Documentary Movie Reviews What's your opinion? http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms <![CDATA[Catfish Quick Tip by cyclone_march]]> http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-13-1700544-218795.html http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-13-1700544-218795.html Wed, 4 Jan 2012 04:43:58 +0000 <![CDATA[ Reviewed: Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father [2008]]]>
N/A - 95mins - Documentary/Crime/Drama - N/A
 
The last time I cried in any movie was a few years back at the end of The Green Mile and that was a good 5 plus years ago and the time before that was probably The Lion King when I was 7 so it's fair to say that it's quite rare for me to get all emotional during a film. This film though had me blubbering like a schoolgirl who had just lost her favourite teddy.

Dear Zachary follows the true story of Andrew Bagby, a medical resident who was murdered in 2001 shortly after having broken up with his girlfriend Shirley. She then announces she's pregnant with Andrew's child which leads his closest friend Kurt Kuenne to make a film about Andrew as a gift to the child so he will know what his father was like whilst he was alive.

The documentary jumps between these past events and the present in real time so we find out what is unfolding at the same time as the family and friends. The film can be very fast paced and a bit full on especially at the start but this tends to immerse you into the life of Andrew and his family and you become one of them rather than this approach inhibiting the story. There is a lot of focus on Andrew's parents, Kathleen and David, as they go through the emotions of not only coming to terms with the loss of their child but also the challenges in seeking justice for the murderer and fighting for the right with Shirley to see their grandchild.

This movie perfectly sums up an emotional roller coaster ride as the emotions I felt varied wildly from sadness to anger, frustration, hope, inspiration, humour and everything inbetween whilst watching it. I found it even more intense because I knew nothing about the case or this movie coming into it and I recommenced that if you can keep curiosity under control (don't even watch the trailer) to watch it without prior knowledge of what happened, hence why this review might be slightly vague in places.

The fact the documentary is personal to Kuenne brings about a certain objectivity that could not be achieved by another film maker. We get an insight into their life as they grew up in the form of home made movies they did together and family occasions. In some cases this is beneficial as he knows his subject matter better than anyone while in others it's less so as we meet Andrew, the man who has done no wrong in his life (but this bias is understandable, especially considering the intended viewer of the documentary).

Movies are supposed to elicit an emotion from you and for this fact alone, Dear Zachary was able to climb its way into my category for one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Granted the technical film side may not be the best you are ever going to see but boy it has a story to tell and it's well worth listening to.
 
Rating: 9.1/10
 
For further reviews feel free to check out: http://www.fanaticalaboutfilms.com or follow this site on Twitter @ FAbFilms
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Dear_Zachary_A_Letter_to_a_Son_About_His_Father-756-1335759-208780-Reviewed_Dear_Zachary_A_Letter_To_A_Son_About.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Dear_Zachary_A_Letter_to_a_Son_About_His_Father-756-1335759-208780-Reviewed_Dear_Zachary_A_Letter_To_A_Son_About.html Tue, 14 Jun 2011 17:14:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ Reviewed: Inside Job [2011]]]> 12A - 120mins - Documentary/Crime - 18th February 2011

The financial crisis of 2008 hit everyone hard of that there is no doubt and Inside Job seeks to understand the causes of this from how the crisis came about to who was responsible and what is being done to try and bring those people to justice. The overawing feeling whilst watching this movie is one of disgust, frustration and anger at the people who instigated the downfall of so many companies and who led to the destruction of so many lives both in America (and outside its boarders).
 
During multiple interviews the offenders are at a loss of what to say and even though they do not say what they believe, it is obvious that they are merely recalling fixed statements of denial or are actually stumped at ways in which to answer the questions without incriminating themselves. It also shows the conflict of interests of the 'expert academics' who are supposed to be independent and yet gain the majority of their income from the financial sector.
 
The director Charles Ferguson must be credited with making the seemingly complex world of cooperate finance easy to understand by introducing simple clear diagrams and visuals to help break down the barriers that could lead to confusion.

The film does skimp a bit on a point that I would have been most interested in. Why did the governments fail so spectacularly to enforce these fraud claims and why still is nothing being done? This if anything adds to the emotion that you feel when it becomes obvious that the players have not only escaped charges but are better off for it and still have extremely high power positions.
 
Overall this documentary got me reeling at the world of Wall Street with the most disturbing thing being that what they did was and still is considered legal and not criminal. Would you do the same thing though if the shoe was on your foot instead? You would like to think not but in this greed led world, it seems anything is possible
 
Rating: 7.7/10

For further reviews feel free to check out: http://www.fanaticalaboutfilms.com or follow this site on Twitter @ FAbFilms]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-756-1624145-208064-Reviewed_Inside_Job_2011_.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-756-1624145-208064-Reviewed_Inside_Job_2011_.html Tue, 31 May 2011 11:44:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Superlative Documentary with a Few Missing Pieces]]> Waiting for Superman does an unflinching job of diagnosing and illustrating the problems of today's public school system. Citing statistics with great visualization, the focal points, nevertheless, are on about a half dozen candidates for local charter schools across the nation. Beginning and ending with the charter school lottery, the narrator aptly tells us our children's education should not be left to chance. The movie is illuminating for the videos, human interest stories, and headlines that show how, to what extent, and in what ways, our system is failing. Sins of omission are inevitable, but while much of the prognosis and fingers pointed are correct, there are cultural factors that are sometimes glossed over. (Sometimes teachers are expected to be parents and counselors--as well as mentors--no small task(s).)  The maverick educators and administrators like Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee, speak volumes about a continuing prescription to do better.  (As a footnote, as bold and brave as Ms. Rhee was, she was inevitably fired as the Superintendent of our nation's capital's schools.)

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-208025-Superlative_Documentary_with_a_Few_Missing_Pieces.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-208025-Superlative_Documentary_with_a_Few_Missing_Pieces.html Mon, 30 May 2011 02:50:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ A 2 Hour Commercial for Charter Schools]]>
The big important problem this time around is the declining performance of America's education system. Students are trapped in bad schools because they live in bad neighborhoods, and no matter how hard they work, it's virtually impossible for them to get a good education, because they have bad teachers who are protected by the teacher's unions. "Waiting for 'Superman'" follows a couple of students who enter the lottery system to get out of their terrible public schools and into better-performing charter schools. They can do nothing to affect their chances of getting into these schools; it literally is a lottery, sometimes conducted publicly with bingo balls. The film generates a certain tension and suspense as we root for these students to get into the better schools. Some do, some don't.

Read the full review here.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-207516-A_2_Hour_Commercial_for_Charter_Schools.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-207516-A_2_Hour_Commercial_for_Charter_Schools.html Wed, 18 May 2011 14:31:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Miners, their wives, justice and America]]> Harlan County, U.S.A. is one of the great documentaries. It shows us the miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mine Company, part of the giant Duke Power corporate empire. It is an emotionally wrenching look at what happens to some poorly educated, unsophisticated, hard-working people when they decide to come together in a struggle for the kinds of rights and protections most Americans take for granted.
 
In 1973 the miners at Brookside in Harlan County, Kentucky, decided to organize. They voted to join the United Mine Workers. Duke Power immediately said that they would recognize no contract with the UMW; they wouldn't even negotiate. The miners could either work under the old contract or lose their jobs. The miners struck. The miners worked in filthy, unsafe conditions deep underground, with minimal medical coverage, low wages and bare pensions. Black lung disease was commonplace but the company fought long and hard to make the case that there was no correlation between coal mining and any specific individual's medical situation. Mine safety was an incidental issue, compounded by the failure of the U. S. government to enforce even the lax regulations which were on the books. (Any of this sound familiar recently?) The miners and their families lived in company-owned hovels with no running water and only outdoor privies.
 
Remember, this is 1973, not 1933. The company used the power of the state to their advantage. State troopers were assigned to keep the roads open so that strike breakers could reach the mines. The sheriff was largely invisible; when he was around he showed deference to the mine owners. The company brought in strike breakers and gun thugs to intimidate the miners. One miner's house was peppered with gunshot while he, his wife and their two children slept. Violence escalated. One night an unarmed young striker was assassinated with a shotgun blast to his face. He left a 16-year-old wife and a five-month-old baby.
 
During the long months of the strike (it lasted over a year), it was hard for the miners to stick together. Conditions were tough and getting tougher. They had no income other than a small strike allowance from the UMW. Some argued for getting their guns and giving back to the gun thugs the thugs' own medicine. Others argued that they had to keep their focus on what mattered...a contract.
 
When things looked most discouraging, the miners' wives stepped forward. They were not about to let their men be intimidated or beaten. They organized themselves. They manned picket lines. They faced down serious threats from the armed gun thugs. They kept reminding their men that if they stuck together they would eventually beat Duke Power. Eventually, and probably due to the increasing media coverage of Duke Power's behavior and the revulsion over the young miner's murder, the UMW negotiated a contract with Duke under heavy Federal mediation pressure. But it wasn't a total victory. As one miner said, If you get something you have to keep pushing for more, otherwise they'll take it all back.
 
Barbara Kopple and her photographer came to document the strike. She did it the old-fashioned way. For months she lived with the miners, covering the strike lines, the meetings, the arguments, and showing the working conditions. She had film evidence of the threats and bullying of the gun thugs, of how they carried more and more weapons...not just pistols but automatic rifles. One early morning just at dawn on a strike line blocking a road, she and her photographer were suddenly assaulted by a couple of the gun thugs. We see it happen.
 
Kopple also puts the strike in context. She uses historical footage of Harlan County's bloody mining strikes in the Thirties. She shows the murderous struggle for control of the UMW that resulted in the head of the union, Tony Boyle, ordering the killing of his rival, Jock Yablonski. She takes a clip of the Duke Power chairman smiling and saying that he didn't think women should be involved with the activities he's heard about, certainly not his own wife, and then showing what the miners' wives' lives are like and how strong their passion is for fairness. She shows Duke Power spokesman Norman Yarborough talking about the company's commitment to "upgrade" housing as soon as it's practical, and then shows the hovels the miners have been living in for years. She shows us Frances Reece, now an old woman, whose song "Which Side Are You On" became a rallying cry during the mine strikes of the Thirties, stand up before the strikers and their wives and sing the song again, in a quavering and passionate tribute to these men and women.
 
Harlan County, U.S.A. won the 1977 Academy Award for Best Documentary. In 1990 it was added to the National Film Registry. It is a powerful film that touches on many serious issues. The Criterion DVD is in excellent shape. Among the extras are the film, The Making of Harlan County USA, which features Barbara Kopple, members of her crew and some of the strike participants; a video interview with director John Sayles; and a panel discussion that includes Kopple and Roger Ebert.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Harlan_County_USA-756-1644700-207121-Miners_their_wives_justice_and_America.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Harlan_County_USA-756-1644700-207121-Miners_their_wives_justice_and_America.html Sat, 7 May 2011 20:38:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Our Students Need a Union of Their Own]]> Waiting for Superman is an interesting and somber documentary for its portrayal of the state of education in the United States.  It is interesting, because it depicts the predicament of a number of real students from various backgrounds and areas of the country as their parents attempt to enroll them in a charter school.  It is somber, because it uses statistics and historical data to reveal the desperate condition of education in our society and the crisis that looms because of it.

In selecting students from LA, the Bay Area, Harlem, the Bronx, and Washington DC, Guggenheim communicates the broad nature of the problem.  Our educational issues are not isolated to a couple of states.  This is a national issue.

As with all movies, this documentary has a point of view and agenda it is attempting to promote.  With that in mind, I believe Waiting for Superman is very evenhanded in its approach.  Educators are clearly portrayed as heroes and the history of the need to protect their interests is developed.  However, Guggenheim feels that modern teachers unions have become too powerful and are impeding real reform in education today.  Given the success of certain charter schools, he believes the problem can demonstrably be solved.  With such a solution at hand, the issue is that most students cannot gain access to these successful models of education because of the scarcity of charter school openings.  The powerful teachers unions prevent these successful models from being implemented in non-charter schools.  That is his main point.

This documentary is very important, in that it does a great job of exposing the sad state of education and the mostly likely contributor to it.  Hopefully many people will see this movie and public discourse will be stimulated in order to attempt to address the problem from a new perspective.  It is not news that education is broken, but Guggenheim refutes the common wisdom that pumping more money into this broken system will fix it.  No amount of money is going to make a corrupt and failed system successful.

I agree that public education is broken and cannot be fixed within the current union constraints.  Certain charter school models have been proven to be successful and reproducible.  Parents in the United States have many options for the education of their children:  public school, private school, and homeschooling.  For those parents that choose public education, the options are extremely limited.  Most public schools are constrained and controlled by failed and destructive union policies.  Public schools free of these failed and destructive policies are few and far between.  Either the public schools need to be reformed along the successful charter school models or more parents need to choose private or home schooling for the good of their children.

Waiting for Superman powerfully makes this point:

Education is supposed to be about the students, but the modern unions have made it about the teachers to the ruin of the students.

How sadly ironic.  Maybe our students need a union of their own.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-206036-Our_Students_Need_a_Union_of_Their_Own.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-206036-Our_Students_Need_a_Union_of_Their_Own.html Mon, 18 Apr 2011 01:32:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ INSIDE JOB Tries to Think 'Outside the Box' But Can't]]>
Now, I don't wanna be too hard on Matt Damon because I'm sure he's a fine person.  He's had a pretty solid career, though as of late he's been plagued with some serious box office duds, and one could argue that INSIDE JOB smacks of the same 'lack of thoroughness' that Mr. Damon's displayed in his last couple of pictures.  In short, INSIDE JOB tries to make sense out of the worldwide financial crisis that "erupted" in 2008, and it does so -- in uncertain terms -- by leaping from one mildly misstated premise after another.  Dissecting the arguments could take as long as the film lasts, so I'll spare you some of the lesser points and try to concentrate on where I feel it all fell apart.

Don't get me wrong: I've no doubt -- based on reading I've done mostly into the housing crisis -- that there were some very bad people involved in this economic crisis.  It's no doubt that some of the regular folks were taken advantage of by predatory lendors and the like.  Within my own family, I can say from personal experience that a couple of family members were 'swindled' into signing things they probably shouldn't have signed without further review, and I know what financial burden they've had to endure specifically due to the nefarious sort of ilk director Charles Ferguson sets his sights on with this documentary ... but it's like blaming the plumber for a house poorly built.  Say you call in a plumber because, after living in your house for a few years, you've discovered a brand-new leak in the upstairs bath.  It's the plumber's job to fix the leak, not answer for the faulty construction that may've settled and thus CAUSED the leak, but Ferguson wants to blame the plumber.  The reality of the economic crisis -- and the myriad of factors that led to its global explosion -- is that there were, quite literally, tens of thousands of people who played some role -- minor or major -- in the creation of the environment where this kind of thing would happen; yet, INSIDE JOB, for some reason, only seems to want to focus on the financial industry.  Sure, some blame is tossed in the direction of politicians and/or their administrations, but methinks there was probably many more hours of research that needed to be undertaken and explored before settling on the easiest and most available villains.

