Showing posts with label docs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label docs. Show all posts

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Doc Watch: Dangerous Days - Making Blade Runner (2007)




Watched:  04/21/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's

For, really, the hardcore Blade Runner fan, Dangerous Days (2007) tries to put the documentary treatment to much of the same ground as Paul Sammon's book, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.*  It's definitely its own thing, and they cover different but overlapping territories.  There's participation from darn near everyone - and who knows who they left on the cutting room floor.

But, yeah, from coffee shop conversations about "you should adapt this novel" to "huh, looks like we made a cultural juggernaut", and everything inbetween, it's an expansive view of not just the vision and why's and wherefore's of this very special film, but a look at the machinery of movie-making that's only got one layer of gloss.  25 years after the fact, people are more generous with each other, even if you do wind up with conflicting versions of events here and there.  

Worth it for the behind-the-scenes looks as much as the interviews, but... just know as I did not when I started the doc - it's 3.5 hours.  Break it up into a 2 or more viewings.  It has handy chapter sections, so feel free to turn it off and come back.  




Coincidentally, this is the first book I ever purchased through Amazon.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Doc Watch: Pumping Iron (1977)




Watched:  04/15/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's

So, I finally watched Pumping Iron (1977)!  It was super good.  I'm not spending the energy to write it up, but if I liked Arnie before (and he's my imaginary friend, so, yes), nothing has changed.  Also, it was wild to see young Lou Ferrigno.  

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Doc Watch: Tina (2021)




Watched:  03/29/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

I've never been a hardcore Tina Turner fan, but like everyone of my generation I am familiar with her work, and have some idea of her pre Private Dancer life through cultural osmosis.  The first one of her albums I ever purchased was greatest hits collection, Simply the Best because I *loved* "Simply the Best" as a song, and figured "can't hurt to own the greatest hits".  And I have no timeline of how I came to really understand Tina Turner's story.  I *do* remember watching the video for "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and my parents sort of watching in amazement that (a) Tina Turner was on MTV and (b) their kids, 9 and 11, were like "this Tina Turner seems cool".  And then my folks saying something about a creep of an ex-husband.

And, we lost our minds over how cool she was in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  And she is.  Go back and watch it.    

I confess, I never had much affinity for biopics - 2 hours is not enough time to show a life, let alone how botched the movies tend to be vis-a-vis actual facts (which are always more interesting than the invention of the movie) - and I wasn't super interested in watching someone dressed up as Tina Turner get beat up for two hours.  But hearing about the movie is how I came to understand exactly how bad Ike Turner had been.  But I've still never seen What's Love Got to Do With It.

It seems I'm not alone in this opinion.  

Tina (2021) is a roughly two hour doc that uses intervies, original and archival, that charts Tina Turner's course from abandoned child in Nutbush, Tennessee to living in Zurch with her dedicated husband.  And it's a goddamn shattering ride.  And, as it turns out, possibly Turner's final word on her life to the public.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Doc Watch: Operation Varsity Blues - The College Admissions Scandal




Watched:  03/22/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Chris Smith

Full disclosure:  My current role is in IT management at a major American university, and part of my portfolio includes Admissions.  I haven't worked for this office very long, just about a year and a half.  But I do interface continually with the folks who process, review and make admissions decisions.  

If you followed the story of actresses Lori Loughlin or Felicity Huffman as they were exposed and charged with participating in, essentially, a massively scaled bribery scandal in which coaches provided entrance to kids as walk-ons to their teams in exchange for cash, you know the broad strokes of what broke in the news back in 2019.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Doc Watch: The Pixar Story (2007)




Watched:  03/01/2021
Format:  Netflix?
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Leslie Iwerks

Biggest complaint:  not enough Michero

A weird movie only in that it's already 14 years old, and it's interviewing Steve Jobs, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Roy Disney and I am sure others who are already passed since.  And, of course, this is well before Lasseter was shown the door.

