Saturday, February 23, 2008

WHAT’S WATCHIN’ - Left Overs from ‘07 - PART TWO

Continuing to look at films I missed in the theater in '07, but have caught up with on DVD.  Many of the best documentaries I saw last year have been released on DVD already...  An Unreasonable Man, No End in Sight, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, 51 Birch Street, Crazy Love.  I haven’t heard a DVD release date announced yet for Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. But I’m watching out for it. 

Speaking-of-which...  * I noticed playing on PBS next week, something called The Clash Live: Revolution Rock is scheduled to air. Looking further, I see it’s scheduled to come out on DVD in April. So this is a early sneak peak.  * Also on PBS this week on American Masters is the documentaries, I’m excited to see Pete Seeger The Power Of Song. It had a brief theatrical run last year to much acclaim.  * As long as I’m giving some TV tips American Experience has a bunch of new documentaries airing and one of the local PBS stations is re-airing Sisters of Selma, about the Catholic nuns, following Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, who joined up with American Civil Rights protests in Selma.  * Also keep your eyes peeled for another showing on PBS of American Idealist: The Story Of Sargent Shriver. Director Bruce Orenstein doc on the Kennedy in-law and controversial founder of the Peace Corps is so far the best flick of 2008 (even though I caught it on PBS).

Mr Untouchable (Levin)

This excellent documentary by Marc Levin director of the wild Protocols of Zion (2005) tells the true story of 70’s drug king pin Nicky Barnes. He is the creep that Cuba Gooding plays in American Gangster. This has a much different take on the characters in Ridley Scott’s forgettable flick.  

Speaking of which, I may American Gangster another look because I wanted to dig it, but it did nothing for me in the theater. And the other day, the LA Times had an fascinating review of the DVD.

Crossing The Line (Gordon)

A great documentary about the strange US soldier James Dresnok who defected into and is still currently living in North Korea. Daniel Gordon previously made the wonderful doc A State of Mind (2004) about the young North Korean gymnasts.

My Kid Could Paint That (Amir Bar-Lev) On DVD March 4 2008

A four year old NY state child-prodigy becomes the darling of the art world, fetching hundreds-of-thousands of bucks for her Jackson Pollack-like abstract paintings. It slowly leeks out that maybe her would be artist father is the actual painter. This is a blast. It doesn’t take a stand or try to prove the parents are shams. It seemed obvious though. What it really makes a point of is the over hype of the art world. Asking, so a beautiful painting is worth more to a collector if it’s painted by a child instead of some stiff? A terrific flick.

Oswald’s Ghost (Robert Stone)

This doc appears to be about the impact the JFK murder had on culture, but maybe it needed to be longer, because it only skims the many ideas it presents. And frankly it's skewed in the wrong direction. It goes out of it's way to present attorney Jim Garrison as a kook. It washes over the Warren Commission's lies (no matter what you think, one gunman or two, The Warren Commission did a lot of covering-up). It has many goofy unsupported claims, towards the end in explaining why some Americans would be crazy enough to suspect a conspiracy, some 'historian' claims "Americans are historically paranoid". Not sure what he bases that on? it seems to me, if anything Americans have historically been chumps and easily brainwashedAnd then it ends on Norman Mailer giving a long and powerful view of Oswald (the lone nut theory), which sways the casual observer, in possibly the wrong direction.

I’m a big fan of Stone’s earlier flick Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst. And though once this film takes a side, It lost me politically, it still is incredibly well made, entertaining and it has a lot of  great footage never seen before, including clips of Mark Lane (author of  "Rush To Judgment") debating the Warren Commission's young hack Arlen Spector. Watch and enjoy, but with a grain of salt.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Val Lewton The Man In The Shadows (Jones)

Great subject matter, film producer Lewton and his collaboration with director Jacques Tourneur on his noiry horror flicks (Cat People, etc). But I found this doc a little dull. I much more enjoyed the little 53 minute doc Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (Nasr) that came as part of the The Val Lewton Horror Collection DVD box set in 2005

Casting About (Hershey)

A rather boring compilation of actresses audition footage for a unmade film. Possibly of interest to actresses who want to see some heavy emoting. Other’s beware

Czech Dream (Klusák & Remunda)

A number of people expressed dismay with the brilliant comedy Borat, finding the duping of racist and ugly Americans cruel. As a guy who abhors many of those folks, I'm glad they got what, I think they deserve. However, I don’t have anything against the poor everyday idiots of the Czech Republic. So seeing these suckers fall for a new mega-superstore’s ridiculous advertisements and then showing up to shop at what was only a giant facade of a structure, was a little cringe worthy. Still it’s an entertaining look at the power of advertising and the struggles of a country trying to enter the 21st century and the politics of the European Union. It reminded me a little of the hilarious flick The Yes Men (2003).

Terror's Advocate (Schroeder) 

What begins as almost a sequel to The Battle Of Algiers (if you haven’t seen Pontecorvo 1966 Academy Award winning masterpiece, stop reading & go rent it). French expatriate lawyer Jacques Vergès tells his story. He gained controversial fame defending many of the Algerian Freedom Fighters. He saved the Algerian bomber-babe /poster girl Djamila Bouhired from deathrow and then married her briefly. After defending Palestine Hijackers and other terrorists he disapeared into twelve years of self exile and reemerged hanging and representing an all star cast of 20th-Century boogeyman, including Cambodian psychopath Pol Pot and hitman Carlos the Jackal and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie

Previously directing docs about Ida Amin and Koko the talking gorilla, Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune) adds another fascinating subject to his body of work. This challenging epic is one of the best films of recent years.


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