Why do I say that?  Well, because Ferguson and his INSIDE JOB would have you believe that Eliot Spitzer is a role model as a political figure whose career was destroyed as a result of his pursuing legal cases against the finance industry.  Yes, that's the same Eliot Spitzer who resigned in disgrace and then, not long after, began presiding over his second most public failure, that of a "hard-hitting news program" on CNN.  Ferguson and INSIDE JOB would have you believe that Barney Frank -- the same Barney Frank who stood in the way of regulators trying to do their job with respect to the salvaging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing crisis -- should be viewed as a source credible to speaking about the how's and why's of the housing collapse.  (Quite frankly, I believe that there's significant evidence out there to support that Frank was a key player in C-A-U-S-I-N-G a housing crisis, but that's an argument for another day and, arguably, another filmmaker.)  And, lastly, George Soros is pulling out of the closet and put up as one who saw this entire crisis unfolding?  Is that the same George Soros who publicly implied that "he was having a very good crisis" as he was profiting from the collapse of these banking firms?

No, INSIDE JOB is little more than a partial exploration of the causes and culture, but it doesn't go near enough into decoding the complexities that led to this fiscal undoing.  At best, it's superficial, if not meandering a bit from point-to-point.  When Ferguson doesn't have any evidence, he simply calls out the old 'flashcard' standby from the documentarian's playbook: he puts up the black backdrop with the text to the effect of "So-and-so refused to be interviewed for this film."  I find it a bit discomforting to have to point out that "the absence of proof" does not justify guilt just as much as it doesn't imply innocense, but much of INSIDE JOB appears little more than a "hack job" to this viewer.  In fact, most folks interviewed do not come off looking well at all; so can you blame someone for NOT wanting to appear?

That said, there's a significant portion of INSIDE JOB that isn't revelatory at all.  Politics and finance breed strange bedfellows, and pulling on one thread has never destroyed an entire tapestry simultaneously regardless of how hard one pulls on it.  Academics are indicted in the commentary ("nothing new"); government regulators are exposed as being on the take ("nothing to see here, folks"); and even the wives of politicians are called into suspicions ("move along, move along").  However, Ferguson apparently believes that hitting the same nail with the same hammer will cause a different result despite the fact that the nail long ago sank fully into the board.  What is new -- the implications of how the new world economy is tied so closely together that a 3% failure in assets can bring down a country, much less a company -- is given short shrift when perhaps the film could've been seen less politically motivated and more of a true 'public service' for all of humanity.  After all, isn't the one of the expressed purposed behind documentaries?  Shouldn't such an expose be for the benefit of all instead of for the benefit of one political persuasion?

INSIDE JOB is a respectable foundation, but it's hardly an 'inside job.'  It's tone is much more in line with "Inside Edition" or "A Current Affair" as it tries to implicate only those the filmmaker believes to be the nasty culprit, not anyone he can substantively prove wrong.  Thus, it teeters closely to being its own 'house of cards' or, at least, almost as guilty as those it serves to indict.

As an FYI to Matt Damon and his followers, I'd offer up the following observation.  One of the Mattster's last films cost the studio an estimated $100 million in production costs, including Matt's hefty salary.  Also, you can add to that figure a probably $20 million dollars in advertising and promotion costs.  So, an estimated $120 million dollars went into that production ... and the film grossed a dead weight $35 million.  Now, if we follow the logic presented in INSIDE JOB, might it be appropriate for we -- the audience -- to demand a government panel investigate all those folks involved in the creation of the film GREEN ZONE -- including all actors, all crew, all studio personnel, the director, etc. -- so that we can demand our money back?  It's a pure loss on investment, so ought not the investors be compensated for such a tragedy?  Might it be appropriate for the studio to demand Matt's salary back?  I'd say, "Certainly not," because risk is an essential component of the filmmaking process.  It has been from the start; it continues to be today; and it'll always be so in the future.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-756-1624145-205232-INSIDE_JOB_Tries_to_Think_Outside_the_Box_But.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-756-1624145-205232-INSIDE_JOB_Tries_to_Think_Outside_the_Box_But.html Wed, 6 Apr 2011 19:40:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ The taxpayers have been dismissed!]]> Wall Street (if ever) provided us with such an intricate and out of the world financial engineering that movies and after movies could now be made to commensurate the 2008 financial catastrophe. No one fully understood the plots behind the many stories and the realities that all the very top people had been saying. What we all in the world understand is that we have become poorer as a whole and as a result of it (with the exception of some insiders). True or false? You decide!
 
Clearly, it is not my opinions that matter. I’m no big shot by any means. But I speak the hearts of many, I do hope. What do we work our @ss off if not for a better tomorrow, both for ourselves and our families. Yet, the future looks bleak, from my perspective. The world hasn’t gotten any better in coping with unforeseen circumstances nor has the government been proficient in bringing about changes for the better. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so much instability and sufferings in the world, would there? Granted, some governments are doing better than others. And for many reasons, some citizens are doing better too. It is not justice that we seek but understanding. So, on this premise, watch this documentary to get a better grasp of how things are, I thought.
 
I do not seek to be popular and I do not seek to be wise. I seek to understand and in understanding acceptance. When it comes to reforms, it’s almost impossible if the problems lie in the systems as well as the (might I add, powerful) men behind the system. As deeply rooted as Wall Street is, even the President of a country has his hands full. Hence, after watching the documentary, one finally realizes the gravity of the situation that even those working in the industry may not have had. There are clearly no identifiable solutions to be had if the sector as a whole refused to reform. Just like whatever that’s happening in the Middle East, until the citizens themselves are ready, no change would be forthcoming. That’s the conclusion one can draw from this documentary.
 
Otherwise, if you enjoy history and knowing what actually had caused it all, the film begins with Iceland, a tiny country that practically gone bankrupt as a result of the fiasco.



Iceland GDP: 13 billion
Banks’ Losses: 100 billion
 
Iceland, a country with spectacular sceneries, saw the beginning of boom time when I first visited in 2003. It was the most expensive country I had ever visited, with GDP per capita that’s even higher than Norway and many European countries back then. Within a short span of 6 years, the country has gone from boom to bust. House prices more than doubled. Icelanders (billionaires) go on shopping spree in UK, buying up many large retailers. How? By taking loans from their local banks.
 
KPMG, Iceland’s auditor, found nothing wrong with such doing. As with the credit rating agencies which accord it with AAA ratings! The banking sector got so big that 1/3 of financial regulators are actually working for the banks!
 
That marks the beginning and the tipping point by which the global meltdown was based on. The ones responsible for?
  1. Investment bankers
  2. Credit rating agencies
  3. Regulatory bodies
  4. Greed

The order of these 4 forces changes according to which perspective you’re looking from. Many “insiders” were interviewed and some got real mad by the end of the interviews. If you’re interested in hearing what they said and also what kind of conclusions the film has come to, you’d have to watch it yourself. I prefer to not say too much as many claimed to have cause the downfall are still very much in power. This is not a war I choose to fight. I did so when I quit the industry. This is a film that every Americans should watch though because it affects your future and reflected your past (whether you are ignorant or not is not so important as to whether you have a grasp of your reality and future).   

Nothing has quite changed, unfortunately!
Mistakes had not been corrected. Unemployment is still as high and prices are sky-rocketing... In Inside Job, narrated by Matt Damon, the 108 mins film attempts to answer questions by interviewing the "insiders". 

Some notable interviewees (in order of appearances) are:
  • George Soros
  • Barney Frank: Chairman, Financial Services Committee, US House of Representatives
  • David McCormick: Under Secretary of the Treasury (Bush Administration)
  • Scott Talbott: Chief Lobbyist, Financial Services Roudtable who sees nothing wrong with the high level of compensations in the financial services industry on the premise that the bankers had earned it!
  • Lee Hsien Loong: Prime Minister of Singapore claims that it’s hard to resist the temptation when one thinks that one can credit something out of nothing
  • Christine Lagarde, Finance Minister of France is concerned that many people wants to go back to the old way (which as we can clearly see, they are!) 
  • Nouriel Roubini, Professor of NYU Business School
  • Glenn Hubbard, Chief Economist and Advisor to the Bush Administration, Dean of Columbia Business School
  • Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of NY claims that “the regulators didn’t do their jobs”.


Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and collapse of AIG triggered the global financial catastrophe. Global recession follows. More than tens of millions of jobs were lost as a result. 6 millions foreclosures in the United States housing market alone.

There are 4 parts to the film:
  1. How We Got Here
  2. The Bubble
  3. The Crisis
  4. Accountability

Part 1 takes us back to the historical moments when the financial services were deregulated and the frauds prior. Some heavy-weights were introduced and from here you can deduced how the network was set up that eventually determined the system that was built which then caused what it did in 2008. To me, it is quite clear that to see changes, the system needs a good revamp. That, by the look of things, is not probable in the near future. UNLESS, another Armageddon. Deregulation is the keyword in this part.

Wall Street firms have been caught defrauding their customers and cooking their books. These are nothing new in the industry. Fines don’t stop them from engaging in illegal activities. I hope that's not news to you!

Derivative is another word you need to understand here. Investment banks make huge profits from this instrument which prompts them to keep it from regulated.

The film then goes on to explain the Securitization Food Chain and the parties involved, namely the home buyers, lenders, investment bank and investors. CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligation) is an instrument you may have heard before. If not, check out my review on The Crisis of Credit Visualised (I guarantee you'll enjoy it).


Remembered if you've read my last review (Capitalism: A love story) that short term profits are what the bankers are after. Therefore, investment banks preferred subprime as they carried a higher interest and hence bank’s profits which ultimately translates to huge bonuses for the executives and employees of the firms.

Those participating in this profit maximization are:

1. Investment Banks & Financial services congromerates
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Lehman Brothers
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Bear Stearns
  • Citigroup
  • JP Morgan

2. Credit Rating Agencies
  • Moody’s
  • Standard & Poor’s
  • Fitch

3. Insurance Companies
  • AIG
  • MBIA
  • Ambac

Part 2 explains when everyone can get a mortgage, property prices skyrocketed to a level never before. When that happens housing prices doubled from 1996 to 2006. Subprime loans grew 20x from $30 billions to $600+ billions in a decade. 

Who benefit? Well, not just the home owners, obviously. The most incredible of it all? Lehman's chairman Richard Fuld was taking home some $485 million worth of bonuses!

Banks leveraging shot through the roof, from 3:1 to some 33:1.

Credit Default Swap (a term you will learn) is the trigger that took the world down with it. You'll learn about AIG role's in it and the panic associated with the entire derivative. For simplicity sake, in this review, just know that AIG issued some 500 billion worth of credit default swaps (where most have clearly no idea how to unwind after the system froze up) and its chairman Joseph Cassano took home $315 million in 2007 as a result of it.


Raghuram G. Rajan, Chief Economist (2003-2007) of IMF noted that the incentives and company system encouraged risk taking in the industry.

Paulson, Greenspan and Summers declined to be interviewed for this film.

If you should decide to watch this film, listen closely to Kristin David's interview. You'd be appalled by what's truly going on in Wall Street. Also, Goldman Sach's role in betting against its clients in CDOs which they ultimately made a handsome return and was never prosecuted for. 



Part 3 takes us to The Crisis where the commercial paper market collapsed which then led to the global system froze up. AIG's bail-out cost taxpayers some $150 billion while Goldman Sachs was paid $61 billion next day. Some have questioned where had those money gone? Remember the $700 billion was set aside by Congress? What happened to those people who faced foreclosures? Some 6 million in 2010 alone, according to the film.

Part 4 deals with Accountability or rather, the lack of it!

Richard Fuld plunged the world into crisis. When Lehman went bankrupt, the executives got to keep their coffers! While the rest of the world, especially Europe, had taken steps to contain the situation, US hasn't quite. What it had done was QE2 and as a result, the US$ has been plunging to all time low against major currencies.

Well, this is where the film ends. But, if you think that's the end of the story, well, stay tune! I'm pretty sure 
we have some new developments in the near future!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-756-1624145-205105-The_taxpayers_have_been_dismissed_.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-756-1624145-205105-The_taxpayers_have_been_dismissed_.html Mon, 4 Apr 2011 09:09:01 +0000
<![CDATA[Exit Through the Gift Shop Quick Tip by lyssachttr]]> ryguy4738  put it in his review, "It doesn't care if you want to see it; it doesn't care if you like Graffiti. It just exists, and it's open to anyone who will accept it for what it truly is."   That pretty well sums it up perfectly.]]> http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Exit_Through_the_Gift_Shop-13-1697338-204376.html http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Exit_Through_the_Gift_Shop-13-1697338-204376.html Tue, 22 Mar 2011 20:53:19 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Bridge - 2006]]> Pros: some beautiful camera work of surrounding areas

Cons: depressive

The Bottom Line:


"One more sunset, maybe I'd be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still,
For one more day with you"
~Diamond Rio



I'll admit I watched The Bridge for very personal reasons.  It is a documentary by director Eric Steel and writer Tad Friend covering the suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is rated R for disturbing content and language.  This year marks the 15th anniversary my own son's, Jason, suicide.  I guess I wanted, as all survivors do, to see if I could gain any more answers to the unbearable question of "Why?"

The story:
It is filmed in documentary vein under very strange circumstances.  Director Eric Steel settled on several vantage points around the Golden Gate Bridge, set up some cameras, and hired a crew to sit and film the bridge for an entire year.   What they were looking for was that particular group of individuals that had come to a point in their lives where they were simply done and jumping from the bridge seemed the solution they chose to end their lives.

Steel then interviewed different members of the surviving families, not telling them in advance he had actual film of their loved ones suicide.  While this may all sound a bit bizarre at first glance, in the long run it was simply just another bunch of camera people catching some obviously controversial film footage.

The interviews with the surviving families and friends of the suicides was very interesting.  Most of them weren't completely surprised by the deaths but the resulting devastation to the survivors is horrendous.  It is something that has no closure, no answers, no understanding.  Their stories were painful, sharing years and years of watching their loved one or friend slowly melt away from them mentally.  They watched the daily struggles to grasp reality or find solace in their lives.  In the end they were as broken as the one that left them, showing resigned acceptance of the decision made.

Even some of the filmmakers had no understanding at the completion of the project of the Why theory.  Several of them seemed quite shaken by the experience, although that didn't stop them from continuing on until completion.

Steel falsified his application to the Golden Gate Bridge committee, stating he intended to film the beauty and glory of the bridge and surrounding areas and he wanted to film this majestic monument as it lived in conjuncture with nature.  He never mentioned the suicides at all.

As beautiful as most people feel the Golden Gate Bridge is, I found it rather cold in appearance when I saw it.   It looks so desolate, almost like a hulking beast sitting in the bay.  For some it has a strange siren song, calling to them.  It is stated in the documentary that it ranks as the number one spot for people to complete suicide.  Rather a depressing mantle to hang on it, I would think.

Some of the camera work made the bridge almost look peaceful, welcoming.  Billowing clouds, sunny skies, people milling about.  Then a shot at the angry water below became a chilling punctuation mark to the results of those that stepped over the railing and fell to their deaths.

Since there were no actual actors involved, I can't comment on the work of those interviewed. 

DVD extras:
"Making of" segment with interviews with the camera crews; short message from John Kevin Hines who had jumped from the bridge in 2000 but survived the fall do, he said, to divine intervention and a group of seals that kept him afloat; previews.

Overall impression:
I came away from the film with no added information for my own personal struggle.  Instead I felt a good deal of depression and sorrow for all involved, even the camera crew.  It has been suggested that some prevention could take place if a barrier was constructed to prevent people from climbing over but proponents of the beauty of the bridge say it would distract from it.  They also state it would be prohibitive in cost.  I don't know what value they place on a life, that is their own cross to bear.

