Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Miss Americana – **(*)

Posted: March 14, 2020 in 2020, Music, USA, XX1/2

This is a good music documentary.

It’s entertaining. And Taylor Swift is an interesting pop star.

Sure, it’s calculated. But the documentary was released several months after the release of her album. So, it’s not really a marketing tool.

Yet, you do want to listen to Lover after seeing this documentary and even purchase it. Because, it does have several good tunes (the title track, the new single The Man) and maybe the rest is interesting too.

For Tay Tay fans, this is a must. For Tay Tay hater as well. But most of all, this is for those people who can’t name five songs of Taylor Swift and need to know that she is a big artist. It’s a pretty honest overview of her career with all the non-musical issues that gave her headlines. She’s not as big in Europe as in the States, but this can help people appreciate her a bit more.

www.imdb.com/title/tt11388580

Mystify – *(*)

Posted: January 30, 2020 in 2019, Australia, Documentary, Musical, X1/2

INXS were one of the coolest rock bands of the eighties until the nineties happened and U2 took over.

Michael Hutchence was more in the news because of his affairs with Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen than because of his music. Oh. And there was drugs and stuff. And then he had Paula Yates leave Bob Geldof… oh and yes, it ended up with him hanging himself in a hotel bed room.

This documentary wants to show a different aspect of the rock idol gone roque. Lots of people are interviewed, but they all sound so overly positive about the guy. Even Kylie whose heart he broke into a million pieces.

That is just weird.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5938950

Tell Me Who I Am – *

Posted: November 4, 2019 in 2019, Documentary, UK, X

There’s this wave of documentaries that are terrible to watch and they all work on the same principle. The ‘documentary’ makers first interview a few characters and then look for images that support the stories that are told in the interview. It’s a terrible way of making documentaries.

In this one, a pair of identical twins get interviewed about two extraordinary events in their lives. The first one is quite impressive: one of them loses his entire memory after waking up from a terrible motorcycle accident and has to rely on his twin brother to fill him in about his life as he’s the only one he trusts. The second event is more of a moral issue. The twin brother has not told him the entire truth and has filtered out all the bad memories for decades. Even when evidence of a bad event in the past surfaces, the twin brother is still not willing to talk about it. Out of self protection as well.

So, this is a great base for an interesting article in a psychology/philosophy magazine. Is the twin brother helping his amnesiac brother by only giving him the good memories? Or should he be as honest as possible even though it may cause disarray? Lots of questions arise. And one of them is very obvious: why do these two brothers, who have been struggling with this issue for years (if not decades), finally want to discuss it in the presence of a camera team? Why?

This is not a good documentary. Not sure why people recommend it. There’s nothing audiovisual about this story at all.

www.imdb.com/title/tt10915286

Three young adults learn at the age of 19 that they are triplets. They all were born on the same day, all look alike and were all adopted.

This happened in the early eighties and at the time, the triplets were popular guests on all kinds of talk shows, telling their story of finally being reunited.

But soon questions arose: why were they separated?

There are plenty stories of twins being separated at birth (check out the Dutch movie De Tweeling (Twin Sisters), but this one feels utterly unjust as it was all planned and part of a science project. A vile, unethical, but intriguing study, of which the results have never been published.

This documentary tries to unravel some of the mystery around this story. And does it really well. It’s a great example of how you can make a documentary, following the script rules of good cinema. The editing is really well done and the whole build up is great, with some surprises as well. And all that with just some interviews, some vintage footage and some re-enacted scenes.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7664504

Before riding the charts as a solo artist with Everybody, Madonna was playing drums and the guitar in The Breakfast Club, an unassuming New York band from the late seventies.

When word was out that a movie was going to be released about that period of time, Madonna clearly voiced her concerns as only she can tell what happened. But, Madonna shouldn’t worry. This isn’t a fictionalized biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocketman. No, this is documentary that alternates between interviews (with former band members and people who knew Madonna at the time) and scenes played by lookalikes that visualize the stories. Moreover, the people being interviewed have little bad to say about Madonna and the lookalike does an amazing job looking like her.

It’s a good music documentary. Also for those who aren’t a fan of Madame X as her current alter ego is named. Yes, she comes across as over ambitious and hard working. But she doesn’t come across as the cold hearted bitch that is her reputation. In fact, real footage show how she tanked the members of the band during her speech when she was inaugurated at the music hall of fame.

