Thursday, March 31, 2011

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould 2009 (Grade B+)

Director: Michael Hozer & Peter Raymont
ABOUT: Glenn Gould -- Canadian musician
Featuring: Glenn Gould; Vladimir Ashkenazy; Frances Batchen; Kevin Bazzana; Petula Clark; Victor Feldbrill; Christopher Foss; Cornelia Foss; Don Hunstein; Fliza Foss

sez says: I knew nothing of this man till I watched this--and I was glued to the program once it began.  It is not about his music--which I admit still knowing little about--but what grabbed me was 1) how a person can take something everyone things they know and turn it into something else entirely.  As Gould said--my paraphrase--with practice anyone can play this music perfectly, what it the point of that, I want to find something new in it that no one else has found. 2) I was taken by this life of obsession--that seemed to void all else in his life.  It seems that he still wanted some of the 'normal things' -- like a family-- but he couldn't accommodate them becasue of his obsession. Something in that seems to be a clue to the ways and means and costs of genius. Enough said....leave it that, I like this...not enough to watch it twice--but glad I saw it. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Strange Culture: 2006, (Grade B)

Director: Lynn Herschman Leeson
Cast: Tilda Swinton; Thomas Jay Ryan; Peter Coyote; Josh Kornbluth; Beatriz da Costa; Steve Kurtz; Shoresh Alaudini, Cassie Powell; Larissa Clayton

Plot: a true story--done as docu-drama--but with the end not revealed-- about artist/professor Steve Kurtz, who, on the eve of an exhibit finds his wife dead from a heart attack. He calls for help and medics, suspicions of his art media, which included genetically modified foods, calls in the FBI . Kurtz is accused of bio-terrorism and his life is turned into a horrifying circus for the next few years.

sez says: not the best done documentary I've ever seen--but well enough done to get the story out--and what a bizarre and horrifying story it is!  It suggests our government is WAY out of touch with the intellegencia in the US --and if you want to buy into conspiracy theories--it suggests the government is seeking to censor, to dominate, the frighten, to control our society.

mjc says: I had no idea about this incident It was a sober reminder of the consequences of the Bush Years that still reverberate 

The Athlete, 2009, (Grade B)

Directed by Rasselas Lakew and Davey Frankel
Ethiopia, 2009 , 93 min.
Shown at the African Film Festival, Portland 2011

PLOT: Per the festival organizers... "Ethiopian track and field athlete, Abebe Bikila (1932-1973), was the first black African to win an Olympic medal, and ultimately the first man ever to win two Olympic marathons. This soft-spoken son of an Ethiopian shepherd shocked the Western world when he crossed the finish line barefoot at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Mr. Bikila became an inspiration and a model for Africans everywhere, and the world of distance running would never be the same. But as The Athletedemonstrates in a seamless blend of documentary footage and dramatic rendition, Abebe Bikila’s greatest personal challenges still lay before him. The Athlete is Ethiopia’s first Oscar contender in the Foreign Language Film category, nominated for consideration for 2011."

sez says: exactly what the festival organizers said -- and well done--wonderful story--beautiful presentation. Uplifting all the way. 

mjc says: this is a story I did not know and was glad to see it told so well, and with a glimpse at Ethiopian landscape

Thursday, February 10, 2011

STOLEN, 2009 (Grade B)

Directed by Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw
Western Sahara, 2009 , 75 min.
Shown at the 21st African Film Festival in 2011, Portland Oregon

per the festival "Directors Ayala and Fallshaw set out to make a simple documentary about family reunions in Saharawi refugee camps controlled by the Polisario Liberation Front. Their project became much more complicated when they discovered that many of the dark-skinned refugees were in fact the slaves of those with lighter complexions. Or were they? Was there really widespread servitude or was it something more culturally subtle? The Polisario denied the filmmakers’ assertions, labeled them cultural imperialists, and tried to stop the project. The result is a powerful, suspenseful film, which raises thought-provoking questions about the possibility of documentary objectivity. The film has provoked an ongoing international controversy. Winner of the Best Feature Documentary Prize at the 2010 Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles.  In Hassaniya, Spanish, and English with English subtitles."

sez says: fascinating --this can be understood in so many ways that it is hard to even start to discuss it here.  Is this just a naive look at one example of actual slavery?  (It exists all over the place. It pops up regularly here in the US.  Sex slaves are on the rise again.  And what of wage salves?)  Or are they pawns in an international dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Liberation Frount?  Why dod so may people recant the stories they told the film makers?  Were they not understood --and paid to lie as they are accused of..or are those people under pressure from powers within their own communities and must recant to keep their families safe?  This list of questions is endless...but the  film is worth seeing becasue it will make you ask these questions about a pressing and often ignored social reality: THere are still salves in the world.  Humans still are bought and sold--and even STOLEN.  

mjc says: truth is slippery and slides sideways and creeps out from under rocks and bursts from the mouth's of children. I believe the filmmakers were searching for truth and I don't know if they found it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop, Grade A

Director: Banksy
Awards? none I know of--but it is still early in its life --YES is nominated for an Academy Award
cast: Banksy; Shepard Fairey; Thierry Guetta; Rhys Ifans; Space Invader; Jay Leno; Joshua Levine
sez says: What is art? Can the market place taint art? Is "Street Art / aka Graffitti" as valid of an art form as the "fine art" that hangs in a museum?  Who decides?  Does the market place determine the 'true value' of art?  All of this and ever so much more is tossed up for us to look at in this wonderful documentary.  It features a Frenchman who starts off with a video camera capturing every thing around him, obsessively recording life as he encounters it.  He eventually gets some focus and starts recording 'Street Artists" in action.  He watches them as they get public attention and begin selling their work for BIG $$  -- then he decides to make some art himself--or to hire people to produce images he wants made --and he has an 'opening' that is a gigantic event--hyped to the hilt--- and he becomes rich.  This makes the 'old school' street artists very uncomfortable---and we get to watch.  
mjc says:  What is art--is it cash or consciousness.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Emergency Mine Rescue, NOVA, (Grade B)

Directors: Kate Dart, Nick Evans, Tom Stubberfield
Topic: Rescue of 33 Chilean Miners 2010

This documentary begins in September 2010, following the August collapse of a deep spiral copper and gold mine in Chile in which 33 miners were trapped.  The Chilean government had announced it would takes months to rescue these men--and it promised to do everything possible toward that end.   The film chronicles the fate of the miners, and explains the multitude of challenges faced by both the miners and those working around the clock to bring them safely to the surface.  Via interviews with engineers, NASA experts, medical personnel, and key figures from the companies that provided drills and crucial rescue equipment, the film gives a detailed and scientific account of the events as they unfolded.  Even knowing the outcome in advance --the story manages to build some tension as you see the stress the participants suffer. It is a story of people doing what appears to be impossible and succeeding.  Uplifting stuff. 

DOGS: Decoded NOVA (Geade B)

Director: Dan Child

 "Dogs Decoded" says it is is going to tell us about "the science" that creates the bond between humans and dogs. Evidently dogs are now being taken seriously as a subject to study--and there is some pretty interesting information/ideas that are coming out of that.  An example is the genetics research that illuminate the origin of dogs. More interesting to me is the research that suggests that dogs have an ability to read and respond to human emotions. and that some humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. Also, Dogs and wolves--while both canine--are NOT the same in their response to humans--no matter how hard humans try and create that bond.  Fun stuff...not sure it all qualifies as science.. but people in universities have begun to look at the relationship between humans and animals --and I am glad to see that trend.