But it does a phenomenal job of explaining how Pixar even happened.  Which was a wild mix of "right place/ right time" in the sense of chaos theory, and then key people who made some very right choices at the right time - from Lasseter to George Lucas to Steve Jobs to Bob Iger.  Heck, Tom Hanks' involvement and his delight at his involvement is evident.

Looking behind the scenes of what almost went wrong here or there is curious, but I wish they'd spent more time on Pixar story-management processes as part of the secret sauce.  They go into it very briefly and almost obliquely, but it's there.

Anyway, just to see who all was involved is a trip.  And, of course, to know what was coming after just heightens the joy of the thing.  And, of course, I am certain the place is no longer quite as "start-up-y" as the doc captured.  Sooner or later, efficiency needs and people needing to get home to kids is going to kick in.

But now I want to rewatch Monsters, Inc.  

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Doc Watch: The Go-Go's (2020)




Watched:  02/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Alison Ellwood

As a kid, I liked The Go-Go's as well as anyone who was, like, eight years old.  I thought they had catchy tunes and whatnot.  It was much, much later - probably in my late 20's that I was like "huh, actually, these are really, really solid pop songs."  And I gave them some reconsideration.   

Even back when I was a kid, I remember hearing "punk band" tied to The Go-Go's, and looked at Belinda Carlisle wearing pastels and with her hair up in a pony tail, and was like "what?"  But later started kind of putting the pieces together, but not really.

The Go-Go's (2020) documentary hit right around COVID and got a lot of festival play, but it's a tough year for something like that.  So, I was thrilled when it finally came to Amazon, because I would probably have just as likely paid for a ticket to see it in the theater.  

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween Doc Watch: Wolfman's Got Nards (2018)




Watched:  10/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Andre Gower

I saw The Monster Squad at Showplace 6 on a weekday in late summer when I was a kid.  I must have said something about the movie and thinking I'd miss it (it wasn't released until mid-August of 1987, which would have been just as school was starting), so I'm guessing I thought the clock was ticking.  My dad loved movies, too, when we were kids.  Not like some of your dads who showed you Carrie or whatever, he just liked going to the movies or making a bucket of popcorn at home and watching a movie with us.  

All I know is that on a weekday in the few weeks Monster Squad was out, my dad took the afternoon off work - came home and got me, we watched the movie - and then he dropped me off and went back to work.  I don't think he remembers this at all, but it meant a lot to me when I was 12.  

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Doc Watch: Becoming (2020)


Watched:  06/26/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Nadia Hallgren

I'm aware Michelle Obama is a polarizing figure, what with encouraging kids to eat healthy and being an interesting, intelligent counterpart to her husband.  But, hoo boy, in a period of American journalism which seems distant and we can hope is on the ash-heap, the press sure tried to find ways to make her a villain. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Doc Watch: Thelonius Monk - Straight, No Chaser (1988)



Watched:  06/27/2020
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Charlotte Zwerin

I am not a jazz aficionado - that's NathanC's gig.  I honestly haven't put on a Thelonius Monk album in a while - maybe years.  I did go through my jazz phase twenty years ago, so, yeah, I still have those albums. 

TCM has been doing a series called "Jazz in the Movies", which I haven't watched much of, but decided to record a couple of films one night, and had heard that Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988) was an exemplary doc.  This reputation was earned, and I am sure jazz fans all know it.

For folks like myself who are only vaguely aware of Monk, it's a fascinating crash course to get you past simply enjoying the music and understand the man who made it.  Shocker of all shockers - a pre-eminent jazz artist has a complicated life and personal issues.  Unlike Miles Davis, the wounds aren't as self-inflicted, but they do weigh on him. 

Culled from footage shot on a late career tour and post-death interviews with colleagues, the doc paints a portrait of a complicated man who was *loved* by the people who knew him and couldn't help but stand in awe of his genius.  And, yeah, I don't use the word genius a lot - but the names tied to Be-Bop sure seem like they deserve it.

It wasn't hurt at all by the intro and outro conversations on TCM by Eddie Muller (who knew he knew jazz?) and his majesty Wynton Marsalis (and, yes, I've see Marsalis play live once and it was worth every penny). 

