And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Currently browsing the "Documentary" category.

Review: Lucy and Desi (documentary)

Everybody loves Lucy. So it only follows that everybody will at least like the documentary Luci and Desi about the mutually dependent success of one of Hollywood’s original power couples, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The film explores the partnership and legacy of the pair who first met on the set of the 1940 musical comedy Too Many Girls, got married, started a family, created DesiLu productions, developed and starred in the iconic sitcom I Love Lucy, divorced in 1960 after the last Lucy episode was filmed, and remained lifelong friends.

Quickie Review: Mayor Pete (documentary)

Mayor Pete is a fairly conventional behind-the-scenes documentary that provides some insight into what makes Pete Buttigieg tick– but not much. The biggest mystery to me is why it is rated R. Yes, his senior communications advisor has the mouth of a sailor, but her F-bombs shouldn’t preclude political junkies (of any age) from learning just a bit more about the first openly gay presidential candidate and his foray into the very deep pool of democrats who sought to unseat Donald Trump in 2020. He didn’t make the final cut (spoiler alert!), but he did succeed in gaining substantial name recognition – even if that name is a challenge to pronounce.

Quickie review: Julia (documentary)

It’s impossible to watch a clip of legendary cook and teacher Julia Child doing her thing without recalling the brilliantly gross SNL skit (in 1978) that cemented her status as pop culture icon. What I love about the documentary Julia is that it provides context for that skit, confirms that Julia herself got a kick out of it, and imparts additional information and insight about Julia Child’s life, her passions, and her 12-year odyssey to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published in 1961. The revolutionary tome has sold more that 2.5 million copies, and it launched Child onto the public television stage, where she cooked up delectable dishes, paved the way for many of today’s “tv chefs”, and espoused the virtues of butter, butter and more butter! She inspired millions of Americans to conquer their fears around cooking, try new things, and embrace failure as a learning tool. If you love food, you’ll most definitely eat up everything about this documentary. Bon Appetit!

Review: Speer Goes to Hollywood

This documentary which won the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar is one of those unknown but true stories that was begging to be told.  Following the publication of his bestselling memoir “Inside the Third Reich” in 1969, Nazi architect Albert Speer was courted by Hollywood who wanted to make his book into a feature. Paramount won the bidding war and Speer sat down with writer Andrew Birkin (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) for a month in Los Angeles to come up with a screenplay. It never made it to the screen, but the process of its writing is a window into the mindset that allowed the Nazis to rise and flourish for a time, and a maddening portrait of a seductive sociopath.

Nashville Film Festival Rundown

This was my first time (virtually) attending the Nashville Film Festival.  It is close enough for me to drive over, but that was not possible this time around. They had a great slate of films spread over a week. But sadly a lot of the films I’d have loved to see were only available in person, mostly the big prestige flicks. Nevertheless, I did get to see quite a few worthy films from the comfort of my couch. Below is my rundown.

The films are: Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road; Fanny: The Right to Rock; Everybody is Looking for some Light; Poser; Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival; 7 Days; Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine; Potato Dreams; Porcupine; The Good Traitor; Huda’s Salon; Green Sea; Ayar; Luzzu.

Quickie Review: Justin Bieber: Our World

Calling all true Beliebers, this one’s for you! There’s not much more to say other than Justin Bieber: Our World will reaffirm his fans’ love for Justin– the man (when did that happen!?) and the artist– and it may impress those on the fence about the Grammy-winning pop star. The Biebs comes off quite sincere in this concert film that chronicles the run-up to, and the songs performed at a groundbreaking show that took place on New Year’s Eve 2020 on the rooftop of the Beverly Hilton hotel while adhering to a slew of strict COVID-19 protocols.

2fer review: The Salvator Mundi docs

Back in June I saw The Lost Leonardo at AFIDOCS and described it as a great art thriller documentary. I remember when the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the world) painting was front page news and shook up the art world. But the story here begins when an art dealer finds a painting at a small New Orleans auction house and purchases it for $1175. He takes it to a respected art restorer who removes years of over-painting and comes to believe that it is in fact an undiscovered work by the master Leonardo da Vinci.  It goes on to become the most expensive ($450 million) painting ever sold.  And what the twisty documentary does is take the audience behind the scenes as the authenticity of the painting is questioned and then obscured. The cast of characters involved in its journey upward are politicians, art dealers, a Russian oligarch, even Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the question of whether its provenance even matters becomes the big question. It’s a fascinating look inside the hidden art world where owning a piece has nothing to do with its aesthetics and more to do with its perceived worth.

Review: Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali

If you saw the excellent One Night in Miami earlier this year, you’re aware that Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali were close friends. And if you’re like me, you wanted to know more about that friendship. That one night was just a small part of their story. This new documentary airing on Netflix tells what happened before and after. It’s a fascinating and sad story of three years in the lives of two charismatic giants of the 20th century.

Review: The Meaning of Hitler

This timely documentary takes on a huge question: Can we ever really understand Hitler and people’s endless fascination with him? It’s a daunting task, since there have been countless other documentaries, books, and fictions dedicated to that same quest. The filmmakers flit around the world talking to experts and provocateurs who have been thinking on the question for decades. The title comes from a book by Sebastian Haffner, with its chapter titles serving as the structure of the film and jumping off points for discussion. Directed by  Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, The Meaning of Hitler is less a history lesson than a frightening illustration that the very conditions that allowed for Hitler are present and growing today. 

AFIDOCS 2021: Arty Chick’s Download

This year was a distance festival. There were opportunities to be in the theaters in DC, but I chose to watch everything online from afar, on my couch. That’s a mixed blessing. No running from theater to theater. No missing something because it overlapped with another film. No frozen feet from arctic-cooled theaters. Lots of good snuggles with my dog. But also no standing in line with other festival-goers and talking about what we’ve seen and loved. No Q&A’s after the films. (There were some that were available, but it just didn’t seem the same taped from a distance.) And no watching films in some of DC’s beautiful landmarks like the National Archives. A slew of distractions that made it very different from sitting in a dark room with an audience. And for me the worst part was that I don’t have a big screen television, so some of the films were definitely shortchanged.

Nevertheless, it was a good festival and there were several films I will be thinking of for a while. The Audience Award for Best Feature went to one of my faves for sure, Storm Lake. It is a smaller film and I hope that the award will mean it gets seen by a lot more people.

The films I saw were: The First Step – Radiograph of a Family – Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer – LFG – Storm Lake –  The Neutral Ground – The One and Only Dick Gregory – Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union –  Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain – The Story Won’t Die –  Daughter of a Lost Bird –  and The Lost Leonardo.