I will note that the camera crew had bridge patrol on their speed dial of their phones and they did call each time someone jumped.  They felt their presence there helped alleviate some jumpers that year - 2004 - there were only 24.  They captured 23 of them on film

thanks,
Susi

Recommended:
Yes]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Bridge-756-1531981-204070-The_Bridge_2006.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Bridge-756-1531981-204070-The_Bridge_2006.html Wed, 16 Mar 2011 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ A film that's essentially about the evilness of Facebook.]]>
"Catfish" is the kind of movie that would have done even better if it hadn't been advertised so poorly. The trailers make the thing out to be some sort of thriller. What we get when we actually watch the thing is a drama; but luckily, it's a good one with a heart. I do admire "Catfish" for its entertaining qualities; and then again, there are moments where the thing just wasn't all that good. But as a whole, "Catfish" is for sure the movie that you'd expect out of something this deceptive. Perhaps the misleading trailers were part of the film's mystery. Maybe; but that doesn't make that right. I believe that this film will divide viewers; some will love it, some will hate it. And some will scratch their heads wondering whether anything in the film is actually real. I have my doubts. But then again, I've got a feeling that some of it was the real deal. None the less, the mystery, as always, only adds to the fascination. And while this is not the most fascinating documentary film out there, it's still an honest and realistic character study. While the film can be a bit of a drag at moments, the thing just felt very touching throughout. It redeems itself through its sense of humor and its sense of humanity; and there's some surprisingly dramatic moments scattered throughout. Overall, I suppose it's worth a look. Again, some may not like it. But "Catfish" is as flawed as it is whimsical in its execution. And I do admire the truth behind the film's message, and what it says about internet relationships. This is the OTHER movie to be released in 2010, about Facebook. In case you didn't know, the far superior OTHER movie about Facebook is "The Social Network", which does some of what "Catfish" does, but on a lot of different, seemingly new levels. Both films touch the human connection in some way. "Catfish" just doesn't do it in a particularly memorable way. But then again, I can just watch it and like it; and that's what I did. It was a funny, entertaining, and touching flick. It is definitely worth a watch, especially if you're somewhat of a tech-lover (why do you think I saw it?) like me. If you're like me, then you'll know what to think of "Catfish" when it is done. Again, it's pretty flawed. But that doesn't mean it ain't fun.

A man has been communicating with a family he has never met on the social networking site of Facebook; and he's been doing it for quite some time. The closest he has to a real, human relationship with any of the members is phone conversations and romantic tension between him and the eldest daughter of the family. One day, our hero becomes suspicious that his online friends aren't telling the truth, and he and his documentary-filmmaker friends take a trip to the house of the family to expose the truth. I won't tell you what the "big twist" is, but I will assure you that's it's more disappointing than it needs to be. "Catfish" admittedly works better as a human drama than it ever will a thriller (I say this since it made itself out to be one of those). The thing is an emotional roller-coaster ride one moment, and a quiet, affectionate human drama the next. I will admit that I enjoyed it. But I won't say that it left me in complete awe. The thing works perfectly for the first two acts, and then goes a little down-hill with the less-than-surprising grand finale. Don't get me wrong; the thing is still fairly entertaining even when it's being inferior to its better moments. All I'm trying to point out is that this movie isn't perfect, and the twists are pretty disappointing. As I said, I still liked it. Nothing can ruin a good time; and "Catfish" is a good time at its near best. It's sneaky, and exploitative of the struggles of communication. The message here seems to be: "Online communication sucks. Please make friends in real life before you start talking "sexy talk" with a forty-year old woman". It's a good message given that Facebook and Myspace alike have both ruined what we perceive as real communication. It's kind of sad to think this stuff happens; but then again, I see it every day of my life. I guess I have to admire "Catfish" for being a film about something I've seen before. But then again, we've all seen the evilness of Facebook. I just wish that aspect could be taken out of the system for good. But humans will be humans, and the protagonist of "Catfish" finds that out the hard way.

Nev Schulman turns out to be a pretty likable guy. His film persona, which may or may not be exaggerated for the movie alone, is endearing and interesting to study solely as a character. Plus, his smile is freaking huge. Yes, I took the time to notice that. Or maybe "taking time" isn't the right way to put that kind of thing; you sort of notice it as the film goes along. Schulman gets the most screen-time since he's essentially the sole star of this movie, but that's far from a problem. I like the character of Nev whether he's this kind of guy in reality or not. He runs the acting show, and he's worthy of a second round at cinema. Perhaps a future documentary? Who knows? If it never happened, then I would know why; because this film makes "being ominous" its one and only duty. Oddly, I am OK with that.

There are without a doubt some damn fine documentaries that came out of 2010's movie year; all being documentaries that this film just shouldn't attempt to mess with. You've got "Restrepo", you've got "Exit Through the Gift Shop", and then you've got "Catfish". The essentially approach to this film would be to expect a thriller out of the thing. Let me tell you up front that "Catfish" is in no way a thriller; it's a drama. Strangely enough, it succeeds at being a drama with a surplus of humanistic qualities. In the end, these human qualities redeem the film of its narrative flaws. The film made me laugh, made me frown, and if I were extremely emotional; it probably could have made me cry as well. The film has some admittedly decent emotional resonance; all of which is forgettable since I didn't come nigh CLOSE to crying, and most of it just seems unworthy of true, blue memory. With that being said, this is a pretty good documentary anyways. It gives you a bit more than you asked for as well as something much, much different. I wonder what "Catfish" would have been like if it WERE a thriller. Isn't it pretty to think that it could have been better? Well, yes; most certainly. But it's good enough as it is, and it has enough (emotional) substance to keep most viewers entertained. And in this world, entertainment is essentially enough. It's not often that a film this flawed can still be genuinely good; and it's damn nice to see that someone can actually make a work as quietly affectionate as this one. It's a smart, cool little movie. If it sounds interesting to you (from what I described instead of what the dumb-ass advertising made it out to be), then it probably is. I suppose that therefore, you should be seeing this movie.

Do not so much as look at the IMDB page for this film. Don't even skim a synopsis. Either one could give out this film's entire plot in a nut-shell; and that's not good. I suppose that a lot was revealed ahead of time, and therefore my experience wasn't as good as it probably should have been. But this film is still solid anyways. It's a good documentary and a good character study. It provides humor, drama, and sorrow all in one sitting. It may not agree with everyone, but it agrees with me. It has good acting, a good message, and an admittedly intriguing premise. It's just not as down-right brilliant as I expected it to be. But there is indeed a reason for people to like it; as there was a reason for me to like it as well. It may seem like I'm complaining a lot of about what the film doesn't have, but a lot of the time I did indeed look at the better half of the production. It ultimately had more "good" than it did "bad". It's enjoyable not for its mystery, but for its pure craftsmanship. I don't really care if it's real or not; "Catfish" was entertaining. And it goes out of its way to tell a story. I admire that; and I hope that it's not the last we see out of the filmmakers that put it together. This could be the start of something new. Oh, think of the wondrous possibilities.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-203443-A_film_that_s_essentially_about_the_evilness_of.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-203443-A_film_that_s_essentially_about_the_evilness_of.html Fri, 11 Mar 2011 02:35:52 +0000
<![CDATA[Food, Inc. Quick Tip by greengenerationny]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/movie/UserReview-Food_Inc_-1382693-203151.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/movie/UserReview-Food_Inc_-1382693-203151.html Sun, 6 Mar 2011 01:28:21 +0000 <![CDATA[Inside Job Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, etc, etc, are still making huge bonuses after their irresponsible practices ... Change? Nothing has quite changed and be prepared for something even more drastic in the near future!

The film does bring into attention with regard to compensations not being recovered by the Obama administration. Things had been status quo since 2008...  The American taxpayers can be quite naive, considering all these executives are still being paid skyrocketed bonuses! Where are the reforms?!

Oh yes, there'll definitely be a sequel to this one!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-13-1624145-202296.html http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Inside_Job-13-1624145-202296.html Sat, 26 Feb 2011 12:05:06 +0000
<![CDATA[ To Catch a Catfish: A Film Review]]> “The internet is always lying to you.”
- personal advice to me from Mike (Cruft), whom I initially met online in 2003.

When Catfish started stirring the waters (tee hee) of art house theaters here in Los Angeles I did not know what it was about. After I caught wind from a tweet praising it, I inquired – she, the Tweeter, said she couldn’t tell me anything other than it was good and I must get to a theater ASAP to see it. Well, art house theaters are awesome sauce but I did not move fast enough before it went out and I had to play the waiting game for its DVD release. In this time, I poked around the internet and found out the basic premise. Once Catfish hit Netflix, I shot it to the top of my queue. It arrived today. I watched it today. I wrote a frenzied draft of this review on paper as soon as it was over. That is how immediate and how deeply Catfish affected me.

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman document the strange series of events that unfolds when a gifted 8-year-old artist named Abby contacts Nev, a 24-year-old photographer (and Schulman’s brother), through Facebook. After Abby sends Nev a remarkable painting based on one of his photos, Nev begins corresponding with her family — including her 19-year-old sister. They eventual realize that something’s not quite right and the trio out to uncover the truth. – paraphrased from Netflix

If you wish to rent this, remaining spoiler-free, please take this into mind: This documentary receives a lot of backlash for being marketed as a “thriller” (which I was unaware of and disagree with) and if stories that deal with meeting people from the internet and of the like have no interest to you, do not watch this film. It is not a thriller to anyone but those who experienced it – or have experienced similar situations.

If you wish to remain spoiler free, do not continue beyond the image below.

 



READ ME ASIDE: It’s been put into question whether this is a documentary, a faux-documentary or something that really happened but was partially recreated for the sake of documenting. I honestly have no opinion either way; there is enough evidence to support all three theories and it is not my intent to sway you in any particular direction. This is merely my reaction to the movie as it presented itself to me, and how I feel about the internet and getting caught up with the people in it.

I was skeptical of this film directly because how is it possible this guy went along with this charade without doing a Google search on Abby and her alleged success? And when the moment of truth happened with Megan’s song I thought it was too convenient that the documentary switched gears from being about this Big City artist and his zany country artist Internet e-pals to full-blown Facebook mystery of the week.

Despite the clumsiness of the film, I was forced to put my cynicism aside and remember my own online tenure as an internet friend, of meeting these internet “strangers” and admit: Yes. It really is that easy to both fabricate and fall for a web of lies.

Wracked with anxiety once the documentary moved into investigation mode, I was positively on the edge of my proverbial seat, pausing the movie at times to catch my breath and let my own tension come down. This was worse than any horror/suspense/thriller. There was no blood & guts, no ghosts, no zombies or mad doctors looking to make a creature out of kidnapped humans of any kind. And yet I was terrified simply because this really happened. Even if it was partially fabricated, it could have happened and real shit like this bothers me more than any mindless gore flick will.

What Happened: Angela, a 40-year old woman living with her husband Vince, her two severely handicapped twin stepsons and their daughter Abby decided to use Abby as a vehicle to get in touch with Nev. She was the painter of every piece, though she credited Abby. Megan, though real, has not been in her life for a good amount of time. All of Nev’s communication with Megan (and all of the family members, friends and associates on Facebook) was really Angela. Angela felt remorse for her actions once Nev gently confronted her, claiming that once she got going she just couldn’t stop because she did not want to lose Nev as a friend.

Nev had the opportunity to cut of ties with Megan/Abby/Angela immediately after unearthing the first big lie, but curiosity kept him going. Personally, I think it’s sometimes easier to disengage from an “in person” relationship than an online one because many people present their best selves, perpetuating that this fragment of their personality is indeed who we are at all times. Who would want to give that kind of seeming perfection up? We want that fantasy to be real, even when the picture perfect image is beginning to come apart.

As a writer who has spent years dedicated to her fiction, thriving on character building, and as a woman living in a stressful health related situation that has made me pass opportunity several times in my life, I understand Angela in a certain light: the escapism that the internet provides is addictive and alluring. Angela’s lies are inexcusable, but a forgiving eye can see how this lonely, regret-filled woman wanted to be close to a world that is no longer attainable.

Nev’s gentleness is something be admired. While he readily admitted that the editor of the film was kindly toward his portrayal, Nev still made the decision to remain positive, not accusatory or confrontational as he wanted to enable Angela to achieve a level of comfort enough to come clean with the truth. Even with his acceptance, she could not be 100% honest until after Nev and Co. went back home.

For those that use this film as a reason for not meeting people from the internet I can only reference my own experiences – which at this current moment stands at 97% positive. Take into consideration I have had internet friends since roughly 1997. Some I no longer speak with – either because the general passing of time/interest or by a falling out – some I’ve dated, some that I have traveled to and with (Hi, Jen!) and some like Mike (and the Cruft Family) from my opening quote, that have become so treasured a friend I cannot imagine my life without them.
Yes, that 3% exists, but I have only myself to partially blame as, like Nev, I only saw what I wanted to see and ignored what, in hindsight, was red flags. Without that 3% though I would not have learned to dig deeper, both in them and myself, and learned the art of moving on gracefully. I am wiser for that 3%, as I am sure Nev is for this experience. The lesson to be learned is: when something is too good to be true hurry up, before it’s too late, and use your Google-Fu.


Overall Rating
Story: A+
Execution: B+ It was a great story, but a somewhat clumsy execution, with too many convenient moments (including the origins of the title.)
Would I Recommend: I would for people who I think would “get it” – those who have a heavy online social life, have met friends from online, etc. I would not for people who have no presence online and a cynical view of meeting people from “Google”.
Would I Buy: Probably. While I remain skeptical of certain “coincidences” I still think the overall story is worth merit.
Can Your Mum Watch It: Yes, but if she’s anything like my mom she’ll say, “What’s a Facebook?”

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-201082-To_Catch_a_Catfish_A_Film_Review.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-201082-To_Catch_a_Catfish_A_Film_Review.html Fri, 11 Feb 2011 18:53:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ To Catch a Catfish: A Film Review]]> “The internet is always lying to you.”
- personal advice to me from Mike (Cruft), whom I initially met online in 2003.

When Catfish started stirring the waters (tee hee) of art house theaters here in Los Angeles I did not know what it was about. After I caught wind from a tweet praising it, I inquired – she, the Tweeter, said she couldn’t tell me anything other than it was good and I must get to a theater ASAP to see it. Well, art house theaters are awesome sauce but I did not move fast enough before it went out and I had to play the waiting game for its DVD release. In this time, I poked around the internet and found out the basic premise. Once Catfish hit Netflix, I shot it to the top of my queue. It arrived today. I watched it today. I wrote a frenzied draft of this review on paper as soon as it was over. That is how immediate and how deeply Catfish affected me.

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman document the strange series of events that unfolds when a gifted 8-year-old artist named Abby contacts Nev, a 24-year-old photographer (and Schulman’s brother), through Facebook. After Abby sends Nev a remarkable painting based on one of his photos, Nev begins corresponding with her family — including her 19-year-old sister. They eventual realize that something’s not quite right and the trio out to uncover the truth. – paraphrased from Netflix

If you wish to rent this, remaining spoiler-free, please take this into mind: This documentary receives a lot of backlash for being marketed as a “thriller” (which I was unaware of and disagree with) and if stories that deal with meeting people from the internet and of the like have no interest to you, do not watch this film. It is not a thriller to anyone but those who experienced it – or have experienced similar situations.

