25 May 2009

Outrage vs. Tyson vs. Anvil: The Story of Anvil

As listeners to the show are aware, I'm a documentary fanatic. In fact, when we transitioned the show from public access television to the Interweb air waves, there was a brief debate of reworking the show to only cover documentaries as I've never run across a podcast with that format. Justin told me to "go fuck myself" and that was the end of the debate.
So last week I as in my element when I got to see three press screenings in one day of upcoming (at least for the Cleveland area) documentaries, Outrage, Tyson and Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Outrage is Kirby Dick's latest project. Tyson is James Toback's second documentary. Anvil: The Story of Anvil is the directorial debut of Sacha Gervasi. All three are quite different and I couldn't help but think of Episode #4 where I tried to hash out documentary genres with Justin.

Outrage has the feel, look and style of an investigative journalism project. Kirby Dick just happens to use a video/film camera instead of a computer. He interviews columnists, bloggers, friends, lovers and co-workers about closeted politicians who vote against their own best interests. Larry Craig and Charlie Crist are the main subjects of the film, but there are a host of others in the mix. There is even a fascinating, if brief, look at what the wives' of these men go through. By far the most intriguing interview subject is former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and his ex-wife. Jim McGreevey held a press conference (in 2008 I think) in which he not only resigned as Governor, but came out of the closet too. The film has the feel of a prime time news show that you will never see on any channel (and this lack of coverage in the media is addressed as well) and keeps you watching for the sheer exhilaration of "I had no idea!" and "Who's next?". It's the film equivalent of reading a really well written blog/article. It's not The Celluloid Closet caliber of filmmaking, but it is close. This film falls into the Journalism Documentary category.

Now, Tyson is a different kind of film altogether. I have zero interest in boxing. In fact, I've never watched an entire boxing/wrestling/mixed-martial arts match in my life. I also have zero interest in Mike Tyson. I watched this film only because Justin saw it at the Cleveland International Film Festival this past March. When coming out of the film, he told me nothing of the plot or structure, he simply said, "I cried three times."
My curiosity alone told me I had to check out this film. While I didn't cry during the film, I did have a roller coaster ride of emotions. Everything from this man is quite articulate to this man is an insane animal ran through my head. Mike Tyson narrates his life story with a mix of archival footage illustrating this story. Very simple and very engaging. This film definitely falls into the Biography Documentary category.
And now for one of my favorite films of 2009. Another Biography Documentary. Anvil: The Story of Anvil. I had the same emotions going into this film as I did with Tyson-I have zero interest in heavy metal music and on top of that, I'd never heard of Anvil. Turns out, anyone who shares those feelings will still enjoy this documentary.

It also provides an emotional roller coaster experience similar to Tyson. During one scene, I'm laughing at the ridiculousness of the Eastern Europe tour that Anvil is attempting. Then the next scene has me tearing up as the band members talk about their broken dreams and the hardship of being musicians whose chosen genre (Metal) is no longer in vogue. It's a breezy 89 minutes of film, but it packs quite a punch in that short length. If anyone reading this has seen Some Kind of Monster (the Metalica documentary from a few years back), you will love, love, love, love this film. Justin and I will be discussing this film at greater length on the show, so I'll save any more comments for that episode. Also, I think the less you know about this film, the more fun you'll have. My last thought will be this - keep and eye out for the This is Spinal Tap! references (I counted four), they are hilarious. This film falls into the RockDoc genre with a little bit of Biography throw in for context.

As you may have noticed by this point in this article, it is a companion piece to the previous one about The Other Summer Films. Take a break from the mindless popcorn action event of the week and check out some high quality documentary storytelling.

04 May 2009

The Other Summer Movies

Maybe it is the byproduct of working at an art house theatre and seeing the attendance drop off year after year as the "Summer Movie Season" begins, but I'm starting to get fed up. Regulars who come to the theatre week after week disappear for a few months as they soak up all the latest and "greatest" Hollywood has to offer. Once they finally return, conversations always take place about how bad these event films continue to be.

Sure, there are some exceptions to this statement, The Dark Knight comes to mind, but most of the "Summer Movie Season" goes through the same cycle year after year. It's similar to the "Fall Movie Season" in which there is buzz about how amazing and award worthy films are. Remember last year when The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doubt were "shoe-in's" for all the major awards? All the hype leading up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator Salvation telling us how huge and awesome they are going to be, I'm sure they will end up with terrible reviews and generate only a handful of die hard fans.

So, while the Hollywood box office is covered as if it were news and films grossing $80 million in one weekend are looked on as "disappointments", there are always great films that go by unnoticed. There is a whole host of interesting, if not downright amazing films, that are being independently released and not finding the audience they deserve, until the DVD's are passed around. Here are some recommendations that range from interesting to downright mind-blowing. They are sure to give you a much better film diet over the next few months.

The Other Summer Movies.

The Brothers Bloom
Away We Go
Lemon Tree
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Food Inc
500 Days of Summer
In The Loop
Paper Heart
Dead Snow
The Hurt Locker
The Cove