Making Up for Lost Blog Time

As I’ve already mentioned, I spent the last week in DC looking for an apartment. During my apartment hunt, I stayed with my parents in their RV while they re-explored the city where they lived for about fifteen years in the 1960s and 70s. It was interesting to see them reunite with the couple that introduced them and even more interesting to drive past my father’s tiny apartment on Maryland Avenue, just a few blocks from the Capitol building, and to hear him describe watching the riots that took place immediately after Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. I want to write more about those experiences at some point, though likely in another context.

But one of the things I found most frustrating about staying in the RV was the lack of access to Blogworld and to the Internet in general. So I’ve been spending the morning and afternoon skimming blogs and articles, trying to catch up on a week that now seems somewhat lost (I haven’t even been to the movie theater in something like two weeks). So that’s a really long way of saying this is a catch-all entry for a laundry list of film and media articles and blog entries that have no apparent connection other than the fact that I found them interesting (many links thanks to Green Cine Daily).

In no particular order: Today’s soon-to-be expensive New York Times has an article on Luis Mandoki’s documentary (currently filming) about Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s presidential campaign. The comparisons to Haskell Wexler’s blend of fiction and documentary, Medium Cool, make this film sound like a project worth watching.

Nick at Digital Poetics reflects on one of Errol Morris’ fascinating unfinished projects, The True Strangeness of the Universe. Nick comments, “I wonder if our fascination with the real in digital media–even as we experience that real through more complex interfaces–is in some ways an acknowledgement that we still yearn to be surpised. We yearn for the anarchy of Pure Reality, even if it means rendering that reality through evermore complex codes.” This is a tantalizing question, one that motivates my interest in digital media and the renewed popularity of documentary. It’s also not unlike Benjamin’s celebratory comments (echoing Kracauer) of the ability of the motion picture camera to produce an “unconscious optics” that would allow us to see the world anew.

There’s a Chronicle of Higher Education article on W. Nicholas G. Hitchon, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, and one of the subjects of Mciahel Apted’s “Up” series of documentaries.

Also check out Rob Nelson’s profile of Barbara Kopple, whose latest documentary, Bearing Witness, profiles five female war correspondents. The cinetrix has already spoken very highly (review) of Kopple’s film, which apparently played on A&E while I was in DC last week (anyone know when it will show up on TV again?).

Green Cine also mentions Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’s documentary, The Take. And while I’m thinking about it, I received a lovely emil about a blog promoting the Asian American International Film Festival, but didn’t met a chance to mention it until now.

In The New Republic (free registration required) Elbert Ventura stodgily dismisses the “confessional” documentary genre, commenting that autobiographical docs such as Mark Wexler’s Tell Them Who You Are, Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation, and Nathaniel Kahn’s My Architect, are nothing more than self-healing exercises:

What these works have in common is their makers’ desire to put themselves and their personal traumas front and center. Implicit in each is the notion that the act of filming is integral to personal growth–a prerequisite for the “healing” to begin.

If that sounds not a little facile, that’s because it is.

Maybe I’ll return to Ventura’s comments later, but I think it’s fairly obvious that I disagree. Sure, some of the documentaries may have “contrived” moments, but all three films also avoid the easy answers that Ventura claims to find in them.

Finally, a Guardian profile of Frank Miller, whose graphic novels provided the basis for Sin City.

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