2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: MISERY LOVES COMEDY

misery loves comedyThe second of two nonfiction projects in the new Special Events section closes out today’s profiles: MISERY LOVES COMEDY, Kevin Pollak’s revealing look at stand-up comedy. Continue reading

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On VOD: THE FIX

fixComing to VOD today, Tuesday, January 20: THE FIX

Laura Naylor’s portrait of recovery debuted at the Soho International Film Festival last year. It went on to screen at AFI Docs and Heartland, as well as festivals in Maine, Flagstaff, and the Bronx.

Naylor’s film is largely set at a Bronx methadone clinic which offers counseling and other programs to help recovering addicts like the protagonist, Junior, manage not only their struggles with heroin, but its consequences – in this case, living with Hepatitis C. Having spent most of his adult years trying to escape life through drugs, a path that cost him custody of his first daughter, he’s now committed to forging a new future by staying clean and getting his new family out of shelter life. Emboldened by his experiences at the clinic working as a peer educator, Junior thrives in a storytelling workshop organized by The Moth, sharing his story publicly to help others make better choices, and, eventually taking steps to repair the rift between his estranged daughter and himself. Naylor has identified an appealing main subject in Junior, a flawed figure who owns up to past mistakes and is still in the process of atoning for them. One wishes he always remained the center of the narrative, however, as occasional digressions with other recovering addicts feel like interruptions, and detract from Junior’s simple, but effective story. Also serving as distractions are the overemphatic score and a tendency toward montages, which make the film feel longer than it is. Still, when centered on Junior’s hopeful but cautious story of redemption, Naylor’s film succeeds far more often than it doesn’t.

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2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST

the jinxNew to Sundance this year is the Special Events section, which includes two nonfiction projects. First up: A preview of the first episode of Andrew Jarecki’s new six-part HBO documentary series, THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST, about the reclusive real estate heir. Continue reading

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On TV & DVD: EDISON

EdisonPageComing to DVD today, Tuesday, January 20 and to PBS’s American Experience next Tuesday, January 27: EDISON

Michelle Ferrari’s chronicle of the life and world-changing work of the legendary inventor will make its debut next week, but due to a scheduling shift, actually comes to DVD a week earlier.

An exploration not only of Thomas Alva Edison’s remarkable creative output – he still boasts more patents than any other single individual – but of his prescience of branding and marketing, Ferrari’s biography is informative, comprehensive, and clearly conveys the radical transformation his inventions wrought on society. While utterly conventional in its structure and approach – heavily reliant on narration to adequately cover Edison’s eight decades, peppered with historian and other expert talking heads to lend some variety – the doc still manages to prove engaging for its two-hour running time, revealing a clear sense of the Wizard of Menlo Park’s creative process, business acumen, ambition, and even hubris – the latter chiefly in his stubborn and short-sighted refusal to adopt alternating current vs his preferred but limited distance direct current. Ferrari’s profile is particularly intriguing in its exploration of Edison’s savviness not only in creating new things but, perhaps more importantly, determining how to bring them into the marketplace and to create awareness and demand. His ability to hype his products, and his awareness of the power of his brand, informs the film’s welcome look at Edison as celebrity, teased out particularly in the last section, covering the man’s waning years.

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2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: 6 DESIRES: DH LAWRENCE AND SARDINIA

6 desiresWinding down this year’s profiles, we turn to the only documentary offering in the Spotlight section: Mark Cousins’ latest essay film, 6 DESIRES: DH LAWRENCE AND SARDINIA, an exploration of the noted author. Continue reading

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On VOD: AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY

american revolutionaryComing to VOD today, Tuesday, January 20: AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS

Grace Lee’s profile of the acclaimed civil rights activist made its bow at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2013. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, AFI Docs, Woodstock, Athena, and the San Diego and Seattle Asian fests, among others. It now comes to VOD platforms including iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, and Vudu.

I previously wrote about the film here.

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2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: STATION TO STATION

station to stationThe third and final New Frontier documentary closes out today’s profiles: Doug Aitken’s STATION TO STATION, an omnibus project exploring creativity on a cross-country train trip. Continue reading

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