Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

100 Years of Suspenseful, Tragic Stories

Movie Review #732

The Tragic Story of Nling

Directed by Jeffrey St. Jules. Written by Jeffrey St. Jules. Produced by Larissa Giroux for Intrepid Film Arts. Starring Tom Barnett, Steven McCarthy, Kate Campbell, and the voice of John Neville. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006; and at Sundance Film Festival in January 2007. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 14 minutes.

“The Tragic Story of Nling” was a Canadian short film created in 2006, but it’s very stylistically convincing as a 1940’s movie. That’s a high point, or might I say, the high point. Everything else runs from confusing to blah. Yeah, the use of stop-animation is neat, but this could have been so much better as a live-action short. And as far as substance, it’s about a desolate island named Nling where a guy who’s suffering an alcohol shortage with his donkey friend. Or maybe that’s just a human being with a donkey head. Whichever it was, I was reminded so thoroughly of Bottom in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is a grueling, abstract film that really gives the alcoholic’s frame of mind. But I struggle with something huge. Is it even a tragedy? Or is it actually a comedy? Whichever one it truly is, this is a really silly short film.

100 Years at the Movies

Directed by Chuck Workman. Produced by Chuck Workman for TCM. Archive footage: Clara Bow, Rin Tin Tin, Eugen Sandow. Distributed in 1994. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 9 minutes.

Turner Classic Movies’s centennial celebration of cinematic evolution is just as good as any of the movies it spotlights. (I must be honest: it’s also a whole hell of a lot better than some of them). This may be “just” a short film, but yes, it’s absolutely riveting for anybody who cherishes the movies half as much as I do. We do tend to take for granted how much movies have changed over the years and even if this short is two decades old now, it’s still completely relevant and thoroughly moving. The single most amazing aspect “100 Years at the Movies” has to offer is the art of brilliant choice of music and triumphant movie clips, and absolutely no dialogue. It’s quite remarkable, just watching how we came from one heavyweight epic (“The Birth of a Nation”) to another (“Schindler’s List”)—with films of all shapes, sizes, and colors in between. It’s remarkable, and too fascinating to believe it’s only nine minutes.

Suspense

Directed by Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber. Scenario by Lois Weber. Produced for Rex Motion Picture Company. Starring Lois Weber, Val Paul, Douglas Gerrard, and Sam Kaufman. Uncredited, unconfirmed cameo: Lon Chaney. Distributed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company in wide release on July 6, 1913. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 10 minutes.

As old as it is, “Suspense” is actually very suspenseful. This is a 1913 short from Lois Weber, often referred to as cinema’s first female director. However, the directing credit jumped around a number of male directors (including D. W. Griffith and Phillips Smalley, who is still co-credited) for decades. The story concerns four key characters: The Wife (Lois Weber), The Husband (Valentine Paul), The Pursuer (Douglas Gerrard), and The Tramp (Sam Kaufman). Incidentally, the ten minutes that those four account for could very well be—and, I don’t doubt, has already been—elongated to a feature-length story. The fact that so much happens in this little film feels fast-paced and exciting. A woman and her infant alone in their isolated house. A tramp discovers how to break in, but not before the woman sees him lurking about her house. When she calls for help, complications begin to unfold. Maybe that’s a story we could find today without trying too hard, but the absolute apex of what “Suspense” offers is its cinematography. This film was released over a century ago, and many filmmakers today fail to match the creative camerawork we see here.

“Short Film Smorgasbord” is Cinemaniac Reviews’s spotlight for the movies we most pitifully tend to overlook. Independent filmmakers, don’t hesitate to submit! Contact cinemaniacreviews@gmail.com and we’ll feature your short film.

ALL TITLES ARE AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

The Armstrong Lie

Movie Review #714

armstrong_lie

Jigsaw Productions
The Kennedy/Marshall Company
Matt Tolmach Productions

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Alex Gibney. Produced by Alex Gibney, Frank Marshall, and Matthew Tolmach. Writer: Alex Gibney.

Rated R by the MPAA – profanity. Runs 2 hours, 4 minutes. Premiered at Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2013; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013; at Zurich Film Festival on September 29, 2013; at Hamptons International Film Festival on October 12, 2013; at London Film Festival on October 16, 2013; and at American Film Festival on October 25, 2013. Limited release in the USA on November 8, 2013.

With Reed Albergotti, Betsy Andreu, Frankie Andreu, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Daniel Coyle, Michele Ferrari, George Hincapie, Phil Liggett, Steve Madden, Bill Strickland, Jonathan Vaughters, Emile Vrijman, and David Walsh.

