documentary Archive

Minding the Gap

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August 30, 2018 Gordon Houser

Many documentaries have in mind the point they want to get across and make the film fit that notion. A few let themes unfold as they present a narrative. Minding the Gap is one of the latter—and one of the best documentaries to emerge this year, when there are many good ones out. Bing Liu both directs the film and appears in it. It begins by showing skateboarders in Rockford, Illinois, with the camera (held by Liu who is himself on a skateboard) following the graceful, acrobatic skills of the young skateboarders. The music—neither intrusive nor overly dramatic—fits perfectly with […]

The King and Won’t You Be My Neighbor

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August 3, 2018 Jerry L. Holsopple

  Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki takes the front seat in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls Royce to explore America in a new film, The King. The coast to coast drive explores the American Dream, the roots of rock and roll, the 2016 U.S. election and the nature of success using Elvis as the metaphoric story. Ethan Hawke shares, near the end, that Elvis at each juncture in his career chose money, more money rather than what might have made him happy or fulfilled. Jarecki uses this theme to make social commentary on the U.S., suggesting that the dream is dead, or really […]

Three Identical Strangers

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July 27, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The age-old psychology debate of nature versus nurture has been studied and argued for years, but it’s not super splashy. No Hollywood exec is asking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to star in an action thriller where he must choose between his friends Nurture and Nature—all while saving a burning building. As far as I know, Nature vs. Nurture: The Musical isn’t coming to Broadway anytime soon. The new documentary Three Identical Strangers, however, plays out like a compelling mystery, leaving the viewers to believe nature wins—only to turn that whole theory on its head in the second half of the […]

The Power of Art

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May 4, 2018 Gordon Houser

By Gordon Houser A delightful French film, Faces Places, directed by Agnès Varda and JR, is a documentary from 2017 that appeared on many critics’ top 10 lists, and it would have appeared on mine, had I seen it in time. Varda, 89, is a well-known director (she was part of the French New Wave in the early 1960s), and JR, 33, is a photographer known for placing large photos on buildings. The two travel through rural France and create portraits of people they come across, then paste them onto surrounding buildings. These are regular people, not celebrities.   The […]

The Eagle Huntress

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December 29, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Talented bird whisperers train eagles to help them hunt for food and fur in treacherous, bone-chilling winters. Matthew Kauffman Smith with special guest writer, Ella When I took my daughters to the bank when they were younger, the teller would always offer them a sticker. He or she would offer a Disney princess sticker to my daughters, even though one time I saw Spiderman stickers in another stash that was offered to the boys. Given the option, my girls may have selected the princesses, but there’s a good chance they would have chosen an alternative. Now my girls are old […]