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Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne

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Entries in Doc Corner (65)

Tuesday
Jul252017

Doc Corner: 'An Inconvenient Sequel' and 'Chasing Coral'

Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth was a brilliantly effective work of agitprop. It pushed Al Gore’s pet climate change cause into the cultural stratosphere and won two Academy Awards for the effort. Of course, one’s mileage with it as a good film or not likely depends on whether you consider good intentions as Oscar worthy. I personally don't care for the movie, and could easily list a dozen documentaries from 2006 worthier of the Oscar. Not the mention dozens of enviro-docs that are worthier of your time.

Still, despite this, I do not necessarily begrudge Guggenheim his Oscar (remember, Gore did not get a statue – something a right-wing commentator mistakes in the opening passages of this sequel). There is something to said about a film, documentary or not, that makes an audience feel and become as impassioned about as subject like this one did. It's just particularly frustrating with Truth given the inherently fascinating subject that inspires so many critical and scientific paths and which took the easiest and most pedestrian path.

Which brings us to a rare documentary sequel...

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Tuesday
Jul182017

Doc Corner: 'City of Ghosts'

Consider it the Spider-Man: Homecoming effect. One of the smartest things that director Matthew Heineman does in his film City of Ghosts is do away with any sort of Syrian primer for the audience. Far too many movies do not trust their audience to already know a thing or two about the subject at hand and in this documentary, ostensibly about the Syrian citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), knows that we already have the basic gist of this conflict filed away and instead dives right into its story.

Like I said, it’s a smart move, and one that already marks this as an improvement over the director’s last film, the Oscar-nominated, but sloppy Cartel Land. Still, while it does indeed have a keener focus on the subject at hand, the frustrating elements of that earlier film nonetheless remain in Heineman’s repertoire.

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Tuesday
Jul112017

Doc Corner: 'The Reagan Show'

Ronald Reagan was the most videoed President by the time he left office in 1989. As told to us in The Reagan Show, there was more video taken of Reagan than the five Presidents before him combined. Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez’s documentary is a compilation of this footage, taken by personal videographers as he filmed televised addresses, walked the grounds of the White House and attended events, as well as news footage from the era. Whether one agrees with the controversial President or not – and, fair admission, I do not – there’s something interesting in the cinematic trawling through this video content and through this film’s early passages, I was pleasantly enthralled by the backstage pass to an old Presidency.

However, the title “The Reagan Show” suggests something that the film ultimately does not deliver. Across its brief 75-minute runtime, The Reagan Show veers away from a broad path of general observation, and instead focuses almost exclusively on one subject...

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Tuesday
Jul042017

Doc Corner: 'Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press'

Get ready to hear the words “Bubba the Love Sponge” way more than you ever thought possible. As somebody who isn’t especially knowledgeable about Z-grade American radio celebrities, this came as quite a shock to me, but I guess that is keeping in theme with the film in general. This is a documentary that covers such a salacious and outright bizarre story that nothing should really shock. A film about serious issues that plays at times like an absurd comedy. A film that sadly reflects the gutter within which we live.

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press is the latest documentary by Brian Knapperberger. Like his last film, The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, which looked at the life of the late Reddit co-founder, this Netflix streaming doc examines a part of the online world that often goes unseen. Knapperberger’s demonstrates a weightier sense of confidence here, but like that earlier film, he has a keen ability in finding the central beating heart of a story that could easily confuse and confound audiences – whereas before it ones and zeroes, here it is legal jargon and the first amendment.

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Tuesday
Jun272017

Pride Month Doc Corner: 'No Dress Code Required'

We have been looking at LGBTIQ-themed documentaries for Pride Month. We conclude this mini-series with No Dress Code Required, which just played the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

Right off the bat, director Cristina Herrera Borquez has a leg-up on other LGBTIQ civil rights documentaries by focusing on a (presumably) little-known fight for marriage equality in the Mexican state of Baja California. Queer stories from this region are not surprisingly few and far between. In No Dress Code Required we follow a gay couple – Victor Fernando Urias Amparo and Victor Manuel Aguirre Espinoza (“The Victors”) – who are withheld from marrying in spite of Mexican law.

What starts as Borquez simply documenting the seemingly minor court case, eventually leads to her having a front row seat in a national media frenzy that shines a necessary light on the dynamics of Mexico’s complicated relationship with the gay rights movement...

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Tuesday
Jun202017

Pride Month Doc Corner: 'Whitney: Can I Be Me'

This month for Pride Month we're looking at four documentaries that tackle LGBTIQ themes. This week it is Whitney: Can I Be Me, the latest in a long line of musical documentaries.

There is no need to introduce Whitney Houston; we all know her and her songs. I also have no doubt that people reading this know her story of soaring talent and troubled downfall due to drugs. Hers was an arc that is rooted in the blueprint of great cinematic tragedies, a story that we have seen play out plenty of times before (in life as well as in in the movies), that it would be easy to roll our eyes at how cliched it was if it weren’t so painfully true.

If it feels somewhat curious then that director Nick Broomfield has turned his documentary eye to her story then that’s because it is. Unlike his earlier music doco Kurt & Courtney (or even his pair of Aileen Wuornos docs in which he takes an antagonistic role with his subject), there isn't an antagonist to go after. Whitney: Can I Be Me’s central conflict is predominantly between Whitney and herself. The title, “Can I Be Me”, was a phrase used often by Whitney – at times in the backstage footage, her team are even seen joking about it – as a means of apologising for being herself rather than the perfect pop creation crafted by Clive Davis and her mother.

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