TUMBLR

A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "documentaries"

Oct 05, 2013
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Stories We Tell a film by Sarah Polley

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
—Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This movie looks fantastic.

This movie is fantastic. Highly recommended.

Filed under: my watching year 2013

(Source: youtube.com, via austinkleon)

May 11, 2013
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Stories We Tell a film by Sarah Polley

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
—Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This movie looks fantastic.

(Source: youtube.com)

Apr 23, 2013
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Sound City

I loved the first 2/3 of this, and kind of glazed over during the last 1/3. (It’s the curse of feature documentaries — most have about 60 minutes of great material, but are fluffed out to feature length.)

The first 2/3 is about Sound City Studios , a dumpy studio in LA, where Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Nirvana recorded some of their greatest albums. The studio is most notable for the sound of the live room (especially the drums) and the Neve 8028 analog board.

The last 1/3 is about how Grohl bought the Neve console and moved it to his own 606 studios.

The documentary is mostly about the human element of music — the messy serendipity of getting a bunch of people in a room and making noise and then recording that noise. (And how that element has slowly faded as young musicians make more and more music by themselves in their bedrooms on laptops.)

I was most interested in the producers who helped get a lot of this stuff to tape — they had interesting thoughts on how you take the raw material of a band and craft it into hit records. At one point, Rick Rubin says, “Everything I try to do is from a fan’s perspective,” and as much credit that’s given to analog tape and the Neve console, you also get the feeling of the producer as translator, or medium, between band and listener.  Keith Olsen notes, “What you have to do is get the listener to claim what you’ve done as yours.”

Artists are not always the best judges of what’s working, or, at the very least, what’s commercial. (There’s a great story about how Rick Springfield didn’t think much of “Jesse’s Girl,” but Keith Olsen heard the demo and liked it immediately — the first check from Warner Bros. was  $1,000,000.)

Anyways, if you’re a music geek, you’ll like it.

Sound City

I loved the first 2/3 of this, and kind of glazed over during the last 1/3. (It’s the curse of feature documentaries — most have about 60 minutes of great material, but are fluffed out to feature length.)

The first 2/3 is about Sound City Studios , a dumpy studio in LA, where Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Nirvana recorded some of their greatest albums. The studio is most notable for the sound of the live room (especially the drums) and the Neve 8028 analog board.

The last 1/3 is about how Grohl bought the Neve console and moved it to his own 606 studios.

The documentary is mostly about the human element of music — the messy serendipity of getting a bunch of people in a room and making noise and then recording that noise. (And how that element has slowly faded as young musicians make more and more music by themselves in their bedrooms on laptops.)

I was most interested in the producers who helped get a lot of this stuff to tape — they had interesting thoughts on how you take the raw material of a band and craft it into hit records. At one point, Rick Rubin says, “Everything I try to do is from a fan’s perspective,” and as much credit that’s given to analog tape and the Neve console, you also get the feeling of the producer as translator, or medium, between band and listener. Keith Olsen notes, “What you have to do is get the listener to claim what you’ve done as yours.”

Artists are not always the best judges of what’s working, or, at the very least, what’s commercial. (There’s a great story about how Rick Springfield didn’t think much of “Jesse’s Girl,” but Keith Olsen heard the demo and liked it immediately — the first check from Warner Bros. was $1,000,000.)

Anyways, if you’re a music geek, you’ll like it.

Apr 14, 2013
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Dec 07, 2012
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Tchoupitoulas: a film by the Ross Bros

My friends The Ross Brothers (their first film was the great 45365) are celebrating the theatrical release of their movie (after a successful Kickstarter campaign to finish it) which is getting insanely great reviews.

NYTimes:

“Tchoupitoulas,” a heady hybrid of documentary and dream, is a movie by and about brothers… It is alive with the risk and curiosity of youth, and unapologetic in insisting that the pursuit of fun can be a profound and transformative experience.