Cinemaniac Reviews two stars

It’s the way Alex Gibney opens his documentary that tells me he really believed in Lance Armstrong. The disappointment is audible in his voice as he explains how this film, “The Armstrong Lie”, originally started as a chronicle of Lance’s return to le Tour de France. I have to say, though, that after doping was proven to be the reason for Lance’s domination of les Tours de France for seven straight years, Gibney should’ve just dropped the documentary. As someone who grew up in a family that supported the pantheon of cyclists, at the top of which stood Lance Armstrong, the documentary should have had an effect on me in the way hearing about him in the news at any other time did. I find it strange that I feel far more pissed off at Lance as I write this review than I did watching the documentary.

The movie’s approach is rarely anything new; when it is, it’s repetitive and unnecessary. There’s far too much focus on the drugs Lance used, his plans on how to use those drugs without getting caught. An interesting topic at first, but it often feels like a feature-length report on performance-enhancing drugs like EPO. That I learned more about how red blood cells are key to one’s success in pro cycling, than about how (and why) Lance has lied to us over the years, is terribly unexpected. As someone says early on in the documentary, “This is not a story about doping, it’s a story about power.” It’s so tiresome having to go through two hours hearing about how this nut was cracked. A movie with a title that is “The Armstrong Lie” should explore a much broader topic only fleetingly mentioned: Lance’s manipulation of his fans. His abuse of the power he had as a celebrity. The documentary is often times depressing and disgusting, but I’m led to believe that that comes naturally. I went in with an actual documentary in mind, something on the hamartia of Lance the Deplorable. I came out feeling like I’d just rewatched “Trainspotting”.

Coming Reviews

GoldenEye
La Strada
Nebraska
Philomena
Prisoners
Young Adult

THE ARMSTRONG LIE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.

Blackfish

Movie Review #701

Click here to listen to the review.

blackfish

Manny O Productions

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English – Spanish

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Produced by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Manuel V. Oteyza. Written by Gabriela Cowperthwaite & Eli Despres. Co-writer: Tim Zimmerman.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — mature themes, disturbing content, violence. Runs 1 hour, 23 minutes. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013; at San Francisco International Film Festival on April 27, 2013; at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival on April 30, 2013; at Montclair Film Festival on May 4, 2013; at Seattle International Film Festival on May 28, 2013; at Sydney Film Festival on June 7, 2013; at Provincetown International Film Festival on June 22, 2013; and at Nantucket Film Festival on June 27, 2013. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on July 19, 2013.

Featuring Tilikum as himself. Also featuring Suzanne-Allee, Jeff Andrews, Kim Ashdown, Ken Balcomb, Samantha Berg, Diane Brancheau, Kelty Burn, Kelly Clark, Corinne Cowell, John Crowe, Dave Duffus, Howard Garrett, Dean Gomersall, John Hargrove, Steve Huxter, John Jett, James Earl Jones, Nadien Kallen, Lori Marino, Mercedes Martinez, Ken Peters, Christopher Porter, Carol Ray, Estefania Rodriguez, Mark Simmons, Thomas Tobin, Chuck Tompkins, Jeffrey Ventre, and Eric Walters as themselves.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

My understanding is that a SeaWorld trainer is 50% veterinarian and 50% circus performer. They do care about animals, but it’s not a sincere be-all-and-end-all passion, because at a certain point, it has to be about putting on a show. The same is for the converse, that while they do love putting on a show, they won’t deliberately harm the animals just to put on a show. “Blackfish” investigates the moralities of SeaWorld in a way that is shocking and awe-inspiring. The name “killer whale” is highly inaccurate for an orca, unless they are aggravated consistently. That’s why the death of Dawn Brancheau, the most valuable trainer, honored highly by either species, was most shocking for those who knew her. When the beloved, happy-go-lucky star orca Tilikum lashes out on Brancheau, the only explanation is to look at anything that could have led to this incident.

I’m restraining myself from spoiling half the movie. There’s so much to say about the movie, and I’m dying to the say the would of it, but unfortunately, this world involve spoiling it. I ask that you see it before searching for spoilers. “Blackfish” takes an unflinching, often disturbing dive into the problems faced at SeaWorld. Anyway you look at it, the documentary is incredible and shocking. You’ll notice that this one had no problem becoming last year’s most controversial film. SeaWorld Entertainment has done seemingly everything in its power to keep the film from being seen, and let’s be honest, if you were the chairman of a multimillion dollar company that had been exposed, you’d take action. “Blackfish” doesn’t just wish to expose, though. It wishes to present the issue, to express its sympathy for those affected, and to understand what caused such an incident in the first place. Orcas, we are told, have minds that are driven by emotion more powerfully than most any animal. If you’d imagine “Blackfish” as unable to bring such emotional cleansing to a human, think again.

