Archive for film wish list

Death of a President in Durham

I just found out that the controversial mockumentary, Death of a President is playing in Durham this week at the Carolina Theatre. The film follows a fictional assassination of President Bush in October 2007, mixing archival footage and the fictional story of the assassination. I’ll be in Autsin all weekend for a conference, but I am incredibly curious to see the film, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will play for more than a week. Just out of curiosity: have any of my readers seen DoaP? If so, what did you think?

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TV and Documentary Miscellany

I’m exhausted after two long days of benefits orientation seminars here at my new gig, but I came across a few links I don’t want to lose.

First, Steve Rosenbaum points to a discussion of Current TV, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt’s San Francisco-based cable and satellite channel featuring three- to seven-minute video clips produced by amateur filmmakers and other citizen journalists. As Joe Garofoli’s article points out, early reviews of Current TV were relatively tepid, but in a post-YouTube universe, Current TV has become just a little more timely. I’m hoping to have a little more to say about Current TV later (I just realized this afternoon that my local Time Warner sevice carries it).

Matt Dentler discusses a Boston Herald article on this weekend’s premiere of Snakes on a Plane, noting that the film’s success as a “user-generated movie” may not be measured on its much-anticipated opening weekend, but the following week when word gets around about the film’s quality.

And via Green Cine, a link to Anthony Kaufman’s review of Nice Bombs, Usama Alshaibi’s Iraq documentary, which draws from Alshabi’s perspective as both Iraqi and American. Worth noting: filmmaker Alshaibi has a blog.

Update: I forgot to mention that I caught Jeff Tweedy in concert last night in Raleigh with George (pics). Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m so exhausted this afternoon. Not that I’m complaining–it was a great show.

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Friday Afternoon Film Notes

The ‘heders have had some technical difficulties over the last few days, but hopefully things are returning to normal now. Last night’s Deerhoof concert up in Chapel Hill was excellent, and I also liked Pleasant, the Chapel Hill-based band that opened for them. Pleasant’s sound reminded me quite a bit of Pavement, with the vocalist’s occasional use of falsetto recalling, for me at least, Ted Leo. But I really want to blog about some documentary news that crossed my radar this afternoon.

First, Deborah Scranton’s The War Tapes (IMDB) will be coming to Fayetteville in the next few days. I’m slated to catch a special screening on Monday, but apparently, the film will officially open on Friday. To make The War Tapes, Scranton sought volunteers from Charlie Company, 3rd of the 172nd Mountain Infantry, with 21 soldiers filming at least some material and five soldiers filming for an entire year. The final film features three of these soldiers, with Scranton directing by IM and email and eventually editing the footage into the film in collaboration with the soldiers themselves. When the soldiers returned stateside, Scranton also filmed over 200 hours of interview footage with them. I’ll be very interested to see the reception of the film here in F’ville, given the city’s relationship to Fort Bragg and Pope AFB and, of course, I have been looking forward to seeing the doc for some time. A number of bloggers, including Black Five and Joi Ito have already written about the film, so I’m looking forward to contributing to that conversation.

Now a few notes thanks to Green Cine Daily, starting with Kirby Dick’s petition to the MPAA requesting that it overhaul it’s secretive (and often arbitrary) ratings system. The petition is related to Dick’s documentary about ratings board practices, This Film is Not Yet Rated (blog).

Also intriguing: the documentary Anytown, USA, which, like Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, takes a much-needed look at how we go about electing people to office. And finally, there’s Helvetica a feature-length documentary about typography and graphic design. As the website points out these questions intersect with issues in media studies and urban studies.

Update: Entry edited to correct and clarify information about the making of The War Tapes.

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Debating Guantanamo

With the Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross documentary Road to Guantanamo, which focuses on the story of the Tipton Three, hitting DC theaters this weekend, I’ve been tracking down a few reviews and commentaries to prepare for the film. While I agree with Eugene Robinson that Guantanamo should be closed, I know a little less about the specifics of the story of the Tipton Three. I’ve been planning to link to David Lowery’s review of the film for several days, in particular because of David’s discussion of Winterbottom’s decision to mix interviews with the Tipton Three and re-enactments of their treatment in Guantanamo. David argues that the mixture renders the re-enactments less effective as rhetorical devices. Also worth noting: a dialogue between two IndieWIRE reviewers about Guantanamo. I’m planning to see teh film Friday when it opens, and if I’m not too busy with the move, I’ll write a review then.

