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Entries in Doc Corner (88)

Tuesday
Jan162018

Doc Corner: 'The Final Year'

by Glenn Dunks

There is a pall that lingers over The Final Year. And rightfully so considering how everything turned out within the 2016 American presidential elections. And yet, that emotional baggage is brought to the film more by viewers and less so by director Greg Barker. The Emmy-winning director of Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden makes odd choices throughout this otherwise straight-forward documentary, not least of which is barely referencing the elephant in the room for the majority of its (brief) 90 minutes...

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Tuesday
Jan092018

FYC: Five Best Documentary Tech Achievements of 2017

A special edition of the Doc Corner column by Glenn Dunks this week...

Documentaries are unsurprisingly scantly recognised outside of their own category. Steve James’ Hoop Dreams scored a still one-of-a-kind nomination for Best Editing in 1994, and the Best Original Song category has become a place for aging rock stars (and J. Ralph!) to get recognition for their work in documentaries. Yet outside of these rare occurrences, documentaries are almost never considered to be in genuine contention.

Considering the volume of documentaries being produced (170 eligible titles in 2017 alone!), it shouldn’t be unreasonably to expect that many are pushing the documentary medium to places that would have been unfathomable two decades prior. Those changes can be through form thanks to technological advancements giving filmmakers an ability to make docs as technically proficient as anything else no matter the budget. Or they can come through structure and narrative, allowing contemporary audiences that are hip to new ways of telling stories to experience something through the wonders of streaming that would have once struggled in experimental arthouses of downtown Manhattan.

So in lieu of a personal Oscar doc ballot (mine would include only one from the 15-wide shortlist), here are five For Your Considerations for achievements outside of the Documentary Feature category itself...

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Tuesday
Dec262017

Doc Corner: Documentary Hits of 2017

Each day a new year-in-review / recap list of sorts. Here's Glenn Dunks

Nathaniel has already looked at the foreign language hits of the year and a the top-grossers for films by or about women, people of colour, LGBTQ and more. Now it's my turn to chime in with a look at what non-fiction movies were doing at the box office. It ain't exactly pretty - but, then, the figures below don't always paint an accurate picture for the world of documentary.

Much like the rest of the independent and arthouse scenes, festivals and VOD/streaming are becoming the primary way for audiences to see documentaries. Some of the most buzzed and most discussed documentaries of the year, for instance, are Strong Island, Icarus, Voyeur and Chasing Coral, which never received a theatrical release beyond minimal Oscar-qualifying runs. Meanwhile, other significant 2017 titles like LA 92, Oklahoma City, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds aired on TV.

TOP 40 DOCUMENTARIES FOR 2017
Listed by US Box Office Gross only. Linked titles leads to reviews
🔺 = still in theaters (Note: Figures are as of December 25th, 2017)

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Tuesday
Dec122017

Doc Corner: 'Jane' is Our Oscar Frontrunner

by Glenn Dunks

We are informed at the beginning of Jane that the footage we are about to see had been previously lost. While it is absolutely astonishing that such incredible footage could have somehow just vanished and nobody thought to look for it before now, let's be thankful. It means we get Jane, a compelling and often awe-inspiring documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Brett Morgen.

Jane is gorgeously composed documentary. An exciting play of form that that swings among the vines thanks to the prowess of contemporary rhythms of structure and construction, yet hums to the classic, even nostalgia-inducing visions at its heart...

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Tuesday
Dec052017

Doc Corner: 'LA 92' and 'Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992' 

by Glenn Dunks

It’s not surprising that the spectre of the Los Angeles riots of 1992 has loomed large over documentary filmmaking this year. Emerging out from shadow of O.J. Simpson, whose story was everywhere in 2016, the 25th anniversary of this monumental moment in American history has been the focus of not just (by my count) five feature documentaries, but has also felt like an integral part of more contemporary films like Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’ Whose Streets, Yance Ford’s Strong Island, and Peter Nicks’ The Force.

It would make sense then that these films, which largely pull from many of the same archival footage sources, might be in danger of working against one another. Dampening their urgency and their power simply by being too numerous.

However, at least in the case of Dan Lindsay and TJ Miller’s LA 92 and John Ridley’s Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992, that is certainly not what has occurred...

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Tuesday
Nov282017

Doc Corner: 'Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story'

More often than not, biographic documentaries can feel staid in the way they so relentlessly follow a basic Point A to Point B narrative. It is understandable, really. After all, one must suppose that if somebody is interesting enough to have a documentary made about them, then they must be interesting enough to sustain 90 minutes without the need for their story to be gussied up with stylistic bells and tricky whistles.

Still, watching as many of these sort of films as I do, it can grow tiresome and can take me out of whatever spell the filmmaker hopes to cast.

And then there is a movie like Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. This is a film that it would be easy to pigeonhole before the opening scene has even begun - and it’s true that Alexandra Dean’s film adheres to a very traditional birth-to-death narrative. But what makes the film so interesting beyond its subject is the way it turns what could be perceived as just standard bio-doc delivery into a unique advantage.

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