Within 5-10 minutes of the beginning of this film, I knew what it was about and wondered where do we go from here? The answer is not very far. Critics were besides themselves with this one; me, I like good movies.
I found the presentation ‘cute’ — and not in a good way. A straightforward accounting of events would have been much better. 4/10
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Comparison Notes: The infinitely better Mr. Death
Another recent PBS highlight was the airing of Janis: Little Girl Blue, which I had missed during its theatrical release a few months back. I love good PBS programming, and American Masters is continually excellent, but it would be nice if they wouldn’t claim films as their own original production without a nod to prior release; this is not the first time they’ve done that.
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WHEN JANIS SINGS, I’M GLUED. At the program’s start, I said ‘ho-hum, I’ll flip between this and baseball.’ That flip never happened, and baseball took a night off.
This documentary ended up being one of the most magnificently compelling musical biographies I’ve seen — in a sense, much deeper than Amy. It features a ton of never seen before footage (by me anyway). Janis Joplin was a joyously, deeply talented performer, heralded in her lifetime as “Queen of the Blues.” Little Girl Blue does a good job sticking to her life story, which is all that needs to be done.
One more dig though on the PBS airing: they kept bleeping out any one of the 7 words you can’t say on television. Very annoying. But a funny thing about those words. Although I wish PBS would have some cojones, it’s almost always readily evident which one of those words is being bleeped. So, annoying, but not enough to truly diminish the powerful story. And then there is this on the PBS airing:
Never-before-seen extended cut features new interviews with Alecia Moore (a.k.a. Pink), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge, Laura Joplin and Narrator Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power)
These interviews are key, so kudos to PBS on that I suppose. Make sure you see the version with them (I can’t imagine the film without). I haven’t checked, but I would guess that if you watch it via PBS VOD, there should be a good chance of escaping the aforementioned censorship. 9/10
City of Gold is a fun film for foodies, and a refreshing chronicle of the ever-fascinating, eternal city of the angels. A nice little follow-up to last year’s Tangerine, if you will. From a documentary filmmaking point of view, no ground is broken, but the content is amply strong enough to propel the picture. Bethany Jean Clement for The Seattle Times:
It’s a testament to his (Jonathan Gold’s) prowess that the voice-overs of his writing are riveting; you may want to stop watching and just go read everything in his Los Angeles Times author archive. …While the film’s formula gets repetitive, little revelations peppered throughout keep it engaging. Gold’s the unlikely hero with the golden palate, but his work also involves obsessive scholarship and research, and if you don’t know about his background, surprises await.
I concur about this movie making you head over to LATimes.com to read his articles. A great little character study, and a nice break in the otherwise vapid movie season we find ourselves in. 7/10
The Hunting Ground features undeniably powerful content, and it opened my eyes to a nasty problem on college campuses everywhere. But this is hardly masterful documentary filmmaking. 6/10
Availability: Netflix, iTunes
Where to Invade Next starts like a firecracker (by documentary standards) and rolls briskly for a good hour before hitting something of a brick wall. Up to that point it competes among the best, most fast-paced comedies. Though down-shifting in the second half, Moore remains on task.
Now I’ve known about some of the differences between Europe and the U.S. for eons now, but even so Where to Invade Next is perhaps the most eye-opening film I’ve ever experienced, and a must-see for all Americans. We can all feel the burn. 9/10
UPDATE: True value: 8/10
Making a Murderer on Netflix is a magnificently compelling, gut-wrenching, and heartbreaking series.
SPOILER ALERT!! Spoilers follow:
Assuming the facts presented in the series are accurate and more or less complete, a logical individual would have to conclude that there is at the very least solid evidence that reasonable doubt has been established in the case of Steven Avery. Not one bit of her blood was found anywhere on the Avery premises except on that bullet and in the back of her own vehicle — as just one glaring example of the facts pointing toward his innocence.
As far as Brendan Dassey, there is no evidence of his involvement at all. His conviction was based entirely on his own confused and constantly contradictory and coerced words. There isn’t even circumstantial evidence against him.
I think the moral of the story is that the legal system is completely broken, unless you’re on the side of prosecution. Regardless of guilt or innocence. Not that we didn’t know that already.
[End of Spoilers]
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Watching my first VOD-exclusive TV series has made me rethink TV a bit more. Now, with one of my favorite filmmakers Jim Jarmusch producing an Amazon exclusive, I may finally have to cave to a Prime subscription. Ugh. Well at least I’ll get free shipping. Which I get anyway with a minimum order. Then if and when Twin Peaks comes out on Showtime… well another subscription there.
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I am loving “Lazarus” from David Bowie. He pulled a Johnny Cash / Warren Zevon, recording a final album as his own death knell. I suppose it’s just the timing, but it seems to fit Making a Murderer perfectly.