If you wish to remain spoiler free, do not continue beyond the image below.

 



READ ME ASIDE: It’s been put into question whether this is a documentary, a faux-documentary or something that really happened but was partially recreated for the sake of documenting. I honestly have no opinion either way; there is enough evidence to support all three theories and it is not my intent to sway you in any particular direction. This is merely my reaction to the movie as it presented itself to me, and how I feel about the internet and getting caught up with the people in it.

I was skeptical of this film directly because how is it possible this guy went along with this charade without doing a Google search on Abby and her alleged success? And when the moment of truth happened with Megan’s song I thought it was too convenient that the documentary switched gears from being about this Big City artist and his zany country artist Internet e-pals to full-blown Facebook mystery of the week.

Despite the clumsiness of the film, I was forced to put my cynicism aside and remember my own online tenure as an internet friend, of meeting these internet “strangers” and admit: Yes. It really is that easy to both fabricate and fall for a web of lies.

Wracked with anxiety once the documentary moved into investigation mode, I was positively on the edge of my proverbial seat, pausing the movie at times to catch my breath and let my own tension come down. This was worse than any horror/suspense/thriller. There was no blood & guts, no ghosts, no zombies or mad doctors looking to make a creature out of kidnapped humans of any kind. And yet I was terrified simply because this really happened. Even if it was partially fabricated, it could have happened and real shit like this bothers me more than any mindless gore flick will.

What Happened: Angela, a 40-year old woman living with her husband Vince, her two severely handicapped twin stepsons and their daughter Abby decided to use Abby as a vehicle to get in touch with Nev. She was the painter of every piece, though she credited Abby. Megan, though real, has not been in her life for a good amount of time. All of Nev’s communication with Megan (and all of the family members, friends and associates on Facebook) was really Angela. Angela felt remorse for her actions once Nev gently confronted her, claiming that once she got going she just couldn’t stop because she did not want to lose Nev as a friend.

Nev had the opportunity to cut of ties with Megan/Abby/Angela immediately after unearthing the first big lie, but curiosity kept him going. Personally, I think it’s sometimes easier to disengage from an “in person” relationship than an online one because many people present their best selves, perpetuating that this fragment of their personality is indeed who we are at all times. Who would want to give that kind of seeming perfection up? We want that fantasy to be real, even when the picture perfect image is beginning to come apart.

As a writer who has spent years dedicated to her fiction, thriving on character building, and as a woman living in a stressful health related situation that has made me pass opportunity several times in my life, I understand Angela in a certain light: the escapism that the internet provides is addictive and alluring. Angela’s lies are inexcusable, but a forgiving eye can see how this lonely, regret-filled woman wanted to be close to a world that is no longer attainable.

Nev’s gentleness is something be admired. While he readily admitted that the editor of the film was kindly toward his portrayal, Nev still made the decision to remain positive, not accusatory or confrontational as he wanted to enable Angela to achieve a level of comfort enough to come clean with the truth. Even with his acceptance, she could not be 100% honest until after Nev and Co. went back home.

For those that use this film as a reason for not meeting people from the internet I can only reference my own experiences – which at this current moment stands at 97% positive. Take into consideration I have had internet friends since roughly 1997. Some I no longer speak with – either because the general passing of time/interest or by a falling out – some I’ve dated, some that I have traveled to and with (Hi, Jen!) and some like Mike (and the Cruft Family) from my opening quote, that have become so treasured a friend I cannot imagine my life without them.
Yes, that 3% exists, but I have only myself to partially blame as, like Nev, I only saw what I wanted to see and ignored what, in hindsight, was red flags. Without that 3% though I would not have learned to dig deeper, both in them and myself, and learned the art of moving on gracefully. I am wiser for that 3%, as I am sure Nev is for this experience. The lesson to be learned is: when something is too good to be true hurry up, before it’s too late, and use your Google-Fu.


Overall Rating
Story: A+
Execution: B+ It was a great story, but a somewhat clumsy execution, with too many convenient moments (including the origins of the title.)
Would I Recommend: I would for people who I think would “get it” – those who have a heavy online social life, have met friends from online, etc. I would not for people who have no presence online and a cynical view of meeting people from “Google”.
Would I Buy: Probably. While I remain skeptical of certain “coincidences” I still think the overall story is worth merit.
Can Your Mum Watch It: Yes, but if she’s anything like my mom she’ll say, “What’s a Facebook?”

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-201082-To_Catch_a_Catfish_A_Film_Review.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-201082-To_Catch_a_Catfish_A_Film_Review.html Fri, 11 Feb 2011 18:53:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ Wow. If You WANT to Know, This Film Will Inform You.]]> I tend to avoid constant streams of news because the flow of bad and dark overwhelms me and makes me feel hopeless. I can't watch the endless commentary on why people do some of the hideous things that they do, or how our world is becoming more and more hostile. So the fact that I generally love documentaries surprises e.

Food Inc was one I put off for a very long time. I'm not naive - and maybe that's why I did put it off - because I know just enough. But seeing is different than knowing.

Super Size Me and King Corn of two of my favorite documentaries. Food Inc both picks up where they left off and becomes the missing piece of the puzzle.I expected to be challenged and horrified by Food Inc, but I didn't expect to be as moved as I was.

Some of the statistics and facts presented are staggering. Animals housed and fed to become the end product that are so heavy that their legs can't hold them, diseased animals tossed into the meat mix, A semi-solution that is not taken wherein the cattle being fed a different diet for days could kill 80% of the e coli bacteria. Farmers carrying debt of a half million but making a mere 18K a year. Larger corporations refusing to make statements or appear on camera. Those are almost enough to paint a compelling picture of serious issues.

But there's more....the family who eats dollar hamburgers from a fast food outlet based on budget restrictions of both time and money. This same family is shown in the grocery store lamenting the $1.29 per pound price tag on broccoli and when a daughter looks longingly at pears, they are weighed and rejected because $.99 price tag per pound would only buy them two or three pears. However, pop was cheap. The father was diabetic. The mother explained that $260.00 a month went to his two diabetic medications. They had to make a decision between food that might make them all healthier and medicine to keep him healthy.

Then there was the political activist who became one when she lost her small child to e coli from tainted burger.

I could go on but I won't.

If you are concerned about what goes into your mouth, and the mouths of those you care about, you need to look further into America's food supply and Food Inc could be a good starting point.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Food_Inc_-756-1382693-200699-Wow_If_You_WANT_to_Know_This_Film_Will_Inform.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Food_Inc_-756-1382693-200699-Wow_If_You_WANT_to_Know_This_Film_Will_Inform.html Fri, 4 Feb 2011 00:28:33 +0000
<![CDATA[ Vandals or artists? Make your choice.]]> ***1/2 out of ****

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a truly fascinating Documentary. Given the subject matter, it could have easily wasted its time trying to change our minds about Graffiti Art. Instead, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" wants us to merely watch a man record art in the making. And we're even treated to his own rise to fame. Yes, they have made a good documentary for just about anything. Now they have made one for Street Art, and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a truly marvelous and ominous production. There has been much speculation about the film; particularly regarding the classic "is it real, or is it not" deal. Why must we question everything? "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a thoroughly insightful film and some seem to WANT to question its honesty. I just don't get that. Why ruin a film's quality? Why do that? People confuse me too often. None the less, I absolutely enjoyed myself while watching this highly intelligent doc. It didn't seek to change any of my views, which are positive, and it didn't do a whole lot in the way of effecting or reaching me. HOWEVER, that is not something to call a flaw. This film has few. As a Documentary, it's freaking brilliant. It's funny, intelligent, insightful, and entertaining as hell. Those who truly admire Graffiti Artists will have a heck of a ball, and anyone looking for a good time at the movies might as well find solace in the documentary as well. Like most Documentaries, pursue the film only if you have an interest whatsoever in watching these people do what they do. If you hate Graffiti, then give it up. This might as well not be worth your time. However, I doubt that most film-goers think that way. As a fellow film-goer, I'm open to just about anything good. I do not watch enough Documentaries and whenever I see a great one, it's often times very fascinating. I LIKE documentaries. I really do. Which is why I liked "Exit Through the Gift Shop". I mean, aside from being a Documentary, it's just a splendid film overall. It's well muscled, with more than enough perks to keep it very watchable and even intellectually satisfying. What's not to like? Not much, actually. You'll probably like just about everything that this flat-out-brilliant film has to offer. For that, I say DEFINITELY see it.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" follows an amateur wannabe-filmmaker as he documents the works of various Underground Graffiti Artists. Some of these many artists include Invader, Shepard Fairey, and the infamous Banksy. The film focuses as much on the art as it does on the people who bring it all to life. The man shooting most of the Documentary goes by the name of Thierry Guetta. He is the one who takes it upon himself to meet and get to know each major Street Artist, whatever the cost. The hardest one to get a hold of is Banksy, whose art style is seriously intriguing. However, as one could probably expect, Thierry does indeed get a hold of Banksy after a few good attempts; thus the two become quite close. Soon, Thierry is helping put together Banksy's big shows, following him to high places, and even joining him on an adventure to Disney Land. Through each of these adventures, Thierry gets the idea that perhaps he is not a filmmaker. Perhaps he should pursue Graffiti for himself. Of course, he does this. And you know what: he becomes a big sensation over-night. The film documents all of this and morel thus I wouldn't want to spoil a whole lot of it. All you really need to know is that "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is very well-done and very entertaining. It's both funny and intelligent while honest and tense. The idea that perhaps not all of it is true only seems to add to the film's quality. Like most documentaries, it's up to the viewer to truly decide what is true and what is not. It's a huge, ingenious deception of a film. And that's what I love most about it.

Guetta was absolutely endearing. For some reason, you get to like the guy through his "performance" in the Documentary. Perhaps it's not so clearly endearing, and it takes time to get to know his character. But that's why it's such a worthwhile film; because in the end, you'll feel somewhat attached. Bansky does indeed star in this film as himself, although we never see his face (which is probably his choice). The rest of the Grafitti artists are good and make us want to watch them talk about their art for a couple good minutes. The only other thing that I should mention regarding this department is that Rhys Efans narrates a good portion of the film. That's probably how I somehow got linked to the Wikipedia page for this Documentary film on the day that I learned of it. That's just how things work a lot of the time. For me at least.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a Graffiti Artist's joint. You literally can't go a minute without something regarding Graffiti appearing (which is probably due to the fact that the film is ABOUT Graffiti art). Yes, this is an intriguing documentary about Street/Graffiti art. It doesn't care if you want to see it; it doesn't care if you like Graffiti. It just exists, and it's open to anyone who will accept it for what it truly is. I think I am one of those souls who could appreciate the film despite the obvious deceptions. Was everything about it true? Probably not. But in being questionable, the film actually manages to get better. The hype surrounding the film must have done more good than it did bad, although there are always those bastards out there who aim to ruin it for us all. Unlike some very special documentaries, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" does not belong to a genre, nor does it become one as it goes on. It starts a documentary and it stays a documentary. I'm not complaining about this since the film itself was never boring. Thus it kept me consistently interested. It will divide some people in their opinion as most good documentaries do, but if you can appreciate it for being awesome and entertaining throughout, then you may enjoy yourself. I highly recommend you give "Exit Through the Gift Shop" a go-round. It's an intelligent and funny piece of work, which is why you simply can't miss it. Also, if I may add a little "final side note", the song "Tonight The Streets Are Ours"...is just plain badass. And it's played TWICE in the film. Joy!

You will probably enjoy this film for whatever it sets out to be or what it manages to accomplish. As a documentary, it's pretty spectacular. Let me be one of the many who will tell you just how good it is. All I have to say is that it's about as good as they're saying it is. Some will love it more than I did. And some will fail to see why the hell it's so special. I can totally understand that. It's a Documentary, and even though it's not really trying to make a statement, it's still not for everyone. But I'm assuming most of us film buffs have seen enough films to know that just about anything good is worth a peek. And "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is most definitely worth a good look. But that's just my opinion. You know: I need to watch more of these ever-so- fascinating documentaries. They are indeed whimsical in their quality and dazzling in their insight. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is the best Documentary of 2010 that I have personally come across. But then again I have not seen every 2010 documentary, or every 2010 film for the matter. Why would I? It's enough having to dig through all the crappy films to find something that's worth a damn. But when you do happen upon a masterpiece or at least a pretty piece of genuine entertainment, then you feel as if it was all worth it. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a film worth discovering, and I guarantee that whether you end up liking it or not, you'll get lost in it. I guess it all depends on in which context. Will getting lost in it be a bad thing or a good thing? That's purely up to you. All I know is: it's absorbing. Purely absorbing. Entertaining, ingenious, intellectually stimulating, and insightful. All of these things describe Banksy's directorial debut. Who knew the guy was an artist of two different forms of media? Things can surprise you. Even if they are little. Banksy's taut direction proves that he too can be a directorial artist, and I look forward to seeing whatever else he may have in store for those who care.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Exit_Through_the_Gift_Shop-756-1697338-199064-Vandals_or_artists_Make_your_choice_.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Exit_Through_the_Gift_Shop-756-1697338-199064-Vandals_or_artists_Make_your_choice_.html Mon, 10 Jan 2011 23:31:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ Vandals or artists? Make your choice.]]> ***1/2 out of ****

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a truly fascinating Documentary. Given the subject matter, it could have easily wasted its time trying to change our minds about Graffiti Art. Instead, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" wants us to merely watch a man record art in the making. And we're even treated to his own rise to fame. Yes, they have made a good documentary for just about anything. Now they have made one for Street Art, and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a truly marvelous and ominous production. There has been much speculation about the film; particularly regarding the classic "is it real, or is it not" deal. Why must we question everything? "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a thoroughly insightful film and some seem to WANT to question its honesty. I just don't get that. Why ruin a film's quality? Why do that? People confuse me too often. None the less, I absolutely enjoyed myself while watching this highly intelligent doc. It didn't seek to change any of my views, which are positive, and it didn't do a whole lot in the way of effecting or reaching me. HOWEVER, that is not something to call a flaw. This film has few. As a Documentary, it's freaking brilliant. It's funny, intelligent, insightful, and entertaining as hell. Those who truly admire Graffiti Artists will have a heck of a ball, and anyone looking for a good time at the movies might as well find solace in the documentary as well. Like most Documentaries, pursue the film only if you have an interest whatsoever in watching these people do what they do. If you hate Graffiti, then give it up. This might as well not be worth your time. However, I doubt that most film-goers think that way. As a fellow film-goer, I'm open to just about anything good. I do not watch enough Documentaries and whenever I see a great one, it's often times very fascinating. I LIKE documentaries. I really do. Which is why I liked "Exit Through the Gift Shop". I mean, aside from being a Documentary, it's just a splendid film overall. It's well muscled, with more than enough perks to keep it very watchable and even intellectually satisfying. What's not to like? Not much, actually. You'll probably like just about everything that this flat-out-brilliant film has to offer. For that, I say DEFINITELY see it.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" follows an amateur wannabe-filmmaker as he documents the works of various Underground Graffiti Artists. Some of these many artists include Invader, Shepard Fairey, and the infamous Banksy. The film focuses as much on the art as it does on the people who bring it all to life. The man shooting most of the Documentary goes by the name of Thierry Guetta. He is the one who takes it upon himself to meet and get to know each major Street Artist, whatever the cost. The hardest one to get a hold of is Banksy, whose art style is seriously intriguing. However, as one could probably expect, Thierry does indeed get a hold of Banksy after a few good attempts; thus the two become quite close. Soon, Thierry is helping put together Banksy's big shows, following him to high places, and even joining him on an adventure to Disney Land. Through each of these adventures, Thierry gets the idea that perhaps he is not a filmmaker. Perhaps he should pursue Graffiti for himself. Of course, he does this. And you know what: he becomes a big sensation over-night. The film documents all of this and morel thus I wouldn't want to spoil a whole lot of it. All you really need to know is that "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is very well-done and very entertaining. It's both funny and intelligent while honest and tense. The idea that perhaps not all of it is true only seems to add to the film's quality. Like most documentaries, it's up to the viewer to truly decide what is true and what is not. It's a huge, ingenious deception of a film. And that's what I love most about it.

