Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

As a genre, the making-of documentary is down near the very bottom of where you’d expect to find genuine artistic inspiration. At their worst, these are absolutely nothing but promotional puff pieces, and even when they are impressively packed with interesting and rare information, presented in a clear and engaging way (my mind immediately goes […]

It’s all right there in the title, a simple little thing that sounds as sensible as a well-fitting pair of shoes: Varda by Agnès. As in “Varda”, the filmmaking career of one of the all-time greats, a master director if ever a director was a master, someone who has more than earned the right to […]

The word “documentary” covers a lot of ground – far too much, really – and as such, a filmmaker can do a whole lot of different things. But as someone whose heart belongs to editing, and the belief that at the end of the day, all footage is just footage, and can be shaped into […]

The opening of For All Mankind, the extraordinary 1989 found footage documentary assembled by director Al Reinert and editor Susan Korda, serves as something of a thesis statement for the rest of the film’s 80 minutes. Over black, we hear two things: President John F. Kennedy declaiming passages from his wonderful 12 September 1962 speech […]

Categories: documentaries, space

The best suspense sequence in any 2018 movie and the current front-runner for best suspense sequence in any 2019 movie depict the same event, and that event is notable primarily for having happened almost 50 years ago, and because everybody in the world already know how it ends. I refer to the 20 July, 1968 […]

Two films ago, in 2015, the doggedly prolific documentarian Frederick Wiseman made In Jackson Heights, a study of one of the most ethnically diverse locations in the United States, the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens, in New York. He’s now gone all the way to the other side of the spectrum with Monrovia, Indiana, in […]

American Animals is a very good movie that frankly doesn’t seem to understand why it’s very good. This is apparent right from the very start – or rather, it becomes retroactively apparent that the very start is all mixed up. First, there’s a quote from Darwin, talking about “American animals” colonising cave systems in Kentucky […]

If you did not believe that the late children’s television host Fred McFeely Rogers was the most wholeheartedly good and decent human being to live and work in the 20th Century prior to watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, I’m pretty sure you’d believe it afterwards. The film isn’t exactly a documentary of Rogers’s life […]

Screened at the 20th Wisconsin Film Festival. Minding the Gap might be the best coming-of-age movie of the 2010s, in part because it wasn’t designed as such, and the subject which comes-of-age isn’t necessarily a human adolescent, but the movie itself. The film is the feature debut of director Bing Liu, a young man who […]

The biggest problem with Strong Island – but oof, what a terrible way to frame it. The movie has problems, of course; very few movies have absolutely no problems. But not so many movies are good at sympathetically displaying a range of human despair in a tight, intimate way that makes you feel like weeping […]

If one holds onto the belief that movies are first and above all meant to be emotion-generating objects (and this is not the only belief about movies one could hold, but it’s the one I’m happy to stick with as an operating principle), one could hardly hope for a more movie-ish movie than The Work. […]

Fairly early on in the docu-memoir-biography Jane, Dr. Jane Goodall offers a summary of the state of primate research at the dawn of the 1960s that includes reference to a primate scientist whose attempts to blend in with subjects involved covering himself in baboon shit. There is obviously no reason at all for me to […]