Tomorrow’s Review

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

BLACKFISH IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, AND FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Movie Review #698

this_film_is_not_yet_rated

IFC Presents…

…in association with Netflix and BBC…

Chain Camera

Distributor: IFC Films
Country: UK – USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Kirby Dick. Produced by Eddie Schmidt. Writers: Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt, Matt Patterson.

Released unrated by the MPAA — infrequent and graphic sexual content. Original NC-17 rating surrendered. Runs 1 hour, 38 minutes. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2006; at True/False Film Festival on February 25, 2006; at South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2006; at Philadelphia International Film Festival on March 31, 2006; at Seattle International Film Festival on May 27, 2006; at Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2006; at Melbourne International Film Festival on July 27, 2006; and at Locarno Film Festival on August 4, 2006. Limited release in the USA on September 1, 2006. Wide release in the UK on September 1, 2006.

Featuring filmmaker/interviewer Kirby Dick, and the voices of interviewers Eddie Schmidt and Kirsten Johnson. Featured directors – Kimberly Peirce, Wayne Kramer, Kevin Smith, John Waters, Allison Anders, Mary Harron, Jamie Babbit, Darren Aronofsky, Michael Tucker, and Atom Egoyan. Featured authors – Jon Lewis, Joel Federman, Dottie Hamilton Phd, David L. Robb, and Lawrence Lessig. Featured appeals board personnel – Martin Garbus, Michael Mcclellan, and James Wall. Featured ratings board personnel – Richard Heffner, Jay Landers, Stephen Farber, Yoann Yatabe, Anthony “Tony” Hey, Barry Freeman, Arleen Bates, Matt Ioakimedes, Jane Worden, Scott Young, and Howard Fridkin. Featured private investigators – Jay, Paul, Clark, Becky Altringer, Cheryl Howell, Cookie, and Lindsey Howell.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

I know people who use the MPAA at face value or less. People that ask their kids “Is it R?” and if so, the kids ain’t watchin’. It could be a film as inspiring and well-rounded as “Erin Brockovich”, but you know, the MPAA just doesn’t want anyone sixteen or younger hearing thirty to forty uses of the F-word. But I could criticize them for that one all day, and while I do know some “Is it R?” parents, I don’t know of a single parent or guardian who actually follows the MPAA like the MPAA wishes to be followed. Example. Have you heard about their recent campaign to “check the box”? It’s been going on for months now, maybe since July or August. And if you checked the box on movies like “Twister”, “North”, or “The Fugitive”, back when they started putting descriptions in the box, you’d find very funny stuff. What kind of movie gets a PG for “a few words”? I’d guess “The Artist”, but that was PG-13.

Within the first few minutes of “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”, we are given the name one filmmaker who had to edit his film in order to avoid the NC-17, known prior to 1990 as X. That’s no children aged seventeen and below, and a producer that formerly accepts the rating is asking for a serious marketing failure. Then another name appears. Before we know it, the crowd of names is so long, it’s filled with these names. Incidentally, this very documentary surrendered an NC-17. We can infer from phone conversations with the MPAA that this wasn’t for the stock footage used; giving an anti-MPAA movie an NC-17 is a surefire way of saying, “We don’t want this movie to be seen.” This sort of abuse of power is put on the table so profoundly, it encompasses the whole message in the movie.

Even if there IS too much time spent on privately investigating and attempting to uncover the anonymous raters, it is indeed odd that this group of people–which meets and discusses films no differently than a book club–chooses not to identify its members. If we’re called by the MPAA, shouldn’t we know who we’re talking to? If our film’s practically blacklisted by the MPAA, shouldn’t we know who’s responsible? If this ratings board claims to take the point of view of the average American parent, shouldn’t we know whoever votes (or “rates”) on behalf of this creature ever so curiously known as the “average American parent”? Could I find such a species outside an encyclopedia of Greek myths, knowing that the MPAA detests the sight of even hand-drawn, cartooned lewdness? (After all, they gave “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” an NC-17 before cuts.)