Popmatters:

…a portrait of New Orleans that is by turns poetic and poignant and rapturous.

I saw the film at SXSW last year, and had mixed reactions, but the images and the fantastic soundtrack have stuck with me. Like a lot of great work, it stirred my guts a bit because it was so different than anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s not a documentary — it’s a portrait of a place painted with real people but collaged together from different periods of time into one seamless night:

The Rosses take “documentary” to mean the documenting of an experience, and are more open about the misrepresentation of space and time for the good of the film than most other practitioners of their craft. Here, in what is no doubt a “documentary,” the filmmakers pass off more than half a year’s worth of New Orleans street life as the adventures enjoyed by three young boys over the course of a single night out.

I’m looking forward to seeing it again. These guys are on a roll.

Watch a clip then see if it’s playing in your town!

(Source: vimeo.com)

Nov 01, 2012
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Beauty Is Embarrassing

I loved, loved, loved this movie. It’s a portrait of the artist Wayne White — whose credits among many include the original puppets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and music videos for Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.”

If you’re interested in art, humor, and family, you must see it. Buy the film DRM-free for $7.99 or rent it for $3.99 on Amazon→

(Source: youtube.com)

Oct 01, 2012
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The People Vs. George Lucas

It suffers from being just a tad too long (it’s a rare movie that needs to be more than 90 minutes, and it’s a very rare documentary that needs to be more than 60) but I liked this documentary quite a bit. Here’s The Atlantic:


  The central question is this: What does a creator owe his fans, and what do the fans owe the creator in return? […] Does Lucas have the right to go back and change his films, and then make the originals more or less unavailable? At what point do creative works become more the domain of the public than the creator?


As a casual fan of Star Wars, I actually learned a lot about Lucas.  For instance, I didn’t know he was in a car crash as a teenager, and that was a major event in getting his life on track: “I thought, well, I’m here now, and every day now is an extra day.”

While I despise the existence of the prequels and the tinkered-with versions of the original episodes, I also found myself really sympathizing with Lucas. (He is, after all, the man who created Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and my beloved LucasArts game company.) Lucas started out as a film student who wanted to make personal, experimental films. In a lot of ways, Star Wars is the worst thing that could’ve happened to those ambitions. This idea is most clearly expressed by Francis Ford Coppola, one of Lucas’s oldest friends:


  The great success of Star Wars didn’t leave to the [independent films] and the personal filmmaking. George never made another film after that. Instead, he became a producer and an entrepreneur…We were deprived of those films that he was going to make and might have made. And instead we have an enormous industrial marketing complex…. No matter how many billions of dollars Star Wars could earn, no matter how valuable that franchise is, it isn’t worth a tenth of what he’s worth as an artist and what he’s capable of doing.


There’s a ton of things Lucas’s story makes me think about: the perils of success, how often worldbuilding and merchandising go hand-in-hand, the importance of constraints, criticism and collaboration, how the auteur theory can spin out of control, knowing when to quit and be finished…

Well worth a watch.

The People Vs. George Lucas

It suffers from being just a tad too long (it’s a rare movie that needs to be more than 90 minutes, and it’s a very rare documentary that needs to be more than 60) but I liked this documentary quite a bit. Here’s The Atlantic:

The central question is this: What does a creator owe his fans, and what do the fans owe the creator in return? […] Does Lucas have the right to go back and change his films, and then make the originals more or less unavailable? At what point do creative works become more the domain of the public than the creator?

As a casual fan of Star Wars, I actually learned a lot about Lucas. For instance, I didn’t know he was in a car crash as a teenager, and that was a major event in getting his life on track: “I thought, well, I’m here now, and every day now is an extra day.”

