WE ♥ DOCS
We all know that movies can change lives, in small ways and in big ways. But that change is often internal, and it's hard to track exactly how we are affected. The documentary Life, Animated (which premiered at Sundance) is an absolutely wonderful documentary that perfectly captures how one autistic boy learned to communicate and engage with the world through Disney animated movies. It's a triumphant and inspiring story, but it's also a beautiful documentary that features many clips from Disney movies as well as original animation (by Mac Guff). The film is about Owen Suskind, following him as he moves into his own place for the first time in his life. His entire VHS collection of Disney movies is the very first thing he unpacks.
It brought a smile to my face to see Jon Stewart profess his love and great admiration for Norman Lear. The first film I screened on opening night at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival (my 10th year back) was the documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, about the legendary TV writer/producer Norman Lear. Now 93 years old, he still seems full of life, so happy, and more than willing to tell stories and reflect back on his experiences. It's a delightful, amusing, engaging and very timely documentary that actually examines how much Lear pushed forward against stubborn conservative fears. More than anything, I hope this doc goes on to remind people that creativity and ingenuity can outsmart traditionalist values.
"I can not only imagine artificial intelligence evolving spontaneously on the internet, but I can't tell you it hasn't happened already…" The AI revolution has already begun! And we don't even know it yet. Another new trailer has arrived online for Werner Herzog's new Sundance documentary Lo & Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. Herzog spends time wondering about the internet, and the way it connects people, as hinted at with this first trailer. However, this second trailer focuses more on robotics and artificial intelligence - and the potential future where these have taken over completely, and we've evolved passed the need for physical human connection. That seems like quite a distant thought, but that's why it's fascinating to consider. The doc plays at the Sundance Film Festival starting this week - watch for reviews to hit soon.
Back to Sundance we go for another year of discovery. What's on the line-up this year? Out of the 120+ films showing at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, I've chosen 10 that I'm looking forward to seeing the most. To keep things well balanced, I've chosen 5 feature films and 5 documentaries from the line-up. There are so many films playing at the fest, and so many I'll end up seeing (30+), that this is a quick list to get everyone acquainted with some of the work premiering in 2016 (and why I'm so excited for these). From docs about tickling competitions, to features about Obama's first date. Nothing like seeing movies in the mountains.
"The word geek didn't even apply to us, we were just 'idiots' that were doing this stuff." VICE recently premiered this short documentary called My Life In Monsters, profiling the legendary Phil Tippett, a special effects legend who was worked on everything from Star Wars to Jurassic Park to Starship Troopers to RoboCop and so much more. His specialty is stop-motion, inspired by the great Ray Harryhausen, and he had a hand in designing so many of the iconic moments from the original Star Wars trilogy. This is an extensive and detailed doc that covers his entire career, and is a must watch for any who loves the magic of the movies. It also nicely compliments the recent Holochess making of video for The Force Awakens. Enjoy!
"We have to make a decision." The first trailer for a Sundance 2016 documentary has premiered, thanks to our friends at The Film Stage for the tip. It's a doc called The Land of the Enlightened, a "creative documentary" made by Pieter-Jan De Pue shot over the course of seven years in Afghanistan. He follows a group of Afghan kids in a gang who dig up old Soviet mines and sell them. It's another unique perspective on the wars in the Middle East, this time from the angle of a group of young kids growing up. There is some incredible footage in this. The Land of the Enlightened looks like a doc worth seeing if you're at Sundance.
The Sundance Film Festival has announced an additional 7 more films/events that have been added to the 2016 line-up. Sundance kicks off in the second half of January, running through the end of the month. The rest of the line-up including Midnights, In-Competition Films & Docs, Premieres & Spotlight features have already been announced. These last few put the total for the 2016 festival at: 123 feature-length films playing, representing 37 countries and 49 first-time filmmakers, including 30 in competition. These were selected out of 4,081 feature-length film submissions. One of the new ones below is a documentary called Tickled, made in New Zealand, about a journalist who "stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition".
"My mission - I will invade countries with names I can mostly pronounce, take the things we need from them, and bring it all back home." The first full trailer has debuted for the new Michael Moore documentary Where to Invade Next, one of the best docs of 2015. Seriously - I love this documentary because it really gets deep down to the issues plaguing this country and how they can be solved, if only we would open our minds and work together. Moore travels to countries around Europe in this, exploring the various ways that they've solved some of the problems we can't seem to solve, showing just how behind America really is. Also - screw the MPAA for giving this the R rating, it totally is the doc the "powers that be" don't want you to see.
"A decade ago, in a small village they shared a dream…" Sony Pictures Classics has unveiled a new trailer for the documentary Dark Horse, about an actual race horse, from filmmaker Louise Osmond. The film follows the inspirational story of a group of friends at a small club who breed a racehorse that is seen as the underdog that won't ever win. The film won the big Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary category at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and we featured the first trailer for this earlier in the year. This trailer does a nice job of introducing the characters and explaining the story, and I can't wait to see this doc, I've been looking forward to it ever since Sundance. Just watch this trailer and learn more about the story.
"We're protecting the truth, we're protecting lives." But are they really? That's the real question. This isn't a new trailer, but we're featuring it because the documentary is opening in theaters this week. Killing Them Safely is a documentary about how Tasers are arming some law enforcement agencies with a weapon that is being purported as nonlethal even though it can be deadly. The trailer doesn't show much footage, just some statistics, quotes, and a bit of an interview with one of the guys from Taser. The rest you'll have to see in the doc itself. I will say I'm interested in checking this out. I also have to point out the awesome poster for this doc, also seen below the trailer - impressive design work. If you're at all intrigued, give this doc a watch.
"It takes great storytelling to elevate food criticism to what Jonathan does." What is it like to be a food critic? Find out with this documentary City of Gold, following food critic Jonathan Gold around the city as he explores the various cuisines and fine dining options available in Los Angeles. It's not just a doc about food, it's a story about people, about culture, and about the connections we make and the times we share together over food. I'm not actually familiar with Jonathan Gold or his work, but that doesn't make this any less interesting, as I'm curious to find out how it all works (and if the disguises worl). Try not to get hungry!
"As it gets closer and more probable, being a star is really losing its meaning, but whatever it means - I'm ready." The first official trailer has debuted for the new documentary from Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis) titled Janis: Little Girl Blue. The film received raves out of TIFF and is about the story of rock & roll singer Janis Joplin. This trailer only shows glimpses of the archival footage they've dug up of Joplin singing and laughing and being eccentric and fun. One review says, "Berg is able to craft a much deeper look into the woman behind the myth and the result is unexpected, to say the least." Give this a look.
Premiering at the New York Film Festival tonight is the new documentary from Paul Thomas Anderson. Yep, he made a documentary in the last year, but it's only 54 minutes long (more, more!). The doc is about his friend and collaborator Jonny Greenwood, who he follows to the Mehrangarh Fort in India to be hosted by the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Greenwood was there to record an album with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, and an amazing group of local artists. The doc is said to capture that experience and the music and is "pure magic". Check out this fan-made poster art made to look like a vintage portrait of the Maharaja.
"I'm a driver, I'm an actor, and a filmmaker." FilmRise has debuted the trailer for Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, a documentary about actor/director Steve McQueen trying to make the racing film Le Mans, which was released in 1971. Apparently it was a very troubled, messy production with all kinds of problems and on-set rivalries - resulting in what was a "poorly received" film that didn't really connect with American audiences. The documentary features plenty of archival footage along with some interviews to present a unique, inside look at the production and what really went down. Of course, found within all that footage is McQueen talking about a love for car racing and filmmaking. "This is the story of racing, man."