Should I write a letter to the MPAA and complain to them? If I choose not to write to the association’s president or their head (both of whom identify themselves), how in the hell do I know who I’m writing to? There’s no way for me to know if you happen to be an MPAA rater***, but if you are, there’s no use for this film. You tried to censor it, anyway, or close to censor it. If you’re just a normal guy who either ignores or rolls his eyes at the ratings board, this is a must. “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” presents an eye-opening investigation of the MPAA. It questions several absurdities of the ratings board. Some of it answers my questions. The rest speculates convincingly. It all varies widely between thought-provoking and just plain provocative.

***The list of raters is disclosed at the end, after successful investigation, but it’s changed since.

Tomorrow’s Review

Blue Jasmine
THIS FILM IS YET NOT YET RATED IS ON DVD AND FREE TO STREAM FREE ON NETFLIX.

Review No. 550

A movie by Kubrick’s devotees…for Kubrick’s devotees.

Stanley-Kubrick,-A-Life-In-Pictures

B

CREW:
Director — Jan Harlan
Producer — Mr. Harlan (associate producer: Tony Frewin)

APPEARANCES:
Tom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Keir Dullea
Arthur C. Clarke
Malcolm McDowell
Peter Ustinov
Jack Nicholson
György Ligeti
Matthew Modine
Woody Allen
Steven Spielberg
Martin Scorsese
Sydney Pollack
Narrated by Mr. Cruise.

OTHER:
Distributor — Warner Bros.
Release Date — February 17, 2001 (film festival premieres); June 12, 2001 (video premiere); October 23, 2007 (home video circulation)
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 142 minutes

STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES WAS WATCHED ON JULY 27, 2013.

PREFACE: Technically, this is a direct-to-video release, which means this review should not even exist. The biggest theatrical release the movie ever acquired, worldwide, was an exclusive release in Amsterdam. Not even a New York or Chicago release in America; it’s out of print as a singular release, and only available as a “bonus disc” on three different bundles of Stanley Kubrick’s films. BUT…as the movie was issued to eight film festivals (in fact, it was issued to both the Berlin International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival prior to the exclusive video premiere), I feel inclined to review it as if were a theatrical release.

Stanley Kubrick may just be the most transcendent director to strike the latter half of the twentieth century. Like Alfred Hitchcock, whose dynamic oeuvre both preceded and faded into Kubrick, this man is a control freak. Though if anything, other than enhanced versatility, sets Kubrick apart from Hitchcock, it’s that he’s a control freak with a persona that’s ten times more obsessive.

You can’t help but feel that the length of his time in the filmmaking business was predetermined. It’s ironic that Kubrick–a perfectionist who would work every shot until he fell in love with it as sincerely as the way he had envisioned it–would become an influential moviemaker that couldn’t have spanned the second half of the twentieth century more exactly: With inspiration from his job at Look magazine, Kubrick financed his first film–a short subject documentary called Day of the Fight–at $3,900. That movie was shot on April 17, 1950; Kubrick was only twenty-two. Now fast-forward to July 16, 1999: the wide release date of Eyes Wide Shut, just months after a heart attack took his life.

kubrick-1

FILMOGRAPHY
Fear and Desire (1953 – director, producer, cinematographer, editor)
Killer’s Kiss (1955 – director, producer, writer, story, cinematographer, editor)
The Killing (1956 – director, writer)
Paths of Glory (1957 – director, writer)
Spartacus (1960 – director)
Lolita (1962 – director)
Dr. Strangelove (1964 – director, producer, writer)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 – director, producer, writer, special photographic effects designer and director)
A Clockwork Orange (1971 – director, producer)
Barry Lyndon (1975 – director, producer, writer)
The Shining (1980 – director, producer, co-writer)
Full Metal Jacket (1987 – director, producer, writer)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999 – director, producer, writer)

I’ve seen five of Stanley Kubrick’s films, and my mind has been blown by every single one of them. Okay, maybe not by Dr. Strangelove, but consider that I watched it without a clue what a cold war was. I’m sure I’ll see the beauty, let alone the perfection, upon a well-deserved rewatch. Kubrick is immortal for his ability to take absolutely any story and make it his own. He’s an inspired director, but he hides all the inspiration under his secretive, self-influential style.

But I’m not going to sit here and review Stanley Kubrick the man. A Life in Pictures is a surprisingly moving account, narrated by Tom Cruise (the star of his swan song), and featuring interview segments from his collaborators as well as those he inspired. This is a deceptively simple documentary, if truth be told, and a good thirty to forty percent of what it offers on the tie between Kubrick’s persona and his films (it’s enormous), can be found easily through Google search, or simply inferred by watching one of his films.