The doc gives the music room to breathe, and reminded me how and why I went through that jazz era.  And what I'll be listening to after Jamie turns in tonight. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Doc Watch: Making the Apes - The Artists Who Changed Film (2020)



Watched:  06/21/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  William Conlin

There's not much to spoil here - it's a fact based documentary on the people behind the iconic make-up for the run of the original 5 Planet of the Apes films, the TV show and more.  It does a good job of contextualizing the state of the art in the mid-60's and how they got there, starting in the Lon Chaney era. 

Really, what I liked is that - as much as it's about the make-up and creation of - it gives personality and stories to the people who were there and made a vision a reality.  We sometimes forget there are minds and lives behind the people who aren't the writers, directors and actors - but those unseen wizards who rise at 2:30 AM to be at work by 4:30 AM to get the actor on the set by morning, looking like a gorilla?  Those are people who fell in love with monster make-up to such a degree, that's how they love and what they've chosen to do. 

And, of course, for the people involved, Planet of the Apes - which won an honorary Academy Award for make-up before it became a staple of the Oscars - was a major turning point in the lives of a lot of people in the Hollywood make-up industry.  It was sort of the digital T-Rex of its day. 

It's currently streaming on Amazon, and if you're any kind of POTA fan, I recommend giving Making the Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film a go. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Doc Watch: Never Surrender - A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)



Watched:  04/07/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Jack Bennett

I forgot to write this up a month ago when I watched it.  A really fun doc on a great movie, and with terrific participation from darn near everyone who was in it or worked on it.  And, as always, Sigourney Weaver is the coolest.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Documentary Watch: Ernie and Joe - Crisis Cops (2019)



Watched:  12/31/2019
Format:  HBO Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

A while back our own PaulT - who does many things in the film and TV industry - worked on a documentary called Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops (2019).  I believe he was a/ the sound mixer on the film, which - in documentary land - is no small feat.  Especially when you're talking police situations, moving cars, and open classrooms.  So, hats off to Paul.

The movie is currently streaming on HBO, and, if you get a chance, give it some time.  The movie follows two police officers from the San Antonio Police Department's Mental Health Unit at work and in their lives.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Doc Watch: Image Makers - The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers



Watched:  11/16/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

It's odd how little we talk about cinematography.  Of course we discuss actors and dialog.  FX are a big topic.  We talk about soundtracks and directors.  When we're feeling like showing some insidery-type knowledge about film, we'll talk editors.  But I'm not sure we always notice the names of the people who actually sit behind the camera, working out the actual look of a movie, which, as we're not listening to radio or watching a play, seems kinda key.

From composition to placement to depth of focus to lighting to movement of perspective... and probably 9 or 10 other factors I'm not thinking of, what we see in a movie is defined by someone who thought about every shot (in theory).  Sometimes it draws attention to itself, but more than 95% of the time, when we talk about a movie, we seamlessly discuss story and how we felt, basing it on any of those factors above, but how often do we discuss what the camera did?  Or where it was placed?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Concert Doc Watch: Amazing Grace (2019)



Watched:  11/11/2019
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's/ 2010's

If asked to compile a list of the greatest popular American singers of the 20th Century, I'd assume Aretha Franklin would make the top few - if not the number one slot - for much of the US populace.

We lost Franklin in 2018, and it's unclear who can begin to fill her role in the zeitgeist, but maybe it's too soon, and maybe we don't need to.  Maybe she was a singular talent.

Shot in 1972 and unreleased until the last 12 months or so, Amazing Grace (2019) is an attempt by Sydney Pollack to record and capture the experience of Franklin recording a live Gospel album at a church in Los Angeles over the course of two nights.  Backed by a local choir and supported by the Reverend James Cleveland, Franklin takes to the pulpit and - as one would expect - nails every song before her.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary and PBS's "American Experience: Chasing the Moon"



The past couple of weeks marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, thanks to the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  Plus, the might of NASA, contractors to NASA, government bureaucrats, politicians and, us, the voting and tax-paying public.