While I despise the existence of the prequels and the tinkered-with versions of the original episodes, I also found myself really sympathizing with Lucas. (He is, after all, the man who created Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and my beloved LucasArts game company.) Lucas started out as a film student who wanted to make personal, experimental films. In a lot of ways, Star Wars is the worst thing that could’ve happened to those ambitions. This idea is most clearly expressed by Francis Ford Coppola, one of Lucas’s oldest friends:

The great success of Star Wars didn’t leave to the [independent films] and the personal filmmaking. George never made another film after that. Instead, he became a producer and an entrepreneur…We were deprived of those films that he was going to make and might have made. And instead we have an enormous industrial marketing complex…. No matter how many billions of dollars Star Wars could earn, no matter how valuable that franchise is, it isn’t worth a tenth of what he’s worth as an artist and what he’s capable of doing.

There’s a ton of things Lucas’s story makes me think about: the perils of success, how often worldbuilding and merchandising go hand-in-hand, the importance of constraints, criticism and collaboration, how the auteur theory can spin out of control, knowing when to quit and be finished

Well worth a watch.

Sep 17, 2012
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Los Angeles Plays Itself


  CalArts professor Thom Andersen’s long-form video essay on his city and its countless representations throughout cinematic history. After its almost three information-dense yet rhythmically meditative hours, you may emerge with a clear, new understanding of southern California’s many-centered, 500-square-mile metropolis. If you don’t, you’ll at least come away with a clear, new understanding of the impossibility of understanding Los Angeles with any clarity whatsoever, and you’ll have taken an idiosyncratic, opinionated visual tour of hundreds of films new and old, respected and ridiculous, canonical and disposable.


Like a 3-hour supercut on steroids, it’s a long watch that loses steam at the end (partially due to the gradually increasing righteousness of the monotone noirish narrator), but it’s really fascinating, and made me want to visit LA even more than I already did.

Filed under: my watching year 2012

Los Angeles Plays Itself

CalArts professor Thom Andersen’s long-form video essay on his city and its countless representations throughout cinematic history. After its almost three information-dense yet rhythmically meditative hours, you may emerge with a clear, new understanding of southern California’s many-centered, 500-square-mile metropolis. If you don’t, you’ll at least come away with a clear, new understanding of the impossibility of understanding Los Angeles with any clarity whatsoever, and you’ll have taken an idiosyncratic, opinionated visual tour of hundreds of films new and old, respected and ridiculous, canonical and disposable.

Like a 3-hour supercut on steroids, it’s a long watch that loses steam at the end (partially due to the gradually increasing righteousness of the monotone noirish narrator), but it’s really fascinating, and made me want to visit LA even more than I already did.

Filed under: my watching year 2012

Sep 13, 2012
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The Story of Ziggy Stardust: How David Bowie Created the Character that Made Him Famous

This great BBC Documentary shows that Ziggy Stardust was less a creation of a lone genius and more a creation of what Brian Eno calls a “scenius.”

When Ziggy walked onstage and blew everyone in Britain’s minds, Bowie seemed like an overnight success, but in fact, he’d spent over a decade trying to “make it.” It was the combination of Bowie’s amazing talent, his knack for knowing what to steal from whom (Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Little Richard, Andy Warhol, Vince Taylor, etc.), and a small army of people including his wife Angela, who provided him with encouragement, costumes, and hair; his band, The Spiders from Mars, with Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, and Woody’ Woodmansey on drums giving him his sound; dance instructor Lindsay Kemp, who taught him a flare for theatrics; and his manager, Tony DeFries, who funded him and decided to make him a star.

Great watch.

Filed under: David Bowie

Feb 16, 2012
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RIP! A REMIX MANIFESTO

If you loved Everything is a Remix, be sure to check out RIP! A REMIX MANIFESTO, a documentary about Girl Talk, fair use, and remix culture released in 2009, free to watch online.

RIP! A REMIX MANIFESTO

If you loved Everything is a Remix, be sure to check out RIP! A REMIX MANIFESTO, a documentary about Girl Talk, fair use, and remix culture released in 2009, free to watch online.

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