Thursday, October 28, 2004

10 Election Year Poli-Docs That Are Just About To Become Irrelevant

For no other reason than that election day is five days away, and these movies will lose their relevance almost immediately afterwards here's a list of 10 anti-George W. Bush/anti-Iraq War documentaries that are just about to lose their luster.

I'm hoping they had, or will have, an impact on voters, but, from from the polls I'm seeing it's not looking so good. Regardless, watch 'em while they still have some meaning:

1. FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (Dir. Michael Moore, 2004)

The leader of the pack. Newly released on DVD, this powerful if wildly uneven call for the ousting of George W. Bush from the White House sure makes a convincing case. But, yes, it's a strong case of preaching to the choir. 

2. GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY (Dir. George Butler, 2004) 

This is being considered a last ditch effort to clarify how Kerry's Naval tour of duty in Vietnam and his activism to ending that war really went down, but it's a solid well-made and moving documentary that ideally should help get out the vote. Yeah, I know, dream on.

3. OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH’S WAR ON JOURNALISM (Dir. Robert Greenwald, 2004) Compelling and funny but in an unnerving way. Part of Greenwald’s series of "UN" poli-docs (either as Director or Producer), the others being:



6. UNPRECEDENTED: THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (Dir. Richard Ray Perez & Joan Sekler, 2002)

7. BUSH’S BRAIN (Dir. Joseph Mealey & Michael Shoob, 2004)

9. HORNS AND HALOS (Dir. Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley, 2002)

10. BREAKING THE SILENCE: TRUTH AND LIES IN THE WAR ON TERROR (Dir. Steve Connelly & John Pilger, 2003)

More later...

Friday, October 22, 2004


Now playing at an art house near you:

(Dir. David O. Russell, 2004)

This is the ultimate WTF? movie. It's been a few days since I've seen it and I'm still trying to process. Many critics don't even try to describe the plot or premise, but I'd just say it's about a poet activist (Jason Schartzman) who hires a married couple played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin who bill themselves as existential detectives to sort out problems with his soul.

Oh yeah, there's an overly slick spokesperson (Jude Law) for a Target/Wall Mart type chain and his flighty model wife (Naomi Watts), as well as Mark Wahlberg as a fireman who hates petroleum so much that he rides his bike to fight fires. That's as good as I can do.

The characters all run around spouting lines like "There's no such thing as nothing," and "Nobody sits like this rock sits. You rock rock. The rock just sits and is. You show us how to just sit here and that's what we need."

Some of this is fun, some of it is strained, some of it is just purely baffling. I mean at the end I was more confused than I was by the MATRIX sequels. I mean, now what am I see supposed to be reality and what isn't?

It also doesn't help that HUCKABEES seems stitched together from other movie's styles. The soundtrack by Jon Brion and the color scheme recall the work of Paul Thomas Anderson (MAGNOLIA, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE). The other Anderson, Wes Anderson, comes to mind of course from the casting of Schwartzman (RUSHMORE) and the eccentrically quirky tone.

Also, the screenplay appears to be heavily suggested by the work of Charlie Kaufman (ADAPTATION, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND). So did I like it? I didn't hate it. That's the best I can do.

More later...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

5 Cult Classics That Roger Ebert Didn't Get

Here at Film Babble Blog, film critic Roger Ebert is a well respected legend with his wealth of writings referred to often. 

Even when I’ve disagreed with Ebert, his well thought out and cleverly crafted reviews still make powerful points. However, there a number of times that I’ve felt that Mr. Ebert tragically missed the point so here are:

The Top 5 Cult Classics That Roger Ebert Didn't Get:

1. HAROLD AND MAUDE (Dir. Hal Ashby, 1971) Can this be right? Can Ebert truly be among the out-of-it straight laced critics that horribly misjudged this undeniably influential beyond words cult classic? Yep, he only rewards a movie that many friends, collegues, and family have considered one of the best movies ever with one and a half stars. For shame.

2. FIGHT CLUB (Dir. Peter Fincher, 1999) Two stars. Roger loves the first couple of acts but hates the concluding act. This is from a guy who wouldn't know the Pixies if they were stuck on the same elevator. Whatever Ebert, watch it again and tell me how what is set up in the first third would work better done another way and you and me will be square. 

(Dir. Tim Burton, 1988) 

Again 2 stars. Where's the love for Tim Burton's maniacal masterpiece? It’s times like this that you just have to remember this is the guy who gave COP AND A HALF and HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE rave reviews.

4. HEATHERS (Dir. Michael Lehmann, 1989) Two and a half stars. I mean COME ON! This is a bonafide classic and Ebert's baffled review is painful to read. He writes "Is this a black comedy about murder or just a cynical morality play?" Jesus, Roger - if you have to ask... 

(Dir. D.A. Pennebaker, 1967) 

Okay, so he gave this rock doc three stars, but don't let that fool you. He disses Bob Dylan to such a degree in his review that it's hard to take. I mean, read this sample: “What a jerk Bob Dylan was in 1965. What an immature, self-important, inflated, cruel, shallow little creature, lacking in empathy and contemptuous of anyone who was not himself or his lackey. Did we actually once take this twirp as our folk god?”

Can you believe that? Is Ebert, who wrote two separate reviews of this flick (first in '68 on the movie's original run and then again in '98 on its re-release) that out of touch? I thought it was pretty much accepted that Dylan was putting on those who were asking him square questions and having fun with the media juggernaut. I mean just a couple years before DON’T LOOK BACK was filmed (yes, I’m looking back) Newsweek wrongly accused him of plagiarizing his classic song “Blowing In The Wind,” and countless bandwagon jumpers had co-opted Bob's simple plaintive messages for their own cynical purposes. 

I can't imagine Dylan at that age and time reacting any other way, but to Ebert he's a self serving twirp. I can't quite process this judgement (or lack of). To Ebert's credit he nailed Bob's self indulgent MASKED AND ANONYMOUS monstrosity last year in a scathing review, but that doesn't make right his insulting remarks about one of the most influential film portraits of an artist at his prime in existence.

More later...