Archive for category: Documentary

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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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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