Guetta was absolutely endearing. For some reason, you get to like the guy through his "performance" in the Documentary. Perhaps it's not so clearly endearing, and it takes time to get to know his character. But that's why it's such a worthwhile film; because in the end, you'll feel somewhat attached. Bansky does indeed star in this film as himself, although we never see his face (which is probably his choice). The rest of the Grafitti artists are good and make us want to watch them talk about their art for a couple good minutes. The only other thing that I should mention regarding this department is that Rhys Efans narrates a good portion of the film. That's probably how I somehow got linked to the Wikipedia page for this Documentary film on the day that I learned of it. That's just how things work a lot of the time. For me at least.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a Graffiti Artist's joint. You literally can't go a minute without something regarding Graffiti appearing (which is probably due to the fact that the film is ABOUT Graffiti art). Yes, this is an intriguing documentary about Street/Graffiti art. It doesn't care if you want to see it; it doesn't care if you like Graffiti. It just exists, and it's open to anyone who will accept it for what it truly is. I think I am one of those souls who could appreciate the film despite the obvious deceptions. Was everything about it true? Probably not. But in being questionable, the film actually manages to get better. The hype surrounding the film must have done more good than it did bad, although there are always those bastards out there who aim to ruin it for us all. Unlike some very special documentaries, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" does not belong to a genre, nor does it become one as it goes on. It starts a documentary and it stays a documentary. I'm not complaining about this since the film itself was never boring. Thus it kept me consistently interested. It will divide some people in their opinion as most good documentaries do, but if you can appreciate it for being awesome and entertaining throughout, then you may enjoy yourself. I highly recommend you give "Exit Through the Gift Shop" a go-round. It's an intelligent and funny piece of work, which is why you simply can't miss it. Also, if I may add a little "final side note", the song "Tonight The Streets Are Ours"...is just plain badass. And it's played TWICE in the film. Joy!

You will probably enjoy this film for whatever it sets out to be or what it manages to accomplish. As a documentary, it's pretty spectacular. Let me be one of the many who will tell you just how good it is. All I have to say is that it's about as good as they're saying it is. Some will love it more than I did. And some will fail to see why the hell it's so special. I can totally understand that. It's a Documentary, and even though it's not really trying to make a statement, it's still not for everyone. But I'm assuming most of us film buffs have seen enough films to know that just about anything good is worth a peek. And "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is most definitely worth a good look. But that's just my opinion. You know: I need to watch more of these ever-so- fascinating documentaries. They are indeed whimsical in their quality and dazzling in their insight. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is the best Documentary of 2010 that I have personally come across. But then again I have not seen every 2010 documentary, or every 2010 film for the matter. Why would I? It's enough having to dig through all the crappy films to find something that's worth a damn. But when you do happen upon a masterpiece or at least a pretty piece of genuine entertainment, then you feel as if it was all worth it. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a film worth discovering, and I guarantee that whether you end up liking it or not, you'll get lost in it. I guess it all depends on in which context. Will getting lost in it be a bad thing or a good thing? That's purely up to you. All I know is: it's absorbing. Purely absorbing. Entertaining, ingenious, intellectually stimulating, and insightful. All of these things describe Banksy's directorial debut. Who knew the guy was an artist of two different forms of media? Things can surprise you. Even if they are little. Banksy's taut direction proves that he too can be a directorial artist, and I look forward to seeing whatever else he may have in store for those who care.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Exit_Through_the_Gift_Shop-756-1697338-199064-Vandals_or_artists_Make_your_choice_.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Exit_Through_the_Gift_Shop-756-1697338-199064-Vandals_or_artists_Make_your_choice_.html Mon, 10 Jan 2011 23:31:42 +0000
<![CDATA[Renzo Gracie: Legacy Quick Tip by FM_ALEX]]> This is one of the greatest documentaries I have ever seen and it is about one of the greatest Mixed Martial Artists of all time. Buy this now and witness with your own eyes what a great documentary is all about, Renzo's Legacy is forever burned into my head. What a great man, fighter, and documentary, buy this now.]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/movie/UserReview-Renzo_Gracie_Legacy-1443335-198370.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/movie/UserReview-Renzo_Gracie_Legacy-1443335-198370.html Sun, 2 Jan 2011 09:12:40 +0000 <![CDATA[ Our Land, Our Legacy]]> DangDang.com, the equivalent of Amazon.com in China. The DVDs can be played in English, French and Chinese. I'm very pleased with this purchase, so much so I'm planning on getting more for my friends in Hong Kong and Singapore. I'd also love to get it for my cousins in Canada but I'm not so sure if the DVD code is in the right region. Never mind that, I'm still going to get a set for my cousin so that he can at least watch it on his computer if it can't be played on the TV!




After watching the above Youtube video, I now realized why it's sold at such a low price! Apparently Yann Arthus Bertrand distributes his works for free, ie. no copyright. One can even download it from the internet! Where from? I've no idea. You'd have to try googling for it if you're interested!

In my box, there are 4 DVDs focussing on Earth & Its Resources, Sea & Oceans, Fresh Water and Biodiversity + a CD of the original soundtracks. This set of DVDs was released in 2008 and it takes documentary form with images shot by the famous French Photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand. Lots of information and discussion about our depleting the world resources and also about green energy. It's extremely well done and it takes us all over the world. Even if you're not a "green" person, you'd still enjoy the film if you're someone who loves photography or loves to travel. It's a great sensory delight!

Enjoy...



]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/d/UserReview-Earth_from_Above-756-1670908-195710-Our_Land_Our_Legacy.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/d/UserReview-Earth_from_Above-756-1670908-195710-Our_Land_Our_Legacy.html Mon, 6 Dec 2010 14:38:07 +0000
<![CDATA[Yellowstone: Battle for Life Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/movie/UserReview-Yellowstone_Battle_for_Life-1509347-194404.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/movie/UserReview-Yellowstone_Battle_for_Life-1509347-194404.html Sat, 27 Nov 2010 10:37:18 +0000 <![CDATA[Earth from Above Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Earth_from_Above-1670908-194285.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Earth_from_Above-1670908-194285.html Wed, 24 Nov 2010 06:17:33 +0000 <![CDATA[ Slow, Simple, Fascinating Look at Culture and Babies]]> If you've seen the previews, what you see is what you get. Babies is a look at four different cultures, four different places and four different babies. The "story" begins with two babies fighting, then moves into "A Few Months Earlier" and the Namibian mother's very pregnant belly and her rubbing brick dust into her skin. The film then moves on to each of the babies first hours after birth, slowly following each family as they live their lives, one developmental step at a time.

Most of the time it's just the babies on the screen, the parents are usually not present and most shots are of the babies interacting with their locations and life. Each of the babies and families have all sorts of unique situations, animals, toys, hygiene, clothing, and it was fascinating to take a peek into the different cultures. I can tell you that I'm glad I gave birth in an American hospital and that I had access to diapers after taking a peek at Africa and Mongolia.

There is very little talking, and if there is it is mostly background noise. Many, many adorable shots of babies dealing with life fill the hour and a half, and some shots were so cute it was totally worth the slow bits. If nursing mothers are an issue be forewarned that nursing is part of the film. One mom even squirts milk in her baby's face then wipes it off along the lines of the standard mom spit bath thing.

Slow moving but sweet.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Babies_2010_-756-1661512-193043-Slow_Simple_Fascinating_Look_at_Culture_and.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Babies_2010_-756-1661512-193043-Slow_Simple_Fascinating_Look_at_Culture_and.html Tue, 2 Nov 2010 21:05:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Being a baby]]> Babies still manages to be an entertaining movie. It follows four babies, one from Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the U.S. each. At a certain point, the movie isn't so much about watching cute little babies (although there is plenty of that), but rather gaining an appreciation of just how differently some kids are raised. The sleek daycare in Tokyo is contrasted with the farm animals in Mongolia and the dusty abandonment of rural Namibia. Thus, the diversity of babies demonstrates the diversity of human cultures and living conditions. I thought the film did run a bit too long (at a certain point, the babies lose their charm), but it's nonetheless a fascinating study in contrasts.]]> http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Babies_2010_-756-1661512-194791-Being_a_baby.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Babies_2010_-756-1661512-194791-Being_a_baby.html Tue, 2 Nov 2010 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ For the Bible Tells Me So -- intimate look at coming out stories with regards to religious families]]> I think I have always avoided doing what I’m doing now. I’m reviewing a documentary I just watched. I know I have started some immediately following but have always stepped back and started again.

Daniel Karslake directed For the Bible Tells Me So. Before I summarize and go through the normal process I need to say a couple of things. First, the documentary is not balanced and it does not pretend to be. Second, I am just finished with one set of tears and will probably have a few more very soon.

The summary is fairly simple. The Bible calls homosexual acts abominations among other things. Literalists use this to attack. Let’s say that the contextualists are the ones who say that following the Bible literally is impossible and that each apparent rule must be taken within the whole context. For instance, “On the second day . . . “ isn’t a rule, it’s a story. They say that if you take the Levitican restriction against male/male sex out of context, then of course it is horrible. They also point to the restriction against eating a rabbit or wearing clothing of different fabrics that occur before and after this famous snippet (it isn’t in the film but about half of the 18th chapter is about who can see who naked and when).

Balanced here between the contextualists are parent telling their stories of finding out, of being told. Of course the documentary explains how about half a dozen men and women came out of the closet (Bishop Gene Robinson, first openly gay bishop ordained in the Anglican communion and Chrissy Gephardt daughter of Dick Gephardt, Democratic leader of the House and onetime candidate for president are the most famous, but they do not steal the show).

In a nutshell, that is the summary of the film. The reason I’ve decided to write this so quickly after seeing it is how the film was told.

The parents were center stage. (I will cover my personal stuff below, indicated as such so you can skip it if you choose.)

A coming out story is a coming out story. There are variations on themes from “we already knew” on the plus side to “get the fück out” along with punching and kicking on the minus side. In this respect, For the Bible Tells Me So isn’t really for gays and lesbians who are already well out of the closet.

In all cases, the parents had to deal with fear and stereotypes. In all but one case, the families are still together. Two families require specific attention; I say this because they are bound together by cause not by case. Mary Lou Wallner and the Reitan’s Phil, Randi, and Jake (father, mother, son respectively).

First the Reitans. Jake came out at 16. His parents tried Christian counseling and other attempts to fight him (you cannot separate the sexuality from the person you attack the person even if it is the “disease” you think you attack). He insisted on coming out in high school. He and his parents paid nuisance prices (name calling and petty vandalism) for a while. Then they decided that they needed to stop fighting him (they were succeeding in only pushing him away) and see where their faith would take them. It led them to create Soulforce (www.soulforce.org). Their first act of protest occurred just three years after Jake came out. They protested a Lutheran Synod meeting trying to get the Synod to change its stance on homosexuality. The protest failed, but they kept going, and keep going. Naturally this is an extreme case, not all parents are put in positions to start, engage in, and assist protests; however, the Reitans can be an object lesson that fighting the person only leads to pushing them away.

Mary Lou Wallner is the painful object lesson. According to the website, she is a delegate from Soulforce. She and her daughter exchanged a couple of hateful letters over the course of about 2 years. Her daughter, Anna Wakefield, committed suicide (the documentary says that the suicide rate for gay, lesbian, transgendered, and questioning teens is 3-7 times higher than the national average—the wide variance is due to how studies are conducted with regards to determining cause when no note is left). Unfortunately, every documentary of this kind has to have a suicide or a gay bashing or both. What separated this required facet from those I’ve seen before is how Ms. Wallner explained herself and her situation.

You cannot take on a biblical fight against homosexuality and not use Dr. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family organization—this is true even if you make an anti-homosexual documentary. The Reitans are shown being arrested for trespassing after trying to deliver a letter to Dr. Dobson who, knowing this would happen, closed the site. Interesting, but so what? The so what is Ms. Wallner’s object lesson. She became an advocate with the Reitans because she listened to Dr. Dobson’s radio show on how to raise children and read his books and employed their edicts. That hit like little else did throughout the film.

To be fair, one minister explains that Dr. Dobson has no divinity background. His doctorate is in psychology and when he was a psychologist on the radio, he apparently was effective. It was only after he began to take on the homosexual fight that he lost his way and his initial message. I am fighting with pretty much all I have to say this because his current behavior is so deplorable that it makes any good done before writ in water.

For the Bible Tells Me So vilifies anti-homosexual ministers. None of the ministers appears in an interview. I don’t know if it is because none would grant an interview or if Mr. Karslake opted to use only footage of speeches, sermons, and radio broadcasts. So, to stress this again, this documentary is not balanced. If you seek that, then this film will not only fail, it will likely upset.

Believer or not, I think the audience for this film is unfortunately small given the quality of the storytelling (it is fantastically edited and paced). The audience is for the closeted dealing with fear and shame, for recently out children and for parents coping. The number of closeted, recently out, and coping parents isn’t exactly small, but it is smaller than the film deserves. I recommend it highly but with the warnings given.

Personal Stuff

I wouldn’t bother with this were it not for the Reitans. Jake is significantly younger than I, but our stories are remarkably the same up until the important point. I was 16 when I came out. My parents went nuts. I was out at school and that pretty much had me marked with the red letter A (AIDS) and F (fággot). My parents pushed me into Christian counseling—this is the only difference so far since Mr. Reitan is a practicing Christian and I’m a neverbeliever—which only made me hate them more. That failed and the fighting continued. Mr. Reitan’s parents built a cause that goes well beyond the bond of these three people.

Now more than 20 years on, the best I can say is that my parents and I sit in a DMZ. You cannot fight the gayness out of a child, you fight the child. The child only has a couple of options. The first is to fight back. From here it is keep fighting until something breaks. For the Reitans the break brought a cause. For Ms. Wallner the break was a suicide and its painful lesson. For the Gephardts the break was relatively simple, just a fear for the now adult child with regards to acceptance/violence. For the Robinsons the break was with tradition.

For me, the break is still happening. The only thing you get while sitting in a DMZ is that there are no weapons. There is no peace, there is no ease. In my case what sits in this un-place is a low grade and tiresome fear and a pre-mourning I find it harder and harder to tolerate upon each meeting which I try to keep to a minimum for that reason.

