Category Archives: Documentary

In Theatres: MISERY LOVES COMEDY

misery loves comedyComing to theatres tonight, Friday, April 24: MISERY LOVES COMEDY

Kevin Pollak’s exploration of the process behind stand-up comedy had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. The film just screened at Tribeca after being released on VOD earlier this month.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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In Theatres: THE GREAT MUSEUM

the-great-museum_592x299Coming to theatres today, Friday, April 24: THE GREAT MUSEUM

Johannes Holzhausen’s insider tour of one of Austria’s finest art institutions debuted at Berlin last year. It has gone on to screen extensively, including berths at San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney, New Zealand, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, London, IDFA, CPH:DOX, Biografilm, Reykjavik, Vancouver, and the Hamptons.

Part of a recent spate of nonfiction focused on museums, which includes sprawling multi-hour works like Frederick Wiseman’s NATIONAL GALLERY, Oeke Hoogendijk’s THE NEW RIJKSMUSEUM, and the omnibus CATHEDRALS OF CULTURE series, Holzhausen’s more contained foray into institutional operations focuses on Vienna’s impressive Kunsthistorisches Museum, established by the legendary Hapsburgs in 1891. As cleverly revealed in its opening sequence, which tours through the massive interior of the spectacular building until it follows a workman into a grand hall where he abruptly begins tearing up the floor, the film’s throughline is the renovation and reinstallation of the museum’s Kunstkammer galleries. Beyond this undertaking, the museum staff’s daily routines are observed, from investigating potential insect damage to old canvases and repairing timeworn artifacts to thanking donors for bequeathing a cherished family heirloom of historical significance to holding a staff meeting which, in a pleasantly awkward moment, reveals levels of hierarchy between curatorial and service staff. Holzhausen brings an informed art historian’s eye to his camera’s unobtrusive wanderings around the museum, but also has a knack for capturing these human moments among the grandeur, making for both an enlightening and relatable look at this rarified institution.`

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In Theatres: KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK

kurt cobainComing to theatres tomorrow, Friday, April 24: KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK

Brett Morgen’s reflection on the iconic Nirvana frontman made its bow at Sundance earlier this year. It has gone on to screen at Berlin, Miami, Dublin, and Full Frame, among other events. It will screen at the upcoming Hot Docs, and come to HBO next month.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On TV: NOW EN ESPAÑOL

now en espanolComing to PBS’s Voces series tomorrow, Friday, April 24: NOW EN ESPAÑOL

Andrea Meller’s behind-the-scenes look at TV’s efforts to serve Spanish-speaking audiences made its world premiere at Santa Barbara earlier this year. Other fests have included Big Sky, CineFestival, and Chicago Latino, in addition to community screenings around the country.

Meller’s film explores the challenges faced by non-white actors in a still far too whitewashed Hollywood by exploring the experiences of the five Latina actresses cast as the Spanish voice cast for ABC’s DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES series, part of a short-lived initiative by the network to reach broader Spanish-speaking audiences by providing dubbed versions. With a cast consisting of two Mexicans, a Venezuelan, an Uruguayan, and an American of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, the trashy nighttime comedy/drama soap cast easily conveys the diversity that exists within a generically oversimplified “race” which is usually confined to stereotypical services or background roles in film and TV, if that. Still, where Meller falters is in trying to adopt DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES’ cheeky tone – while the show was successful enough to last eight seasons, it lost its mass popularity early on and hasn’t been on the air for three years. In tying her work too slavishly to a now-defunct series rather than opening it up to move beyond a single show, Meller’s documentary very quickly begins to feels very dated and very niche. Still despite this structuring drawback, she has managed to find engaging subjects who make pointed observations about the limited opportunities afforded to Latino/a performers in a backward thinking entertainment industry.

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In Theatres: SHOWRUNNERS

showrunners_592x299Coming to NYC’s Maysles Cinema tonight Thursday, April 23: SHOWRUNNERS: THE ART OF RUNNING A TV SHOW

Des Doyle’s behind-the-scenes look at how television gets made debuted in Ireland as part of Dublin’s Stranger Than Fiction doc festival. Screenings followed in Zurich and Austin, as well as a theatrical release in Los Angeles and a VOD release.

I previously wrote about the film here.

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In Theatres: REVOLUTION

imgresComing to theatres today, Wednesday, April 22: REVOLUTION

Rob Stewart’s environmental call to action debuted at Toronto in 2012. It has also screened at Vancouver, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, Reykjavik, and Wild & Scenic, among others. While its initial theatrical release came several years ago, the film is now being re-released globally as a tie-in to Earth Day.

Stewart, whose festival and release tour with his previous documentary, SHARKWATER, about the decimation of sharks, took him around the world, unwisely turns his camera on himself as he expands his scope to consider the damage being done to earth’s oceans. While the scattershot survey he offers – which theoretically focuses upon ocean acidification, largely the result of man’s rampant abuse of fossil fuels – is generally informative, it doesn’t present anything particularly new that hasn’t been covered in numerous other environmentally-themed docs. Worse still, the filmmaker seems to think his presence is needed not only as a hopelessly awkward conversational narrator, but on camera meta-revisiting his previous film, interacting with other subjects, and participating in climate change protests, which makes the entire project feel utterly self-serving.

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On DVD: KUNG FU ELLIOT

kung fu elliotNew to DVD this week: KUNG FU ELLIOT

Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau look at Canada’s would-be action hero premiered at Slamdance last year. It went on to screen at Sarasota, Hot Docs, Awesome Fest, Fantasia, and Fantastic Fest, among others.

I previously wrote about the film here.

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