1) 4 Little Girls (Spike Lee): Yes, I'm getting my Spike on something serious. This one is about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings which left 4 little girls dead and the civil rights action it sparked. I'm pretty sure I liked it but I don't really remember because I was so into the stories. I loved that they got so many family members to agree to participate.
2) Scared Straight: Encapsulated in hilarity though I know it's not supposed to be. Better because of the 10 and 20-year updates on tape of the kids and the convicts. Made the movie more convincing.
3) Parallel Lines (Nina Davenport): Her journey home to NY where she had a perfect view of the twin towers 2 months after 9/11. She had been working in California. On the long, winding drive home she asked many people how 9/11 changed their lives or how they were impacted by it. The interview with the old black man pissed me off because it was the only black person she talked to and he was toothless and a bit addle-brained with the most dirty, decrepit house you've ever seen and a lawn "decorated" with fake flowers and dozens of empty Sprite bottles. Outrageous. The movie was pretty depressing as you might imagine and has me shying away from other 9/11 films for now. The cinematography was pretty annoying at times and the beginning was awful. I'm starting to see her particular style is autobiographical films which is very whatever to me. I don't see the need to be in my films. Distracting and at times annoying narration.
4) The Man with the Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov): We watched this documentary classic in class. I didn't like it. Very obscure message. I don't like to think that hard when watching films or reading poetry or prose. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Otherwise you're just getting on my nerves. I did like the manufacturing scene and the scene with the "dancing" camera and tripod but apparently everything had these hidden socialist meanings and I was like "What? I didn't get any of that."
5) My Flesh and Blood (Jonathan Karsh): Another thoroughly depressing film. This woman has 13 children, 12 of whom she adopted, the vast majority with special needs. Some have no legs or hands, one was severely burned as an infant, some have life-threatening illnesses. The scenes where she was caring for her critcally-ill children was excruciating to watch.
6) Manda Bala: AMAZING cinematography. Obvious why it won a Sundance award for just that. Follows a corruption scandal in Brazil. Amazing characters, though it did make me consider NEVER going to Brazil to ensure I don't get kidnapped and returned with a missing ear. Some unnecessarily graphic shots.
7) The Laughing Club of India: Hilarious for the first 15 minutes then it dragged. This was a short (25-35 mins) about Laughing Clubs where they laugh and laugh and laugh. Which of course makes you laugh and makes you feel better. Very funny film.
8) Why Can't We Be A Family Again?: Another short. Sad story about these 2 boys who live with their grandmother because their mother is a drug addict. It's about whether or not the courts will give their grandmother custody of the children. Not sure why this made a particularly compelling documentary unless there are people who are so far in their holes they don't know that these sorts of lives are lived daily by some children.
9) We Got Us: Short. Lots of cuts between characters as the story follows 4 old NY Jewish women playing Mah Jong. One story had a character in 2 locations wearing 2 different outfits, bouncing between the same story. Very problematic and bizarre for me. Some interesting conversations but obvious why this was a short-- there's no way you'd want to see this for longer than 30 minutes-- though the choppy editing likely played a part in that particular feeling.
10) Family Values (Eva Saks): Short. Student Oscar winner one year. Liked the opening and closing television adaptations. Still haven't decided how I feel about this entire film being in black and white. It was about a lesbian couple who owns a crime scene clean-up company. They will restore particularly gruesome scenes for example someone blows their head of at home, call them so the family doesn't have to be the one picking up skull fragments, eye balls and brain matter. Kinda gruesome but balanced with the upbeat personalities of the couple. Apt music. I wondered how they got people to agree to camera access in their homes while evidence of this event was being erased.
11) The Sunshine: Short. About a flop house (stay there for $5-7 per night) and the men, and transgender "female" who essentially live there. Awful focus at times. I liked the shots through the bars and different interesting vantage points. Nice ending. You get the feeling that's how the filmmaker heard about the hotel as they like to call it.
12) Mojave Mirage: Short about the phone in the middle of the Mojave desert and the people who come to answer it. I wanted some of the conversations on the other end. Shocking conclusion, cheesy way of showing it at the end with the photographers. Would have been better to show that particular conclusion w/o the photographers.
13) Mad Hot Ballroom (Amy Sewell/Marilyn Agrelo): Followed several schools on the road to a NYC ballroom competition for public school children. I was ambivalent about the topic and whether it would be cheesy but was immediately engaged and at the end actually cheering. Loved it. Great access to some very interesting characters. At some parts for the competition because of the length of the shots, it definitely helps to like dance. Otherwise you may get bored. My favorite movie of the week.
14) Lost Boys of Sudan (Megan Mylan/Jon Shenk): About Sudanese boys who wandered to a refugee camp in Kenya after their families were murdered. Follows their journey to America. Some pretty cinematography. I didn't like the multitude of talks with the Sudanese disparaging American blacks. Once, fine, it shows some perspective but it was almost as though the filmmakers were shocked that the Africans and American Blacks wouldn't immediately accept each other as kindred brothers. Give me a break. There was a sense of community among the Sudanese I would've liked to have seen more overtly, particularly since one of the filmmakers remarked about how he was impressed by that at the end of the film.
15) Grey Gardens (Al & David Maysles): Cinema verite classic documentary. Portrait of a mother and daughter (aunt and cousin of Jackie O) who live in near-seclusion in their dilapidated East Hamptons home. They sing and bicker with each other for the entire film. I was alternately intrigued and annoyed by them. Some call this their favorite documentary. You don't have to worry about me ascribing to it that particular adjective. Definitely one doc students must see, though since it will most certainly be discussed in your classes. The daughter constantly wraps her head in a scarf of some sort, often adorning it with a brooch right over the center of her forehead. Extraordinarily odd. I assume the filmmakers included themselves in the intro portion because of the large amount of time they spent with them, becoming almost like a part of the family. They were spoken to directly and even fed! Very odd relationship not just with each other, but also with the filmmakers.
*Also currently in the process of watching "Being John Malkovitch" and about to devour another Krispy Kreme doughnut. Mmm!