Category Archives: Recommendations

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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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 & On VOD: EMPTYING THE SKIES

Emptying-the-Skies-Key-Image-580x300Coming to theatres and to VOD today, Wednesday, April 22: EMPTYING THE SKIES

Douglas and Roger Kass’ chronicle of a fight against avian extinction made its debut at Sheffield in 2013. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Hamptons, Big Sky, Wild & Scenic, Washington DC’s Environmental, Atlantic, and the San Francisco Green fests, among others.

Based on a widely-disseminated New Yorker essay by novelist Jonathan Franzen, the Kass’ film exposes the dangerous consequences of the traditional southern Europe practice of hunting migratory songbirds as a delicacy, and the efforts of an intrepid group of activists who have made it their mission to stop the now-illegal activity. Recognizing that many songbird species are facing extinction, the members of CABS, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, have taken it upon themselves to seek out and sabotage the work of would-be poachers in Cyprus, Italy, and France, risking their own safety as they rescue trapped birds and come up against angry hunters, who stand to profit on the black market in the absence of their meddling. Appropriately opening on Earth Day, the film serves as effective, and often dramatic, environmental advocacy.

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On DVD: FROM NOTHING, SOMETHING

from nothingComing to DVD today, Tuesday, April 21: FROM NOTHING, SOMETHING

Tim Cawley’s exploration of creativity debuted at IFF Boston in 2012. Other fest screenings have included New Orleans, Cleveland, Montreal World, Heartland, Ashland, Cucalorus, Newport Beach, and Sound Unseen, among several others.

Cawley’s film takes a wide-ranging look at the creative process, attempting to understand different approaches, across a variety of disciplines, to tackle the titular problem of making something out nothing. His sixteen subjects – among them a chef, composer, fashion designer, choreographer, comedian, video game designer, scientist, musician, cartoonist, and architect – speak with refreshing candor about the pressures they face and how they overcome them to bring their ideas into reality. The result is an intriguing meditation not only on creativity, but on problem solving, and one that should offer ample inspiration to viewers no matter their specific domain of interest.

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San Francisco 2015: Documentary Overview

imagesThe oldest film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival, opens its 58th edition this Thursday, April 23, kicking things off with Alex Gibney’s latest, STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE, a critical re-evaluation of the late Apple visionary. The event closes two weeks later on Thursday, May 7, after screening nearly 100 features, among them more than 30 documentaries. The following offers some highlights from the latter: Continue reading

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