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Media That Matters Film Fest

While I’m on the topic of cool film events, I thought I’d mention the Media That Matters Film Festival, scheduled for June 29 in Washington, DC. I’m particularly intrigued by Something Other Than Other and The News is What We Make It, but in general it looks like an interesting sereis.

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Frameline30 in San Francisco

More film festivals I wish I could attend: I got an email tip the other day about Frameline30, the 30th San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival and a related conference, Persistent Vision Conference, which focuses on the future of queer media arts. As usual, the festival schedule is loaded with films I wish I could see. I know I have a few readers within driving distance the San Francisco area (or at least a short train ride), so if you have some time, take in a film or two.

Side note: the conference has a blog, with one recent entry reporting that Batwoman is coming out as a lipstick lesbian in an upcoming comic book story arc. Matt Florence, the conference co-coordinator, suggests the Wachowski Brothers to direct the inevitable film adaptation, but I’d love to see what Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner would do with this material.

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Last-Minute Screening Suggestion

Almost forgot to mention that the DC Jewish Cultural Center(DCJCC) will be screening Marian Marzynski’s documentary film Anya (In and Out of Foucs) tonight at 7:30 PM. According to the reviews I’ve read on the DCJCC website and in DC’s City Paper, the film makes extensive use of Marzynski’s home movie collection in telling his story and the story of his daughter, Anya. Worth noting: the director will be present at the screening.

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American Zeitgeist Screening

Via an email tip I’ve just learned about what sounds like a fascinating documentary, Rob McGann’s American Zeitgeist: Crisis & Conscience in an Age of Terror, which will be screened Thursday June 15, 2006, at 7:15 Pm at the New York Society for Ethical Culture to promote the documentary’s DVD launch (check out the trailer). The New York screening will feature a post-film debate between Christopher Hitchens and Mahmood Mamdani.

According to the film’s website, Zeitgeist “explores the underlying fractures of the War on Terrorism, considering how what America is, what it does and what it represents have become the most explosive questions on the world stage since September 11th.” Experts interviewed for the documentary include Richard A. Clarke, Peter Bergen, Daniel Benjamin, Steven Simon, Jessica Stern, Samantha Power, Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Hamid Dabashi, and many others, bringing in a wide array of political and disciplinary perspectives on the war.

I haven’t had the opportunity to see Zeitgeist, but the doc has received some high praise for situating the war on terror historically. If anyone attends the June 15 screening, I’d love to hear about it, but no matter what, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the DVD.

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An Inconvenient Truth Trailer

I haven’t written very much about the new documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth featuring former VP Al Gore, but that’s not because I’m not incredibly curious to see the film. While Gore’s documentary doesn’t quite have the massive buzz of Fahrenheit 9/11, Gore’s star power and the recent stirrings of renewed attention to global warming are setting up a documentary to become one of the more high-profile movie events of the summer. The film’s trailer, available on YouTube, effectively sets up An Inconvenient Truth as the “most terrifying movie of the summer,” complete with dramatic music and depictions of some of the more dramatic long-term effects of global warming.

Promoting the film has also provided Gore with his widest audience since the 2000 election, including this fantastic Saturday Night Live spoof in which Gore appeared in a mock-up of the Oval Office, addressing the audience as President. What I like about the SNL skit is that Gore parodies his straight-laced campaign while still landing several jabs at Bush’s presidency, commenting at one point, “On a positive note, we worked hard to save Welfare, fix Social Security and of course provide the free universal health care we all enjoy today. But all this came at a high cost. As I speak, the gigantic national budget surplus is down to a perilously low $11 trillion dollars. And don’t get any ideas. That money is staying in the very successful lockbox. We’re not touching it.” But what the SNL skit also illustrates is that the documentary will shape public dialogue about environmentalism, even for people who are unable to see the film, and this discussion should be felt for some time.

An Inconvenient Truth has a staggered release, which means that while it will open in some cities on May 24, it won’t reach DC until June 2, but it looks like Paramount is planning a relatively wide release. But, again, I’m almost as interested in the promotion of the film as the film itself, which was produced by Participant Productions, the indie production company that has sought to use films to encourage audiences “to participate in making a difference.” Will be interesting to see how this doc contributes to public dialogue about global warming.

Update: Just wanted to add this link to the Howard Kurtz “Media Notes” column from the Washington Post, which points out that the Truth hype is interesting, in part, because Gore’s 2008 aspirations aren’t yet clear. Of course Gore has claimed to be a “recovering politican,” but as Gore himself observed, there’s always potential for a “relapse.” Kurtz’s survey of blogworld lays out several compelling narratives (Gore as Comeback Kid, Gore as “what might have been”), which makes the publicity and promotion of the film that much more interesting.

