Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

I shall start with the grubby & ungenerous part, which is that the documentary 13th isn’t all that great as a movie per se. It’s distractingly over-directed by Ava DuVernay, who shot all of her interviews from multiple angles and with editor Spencer Averick (credited alongside DuVernay as co-writer) cuts them together in a dizzying […]

The worst thing about almost all of polemicist-documentarian Michael Moore’s movies is when Michael Moore appears in them. Which bodes poorly for Michael Moore in TrumpLand, a film that includes virtually nothing else but Michael Moore. In TrumpLand. Specifically, it follows Moore to Wilmington, Ohio, the county seat of Clinton County. Here, over two nights […]

I teach 18-year-old college freshmen how to write research papers and persuasive speeches. Every one of them is better at these things than convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza, a grown-ass man whose job is political analysis. His third film, Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, is founded on the most specious line of […]

Portait of a Garden is the first film directed by Rosie Stapel, whose film career to date has been entirely in art direction and production design. This is absolutely not a trivial fact. The film, which has been sneaking around quietly for almost two years on the festival circuit, and is currently enjoying a wisp […]

When all else fails, every Werner Herzog documentary has at least this going for it: they make for a fascinating glimpse into the things that Werner Herzog finds interesting, and he’s nothing if not an interesting man himself. This is probably the best argument I can make in favor of all 104 minutes of the […]

Starless Dreams is an exercise in pure heartbreak. The documentary has more on its mind than simply making the viewer feel terrible (it is, in fact, a social problem film, though one that offers nothing resembling a solution for the seemingly endless nightmare of human suffering it depicts), but feeling terrible is an unavoidable side […]

In 2002, the great Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov exploded into international prominence with a movie filmed inside one of the world’s great art museums, using the collection and the physical space to mount an argument about the national identity and history of the country housing that museum. 13 years later, he did the same thing, […]

A review requested by David N, with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. In the general fashion of such things, when Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark erupted into the world at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival, it was greeted by the majority of English-language critics as though it was […]

A review requested by M.C., with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. There once was a time when political commentator Ben Stein was… not cool. He was always a bit of a droning blowhard. But he was the droning blowhard you rooted for. He was that square, smug relative […]

Chantal Akerman premiered her final film, No Home Movie, on 10 August, 2015, at the Locarno Film Festival, and on 5 October, 2015, she died. It has been reported that she committed suicide. Ordinarily, I’d say it would be right to dismiss that kind of detail as prurient, salacious gossip-mongering, but as a heavily-modulated autobiographical […]

The list of great documentaries about the political process is not a long one, but its highlights are some true all-time masterpieces: Robert Drew’s Primary, from 1960; D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus’s The War Room, from 1993. To this rarefied company we must now certainly add Camilla Nielsson’s Democrats, an absolute miracle of a film […]

Another year, another multi-hour Frederick Wiseman epic: and I actually quite liked In Jackson Heights, so forgive me for sounding a bit dismissive. But it comes in a hair short of his last two films, lacking the precision of National Gallery‘s deceptively dense argument, or the sheer society-encompassing grandeur of At Berkeley, still the best […]