Often times, bias is a bit overly effective as well. Of course, nearly every one of the man’s films is considered a classic by now, but the commentary sometimes feels “fixed,” as if the controversy that marred his films were still existent. Then again, we’re looking at a director who died with only one Oscar to his name–a visual effects Oscar for 2001: A Space Odyssey–and was daring enough to speak out against Schindler’s List, which itself had seven Oscars. So I don’t know if there’s any distinguishable limit one can set when it comes to assessing the controversy of his films, or the audiences that made him such a consistent controversy.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is flawed. But there’s something great about it: it feels, at times, as if the movie was directed by Kubrick himself. It’s thoroughly engaging. There’s something it offers beyond the facts, as well as beyond the emotion, that makes any audience eager to watch another Kubrick film. I know that I should be able to at least identify what that “something” is, but…

…well, considering Kubrick spent fifty years religiously refusing to explain any sort of ambiguity to his audiences, Kubrick’s devotees have successfully made his ideal documentary.

True Romance

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Eddie Murphy Raw

Review No. 546

“Raw” is an accurate title.

eddie_murphy_raw

A

DIRECTED BY ROBERT TOWNSEND. PRODUCED BY ROBERT D. WACHS AND KEENEN IVORY WAYANS. STAND-UP WRITTEN BY EDDIE MURPHY. OPENING SKETCH WRITTEN BY MURPHY AND WAYANS. STARRING EDDIE MURPHY AS HIMSELF. FEATURING AN OPENING SKETCH WITH CAMEO APPEARANCES FROM TATYANA ALI, DEON RICHMOND, J. D. HALL, TIGER HAYNES, LEONARD JACKSON, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, WARREN MORRIS, DAMIEN WAYANS, ELLIS E. WILLIAMS, CAROL WOODS, BILLIE ALLEN, JAMES BROWN III, EDYE BYRDE, MICHELLE DAVISON, CLEBERT FORD, BIRDIE M. HALE, BARBARA ILEY, JOHN LAFAYETTE, DAVENIA McFADDEN, GWEN McGEE, LEX MONSON, AND BASIL WALLACE. DISTRIBUTED BY PARAMOUNT PICTURES ON DECEMBER 18, 1987. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 33 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO PROFANITY.

EDDIE MURPHY RAW WAS WATCHED ON JULY 26, 2013.

If you need to be convinced that Eddie Murphy actually had a sense of humor at one point, watch his ’80s comedies.  If you need to be convinced that he can transform laughter into asphyxiation, then watch some of his standup comedy.

When I see something like Eddie Murphy Raw, part of me wishes I was alive in the 1980s.  This was Eddie Murphy’s second standup concert film, following 1983′s Delirious.  While that show was released as a TV special, clocking in at less than seventy minutes, this was released theatrically.  Not that such films happen every day, but more than two and a half decades later, Raw remains the highest-grossing standup performance ever to earn a silver screen projection, taking in a domestic total of over $50.5 million in a matter of eight weeks.  The runner-up, Cedric the Entertainer’s The Original Kings of Comedy (2000), earned nearly $12.5 million less.  Although the humor in Raw is a good notch less amusing than Delirious (Murphy’s act about marital infidelity overstays its welcome)…yeah that isn’t saying much.  However you look at it, it’s a gut-buster.

1253314895_eddie-murphy-raw2

His BIll Cosby impression is comedy gold.

Raw is an accurate moniker for this movie.  In less than ninety minutes, Murphy’s motormouth gives us the “F-bomb” 223 times.  A record for 1987, topping the previous record set by Scarface (207 times), and remaining unbroken until 1990′s Goodfellas (300 times).  And that’s just the start of it. The movie was advertised with a humorous disclaimer serving as a tagline:

WARNING! You may be offended if you’re black, white, male, female, rich or poor, Bill Cosby, Mr. T or Richard Pryor.”

The entire statement is spot-on (though I do feel “including but not limited to” fits somewhere in there).  If anything along the lines of “politically correct” or “socially accepted” is to be found anywhere in Eddie Murphy’s lexicon, I’d love to hear what meaning it bears to him.  Murphy starts off by either blasting or apologizing to (it’s truly impossible to tell) Bill Cosby, Mr. T, and Richard Pryor, based on how his 1983 special Delirious may have offended them.  And then, before we know it, Eddie is back and perhaps even more vulgar than he was in Delirious.

As a film, I don’t know how exactly to judge Eddie Murphy Raw.  Essentially, this is a comedy in the form of a documentary.  It doesn’t need to end well and whatnot.  (Though I might add that if Bill Cosby, Mr. T, or Richard Pryor were shown in the audience at Madison Square Garden, that would have been quite an ending.)  But it’s a standup performance.  The one question that requires answering is, “Was it funny?”

