Archive for category: Documentary

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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Chet Baker, Choppy Waters: ‘Let’s Get Lost’

20 December, 2014 (07:39) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, Essays, Musicals | By: Sean Axmaker

1987, Santa Monica. Chet Baker is weathered and worn. Filmed in black and white in the back of a convertible at night, framed by a pair of lovely young models, with street lights and headlights catching his features in a slash or a flash, his once smooth cheeks are leathery with age beyond his years […]

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Film Review: ‘The Great Invisible’

11 December, 2014 (05:39) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Is a documentary an information-delivery system or a work of art? This question keeps dogging the makers of nonfiction films, and director Margaret Brown takes a stab at having it both ways in The Great Invisible. Brown, who made the affecting 2004 portrait Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt, has […]

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Videophiled: Joe Sarno’s ‘Dirty Movie’ and ‘What is Cinema?’

26 November, 2014 (00:37) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

A Life in Dirty Movies (Film Movement, DVD) – The work of Joe Sarno is little known outside of cinephile and cult cinema circles, and not widely seen even among cineastes. That’s because he, with the support and collaboration of his wife Peggy, made his low-budget explorations of adult sexuality within the confines of the […]

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Videophiled: Monty Python’s Swan Song (or, if you prefer, Dead Parrot) and Shirley Clarke’s ‘Portrait of Jason’

11 November, 2014 (11:30) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD | By: Sean Axmaker

Monty Python Live (Mostly) – One Down, Five to Go (Eagle Rock, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital) puts to disc the stage performance that was previously shown via satellite in select theaters around the world for one night only earlier in 2014. The first live show sold out with 30 seconds of the moment tickets went on […]

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Film Review: ‘On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter’

6 November, 2014 (05:43) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

“You have to be crazy to do this,” according to—oh, let’s face it, this could have been said by anybody in this movie. On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter is crammed with people who ride motorcycles too fast: These vehicles travel across flat tracks, dirt roads, and sometimes the air, with alarming amounts of space […]

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Film Review: ‘Citizenfour’

30 October, 2014 (05:54) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Edward Snowden sits on his hotel-room bed, about to keystroke a password into his laptop. Without looking particularly sheepish about it, he drapes a blanket over his head and upper body, so he can comfortably input the information without being observed. This gesture evokes many things: a kid reading a book under the covers at […]

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Blu-ray / DVD: ‘The Unknown Known’

29 September, 2014 (08:24) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

The title of Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known, a profile of the life and career of former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, is a direct reference to Rumsfeld’s most famous TV appearance. Discussing the evidence (or rather, the glaring lack of evidence) linking Iraq with weapons of mass destruction provided to […]

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Film Review: ‘20,000 Days on Earth’

26 September, 2014 (08:44) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews, Musicals | By: Robert Horton

Given his distinctive and ultra-dramatic stage presence, it makes sense that a documentary portrait of Nick Cave would not be the usual thing. And 20,000 Days on Earth is not the usual thing. At first this film appears to be a rumination on where the Australian-born rock star is these days: 20,000 days of life puts […]

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