From July 16th to July 24th, 1969, three brave people hurled through the void of space, two walked the face of an alien landscape, and then all returned, safely, to Earth.  All of this just sixty-six years after the Kitty Hawk Flyer took to the sky and 27 years after the first V2 rocket.  The scope of progress and achievement during this window was unprecedented in human history as two nations threw down the gauntlet to see who could place a boot onto lunar soil. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Dropout - Podcast and ABC 20/20 feature



I'll be honest - after watching the Netflix doc The Inventor, I'm still stuck on the saga of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes.

At Maxwell's recommendation, I turned to a multi-part podcast called The Dropout to see what wasn't in the Netflix doc, which seemed to just raise questions without ever really providing answers.  Produced by ABC news, The Dropout covers much of the same territory and the same figures, gets more on-the-record interviews, details more of what occurred, giving specific stories, certainly revealing points that I'm surprised the Netflix doc left out, and generally does a good job of building a solid case for what - at least transactionally - happened at Theranos.

But... I'm still baffled by how this even got started in the first place.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Doc Watch: The Inventor - Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)


Watched:  03/24/2019
Format:  HBO Go
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

A few years back I recall reading about Theranos, the "disruptive" tech company getting into the ultra-sexy field of phlebotomy.  The articles were fawning, talking about a young genius inventor out in Silicon Valley who had dropped out of school to start a tech company that was going to change... something.  The article was a little vague on how smaller blood draws were the biggest thing since sliced bread, but it insisted - no, really,  this is it, and we all need to get excited about the company, Theranos, and - really - the head of the company, Elizabeth Holmes - a prodigy who apes the fashion sense of Steve Jobs and who dropped out of Stanford as an undergrad to pursue her vision.

I wanted to check my biases on age and gender, shrug a bit at someone cosplaying Steve Jobs, and admit I don't really know much about phlebotoy other than watching a whole lotta blood draws when Jamie has been in the hospital.  Which is: a lot.

At the same time...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Doc Watch: Fyre Fraud (2019) - the other "Fyre Festival Fiasco" post mortem doc



Watched:  01/22/2019
Format:  Hulu streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

This post will make no sense unless you go back and read my post from yesterday on Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019) , the other documentary about this same subject that was released on Netflix earlier this month.  So, please do go and read it, because I'd prefer not to rehash a lot of what was covered in that post.

After my initial post and exasperation with the Netflix doc and spending most of the post leveling suspicion at the motives of the doc makers, Paul dropped a note to me saying "hey, I think people who are involved with Fyre Fest were involved in producing that doc", which... indeed they were.  Which confirmed all my worst suspicions and made me hate everyone involved even more, but at least made me feel less paranoid and crazy.

Doc Watch: They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)


Watched:  01/21/2019
Format:  Fathom Events at Arbor Cinema
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010s

It's fascinating to see Peter Jackson turn his eye for detail and technical achievement to the discipline of documentary film-making.  In many ways, They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) could herald a new era of popular documentary as important as the narrative innovations of Ken Burns, which have become the de facto mode for serious historical documentary for those of us who watch PBS.  Frankly, from an historical/ accuracy perspective, I have a *lot* of quibbles with Jackson's approach - but we'll get to that after praising his achievements.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Doc Watch: Fyre - the Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019)


Watched:  01/21/2019
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

(late edit: shortly after posting my initial, pretty visceral reaction to the doc, I got some new info that will show up later in the post.  It's always nice to feel less crazy.  And certainly learning what I did colors and informs literally everything about the doc.  Basically - it may be somewhat true, but it's also deeply skewed and can't be seen as having any journalistic integrity.

While I recommend reading this post first - and watching the Netflix doc first - the post on the Hulu Doc is here.)

I'm no commie, but few things leave me wanting to declare "let's just eat the rich" like the film I just finished.  And not just the subject matter they covered, but the way in which the filmmakers themselves covered it.

The lack of ability to reflect and look at the *source* of the issues around the notorious Fyre Festival is probably the weirdest part of watching Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019), the Netflix documentary that's been grabbing headlines.

At the end of the day, I'm just left thinking: