Category Archives: Documentary

Syria-Themed Documentary Shorts Are of the Times

The White Helmets.jpg
“The White Helmets”

Two months ago, I encouraged several people to watch this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. My only instruction: have tissues handy. Hard-hitting themes ranged from Syria, to end-of-life decisions in an ICU, to Syria, to the Holocaust, to Syria.

So months before the White House fired its missiles in the direction of the Middle Eastern country this week, the Academy was providing us privileged folk sitting in soft recliners with varied perspectives on the crisis that’s happening halfway around the world—where instead of privilege there are regular shellings, and instead of soft recliners there are scared children. The nominated documentaries, “The White Helmets” (the eventual winner), “Watani: My Homeland,” and “4.1 Miles” each offer a completely different take on Syria’s civil war, and each gives us reason to care. This is essential viewing. Below I give a brief synopsis for each film, including the full version of “4.1 Miles.”

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New York Film Festival Recap

As the 53rd New York Film Festival wrapped with Closing Night selection Miles Ahead, a bio-drama on “social music” (don’t call it jazz) legend Miles Davis, starring and helmed by Don Cheadle in his directorial debut, it’s time to look back on some of the Festival’s best offerings.

BRIDGE OF SPIES

In Steven Spielberg’s Cold War-era drama, Tom Hanks plays a Brooklyn insurance lawyer who must broker a sensitive prisoner exchange with the USSR. Once again, Spielberg proves he’s at the top of his craft. Hanks turns in a solid performance, but it’s supporting player Mark Rylance who steals his scenes as a Soviet spy with his too-cool-it’s-unnerving performance.

In Theaters: October 16

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The Hamptons Goes Cinematic

The 23rd edition of the Hamptons International Film Festival launched its five-day run last Thursday with Opening Night selection Truth, the true newsroom drama starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford. With a healthy selection of world premieres and Oscar hopefuls (including nine foreign language submissions), the festival is primed to bring some of the world’s best cinema to Long Island. Here’s a small sampling of what’s on the slate.

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On My DVR: “Night Will Fall” (2014)

When I heard that a lost Hitchcock film was found, I knew I had to learn more, even if it were a doc, perhaps unlike anything he had previously made. As a huge Hitch fan, I’m looking forward to learning more about the film that researchers only recently uncovered.

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
Researchers discover film footage from World War II that turns out to be a lost documentary shot by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein in 1945 about German concentration camps.

Director: André Singer
Screenwriter: Lynette Singer
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter (narrator), Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Bernstein
Distributor: HBO Documentary Films
Runtime: 75 min.

Oscar-Nominated Films on Netflix

With 9 nominations, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL ties BIRDMAN with the most nominations. Watch THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, currently available on Netflix.

This morning, the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced. View all nominees here.

If you’re like me, you watch as many of the nominated films as possible before the ceremony (on February 22 this year). Got some catching up to do? Watch 11 of the nominated films, currently on Netflix.

Available Via Streaming

Ida

  • Best Foreign Language Film (Poland)
  • Best Cinematography

Virunga

  • Best Documentary

Available Via Netflix DVD

Begin Again

  • Best Original Song

Boyhood

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Film Editing

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

  • Best Visual Effects

Finding Vivian Maier

  • Best Documentary

The Grand Budapest Hotel

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Production Design

Guardians of the Galaxy

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Visual Effects

The Lego Movie

  • Best Original Song

Maleficent

  • Best Costume Design

X-Men: Days of Future Past

  • Best Visual Effects

New York Film Festival Review: Citizenfour

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

Edward Snowden and reporter Glenn Greenwald in CITIZENFOUR

Series: Special Presentation (World Premiere)

Who would have thought the year’s greatest thriller would be a documentary? In the days following Citizenfour’s world premiere at the New York Film Festival last Friday, various news and entertainment outlets have been lauding filmmaker Laura Poitras’s achievement, and rightfully so. Of all the films this reviewer screened at the 52nd New York Film Festival, none has left an impact quite as deep as Citizenfour.

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2014 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks

NOTE: I edited and partly wrote the following feature for LimitéMagazine.com.

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

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Keira Knightley and Adam Levine in BEGIN AGAIN
Summer may not officially begin until June 21, but “summer movies” have already begun to make waves at the box office. And while filmgoers succumb to the traditional summer movie fare—including superheroes and sequels, Transformers and talking apes—the indie box office is primed to serve up something different with a bit more depth. This summer, we challenge you to venture beyond the shallow side of the pool and dive into the deep end. Here’s our annual Top 10 list of what you will find there.

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2014 Oscars: Short Film Shortlists

84th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

In the past few weeks, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed the shortlists for all short film categories for the 2013 Oscars. Official nominations will be announced on January 16, 2014. Here’s what will be vying for a nomination in all three categories:

LIVE ACTION

  • “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me),” Esteban Crespo, director (Producciones Africanauan)
  • “Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything),” Xavier Legrand, director, and Alexandre Gavras, producer (KG Productions)
  • “Dva (Two),” Mickey Nedimovic, director, and Henner Besuch, director of photography (Filoufilm Dani Barsch)
  • “Helium,” Anders Walter, director, and Kim Magnusson, producer (M & M Productions)
  • “Kush,” Shubhashish Bhutiani, director (Red Carpet Moving Pictures)
  • “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?),” Selma Vilhunen, director, and Kirsikka Saari, screenwriter (Tuffi Films)
  • “Record/Play,” Jesse Atlas, director, and Thom Fennessey, executive producer (Collaboration Factory)
  • “Throat Song,” Miranda de Pencier, director (Northwood Productions)
  • “Tiger Boy,” Gabriele Mainetti, director (Goon Films)
  • “The Voorman Problem,” Mark Gill, director, and Baldwin Li, producer (Honlodge Productions)

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CENTRAL PARK FIVE Is Out, PLAGUE Is In: 15 Documentary Features Named to Oscar Shortlist

How to Survive a Plague

Fifteen documentary features have been shortlisted for the 85th Academy Awards. Of these, five will receive nominations, which will be announced on Thursday, January 10 at 8:30am EST. The shortlisted films are as follows:

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Bully
Chasing Ice
Detropia
Ethel
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
The House I Live In
How to Survive a Plague
The Imposter
The Invisible War
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Searching for Sugar Man
This Is Not a Film
The Waiting Room

(Notable snubs include The Central Park Five and Love, Marilyn.)

New York Film Festival Preview: The Gatekeepers

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZepXBymtkUQ]

Screening: Thursday, October 11, 9pm

Venue: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC

Series: NYFF50: Main Slate

In The Gatekeepers, documentarian Dror Moreh does something unprecedented by interviewing six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Service. Individually, the “gatekeepers” reflect on their successes and failures during the ongoing struggles between Israel and Palestine and the mission for peace. In what is surely considered a strong contender for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, this film is among the most astonishing documentaries of the year. (Moreh sites 2004 Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War as an inspiration.) The level of access Moreh achieves is remarkable, offering a point of view never previously heard in such a medium. The film is ripe with strong narratives as told by each of the six men, as well as varied “textures” that are achieved through sit-down interviews, revealing archival footage, well-composed graphics, and a score that underlines the visuals in a subtle-yet-impactful manner. The narrative can be a bit cumbersome to follow for those not familiar with the political and social struggles between Israel and Palestine, but even still one would be hard-pressed not to appreciate the film’s obvious achievements.

Limité Rating: 4/5

Director: Dror Moreh

Genre: Documentary

Countries: Israel, France, Germany, Belgium

Language: Hebrew with English subtitles

Runtime: 97 min.

The 50th New York Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 14, 2012.