It’s egotistical to do it in the first place, but I would probably have avoided it if not for Jake’s story. My dearest wish is for small versions of Jake’s story to spread and for Ms Wallner who has taken on “hundreds” of surrogate Anna’s to end. Sadness and loss are horrible ways to learn because if we make good choices while depressed it is by luck alone and if you learn from loss, you don’t get anything back once you have learned the lesson.

If you have read this, thanks for indulging me.


 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-For_The_Bible_Tells_Me_So-756-1581630-188022-For_the_Bible_Tells_Me_So_intimate_look_at.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-For_The_Bible_Tells_Me_So-756-1581630-188022-For_the_Bible_Tells_Me_So_intimate_look_at.html Wed, 13 Oct 2010 17:35:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Bridge -- the most popular place to ... well ... kill yourself]]> Eric Steel assembled a group of what amounts to camera people to film the Golden Gate Bridge over the course of a year. Why?

More suicides are committed on that spot of geography than any other. Mr. Steel learned this from The New Yorker in 2003. Starting from the first day of 2004, he brgan shooting the bridge. During the course of 90 minutes, the cameras catch a number of people jumping from the bridge.

I’m not kidding.

The film consists of two things, shots of the Golden Gate Bridge from all sorts of angles in all weather and some totally stunning time-lapse shots and interviews with friends and family of those who decided to jump. The personal emotional storm caused between these two fronts--real suicides caught and presented and the careful, honest, and dignified interviews—will not be something that will go away soon.

It is fitting that my digital cable plays Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” while I write this. I don’t accept kismet, but if I needed a song around to write this piece, I can think of no other that would be as effective.

One thing that struck me so deeply was the lack of tears in those interviewed. Only one woman, whose face isn’t shown, sheds more than just the tear or two that comes with sad sniffles. Upon reflection, I believe I know why and it is both a strength and a weakness for the film. The issue is mental illness. Suicides involve mental illness in all but the drug induced. I am confident in this statement despite saying “all” I’ve studied this topic (specifically and mental illness generally) to be able to back this statement with chapter and verse.

The strength is the discussion of mental illness from those left to find out the news. No one was surprised to learn of the suicide of their loved one. It seemed as if the leap was a fait accompli and the stories they told were of the dissolution from a sense of at least some stability to the sudden mental then physical descent to the end.

The weakness is that The Bridge did not focus on this enough. Twenty-four people successfully killed themselves by leaping from the bridge in 2004. I liked the individual stories, but I would have liked to see something from at least one professional. The film of the people falling is the mentally ill themselves; they are not stunt people. I won’t say that The Bridge glorifies suicide in general or from the Golden Gate Bridge in particular, but it also does nothing to refute the behavior.

A photographer walking on the bridge and taking pictures actually rescued a woman (this was also caught on Mr. Steel’s cameras). What he said is applicable to The Bridge and is an indictment of sorts. He says that as he was taking pictures of the bridge and then of the woman as she climbed over to jump, he felt like a National Geographic photographer. He saw things through the lens as a great shot, a type of fiction. Then he realized the situation and grabbed her from the little platform that runs alongside the bridge.

The camera people did have Bridge Patrol on their cell phones and apparently did what they could to stop people who looked suspicious. At least 2 of the jumpers didn’t hesitate at all and never bothered with the little platform; they threw themselves from the railing. The indictment is that we are never given information of how many times the camera people called the Bridge Patrol and successfully stopped a suicide attempt. There are 2 occasions where people on the bridge call 911, but nothing from the crew. I’m not saying they were guilty of anything except perhaps poor taste, but did they become so engrossed with the semi-fiction you get from staring through a lens?

Recommendations? I watched it, but the topic is beyond easy understanding. The jumpers are real. Their impact is real. The topic is raw, but not covered as professionally as I think is necessary. My real problem ultimately is not with the shock of knowing it’s real. My problem is that the issue of suicide and mental illness do not get the attention they need to indicate just how serious it is. Instead, the audience is given the romance of the bridge and the stories of those left behind. Ultimately I have to say that I cannot recommend it.


 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Bridge-756-1531981-188005-The_Bridge_the_most_popular_place_to_well.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Bridge-756-1531981-188005-The_Bridge_the_most_popular_place_to_well.html Wed, 13 Oct 2010 17:06:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ Ghosts of Abu Ghraib -- "We listened as his soul cracked"]]> Rory Kennedy directed a documentary on the events at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004. If humiliation, degradation, and torture make you ill, then you will likely have to watch this 70 minute documentary in pieces (if at all). The information and footage (and pictures) contain far more than was originally shown when the story was exposed and in the aftermath of this discovery.

The documentary starts with the famous Yale study devised by Dr. Stanley Milgram. This was a study to see how compliant people would be if told by someone perceived to be in authority to perform an inhumane act. The inhumane act was to give shocks of increasing voltage to a subject that could not be seen but who could be heard. The results showed that people were by and large extremely compliant when someone in authority presses the issue. Most test subjects sent shocks to the actors who screamed and begged as the voltage was increased just because they were told to do so. The study was done in 1961, just 16 years after the end of the Second World War and the brutality uncovered there. This study has always made me nauseous. It seems that Mr. Kennedy wanted to use this as the motif of what was to follow. I think this is an incomplete choice.

Ten years later Dr. Philip Zimbardo at Stanford created a prison scenario using students as prisoners and guards (chosen at random). In something like 36 hours “guards” and “prisoners” took to their roles and it was just a short time after that the guards began to use sadistic and humiliating methods on the prisoners just because they could. The situation degraded so quickly that a 2 week study only went on for 6 days. Each of these studies are linked because Dr. Zimbardo was a high school friend of Dr. Milgram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_Prison_Experiment).

The title of the essay comes from one of the detainees who spent several months, some of it being abused, in Abu Ghraib. The American counterpart to this chilling statement was from Israel Rivera (MP at Abu Ghraib). He said that once you got to a point of seeing the people as objects you went through a door and it was a door you could never come back through. What the more thoughtful MPs realized when they had time to consider their actions understood that they were able to do horrifying things to people without that much encouragement. The studies listed above explain that there is a darker side to all of us but most of us do not live in a stressful situation that would cause it to come out (assuming you don’t do it as a fetish—that is not at issue here).

There is no plot, so I will go through the documentary listing the events and trying to keep my ire at a minimum since this is a film review not an essay for the Writer’s Corner. This is not a story that needs a plot—a plot would actually tend to make what happened more disgusting.

In addition to Mr. Rivera, the documentary interviews the following members of an MP division that was supposed to be support staff elsewhere (they had never been trained to handle prison situations): Javal Davis, Ken Davis, Tony Lagouranis, Roman Krol, Sam Provance, Sabrina Harman, and Megan Ambuh. All but Mr. Israel and Mr. Krol received some time in a military jail (no more than six months) or a reduction in rank. This last action occurred also to Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. She had been given control over all prisons but was not given enough trained personnel so she took the fall for a situation that there is likely no one who could have made successful. Each of these members of the military explains their situation plainly and clearly. They all admit their culpability. As I mentioned in my review for Iraq for Sale if even just 10% of what they say is true (and we know more than that small percentage is true) then what we learn is disgusting for reasons that all of us have decided for ourselves (unless you see that sort of treatment of mostly innocent people as just collateral condition of war).

The film shows pictures and some grainy film footage of the events that took place in the 1A section of Abu Ghraib. The men and women who had been involved in the incidents describe them. The two women are stone faced and slow to answer; this does not mean they are dissembling or anything (I think) but it is interesting. This is especially true when compared with the men. The men were expressive and openly confused in many cases about why they did what they did. I am unqualified as either a sociologist or an expert in the modern American military, but I couldn’t let this go without comment.

The reason this group (including Charles Grainer㬆 year sentence—and Lindy England—three year sentence) was put in a position for this to happen, in addition to total lack of training for the situation and a prisoner to guard ratio that would scare the most sanguine among us comes from well up the chain of command and includes one person well outside that chain.

Mr. Kennedy explains that it was essentially 3 people who made the abuses at Abu Ghraib not just possible but likely. The first was John Yoo, actually interviewed for the documentary. He was the deputy attorney general that helped draft the memo that “redefined” the Geneva Convention’s prohibition against torture. The convention bars severe pain or similar treatment. According to Mr. Yoo, the word severe is “ambiguous and vague.” So his memo allows stress positions, simulated drowning, sensory deprivation, and sensory overload (not to forget the psychological tortures specific to the culture with regards to dogs, nudity, and shame). That is part one.

Part two is former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. He allegedly got very angry, according to the film, that there was little useful information coming out of Iraq but tons coming out of Guantanamo Bay detention center. His solution was to send in the third part. He reassigned Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller (former overseer of Guantanamo Bay) to oversee prisons in Iraq.

Part three is Maj. Gen. Miller. His mission was to “Gitmoize” Iraq. This is a word that needs to be dropped from any consideration as an allowable word—that is huge coming from me. Mr. Yoo explained the definition of severe to fit his needs; his definition applied and was used. Maj. Gen. Miller used the anti-cultural techniques at Guantanamo Bay and brought those to Iraq.

Mix all parts equally (oddly enough that is the way a Molotov cocktail is made, equal parts vodka, oil, and gasoline). The untrained MPs in a hostile situation beyond their understanding is the rag fuse put in the neck of the bottle containing the cocktail.

What is missing? Yes, the flame. Dr. Milgram and Dr. Zimbardo explained how the flame would come into the scene. This strange recipe is not intended to forgive those who perpetrated the abuse, they have answered for that to some extent and will likely continue in one way or another. It is simply an explanation for the path to it. (I have the 1300 page The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib and I intend to finish it, but it is not an easy slog, by golly.)

The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib isn’t an exposé we already know about it. This film seems to be a tacit warning that, if care is not taken into consideration, any soldier or paramilitary or contractor can turn into a sadistic overseer. It is uncomfortable because it is impossible for me, at least, to sit on my sofa and think about what I would do in any of the three situations (the Yale study, the Stanford study, or being an MP at Abu Ghraib). I can stand at Mr. Rivera’s metaphorical door . . . but then what?

The documentary is well made and is as balanced as something as the kind can be—it is hard enough to justify torturing people who really do have information about an impending attack of a massive kind; it is impossible to explain torture of people who were just in the wrong place and had no information at all. The information isn’t totally new, but it is presented in a new way that leaves the viewer standing at this door. If that is more frightening to you than something like Saw then stay far away from this documentary.


 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Ghosts_of_Abu_Ghraib-756-1652521-187845-Ghosts_of_Abu_Ghraib_We_listened_as_his_soul.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Ghosts_of_Abu_Ghraib-756-1652521-187845-Ghosts_of_Abu_Ghraib_We_listened_as_his_soul.html Wed, 13 Oct 2010 16:49:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ When the Levees Broke -- well made, well presented]]> Before I go into the review of Spike Lee’s 4 hour documentary When the Levees Broke I need to explain a couple of things for the sake of full disclosure. First, since the election horror story of 2000, I have gotten nearly 0% of my news from television—I watched some coverage of September 11, but no more than 2 hours worth and I watched election results for a couple of hours last November because I was excited that a change was coming. The second thing I need to disclose is that I am no fan of New Orleans. I understand why it is popular. It is similar to two other places on the planet (possibly others) that I have been to: Savannah, Georgia and Amsterdam, Holland. Each of these cities values a level of calmness and easiness that should be infectious. I am immune to the supposed allure of New Orleans and Savannah, but am totally addicted to Amsterdam. It is from this that I can understand the reason so many people so far away from New Orleans could mourn something more than the tragedy.

When the Levees Broke is subtitled “A Requiem in 4 Acts.” This is a bit of a misnomer. It isn’t really a requiem in the true sense. A requiem assumes death; this documentary ended with something that was quite the opposite of death. Everyone who is informed knows something about it. On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the American Gulf Coast. It devastated the hell out of Mississippi; it caused extensive but only Purgatory level damage in Alabama, and a similar amount of damage in south Florida when the hurricane left Atlantic waters for the Gulf. The day after, the levees protecting New Orleans failed and 80% of the city was flooded. The documentary covers the events in 4 parts as the subtitle implies: 1) Storm Warning, Storm Landing 2) Aftermath and what I will call a pre-Holocaust 3) Realization, Anger, Movement towards Normalization 4) Specific Anger and the Will of the Natives.

I saw none of this coverage on television. I listened to NPR and got print news from The New York Times. Nothing I saw was ‘news’ in that sense, but I saw the horror of the time between. The time between the storm and any organized effort at evacuation was something unreal.

Mr. Lee, not known for balanced storytelling or keeping himself out of the limelight, did something surprising to me. He chose a group of people, about 30 in all, to tell the whole story. Included in this were Mayor Nagen, Governor Blanco, African American residents of various parts of the city, white residents of various parts of the city, and a few people in St. Barnard Parish, which was essentially erased from the map. He let them say their piece with a minimum of interference. He gave small voice to people who believed the levees had been blown so that wealthier neighborhoods were not flooded. He handled this deftly—he let a few people address it, let one or two people who are residents and not members of any government refute it, then left the story alone.

I disagree that race played a significant part in what happened. I say this because of what happened with the other Bush was in the White house. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo ate up half of South Carolina, including the very white city of Charleston—the swath went up the state and did significant damage as far north as Charlotte (4 hours from the water); either Bush’s have no idea what to do when hurricanes hit, or the Feds, except under Clinton, are just hopeless at it. I say that from the distance that not watching television news allows. Mr. Lee points out fairly plainly what the problems were with the Act II pre-Holocaust. There were three levels of government and what, under Mr. Clinton had been a fourth part. The Federal government was looking to the state for information; the state looked to the city. The only information coming from the city was coming from television news (those prettified vultures who show and tell, then leave—apparently Anderson Cooper was slightly different as was Brian Williams, but I didn’t witness it first hand). The state cannot take information from television reporters as facts. The mayor was in a position to know but not to speak—political issues or just plain shock. Either way, the communication from local to Federal level was fouled up.

Let’s assume it wasn’t. Because FEMA had no experts in any position of power anymore since Bush used it as a dumping ground of political patronage (undoing the work of Mr. Clinton), nothing was happening because no one knew who had the authority to launch which part of the plan—assuming there was one. The blame pretty clearly at the time, and even more so today, rests on the narrow and ugly shoulders of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He knew that NYC was the place of potentially the worst disaster because of another terrorist attack, that San Francisco was number two due to massive earthquake, and that New Orleans was number 3 due to hurricane. Nothing was done to prepare any of these places for the likelihood of the events.

Because of this scores of people died because no one knew who had the authority to launch an effort just to provide food, water, and medicine. As Soledad O’Brien of CNN made plain, those things were in Indonesia 2 days after the 2004 tsunami, and at day 5, none of those things were in New Orleans. This is due to Federal governmental incompetence that was not incompetent during the Clinton years—thank you very very very much James Lee Witt.

Bashing this government though is like hitting a pinata without wearing a blindfold—it is too easy and the payoff isn’t that great. I hope to be one of the essayist and historians who prove that this is the worst administration ever visited on this nation, but this essay is not the time for it.

Where the documentary fell apart a bit for me was when people started pointing fingers. This is a natural thing, but cameras in peoples’ faces tend to lead them to perhaps say things they wouldn’t without the cameras. There is NO doubt that FEMA is to blame for the worst of the post disaster problems. Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff need to be charged with involuntary manslaughter for every person who died past the second day after the storm. Ms. Blanco and Mr. Nagen need to be charged with either negligent homicide or reckless endangerment for the same number of bodies. They couldn’t get a fair trial in any part of the country, but it would be worth it for them just to have a bench trial, in my mind.

