Currently browsing the "Documentary" category.

Review: My Octopus Teacher

With the Oscars just a few days away, I’m trying to catch up on all the ones that slipped by. I’d heard about My Octopus Teacher  from friends, but thought they must be exaggerating when they said they LOVED IT! I mean a movie about a man’s relationship with an octopus. Really? Well, now I get it. It is amazing filmmaking! And it’s in the running for Best Documentary for good reason. It’s a beautifully shot, touching story that teaches us all a thing or two about a creature we probably haven’t give much credit to for its intelligence and ability to communicate, and also about how we humans miss out by giving short shrift to so many fascinating creatures all around us.

Oscar Nominated Shorts 2021

 

The Academy Awards show will take place this year on Sunday, April 25th, much later in the year than usual after it was pushed back 2 months because of the pandemic. As we get ready to fill out our ballots, the shorts are always the big question. So here’s a quick run-down on all three categories: Animation, Documentary, and Live Action.

Review: TINA

To say that Tina Turner is a music icon is a huge understatement. She’s the original Queen of rock & roll and a force of nature. I was too young to appreciate her when she was with Ike and first made her name.  But when she made her comeback after leaving him in the 80s, I saw her on stage and she was electrifying! She was pushing 50, but she owned that stage, strutting up and down stairs in platform heels with the energy of someone half her age. I was in awe and kind of in love.  Not only was she a performer like no other, but her stage presence was that of a kind person who adored pleasing us all.  This new documentary from Oscar-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin leads its audience through her turbulent life and career through interviews with Tina, and her friends and family, some never before seen video, and fabulous performance footage that makes you love her all the more. It’s the story of one of music’s greatest female performers who thankfully rose from the ashes after years in a violent relationship.

Review: Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

We’re all familiar with the celebrity-driven headlines: “Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman Busted for Paying Beaucoup Bucks to get their Kids into Prestige Colleges!” But they weren’t alone. Dozens of rich parents whose names you’ve never heard of were doing the same. All aided by a sleazebag named Rick Singer who built a lucrative career as an expert manipulator of a college admissions system all too eager to make exceptions and turn a blind eye – if the price was right. There’s plenty of blame and shame to go around.

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 11

Most of this week’s films come from the 80s. There’s a jewel heist, a race riot, a dystopian bounty hunter, an academia story, three murderers, a couple of divorces, and a lot of intrigue.

They received 10 Oscar nominations between them, and a lot of other accolades.

This week’s films are:  A Fish Called Wanda, , Do the Right Thing, Blade Runner, Educating Rita, Dance With a Stranger, Brother’s Keeper, His Girl Friday.

 

 

 

Review: FTA

This fascinating documentary is a time capsule from 1971. It follows Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland and the rest of the theatrical troupe Free Theater Associates around America’s Pacific army bases as they perform an anti-war comedy show for the troops. Fonda and Sutherland had just finished working together on Klute and were both anti-war activists. All the skits were taken from military newspaper stories and as you can see in the film, it was a huge hit with the soldiers, many of whom had become anti-war supporters despite still being in the military. The film cuts back and forth between the performances on stage and groups of soldiers talking about their experiences in Viet Nam and the military in general. Black soldiers talk about the racism. Women talk about the sexism. They all talk about the problem of being in a war that nobody wants. It all feels way too familiar. 

Review: Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry

Billie Eilish (aka Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell) first came to the music world’s attention in 2015 when the teenager uploaded her song “Ocean Eyes” to Soundcloud. But she didn’t capture my attention – or the cultural zeitgeist in general until she – of the green hair, baggy clothes and producer brother Finneas – swept the Grammys in 2020. Those two seminal moments bookend the new documentary about the quirky and talented singer-songwriter, now all of 19.

Quickie Review: 17 Blocks

I saw this one at AFI DOCS in 2019, back when we could still go to festivals. And it’s just now coming into theaters virtually. 17 Blocks is a sad and personal gun violence tale. Shot over two decades by a family in Washington, DC, you see kids growing up in a single parent house. Mom is a junkie, though she does try to keep it together. Her three kids do their best.  But there is one kid who is the star, Emmanuel – good grades, nice girlfriend, plans for the future. He lives with his older brother Smurf who he idolizes and sister Denice. And then there is a tragic shooting.

Quickie Reviews: Glitch in the Matrix, Bliss

There is a lot of talk these days in the scientific world about the scary possibility that we are all living in a computer simulation and aren’t actually real. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. But I’m not the only one thinking about it. Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s new film Glitch in the Matrix takes on the question using avatar clad interviewees alongside a famous speech by science fiction author extraordinaire Philip K Dick. Director Mike Cahill fictionalizes the question in his sci-fi flick Bliss. Neither of them really answers the existential question. But Glitch in the Matrix is at least somewhat entertaining. Bliss, not so much.

Review: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela

This immersive documentary was seven years in the making. It takes place in Congo Mirador, a small village bordering Lake Maracaibo in northern Venezuela. At one time it was a thriving little town, but sedimentation and pollution from the country’s oil drilling industry have killing the fishing industry and people are either starving or moving away. Against this backdrop two women are in a personal political fight. Mrs. Tamara is a die-hard Chávista, and so backs Chávez’s successor Maduro and sings the government’s praises, despite how clearly it is not working for Congo Mirador. She’s also the elected representative of the town. Natalie is a schoolteacher who is vocal about her opposition to the current government, risking her job, but defiant. One of them will not come out the winner.