Oscar History

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Entries in Doc Corner (94)


Doc Corner: Andre Leon Talley and Jayne Mansfield Lead the Melbourne Queer Film Festival

By Glenn Dunks

Down here in Melbourne where I live, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival is gearing up for its 28th year. It's got the best line-up I have ever seen for the festival, and in particular the documentary section is full of must see titles. I know The Film Experience readers like to hear about LGBTQI cinema so I thought I'd choose three that focus on the movies and pop culture worlds to look at that will hopefully make their way to cinemas and VOD soon: The Gospel According to Andre, Mansfield 66/67 and Queerama.


Shame on me, I suppose, for putting on The Gospel According to André and expecting a breezy 90 minutes of glam connoisseur André Leon Talley dishing cutting fashion commentary in caftans and calling everybody “darling” while rattling off designer names like he’s Edina in that Pet Shop Boys song about Absolutely Fabulous. Names! Names! Names!

Talley is, after all, a mainstay of fashion documentaries since his appearances in the classics Unzipped and Catwalk from 1995 on through the likes of The September Issue, The First Monday in May, Valentino: The Last Emperor and the recent House of Z about Zac Posen. What I did not expect from Kate Novack’s documentary was a film that takes the story of one of the American fashion world’s most iconic and recognisable names as a launching pad for an exploration of race and racism through history via the POV of a gay black man.

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Doc Corner: 'The China Hustle'

By Glenn Dunks

There is immediately something to be admired in a film that begins with a talking head stating very matter-of-factly that “There are no good guys in this story, including me.” I mean, well damn, okay. The China Hustle is a film that begins and ends in a pit of greed and contempt, charting how the financial crisis of 2008 and the rise of the Chinese economy played rather conveniently into one another and how a brand new variety of stock fraud is being committed on the American people.

Directed by Jeff Rothstein who was Oscar nominated in 2010 for his documentary short Killing in the Name, The China Hustle exposes the growing problem on the American stock exchange of Chinese companies over-inflated their worth and effectively dropping a timebomb on the market with the help of shell companies and China’s lax company laws aided by pure old fashioned greed as auditors and lawyers blatantly misrepresent and mislead the public for their own profits.

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Doc Corner: 'The Most Dangerous Man in America' Goes Where 'The Post' Doesn't

By Glenn Dunks

If The Post gave you a hankering for the truth behind the Pentagon Papers, then the 2010 documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers will prove uncommonly fulfilling. In fact, watching this Academy Award-nominated doc (it lost to The Cove), you would be hard-pressed to believe that it's about the same events as portrayed in the Steven Spielberg movie.

Last week we looked at The Price of Gold and how closedly I, Tonya mimicked it, so it's actually quite amusing to see that this week's Best Picture / Documentary cross-over is the complete opposite. Sure, they overlap here and cross-over there, but The Most Dangerous Man in America goes longer, deeper, wider, and somehow all but completely ignores The Washington Post and the personalities within the 2017 film...

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Doc Corner: 'The Price of Gold' Brings Clarity to 'I, Tonya'

By Glenn Dunks

The defining trait of I, Tonya that has separated it from a glut of biopics is that darkly comedic tone achieved significantly through fake direct-to-camera interviews by an assortment of ghoulish villains and anti-heroes. One could argue that with its cast of monstrous characters and flamboyant yet true-to-life costumes and wig-work, the film’s mock documentary device was entirely unnecessary at achieving its desired laughs.

Yet while I saw the value of its method as a sort of short-hand directorial device used to wrangle the story’s many real life contradictions and he-said-she-said-he-said-she-said-he-said narrative, having watched Nanette Burstein’s sublime The Price of Gold, it comes off as actually just lazy...

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Doc Corner: Ranking the documentary short nominees by 'How much politicians could learn from them' 

by Glenn Dunks

Last year we had fun (well, about as much fun as could be had) ranking the Best Documentary Short Subject nominees by how depressing they were. And while this year’s collection of nominees tackle subjects like racial police brutality and the opioid crisis, the five selected titles are somewhat lighter in their touch. If this category is too often (yet not exactly unfairly) criticized for being a home to just the most miserable bunch of films imaginable, this year’s nominees should at least leave audiences with a bit more hope and inspiration.

So let's instead rank the Best Documentary Short Subject nominees in order of which we would most like to force our current political leaders to watch if given the chance. Documentaries can be extremely powerful in changing people’s perception of the world around them – and while we are politically more divided now than ever, I’d like to believe that if people with power actually watched these shorts (totalling around two and a half hours) then maybe they would think twice. Maybe. Probably not. But we’d like them to try...

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Doc Corner: Democracy, Nostalgia and Deadly Protest at Slamdance

by Glenn Dunks

We will be looking at both the Documentary Feature and Documentary Short Subject category in February as we approach the Oscar ceremony, but this week we're taking a small trip to the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah. Situated alongside Sundance, this smaller festival obviously doesn’t get the attention of its much larger cousin – not helped by also happening at the same time as Oscar nominations – but we’re proud to give it a visit.

Here are thoughts on three of their documentaries this year....

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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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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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