The problem after FEMA is that so many began to blame the Army Corps of Engineers. Here is the problem. New Orleans sits in a bowl and the vast majority of that bowl is below sea level. The problem was not the ACE, the problem was complacency of the city, parish, and state officials in dealing with the ACE. If you live in San Francisco and the ACE puts up some structure or other meant to keep one building from falling. You get a horrific, mind blowing earthquake, the building falls. Whose fault is this? The ACE does what it does based on engineering science which is getting better and better as time goes on. The fault is the quake and the people who live there despite this risk. I absolutely adore San Francisco—it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I would hate to have it fall just as Big Easy fans hated to see the city they loved flooded. The old saw “if you play with fire you will eventually get burned” comes into play here. Living in an earthquake zone, living in a floodplain, living along a coast prone to hurricanes, living in tornado alleys are all very different than living in a place that might see a tornado or minor flood once every decade. I sympathize with the people who fell into the complacency that comes from a lack of disasters in an area that is, nevertheless, likely to face one. However, the blame does not rest with the ACE, it belongs with the state and local governments who knew the levees were likely not safe. It is within their authority to raise funds to pay for the ACE, or have their representatives in DC push through funding to shore up the levees. The Federal government has a large parcel of land to keep an eye on and defend as best as possible. It is up to the locals to tell Washington from time to time that something needs attention—or lean on representatives to do that. Representative government exists and is structured like that on purpose.

The poor planning for the mandatory evacuation is to blame for much. The lack of communication, ownership, and simple authority failed the people of the Gulf for anywhere from 5 to 10 days just for initial relief; another several weeks to get families together that were scattered to the wind in an extremely disorganized evacuation; and months more for housing. There are still people fighting the government for housing, or loans or other issues now almost 2 years later. All of that is deplorable. However, the blame rests with the people who saw the devastation and failed to act in a manner that even approaches professional, let alone empathetic. That is the lasting thing I will take from this well made documentary.


 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/tv_show/UserReview-When_the_Levees_Broke_A_Requiem_In_Four_Acts_2006_-756-1580586-187806-When_the_Levees_Broke_well_made_well_presented.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/tv_show/UserReview-When_the_Levees_Broke_A_Requiem_In_Four_Acts_2006_-756-1580586-187806-When_the_Levees_Broke_well_made_well_presented.html Wed, 13 Oct 2010 16:46:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Protocols of Zion -- poorly explained and executed, a complete waste of time]]> Protocols of Zion is a documentary that has no direction. It wanders in a host of directions, but is unfocused and comes to no conclusions.


The documentary reports to examine what it seems to say is a newfound anti-Semitism post September 11, 2001. The title of the documentary comes from the late 19th century book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which claims to be the outcome of a meeting of Jews at the end of the 1800s in which they plan to take over the world. Despite being shown as a fraud more than once, Hitler used it as a part of Mein Kampf and Hezbollah has it as part of their charter. The book is also somewhat popular among white supremacists. The movie poster shows papers in the shape of the Trade Center Towers on fire which indicates to me that the documentary will focus on that. The problem is that, while quoting the Protocols from time to time, it does not focus on explaining why they are false. The filmmaker, Marc Levin, just presents them as fatuous on their face. They are, but if he is trying to sway opinions, that is a very poor way to do it. He also wanders so much from the Trade Center attacks that the film appears entirely adrift.


He wanders from one extremist to another, interviewing them randomly and intersperses these sections with interviews with Jews. The striking thing about it is just how rational many of the anti-Semites are. He interviews the head of a Christian Identity sect in West Virginia who presents himself very professionally. He shows Mr. Levin his warehouse of Nazi and pro-white merchandise as if what he were selling was as innocuous as care bears. During this interview, the man refers to the death camps now as a commercial enterprise, saying “I bought beer at Auschwitz.” Mr. Levin interviews the man who runs the website Jew Watch and has a radio call in show where Mr. Levin appears. Those who call in are of the sort we tend to dismiss because they are so far from rational as to be comical. But the man behind the mike seemed as rational and informed as just about any expert. In a big way, this is frightening because if they look normal and act normal but spread hate, how do you recognize them? Mr. Levin does not really explore this, so, in effect, he is giving them free access to express their racist views without comment. While this might be admirable in some sort of idealistic way, it defeats his purpose.


The only people Mr. Levin shows as completely irrational, the ones who believe that Jews were told to stay away from work on September 11, are seemingly random groups of blacks and groups of Arab-Americans. They spout their conspiracy theories and Mr. Levin stands like Michael Moore in the midst of them screaming logic that to his biased audience will only see as foolishness or further evidence of a Jewish conspiracy.


Then Mr. Levin takes on Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Rather than focus on the WTC attack, he now wanders into the fray over this film. He spends significant time interviewing Christians about the film before and after seeing it (they call it a love story, a nauseating thought unless what you love is extreme sadism). He even shows a clip of an interview with Mr. Gibson who implicates both Romans and Jews in the death of Christ and an audio clip of Gibson’s extremist father who outright accuses Jews of all sorts of horror.


He tries, half heartedly, to get Jews to explain why they believe there is so much anti-Semitism. None of the explanations are compelling and I really see no point for why they are there. In the same category is the fact that Mr. Levin shows that his grandfather was the president of a Jewish organization, but makes no real mention as to the relevance of this. Nor does he follow this up with some sort of summary that will help put this out of place family plug in the context of his film.


The piece is incoherent. I thought it was supposed to cover the way the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were still being used specifically to create a conspiracy theory for September 11. That people still use the Protocols for the same old saws they’ve used for over a hundred years means nothing. Of course they are. People still believe that gays cannot reproduce, so we have to recruit. Both the Protocols and the recruitment ideas are absurd on their faces, but so long as there is hatred towards Jews and towards gays, these notions will exist. In this aspect, the film is a giant DUH that is a waste of time. If Mr. Levin had kept focus on the topic of the Protocols and explained why a group of otherwise rational people would cook up a theory based on them that Jews created the WTC disaster, it would have been worth watching. What is presented is a mish mash of family lore, talks with people who have no insights, and a trip to the cemetery with his father at the end for no reason what so ever.


Reading Finnegan’s Wake is less of a bother.
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Protocols_of_Zion-756-1017638-187767-Protocols_of_Zion_poorly_explained_and.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Protocols_of_Zion-756-1017638-187767-Protocols_of_Zion_poorly_explained_and.html Wed, 13 Oct 2010 13:50:11 +0000
<![CDATA[ We need to be our own Superman]]> http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-184840-We_need_to_be_our_own_Superman.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Waiting_For_Superman-756-1620064-184840-We_need_to_be_our_own_Superman.html Sun, 10 Oct 2010 22:09:25 +0000 <![CDATA[ The original Facebook Movie]]> Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Starring Nev Schulman

Nev: They didn’t fool me.  They just told me things and I didn’t question them.  That’s not fooling.

There are still people out there who consider meeting people from the internet to be a pretty dangerous thing. They might not be who they say they are or, worse yet, they could be a serial killer or something equally frightening.  I challenge those people to watch the refreshingly brazen documentary, CATFISH.  When they do, they will see a whole other face of danger they had never even contemplated.

In 2007, Nev Schulman is a New York City based photographer.  An eight-year-old girl named Abby sent him a painting one day based on one of his photographs.  The two connected through her mother, Angela, and a correspondence began that extended past these three to include other family members, including her brother, father and older sister, Megan.  Before long, everyone is on everyone else’s Facebook page and wall posts and messages fly back and forth without care.  Then something unexpected happened.  Nev started to feel something for Megan.

They had never met but through simple online and telephone communications, they began to fall in love.  Are they falling in love with each other though or with the idea of falling in love itself?  Meeting someone online can be inherently misleading, both in terms of representation and the feelings that come from that.  We control what we say and how we say it but so is the other person staring at their screen.  And what we lack in intonation and physical gesture, we fill in with whatever we want to see.  When Nev and Megan start calling each other “cutie” in their constant text messaging, they mean it but they don’t really know who they’re saying it to.

Henry Joost and Nev’s brother, Ariel, documented the experience for CATFISH, and decide that, in order for the film to feel complete, Nev and Megan will need to meet each other in person.  The road this takes them down is one you’ll have to experience for yourself.  It is just as frightening as it is enlightening about human interaction in this modern world.  And perhaps more importantly, Joost and Schulman tackle the topic with poise and respect instead of taking the sensational approach, which would have been much easier for them.  After all, when it comes to meeting people online, you can fault the methods employed if they bother you that much but the desire is the same.  You can’t fault people for wanting to find love.

Thanks for reading.
For more Black Sheep reviews,
just click the link below ...

blacksheepreviews.com]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-166282-The_original_Facebook_Movie.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-166282-The_original_Facebook_Movie.html Sat, 25 Sep 2010 15:49:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Maybe the Girl You Love Isn't Who She Says She Is]]>
Still, there's no denying that it's a gripping piece of work - mysterious, at times suspenseful, at times amusing, and in the end, a curiously touching examination of human behavior and the power of art. If the film is real, if the people on camera are not actors but actual documentary subjects, then it may someday be regarded as one of the best examples of early twenty-first century Cinéma vérité.

The film follows New York photographer Nev Schulman, Ariel's brother, who in 2008 received a painting of one of his photos from eight-year-old Michigan native Abby Pierce. Flattered by her interest in his work, he adds her as a friend on Facebook. This quickly expands to include most of her family, including her mother, Angela, and her older half-sister, Megan, the latter two he begins corresponding with over the phone. He has an especially good rapport with Megan, who's incredibly attractive and has dozens of pictures on her Facebook account. She's an artist herself - a singer and a songwriter. She has also just purchased a farm and is raising horses. Nev is smitten, and in due time, the two start a long-distance relationship. They text each other constantly, progressing naturally from chaste flirtation to bold innuendo. She eventually posts a few of her songs on Facebook for him to listen to, and he tells her they're all very good.

But then Nev discovers that all of the same songs appear on YouTube. One sounds exactly the same as Megan's version. She tells him that she was merely covering the songs, but it's obvious she isn't telling the truth. And what about Abby's paintings? Angela tells him that they're being sold all over the state for various amounts. She also tells him that Abby has just acquired access to a vacant building, which will be converted to a gallery to display her work. A few phone calls make it clear that this is simply not the case. Why are they lying to Nev? How could he have been so gullible? After documenting a dance festival in Colorado, Nev, Ariel, and Henry decide to travel to Michigan and confront Megan and Angela.

And this is where I will stop describing the sequence of events. I will say that it leads to an unexpectedly emotional conclusion. The goal isn't necessarily to shock, although certain audiences may respond to it in that manner; the real goal is to awaken within the audience a sense of empathy, to show us why certain people are the way they are, even if we may not understand. And here again I question the film's authenticity. Isn't it a little too convenient that such a message should be sent at a time when millions upon millions of people - myself included - are frequent Facebook users? I can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel that something subversive is at work here. It's almost as if the filmmakers wanted everything to go the way it actually does go. No, I don't have any proof of this. It's just my gut reaction.

That doesn't change the fact that I was actively engaged with the material. Even the title got me hooked (no pun intended). The tagline warns, "Don't let anyone tell you what it is," and while this may seem pretty stern, it also ignites a fascinating air of anticipation. What exactly does the title refer to? An interview near the end of the film puts it into perspective, and it affected me in two distinct ways: (1) It allowed me to see where certain people were coming from, even though I wholeheartedly disagreed with the methods employed; (2) it stirred within me such feelings of pity that I was tempted to overlook a certain someone's serious lack of judgment. I was tempted, but I ultimately didn't cave in. If that makes me a bad guy, keep in mind that the lies were perpetuated even after Nev and his team arrived in Michigan. If you can't come clean even after the person you lied to has you in a corner, I tend to doubt there will ever be a point at which enough is enough.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-165932-Maybe_the_Girl_You_Love_Isn_t_Who_She_Says_She_Is.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Catfish-756-1700544-165932-Maybe_the_Girl_You_Love_Isn_t_Who_She_Says_She_Is.html Sat, 25 Sep 2010 07:30:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ Let's See What's Out There]]>
IMAX's "Hubble 3D," narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, is in part a documentation of this mission, made possible due to the IMAX Space Team and the specially designed IMAX 3D camera. While hardly an exhaustive account - which is just as well, since it would mean having to endure confusing technobabble and a slew of acronyms known only to NASA personnel - we're shown some impressive spacewalk and repair footage, aided greatly by the ever-present backdrop of Earth. We also get some insightful, if brief, moments with the "Atlantis" crew, including a demonstration of how to dress for a spacewalk, a discussion of some of the tools they will be using, and an amusing look at what an astronaut can eat and how it's made possible. There's a general sense of enthusiasm amongst the seven astronauts, although that may have more to do with the camera crew than with the actual mission.

We don't get a detailed history of the Hubble itself. Its original 1990 launch, for example, and the subsequent three-year odyssey to repair its design flaw are mentioned in passing, drastically downplaying the time, money, and effort that was spent to get it working properly. You have to understand that this is by no means a cheap piece of machinery; its initial cost was estimated at around $400 million, and that figure has only increased with time. With so much invested in it, there was an understandable backlash when it was apparent that there was an error with the optical system, the returned images failing to achieve sharp focus. The cause of the problem was the telescope's primary mirror, which had been ground to the wrong shape - the edges were off measurement by 2,200 nanometers, and to give you some perspective, a single nanometer is about 1/100th the width of a human hair. The flaw was corrected in 1993 during Service Mission 1, known as STS-61, with the instillation of specially designed corrective optics.

Since then, Hubble has captured a number of remarkable images. Because of its orbit outside the distortion of Earth's atmosphere, there's virtually no background light, allowing for the sharpest quality pictures. Consider the Ultra Deep Field image, which captures a small section of space in the constellation Fornax and is composited from four months worth of data; it reveals a cluster of galaxies of all shapes, ages, and colors, and it remains to this day the deepest image of space ever captured, looking back approximately 13 billion years. The film takes data similar to this and transforms it into breathtaking computer generated flights through distant regions of space. One scene in particular takes us into the Orion Nebula, where a massive group of stars form in a crevice that spans 90 million light years. Given time, some of those stars may form solar systems very much like our own.

This is the second part of what "Hubble 3D" is: An awe-inspiring journey, a deeply thought-provoking foray into the great unknown. It has the power to make you think, to raise questions about ourselves, about where it all came from, about what it all means. It wisely avoids speculation; it merely presents the material as is, and your mind does the rest. The fact that it's all presented in 3D only adds to the wonder. Plenty has been said about James Cameron's "Avatar" - and I've certainly contributed - but "Hubble 3D" is by far the best 3D film I've ever seen. Never have I felt so deeply immersed, so entirely a part of the world projected up on the screen. It reaches a level so rarely reached by the hordes of 3D movies released on conventionally sized screens.