No, it wasn’t.  In fact, I just decided to sit down and test my hyena impression for ninety-three minutes straight.

Eyes Wide Shut; Pi

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PLEASE NOTE:

There will be a double-bill every Thursday and Saturday,

due to the overload of scheduled reviews.

Thank you.

Room 237

Review No. 478

Enter “Room 237″ and you’ll never see “The Shining” the same way.

room_two_thirty_seven

A-MINUS

DIRECTED BY RODNEY ASCHER. PRODUCED BY TIM KIRK.  FEATURING BILL BLAKEMORE, GEOFFREY COCKS, JULI KEARNS, JOHN FELL RYAN, AND JAY WEIDNER. ALSO WITH ARCHIVE FOOTAGE FEATURING STANLEY KUBRICK, STEPHEN KING, JACK NICHOLSON, SCATMAN CROTHERS, JOE TURKEL, DANNY LLOYD, BARRY NELSON, PHILIP STONE, KEIR DULLEA, MARTIN POTTER, TOM CRUISE, AND NICOLE KIDMAN. DISTRIBUTED BY IFC FILMS AND IFC MIDNIGHT ON MARCH 29, 2013. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 42 MINUTES. INTENDED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES, DUE TO VIOLENCE AND NUDITY (IN ARCHIVE FOOTAGE).

ROOM 237 WAS WATCHED ON MAY 11, 2013.

“Remember what Mr. Hallorann said: It’s just like pictures in a book, it isn’t real.” –Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance (as “Tony”) in The Shining

I’ve seen The Shining twice. With my second viewing, I picked up on one thing that shocked the living hell out of me: a twist ending. It’s not until I watched Room 237, an artful documentary that investigates the film, that I began to see it as a work of genius.

Of course, I understand that Stanley Kubrick is a genius. As mentioned in Room 237 he has a 200 IQ(!). It’s why we can view 2001: A Space Odyssey as such a powerful analogy, engrossing because, although it has a lack of action, this simplicity represents every action since the genesis of humanity. His genius is why A Clockwork Orange can be hilarious when its main character is imposing graphic violence on others, yet whenever he is the subject of this terror, the movie is simply unsettling. Sometimes Kubrick’s genius is too difficult to explain. But with The Shining, it was just too difficult for the average person to analyze.

Many of the analyses in Room 237 could be valid. So long as you found The Shining interesting, it’s undeniable that all points made here are intriguing, even if you don’t believe very many of them in conclusion. Room 237‘s overall thesis is that The Shining was not a horror film in particular, and that it had a greater, underlying meaning (something true, albeit more obvious, with other Kubrick works).

At times, the documentary’s look at Kubrick’s intentions frightened me more than the 1980 work itself, just with its logical explanations of every possible subtlety Kubrick offers. He naturally hides more in his films than any other director. There’s always a bathroom scene in one of his movies, for example, and they always mean something. Remember A Clockwork Orange, when Alex starts “singin’ in the rain”? Oh and there’s the far better example in The Shining, of course, with Jack Nicholson’s “little pigs, little pigs”-turned-”Heere’s Johnny!” ad lib. Or you could go with the accusatory encounter between Jack’s “parallel” (I’m trying not to spoil the 1980 classic for the sinners who have not seen it). Both scenes are set in a restroom, and they are perhaps the most important moments in the film. Yet Kubrick digs deeper.

This investigation explains the differences between the film and the Stephen King novel. King wrote Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) as having a red car. Kubrick made it yellow and wrote a scene in which the red car had been destroyed in a roadside accident. As if King wasn’t angry enough for the huge destruction his novel had gotten, that very scene was meant to give him a slap in the face. The bigger change to the novel is one that has been well fabled in the film world: that maze scene at the end. Perhaps the scene was foreshadowed from the very beginning as objects, as we were focused on the characters’ interactions instead.

The film looks at The Shining inside out and, literally, forward and backward. There are several theses about what is represented by the hiding of objects across the film. Perhaps The Shining was Kubrick’s use of the horror genre to tell of the Holocaust, which was all over the news when he grew up. Or perhaps it was meant as an analogy about Indian-Americans. It sounds valid to me, having the prior knowledge that Stephen King had originally titled his book The Shine, but it became The Shining upon discovering that the Shine was a tribal name.