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A Messiah in the District

Just a quick note to my DC readers that Chris Hansen’s highly entertaining mockumentary The Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah will be playing here in DC on July 6 as part of Sujewa’s Capital City Microcinema series. The film will be playing at the historic Kensington Row Bookshop.

Chris’s film has been accepted to several film festivals and has been getting some good blog buzz, including this review from Lance Mannion, so if you’re in the DC area in July (I’ll be in Fayetteville by then, unfortunately), please try to check it out. The details: Messiah will be playing Thursday, July 6th, at 7pm, at the Kensington Row Bookshop, which is located at 3786 Howard Ave., in scenic Kensington, MD.

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DC Movie Events

Currently distracted, but a few more DC movie events that are worth noting. The AFI Silver is currently running Sean Connery and Robert Altman retrospectives. I’ll admit that I’m less than enthiusiastic about Connery as an actor (he’s by far the best James Bond), but he has had the good fortune to work with some great directors (Martin Ritt, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, to name a few). Since I’m only going to be in DC for a few more weeks, I’m hoping to make it to a few of these screenings. In particular, I’m hoping to catch Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes.

The Altman retrospective also looks quite good, highlighting many of his best films (Short Cuts, The Player, Nashville), but of the featured films, I’m probably most curious about The Long Goodbye, which I’ve somehow managed to miss even though I like Altman quite a bit.

Also just noticed that tonight is the last night of the DC installment of the 48 Hour Film Project, whihc I somehow manage to miss every year There’s a “Best Of” screening on May 25th, which looks like a good alternative. But my Atlanta readers might be interested in knowing that the Project will be rolling into your neck of the woods on the weekend of May 19th. Here’s the full schedule, and with at least two stops in the Tar Heel State, I may be able to catch the fest later on this summer.

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DC Late Spring Screens

Via Green Cine: a tip from Acqarello on an upcoming series of Theo Angelopoulos’ films at the National Gallery of Art here in DC. I’ll admit that I’m relatively unfamiliar with Anglopolous, but this looks like a good opportuinty to see some interesting films.

Also while I’m thinking about it, a reminder that the premiere of Sujewa’s Date Number One is scheduled for this Saturday, May 13 at 7 PM, at the Goethe-Institut (right next to the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop).

Update: I forgot to mention that David Lowery’s film, Deadroom will be screening in DC on Thursday, May 25th, at 7 PM, at Kensington Row Bookshop as a part of Sujewa’s Capital City Microcinema series.

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Jonas Mekas Reminder

Just a quick reminder that the Hirshhorn Museum will be screening Walden and Happy Birthday, John tonight (Thursday, May 4) and Reminiscense of a Journey to Lithuania tomorrow night.

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Where is My Mind?

Via Documentary Insider (DI) news about two cool documentaries, loudQUIETloud: a film about the Pixies and Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. I pretty much missed the Pixies the first time around in the late 1980s because I was somewhat oblivious to the whole college radio thing (in part because my college was, umm, isolated–and not just geographically), but more recently I’ve become a big fan. Sara at DI has a very positive review of the Pixies doc and the trailer looks very promising. And I have Oliver Stone and Atom Egoyan to thank for introducing me to Leonard Cohen’s music (say what you will about Natural Born Killers, that soundtrack is amazing). The trailer for his film also looks promising, with Cohen displaying a wry sense of humor that I enjoyed.

Now I really should be grading….

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Friday Film Notes: DC and NY

First in New York, Boing Boing mentions that Don Cheadle’s documentary short, Journey into Sunset is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC on April 26. The film documents the stories of “night commuters,” the Ugandan “children who have to flee their homes every night and hide in urban camps to avoid being forced to fight in the rebel Lords Resistance Army.” The film’s website reports that more than 30,000 children have disappeared over the last twenty years.

In DC we have the 20th Annual Washington DC International Film Festival. Recommended viewing: James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments, which I’ve heard is an amazing documentary. The Saturday screening is sold out, but as of last night, Sunday’s screening still has tickets available. The director will attend both screenings. Playing tonight: Hsiao-hsien Hou’s Three Times and Matt Mochary and Jeff Zimbalist’s Favela Rising, among many other cool-looking films. Bettie Page may have to wait.

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