed three of the five nominated docs (can’t win ‘em all), so get familiar with our opinions after the break.

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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.

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Before screening The Queen of Versailles at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, the film’s director (Lauren Greenfield) described the film as a story about dreams and what it means to strive for, achieve and potentially lose those dreams. The American dream is built on the idea that you rise past where you began in life and The Queen of Versailles dives head first into this idea taking us inside the lives of Jackie and David Siegel as their incredible wealth affords them the opportunity to build their dream house. Both Jackie and David came from humble beginnings and grew into the owners of the biggest single-family home in America (not that they planned it that way.) David found financial success through his Westgate Resorts timeshare business while Jackie parlayed her good looks into a successful modeling career, eventually winning the Miss Florida title (and David’s heart.) Their dream home, named “Versailles” for its grander and the palace it was modeled after, encapsulated what you give the couple who has everything – a home with a bowling alley, a stadium sized tennis court, a stadium sized baseball field, a health spa (to name just a few of its expansive amenities) and ended up with a home covering enough square footage to be considered a new “land” in the center of dreams and fantasy, Disney World.

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Gird your loins, Los Angeles, the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival is coming, and this time, the fest is bringing strippers with them. Lots and lots of (cinematic) strippers. The festival has already announced four titles, which include the North American Premiere of Woody Allen‘s To Rome With Love as the festival’s Opening Night Film, along with Gala screenings for Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lorene Scafaria‘s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Ava DuVernay‘s Middle of Nowhere, but it’s high time LAFF unveiled their full slate. And what a slate! As announced today, the festival will close with the World Premiere of Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike and will also feature the World Premiere of Alex Kurtzman‘s People Like Us. Other titles announced today of note include Sundance favorites The Queen of Versailles, Teddy Bear, The House I Live In, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Robot and Frank, and Searching for Sugar Man. Additional titles that pop out include Emmett Malloy’s Big Easy Express, Alejandro Brugués‘ Juan of the Dead, Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, and Joshua Sanchez’s Four. LAFF also runs a variety of special programs, including Community and Retro Screenings, a crammed slate of short films, and their trademark “Eclectic Mix” of music videos. After the break, you can check out the full line-up for this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, along with synopses for all features and a full list of all shorts and music videos playing at the fest. LAFF runs from Thursday, June 14 to Sunday, June 24. Passes […]

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Documentary director Lauren Greenfield (Thin) returned to Sundance with another fascinating slice of American life – the winner of this year’s U.S. Directing Award for Documentary features, The Queen of Versailles is an unexpectedly amusing tale of delusion and disgusting wealth, toplined by a couple of American originals who prove to be wackily riveting. The film chronicles Jackie and David Siegel, incredibly wealthy Floridians best known for their attempt to build the United States’ largest single family residence, one they modeled after equal parts the Palace of Versailles and the top three floors of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. There is perhaps no other sentence that could so accurately describe what kind of people the Siegels are.

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No matter how much fun a festival is, there inevitably comes a time when a festival-goer reaches a wall, a point where exhaustion and stress and bad food and frustrations all settle in and refuse to budge. I met my wall this morning, my alarm blaring away at 7:15AM as I lay slack-jawed and stunned in bed. Morning. More. More things. I did the only thing I could do. I got up.

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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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