The one thing I’m sure about with Room 237 is that it’s thought-provoking. I’ve said way too much about it, but there are countless other points brought up in this study. Who knows what Kubrick was actually intending: he is no longer alive to say so, his family never approved or endorsed the documentary, and the 200 IQ could mean there’s a whole universe living inside his mind. If you are a fan of Kubrick’s The Shining, you may have the same reaction I did. The word “jaw-dropping” is thrown around like a figure of speech, synonymously with “mind-blowing,” as if a movie can’t make one’s jaw drop. But Room 237 was, in quite the literal sense, a jaw-dropping experience.

TOMORROW, ON CINEMANIAC REVIEWS…

Coming Soon: Review No. 500 (an announcement)

Undefeated

Review No. 443

“Undefeated”–and yet not victorious, either.

undefeated_xxlg

Directed & Edited by: Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin

Distributed by the Weinstein Company on February 17, 2012. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 113 mins. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA–infrequent language.

Undefeated was watched on March 4, 2013.

“Football doesn’t build character, it reveals character!” –Marv Levy

There’s a scene in the setup of Undefeated that represents the entire rest of the film. A roomful of lower class football players is asked two questions: Whose parents have gone to college? Not one hand is raised. Who has a relative that has been or is currently incarcerated? Almost every hand goes up. The scene is very moving and presents the sad mood of the documentary. But I couldn’t help but wonder how many movies I’d seen with similar moments.

Undefeated is the story of several seniors at Manassas High School. For their entire lives, these students have been some of the most unruly, impoverished, uneducated, undisciplined, and aggressive youngsters in all of Tennessee. For six years, they’ve been training under perhaps the most volatile coach imaginable, in order to become the first class in the school’s existence that will win a football championship.

I know this is a documentary, but I felt it was entirely predictable. The film’s biggest mistake parallels that of most sports dramas. It’s pretty much inevitable that the Manassas Tigers will win, despite their huge underdog status. However, the underdog status is what keeps our attention.

Another huge misstep I can’t help but whine about is that I felt as though I had come to know the coach more than the team. The coach is starlit in Undefeated, perhaps because of his aggression that motivates the team, but nonetheless, the team deserves recognition and spotlighting for their outrageously prosperous efforts. Some scenes feature them in an unforgettable light. I’m not sure I’ll ever let go of the scene in which humans are compared to turtles, for they try and act tough on the outside when really, they’re only weaklings. I just wish there were more scenes that powerful.

I can’t say Undefeated was a true victory. It’s very flawed and it could have turned out much better. How it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, I’ll never understand. But it’s difficult not to feel intrigued or inspired. Quite frankly, I think that’s all it wanted to achieve.

B MINUS

TOMORROW, ON CINEMANIAC REVIEWS…

Stardust Memories

Day Two of the Two-Week Torturefest

NEVER.

justin_bieber_never_say_never

Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Featuring: Justin Bieber
Also Featuring: Boyz II Men, Hayden Thompson, Jaden Smith, Jeremy Bieber, L.A. Reid, Ludacris, Miley Cyrus, Scooter Braun, Scrappy Stassen, Sean Kingston, Snoop Dogg, Usher

Distributed by Paramount Pictures on February 11, 2011. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 105 minutes. Rated G by the MPAA.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never was watched on December 27, 2012.

“I hate this.” –Justin Bieber at the dentist

If I could leave it at that, I could. It’s quite impressive that a review for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never could be as easy as taking footage of Justin Bieber saying he hates being at the dentist, and using it to describe my entire experience. The only problem with that is the presence of Justin Bieber, and his voice, would make my blog crash.

Why yes, I am a “non-Belieber,” if that’s how Justin’s fans know his nonfans. This was the fourth film I watched in the Two-Week Torturefest, and although considered by most critics to be the most acceptable on the list, I wouldn’t be surprised if it remained the most faithful to the word “torture.”

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never makes fame seem easy to attain. Easy. If it were this easy, newspapers would have to be issued three times a day, and they’d be at least ten times the size, because everyone putting the most infinitesimal effort forth would be just as famous. I shudder at the thought of a million Justinites, before realizing that there are—somehow—millions of them all over the place.

The film makes a gem out of the fact that not only is Justin Bieber an illegitimate child (the key word in this sentence being illegitimate, but he is indeed about as obnoxious as a young child); features Miley Cyrus in skimpy clothing (now you really have to wonder if this is promoting prostitution, and if so, why is the film G-rated?); and that his mother (who smiles as she explains that she broke up with Justin’s father just months after he was born) was the one who essentially brought him to fame.

