Archive for category: Documentary

Film Review: ‘Sunshine Superman’

25 June, 2015 (04:28) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

The film was apparently eight years in the making, but Sunshine Superman happens to open just after the death of Dean Potter, which might color its rainbow feel-good spirit just a tad. Potter was the superstar climber and BASE jumper who fell to earth in May after he illegally leaped off a very high place […]

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Film Review: ‘The Wolfpack’

18 June, 2015 (04:00) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

You know your weird neighbors? They seem to be a big family, but nobody ever sees them, except when the angry-looking father goes out to get groceries. Sometimes you hear strange things going on. What are they doing in there? Well, keep your camera handy, because behind those cardboarded-over windows might be a documentary film […]

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Review: ‘Dreams and Nightmares’

16 June, 2015 (16:31) | by Rick Hermann, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 39, February 1975] With The Sorrow and the Pity and A Sense of Loss, Marcel Ophuls raised historical cinéma vérité to the height of artistic creation. Osheroff’s style of documentary moviemaking, as applied to the political situation in Spain and the ways in which it has evolved since the Spanish […]

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Videophiled: Politics on ice in ‘Red Army’

10 June, 2015 (09:12) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Red Army (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) – Director Gabe Polsky, the Chicago-born son of Russian immigrants, dreamed of playing pro hockey and ended up making movies. This documentary, his directorial debut, finds the intersection of sports triumph, political gamesmanship, and personal sacrifice in the story of the powerhouse Soviet national hockey team of the eighties, […]

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Film Review: ‘Lambert & Stamp’

7 May, 2015 (05:02) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, Film Reviews, Musicals | By: Sean Axmaker

You could be forgiven for assuming that Lambert and Stamp are some forgotten folk-rock duo of the Peter & Gordon variety. Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were part of London’s ’60s rock scene, though not as performers but as managers, promoters, producers, and mentors. They helped transform a mod-favorite club band called The High Numbers […]

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Aftereffects: Joshua Oppenheimer’s Shorts

3 May, 2015 (07:28) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, Essays | By: Sean Axmaker

“I’ve never thought of myself as an activist. I do think, though, that the purpose of art is to force us to confront the most painful and important aspects of who we are.” —Joshua Oppenheimer, interviewed by Jessica Kiang at Indiewire American-born filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer is a 1997 Marshall Scholar, a 2014 recipient of the […]

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Film Review: ‘Misery Loves Comedy’

30 April, 2015 (05:24) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

“Do you have to be miserable to be funny?” That’s the question at the center of Kevin Pollak’s documentary, signaling a somewhat different approach to the culture of comedy and comedians. (A veteran stand-up performer himself, Pollak also acts on TV and in films including The Usual Suspects.) With Robin Williams’ startling suicide still a […]

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Film Review: ‘1971’

16 April, 2015 (05:08) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Even if you have an allergic reaction to dramatic re-enactments in documentary films—and I confess I get itchy during them—1971 provides an exciting, non-hokey account of a remarkable true story. The March ’71 break-in at an FBI office in Media, Penn., has not enjoyed the lingering prominence of the Pentagon Papers or other high-profile leaks. […]

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Film Review: ‘An Honest Liar’

19 March, 2015 (05:49) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

For people of a certain age, these names may act as a time machine back to the 1970s: The Amazing Randi, Uri Geller, Peter Popoff. All come tumbling back to life in An Honest Liar, an unexpectedly fun (but sneakily forceful) portrait of a rationalist. That’s not the way James Randi would have been described […]

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Film Review: ‘Kung Fu Elliot’

12 March, 2015 (05:14) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

In the geek-show school of documentary, strange pockets of humanity are uncovered so we can laugh at the foibles of people who are not us. Either you feel bad for laughing, or you reject that sort of condescending approach altogether. (Or you feel superior to other people, I guess.) Kung Fu Elliot invites audience mirth […]

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Review: Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman

11 March, 2015 (10:01) | by Claudia Gorbman, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Movietone News contributor

[Originally published in slightly different form in Movietone News 41, May 1975] “My stepmother and I used to go to these … spiritualistic meetings, and get messages from …”—a little hand gesture—”yonder. They went into trances and said that Liszt was standing in back of me.” The 73-year-old reminisces about her childhood in California: receiving […]

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Film Review: ‘A Fuller Life’

26 February, 2015 (05:03) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

If you are already a fan of Samuel Fuller’s uncompromising pulp cinema, you’ll be delighted by this new documentary tour covering the life and career of the director,writer, and producer. If you’ve never encountered one of his two-fisted yarns, you’ll almost certainly wonder how you got this far without stumbling across this flabbergasting character. A […]

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Film Review: Monk With a Camera

12 February, 2015 (05:00) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Every outsider who takes Buddhism seriously enough to become a monk must have an interesting story. I once spent a night in a Buddhist monastery that had been established in a jumble of very old farm buildings in the north of England, and the personalities of the shorn-headed novitiates there suggested a variety of difficult […]

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Film Review: 2015 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Short Films

5 February, 2015 (19:33) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

The law of averages tells us there must be years in which cheerful, silly efforts are nominated in the best documentary short film category. This is not one of those years. Released to theaters in anticipation of the February 22 Academy Awards ceremony, these five shorts—screening in two programs—serve up serious issues and personal essays. […]

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Film Review: ‘Rocks in My Pockets’

3 January, 2015 (06:02) | Animation, by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

The first minutes of Rocks in My Pockets unfold in standard-issue animation of the European variety: cutesy (yet grown-up) drawings, whimsically surreal images, black-comic storytelling. Before long, though, the movie begins traveling in ever-darker spirals, as director-animator Signe Baumane spins a personal tale of family disturbance and depression. The Latvian-born filmmaker reaches back to the […]

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