The Times of Harvey Milk

Stonewall Uprising

Once again, Happy Pride Month! Last week we featured a list of the 10 Best Documentary Portraits of LGBT Culture, films that celebrate the lives and loves of their diverse subjects. Today’s list is entitled “The Best Documentaries About LGBT History.” What’s the difference? The distinction is, in a word, politics. Obviously when dealing with something like LGBT civil rights, culture and politics are often very closely connected. Yet the following 10 films are more consciously political, narratives of the struggle for freedom and equality over the course of history. It might be a misnomer to call all of them “activist” documentaries, and the “issue film” moniker seems reductive. Therefore, we’ll call them history films, built from a century-long struggle against discrimination. They feature the earliest days of the Gay Liberation movement in the United States, the fight to respond to the AIDS epidemic, and the international scope of the pursuit LGBT civil rights around the world today. 10. Fig Trees (2009) Fig Trees is an experimental, musical portrait of the work of two AIDS activists. Zackie Achmat works with the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, Tim McCaskell with AIDS Action Now! in Canada. The film has a broad, international scope from the very beginning. Yet director John Greyson pushes the boundaries even further, placing his work in dialogue with Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson‘s opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The complexity of its images deepen the power of its message, enriching rather than confusing. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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The Matrix

We’ve lost something close to 3/4 of black and white films. It’s easy to imagine that we have all of them at our fingertips, and that they’ll be there forever, but that’s simply not the reality, and it’s a good reminder of what can happen if we’re not careful. That’s part of why the work of the National Film Registry is so vital. They ensure that a large number of time-tested films survive to test even more time. This year, as usual, they’ve selected 25 flicks to preserve including The Matrix, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Dirty Harry, and A Christmas Story (which will also be preserved 24-hours a day as long as TBS still exists). The Library of Congress has also saved Delmer Daves’ 3:10 to Yuma (1957); Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder; George Cukor’s Born Yesterday; Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own; Richard Linklater’s Slacker; the Laurel and Hardy comedy Sons of the Desert; Robert Epstein’s documentary The Times of Harvey Milk; Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop; a 1914 adaptation of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that’s thought to feature the first leading role by a black man; The Augustas (which may be the Scott Nixon compilation of towns in the US named Augusta); The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight from 1897; Nathaniel Dorsky’s experimental Hours for Jerome Part 1 & 2; the Kidnapper’s Foil films; the Kodachrome Color Motion-Picture Tests (which you can see below); Robert Snody’s The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair; Kary Antholis’ holocaust documentary One Survivor Remembers; Rolf Forsberg and Tom Rook’s Christian film Parable, which imagines Christ as a clown and the world as a circus; Ellen Bruno’s Samsara: Death and Rebirth in […]

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Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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This Week in Blu-ray

I will forgo the usual intro after a two-week hiatus from writing this column and simply apologize. Beside last week being the week of SXSW, I don’t have a very good reason why this is the first Blu-ray column of March. Well, there was a general malaise about the titles being released in the month’s first few weeks, but we all know that’s no good reason to shirk my duties as chief high definition prognosticator. So we’re back this week with a few really great releases, including March’s best release as Pick of the Week, a spectacular entry into the Criterion Collection and a few really bad movies that I loved. Take that, common sense! Four Lions Any release calendar junkies among you may be quick to cite the fact that Four Lions streeted on March 8, two weeks prior to the writing of this column. You’d be right — it’s not one of this week’s release. But with a dearth of great titles hitting shelves this Tuesday, combined with my absence from this column’s helm for the past two weeks, I thought it to be more than appropriate to celebrate one of last year’s finest comedies. Terrorism. It’s funny when you look at it through the lens of director Chris Morris. It’s hilarious when you strap explosives to crows and dress up in Ninja Turtles costumes lined with C4. It’s enthralling and insightful when it wants to be, as well. It’s the rare kind of flick that has something […]

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Culture Warrior

With the release of Pixar’s Up, last year saw a great deal of conversation surrounding the ghettoization of animated movies at major awards shows. This debate resulted in something of a minor, qualified victory for animated cinema of 2009, as Up was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast, but then again it sat amongst a crowded bevy of nine fellow nominations, and animated films remain unthreatening to their live action competitors because of the separate-but-unequal Best Animated Feature Category. I’d like to take this space to advocate for the big-category acceptance of yet another marginalized and underappreciated category around awards time: non-fiction films.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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