Not to insult you, Justin’s Mommy, but you’re hating against your own son for being an “accident,” appropriating him with one of the most controversial celebrities in recent years, and making a big deal out of that he is a “Mommy’s boy.” When he was around twelve or thirteen years old, she loved his voice (as all mothers do when they notice a talent the child herself cannot notice…yes I wrote “herself”) and decided to pass it around YouTube. Whaddaya know, it gets discovered by a guy named Scooter Braun.

I’m beginning to feel bad for Canada. They have dozens of talented people like James Cameron and Avril Lavigne, robbed of fame by an average joe like Justin Bieber. He’s sixteen years old in the documentary (which must mean he’s nineteen now…I think I miscalculated somewhere). Has he hit puberty yet? It appears not. Why does everybody love him? To tell you the truth, those sixteen-year-old girls actually sounded like they were hired to say stupid, clichéd love quotes to a guy (I think) who brainwashes innocent nine-and-under audiences into lovesick diva wannabes.

America has been corrupted. Next thing we know, he’ll be turning the American flag white and purple. Okay, now it’s beginning to sound like propaganda, which, even as a diehard “non-Belieber,” was not my intent. In all seriousness, I’m contemplating posting something on YouTube. Maybe I’ll get discovered from a knitting how-to, even though I have absolutely no clue how to knit (and I’d rather not learn, for that matter). Maybe I’d become for the knitting industry, what a shrill, falsetto-redundant “singer” like Justin Bieber is for the music industry.

F

Xanadu – the one excuse for putting big band music and roller skating together in one movie

This review was brought to you by…
TWTF

Life in a Day

Review No. 400

life_in_a_day_ver4

The Bottom Line: A day in the life of Life in a Day is a day in a life worth living. If that makes any sense.

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald and several co-directors

Distributed by National Geographic Films on July 24, 2011. Produced in English, Italian, Japanese, German, Spanish, Indonesian, Balinese, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Creole, Catalan, Dutch, Bengali, Masai, Hindi, Arabic, Quechua, and Russian, by the United States and the United Kingdom. Runs 95 mins. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for disturbing violent images, language and a sexual reference.

Life in a Day was watched on January 25, 2013.

“An eye for an eye makes the world blind.” –Mohandas Karamdach Gandhi

Life in a Day takes just an hour and a half to inform us of how easily we can take an entire lifetime for granted. Quite frankly, it’s shocking. The film was heavily truncated. Funded by National Geographic, this was initially an arbitrary film project. People, we want you to film a day in your life. How about…July 24, 2010? The number of people who accepted this seemingly basic offer is almost unfathomable. NG collected 80,000 submissions(!) from 192 countries(!), adding up to a grand total of 4,500 hours(!) of life in a day.

When I say the word “human,” countless thoughts rush to your mind in a split second, only less than 0.1% of them consciously known. I’d estimate that at least nine out of ten selected demographics shot off the word “human” are thoroughly recognized by Life in a Day. Rich and poor. Men and women. Parents and children. Newborns and senior citizens. Boys and girls. Obese and starving. Mansion-confined and homeless. Academic and apathetic. Artistic and athletic. I could go on. And on.

Life in a Day is a strong pondering. It’s easier to look at it from a rather accepting mind. I entered very skeptically, expecting an overlong YouTube video. (Technically it is—the pacing does wear thin with incoherent videos, and the website’s logo is displayed before the two-minute mark.) But the dogma in my forefinger that pressed “play” didn’t want anything more than a thought-provoking documentary. (Most fortunately, it is that, too.)

The film posed three questions, each one to a variety of answers. My main question is: the final length is only 2.1% of all the footage that was submitted. The documentary took six months, three days to premiere on the internet and at the Sundance Film Festival; it wasn’t until 365 days had passed since the filming day that the film earned an official release in US theaters. I’m beginning to think much of the time in between was devoted to botching the less meaningful addresses, and searching for the cream of the crop. Don’t cha think?

I do, however, slightly envy those who got the opportunity to participate in this project, while I had not a clue of its existence. So in light of this being my 400th review, I will give my own personal responses to the three questions myself (which are so damn boring, they probably would’ve botched anyway):

“What do you love?”
Should I go for the obvious? Ah, why not. Film, writing, and my dogs.

“What do you fear?”
Above all other things, I fear God, snakes, and appendicitis.

“What is in your pocket?”
I should’ve put my cell phone back in my pocket before writing this review. At the moment, I have a few bits of trash in my pocket, from when I was too lazy to go to the trash can. Hey, I’m being honest.

Postscript: If I piqued your interest in Life in a Day, the movie is actually available on National Geographic’s website, free of charge: http://bit.ly/Vo1dlz

B

Mrs. Doubtfire




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