The two founding brothers of the band, Dan and Ed Killroy are quite open and frank about their relationship with Madonna. The former was her boyfriend while she stayed at their place (a former synagogue turned into squat house). But the most interesting guy being interviewed is Gary Burke. It’s endearing to see how, ever since he met her, he was fascinated by her. The unrequited love must have tormented him for his entire life. Then there’s Norris Burroughs, who looks like he could still have a shot with Madonna right now. He’s her age and looks very good. So, Madonna, if you’re reading this: get in touch with the guy! Drop the young boys. Get back to your early years. 😉

The audio tapes between Madonna and Dan are annoying and uninteresting. Stephen Bray wasn’t contacted for the movie (who ended up being the drummer of Madonna’s second, short-lived band, Emmy, that she formed with Gary when she quite The Breakfast Club because they didn’t want to have her sing all the songs. That’s a huge miss, because he ended up producing lots of songs with Madonna and ended up being the drummer of the Breakfast Club years after Madonna quit. So, it could have been much more interesting. Nevertheless, a fun watch.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5321814/

Passing by Leukerbad on the bus, I mention the remarkable stay of James Baldwin in this charming little town along the Rhone in Switzerland. Most of the time, the bus is very silent as if they’ve never heard of the man before.

Sure, he wasn’t Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, but he was nevertheless important as an African American activist. He was ‘just’ a writer and a homosexual on top of that.

This documentary is based on a book he never finished, in which he reflects on the legacy of the aforementioned leaders and the lesser known Medgar Evers. It’s a good documentary, because they use a lot of footage (especially pictures) from that era and it’s narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, who reads from the unfinished novel in the most surprising and fascinating way. Not sure if there are awards for narrators, but he deserves one.

You do need to have some background of the civil rights movement in the United States though. This isn’t a explanatory documentary about that fight. Nor will you learn much about Baldwin himself. You’ll want to learn more about him after this documentary and maybe that’s the point of this production. It’s interesting how the things he wrote about in the fifties are still relevant sixty years later.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5804038/

 

Free Solo – **(*)

Posted: March 20, 2019 in 2018, Documentary, USA, XX1/2

A few hours ago on National Geographic: the 2019 Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.  The dazzling account of a climber trying to conquer the El Capitan rock in Yosemite without ropes is still playing in some theaters and there you have it on tv already. Netflix has started a weird trend.

The Oscar buzz and the trailer make you want to see this movie. The reviews are stellar as well. El Capitan is a magnificent rock to look at. Climbing it with ropes is already crazy. So, this challenge looks like something you don’t want to miss.

The actual climb is filmed really well. The makers used drones and camera’s with ultra zoom lenses. Some footage is shot by guys hanging on ropes nearby the ‘easiest’ parts. Even on a small screen, the views looking down into the valley are not for those suffering from fear of heights. It must look even more vertiginous on a big screen, but it works at home too. The editing is top-notch. They must have had hours of footage and made a great action sequence of it all.

However, this is only about 20 minutes of the documentary and it’s at the end. Before that you have an hour of typical American documentary making with a lot of blablabla and (at times meaningless) interviews of people concerned (Alex Honnold himself, his climbing buddies, the film crew, his mom, his girlfriend, other free climbers…). At one point his girlfriend stresses that she still doesn’t understand why he wants to do this: risk his life to pursue an idea/dream/obsession. In fact, almost everyone wonders why he wants to do it. Yet, nobody gives an answer. And definitely not the documentary makers. So why even bother trying to find out?

The most interesting parts are where he prepares the climb and explains where the tricky sections are. If you make a documentary about a free climber, focus on the free climbing not on his personal life. At least not if you can’t give answers as to why someone is so foolish/stubborn/suicidal to attempt such a challenge.

It’s good that they mention how many of his predecessors have died in this extreme ‘sport’. Yet at the end, the ‘hero’ of the story encourages young people to do even more extreme things. Hm. Hero is in between brackets, because there is nothing heroic about climbing a rock without gear. More than often you hear about these extreme sports fanatics who always look for the next thrill and then die while pursuing it.

It makes you wonder if they would have shown the documentary if he had fallen to his death.

A few years ago, a Flemish tv personality, who takes on challenges, climbed El Capitan with some professionals. He was a climber virgin, but prepared well. Now that was an exciting tv program! It’s below the trailer, but has no subtitles. Somehow that was more intriguing. Free Solo is worth the watch, but only the last part is really fascinating.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7775622