If there is a weakness to "Hubble 3D," it's that it doesn't spend enough time on its subject. It clocks in at a measly forty-five minutes - on television, that would amount to an hour-long special. I would have greatly appreciated an expansion of telescope's history, including who designed it, how it was funded, when it was built, how it affected popular culture, and so on. The images it has captured, after all, are the reason we can create such accurate computer generated maps of nebulas and galaxies. I don't believe we can truly appreciate the contributions the Hubble has made without first knowing what went into making them possible. Sure, any book or internet site can fill you in on the details, but if you're already at the theater, you might as well learn everything you need to know there.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Hubble_3D_2010_movie_-756-1626261-165921-Let_s_See_What_s_Out_There.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Hubble_3D_2010_movie_-756-1626261-165921-Let_s_See_What_s_Out_There.html Sat, 25 Sep 2010 07:23:57 +0000
<![CDATA[ An Entertaining and Interesting Look at America]]>
An Entertaining and Interesting Look at America

Amos Lassen

The underlying basis of "Stephen Fry in America" is the fact that Fry's father almost took a teaching post in New Jersey when Fry was not even thought of yet. So, guided by an enthusiasm for his subject (and his stomach), Fry goes to discover a nation of treasures. Making his way right across the United States in six episodes, Fry gives us a quite unique tour of that shows its diverse culture, exceptional characters, immense contradictions and incredible attractions.
Fry maintains the right balance between the entertaining and the informative and impressively manages to represent the melting pot nature of America. Though, as Stephen frequently remarks, everything feels "very American" but yet for every mainstream cliché (roadside diners, full-gusto American football games and wild west fantasizing) our man finds a minority story such as those of homeless people in St. Louis, the Navajo peoples who still live in pueblo dwellings and the hippy family holed up in a former missile bunker in Kansas. Fry is a likeable travel companion and refreshingly rarely succumbs to cynicism. He is a gracious guest who genuinely enjoys the company of his hosts and takes interest in their real experiences.
America is so big and so diverse that it is impossible to sum it up in a six-episode series. The idea of getting to the heart of each of the fifty states' idiosyncrasies and individual identity is an ambitious goal anyway, so of course there are several regions that don't really get a satisfactory look-in. In Colorado, for example, we only see Fry at Aspen drinking hot chocolate and Ohio receives nothing more than a brief reflection on the Kent State University by running through an archive photo-montage.

There are some interesting extras--alongside the full-length episodes, the double DVD set includes a few select sequences that didn't make the main broadcast; the most extensive being a conversation with a role-playing pilgrim at Plymouth Rock where the Mayflower landed centuries ago. There's little else beyond these six outtakes which is a bit of a let-down and it would no doubt have also been helpful to have a handy scene-selection menu to enable quick browsing. Overall, it's a solid example of the BBC documentary standard and a fine addition to the celebrity travelogue genre. It's captivating, compelling and slightly eccentric, as only Stephen Fry could give us.
Mr., Fry skewers Americans as only an Englishman can. With wonderful photography and a manner that is disarming, we see Middle America as never before and I loved the dance for the elderly Jewish retirees in Miami. Again this is America that we do not know or do know but will not admit to it,]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Stephen_Fry_in_America_2pc_-756-1576693-123600-An_Entertaining_and_Interesting_Look_at_America.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Stephen_Fry_in_America_2pc_-756-1576693-123600-An_Entertaining_and_Interesting_Look_at_America.html Thu, 12 Aug 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Clock Is Ticking]]> COUNTDOWN TO ZERO
Directed by Lucy Walker

“Somebody’s going to make a mistake some day and we’re all going to suffer for it.”

There are currently nine countries in the world with nuclear capacity.  Each of them claims to operate and maintain their nuclear warheads with the utmost care and only intends to use them if one of the other countries uses theirs on them first.  By that logic, nuclear arms are solely for the purpose of protection even though the damage they cause is nothing short of catastrophic.  And who is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of these real life weapons of mass destruction?  Just ordinary folk like you or me, that’s who.  And if humanity has taught us anything about ourselves over the years, it is that inevitably, we will make a simple but fatal error.  Only this error will wipe out millions of people within minutes.

Director, Lucy Walker wants us to wake up and smell the radioactive coffee.  In COUNTDOWN TO ZERO, she makes a sincere plea to the audience to stop pretending like nothing bad will ever come from the world’s nuclear research and development.  She does so by simply reminding us of the magnitude of their destructive properties and then by showing us a number of examples where control over these weapons has been very easily lost.  These weapons cannot exist without humanity clearly.  Human beings invented them and developed the technology that has now given every country in the world the potential capacity to obtain them with the right amount of funding.  Human beings also watch over them and what with our insatiable greed and desire for power, not to mention our great tendency toward stupidity, it seems ridiculous that we all walk around feeling safe from the very real threat they pose.

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO should be mandatory viewing in every household and every schoolroom across the planet.  The threat of nuclear annihilation is very real but currently very easily ignored. Despite this, Walker is firm in her conviction and makes her points plainly but effectively.  The simplicity with which she presents the imminence of nuclear war only furthers her argument about how equally simple it is for it to all come apart.  Within the next fifteen minutes, 2000 nuclear bombs could launch and kill over 100, 000, 000 people in just half an hour.  You won’t even have the time to see this movie after having finished reading this review.

Thanks for reading.
For more Black Sheep Reviews,
just click the link.
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/online_video/UserReview-Countdown_to_Zero-756-1502668-81701-The_Clock_Is_Ticking.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/online_video/UserReview-Countdown_to_Zero-756-1502668-81701-The_Clock_Is_Ticking.html Sat, 31 Jul 2010 19:27:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fascinating documentary]]>
The result is a portrait of a man with a childlike enthusiasm and certainty that he could live with the bears as one of them. He also comes across as a grandstanding showman determined to make himself immortal. This documentary has done that much, although Treadwell and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by one of his beloved bears. Though the bears showed only indifference to him, Treadwell endlessly proclaimed his love for the grizzlies and said he would willingly die for them. One can only imagine the horror of it.

The Alaskan footage is lovely and one is impressed with the power and size of the bears. Unfortunately, the pristine beauty is usually interrupted with Treadwell's showboating antics. I think he was delusional when it came to his safety and I feel sorry for those who mourn him. Heartily recommended for nature lovers and those interested in a man recklessly pursuing a bizarre lifestyle.


The fox was friendly; the bears, not so much.
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Grizzly_Man-756-1018073-73605-Fascinating_documentary.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Grizzly_Man-756-1018073-73605-Fascinating_documentary.html Thu, 29 Jul 2010 07:12:05 +0000
<![CDATA[Jesus Camp Quick Tip by bmcintire4]]> http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Jesus_Camp-13-1549691-73458.html http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/movie/UserReview-Jesus_Camp-13-1549691-73458.html Tue, 27 Jul 2010 20:31:23 +0000 <![CDATA[Twilight in Forks Quick Tip by vampire_eyez]]> http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/d/UserReview-Twilight_in_Forks-13-1503448-67639.html http://www.lunch.com/MovieHype/reviews/d/UserReview-Twilight_in_Forks-13-1503448-67639.html Sat, 24 Jul 2010 01:21:10 +0000 <![CDATA[ A good addition to your Twilight collection]]> http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/d/UserReview-Twilight_in_Forks-756-1503448-67638-A_good_addition_to_your_Twilight_collection.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/d/UserReview-Twilight_in_Forks-756-1503448-67638-A_good_addition_to_your_Twilight_collection.html Sat, 24 Jul 2010 01:18:29 +0000 <![CDATA[ What you hear about are problems, but what you remember are the smiling and dancing children]]>
Commissioned to make a film that would highlight the plight of orphans in Uganda, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami chose to make a very different kind of film than the usual tragic but hopeful infomercials designed to pluck at the heartstrings and wallets of well-off Westerners. His film, that superficially resembles a spontaneous travelogue, shot on consumer-grade digital video cameras by a couple of Iranian tourists, does indeed portray the plight of orphaned children due to war and poverty and AIDS and other epidemics. At the same time, the film highlights the impossibility of summing up such a situation, of representing adequately such complex problems, or of offering simple solutions. Sending cash, adopting African babies, promoting sex education, are not sufficient. Even more, what the film aims to show is that Uganda is not just a "site of problems" but it is a place where children live and play, and laugh and dance, like children anywhere. The vitality of the children, their spontaneity and their promise, in spite of the difficulties, is the impression that sticks most strongly. What the filmmakers refuse to do is offer up an ostensibly objective account of the situation, the kind of documentary on Africa that is so common nowadays, when a news team flies in and after a whirlwind tour attempts to tell us a story that aims to sum things up for outsiders.

In spite of the seemingly arbitrary organization there is in fact a pattern that organizes the imagery and information presented in this unique documentary, that alternates between voices telling of devastation and of the systemic problems that make the situation seem intractable, local activists attempting to empower women to care for their children (there are few men, and it is explained why), and then images of children who smile and laugh and dance for the cameras, and images of adults who are more wary, cautious and suspicious. The whole is given structure by a flight into and then at the end out of Africa. The ending depicts the adoption of a Ugandan child by Austrian parents, who hope to be able to remind her of her origins when she is grown. If there is hope for her, the situation back in Uganda is more ambigous, and through the window of the plane we almost see the images of those not taken, for whom this is not a solution, etched on the clouds. The opening also establishes that whatever impressions we may garner from a single film about a complex culture and situation are bound to be incomplete, and as inadequate as any simplistic or one-sided solutions. We follow the filmmakers as they travel to Uganda, and see things from their perspective; and they make very clear that it is a partial perspective and don't pretend to objectivity. The fragmented character of their sometimes overwhelmed take on the situation they aim to depict is highlighted by a scene near the midpoint, that is perhaps the most obvious mark that this is an Abbas Kiarostami film. The scene reminds not only of the enigmatic ending of Taste of Cherry, but also of Kiarostami's general tendency to withhold information from his audience, to leave them guessing with only partial information, because he knows that their thinking they know what is crucial in the life of another is precisely what makes it impossible for them to empathize with or identify with that other.

In this pivotal scene at the midpoint, after which the perspective of Kiarostami and his partner gradually begin to make themselves less felt within the film, we begin with a shot of the lamppost where mosquitoes seem to glow like fireflies, illuminated by the brightness of the light. It is late and Kiarostami sits with his friend and partner, reflecting on what they have seen and suddenly the lights go out. This is a nightly occurrence, of which they had been only dimly aware and for which they hadn't prepared. They make their way back to their room in complete darkness as we hear rumblings of thunder in the distance. The camera is still rolling as Kiarostami enters his room and lies down in preparation for sleep. Suddenly, unexpectedly, there is illumination from the window as lightning strikes, once, twice ... a third time. Illumination, clarity regarding this or any situation this complex, only comes in fragments, and perhaps only for those who are willing to step outside of the comfort of the Westernized air conditioned hotel rooms that our filmmakers stay in to begin with, and enter into the reality of the situation, leaving behind the status of tourists and the comfort of their certainties. If only for a short time. There are no easy answers, we are told about the problems, but what you remember from this film is the dancing and the laughter of children.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-ABC_Africa-756-1505656-69054-What_you_hear_about_are_problems_but_what_you.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-ABC_Africa-756-1505656-69054-What_you_hear_about_are_problems_but_what_you.html Tue, 20 Jul 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Comprehensive introduction to the art of documentary film making.]]>
Digital technology has made being a videographer easier than ever before, and video editing tools are increasingly easier to use. With this book even video-bloggers and street life documenters can think of taking the next step to directing a real live documentary. This book also helped me understand the director's role in a documentary film where you're capturing life as it happens rather than directing actors. The explanation of these techniques is invaluable, and this book would be handy companion for any new documentary director.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/book/UserReview-Directing_the_Documentary_Fifth_Edition-756-1541406-119483-Comprehensive_introduction_to_the_art_of.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/book/UserReview-Directing_the_Documentary_Fifth_Edition-756-1541406-119483-Comprehensive_introduction_to_the_art_of.html Wed, 14 Jul 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Should be seen by all present and future teachers of mathematics]]> This is a tape that should be shown in all classes designed for future teachers of mathematics, if you want to learn something well, listen to and observe the masters. Halmos was definitely in that class; his thoughts and opinions will still be useful centuries from now. Halmos is now gone, but he has left a very large legacy.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-I_Want_to_be_a_Mathematician_A_Conversation_with_Paul_Halmos-756-1515134-76465-Should_be_seen_by_all_present_and_future_teachers.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-I_Want_to_be_a_Mathematician_A_Conversation_with_Paul_Halmos-756-1515134-76465-Should_be_seen_by_all_present_and_future_teachers.html Sat, 10 Jul 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Great footage, but slow pace]]> Life (narrated by David Attenborough) [Blu-ray]. Like all of the BBC Nature Unit's work, Yellowstone has incredible footage, especially in blu-ray. The contrasts between winter and summer are truly remarkable. However, the narration is a bit dry and the pace of the documentary is a bit slow. Furthermore, there aren't as many memorable scenes (although there are a few good wolf hunts, and nice shots of hummingbirds feeding their children). Overall, I'd recommend renting rather than buying this, unless you have a particular love for Yellowstone National Park.]]> http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Yellowstone_Battle_for_Life-756-1509347-72093-Great_footage_but_slow_pace.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Yellowstone_Battle_for_Life-756-1509347-72093-Great_footage_but_slow_pace.html Wed, 7 Jul 2010 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ A Sobering Wake-Up Call]]>
In a tight hour and twenty-two minutes, filmmaker Chris Smith intersperses relevant footage to go with Ruppert's all too bleak forecast of a near future calamity.

Naysayers may dismiss his authorative testimony as "Henny Penny" doom and gloom, but, say, if only a minimal fraction of his forecasts come to roost, isn't this substantative interview/documentary still essential viewing for all? The media has offered clues of his deliberations: bread shortages in Egypt, over-fished seas, and Greece's fall into bankruptcy. Yes, famine, disease, strife, and calamity have always been part and parcel of any age in different measures, but the premise of this film leaves one dumbstruck--with very little to counter--of a very dark age just around the corner where the civilized world may have to work together or face mass destruction. Surely, his thoughtful offering of "plan B" couldn't do any harm.

Although extremely bright and compelling, Ruppert's emotional break down in the interview only (subjectively) gives the whole viewing a more cogent appeal. Ample evidence and film footage flank the substantative deliberations. Scary.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Collapse-756-1549045-104747-A_Sobering_Wake_Up_Call.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Collapse-756-1549045-104747-A_Sobering_Wake_Up_Call.html Thu, 17 Jun 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Voice]]> Farsi and Arabic so as to avoid censorship by the Iranian government.

The true story of Neda, a young Iranian woman shot about a year ago during a protest on the street. It reveals the political situation in Iran but it more accurately shed light on a woman's quest for freedom. Freedom of expression and freedom from the some of the horrifying practices of the Sharia law. I don't profess to know much about Sharia law even though I've lived in a Muslim country for an extended period of time. There are different aspects of Sharia law in each different country and to what extent it is practised. 



I must say that it is a highly unsettling video to watch. It is one that you must watch though. Unsettling in that in this age and world, there is still a part of world that feels unreal; where dictatorship rules. I can grasp the concept intellectually but my reality is so different from that of what I see on the video! For most people, Iran is an evil country. That is to put it simply. Because the media has portrayed it to have nuclear power and to be under the dictatorship. This video takes you beyond that of a name though. It is not Iran that it is showcasing. It is the real people of Iran. People who are like you and me. The only difference is we take for granted our freedom and our resources. Iranians fight for their freedom and are just about the same as anyone of us. Put them in a democratic country, they will appear no different.

It is easy for the western media and people at large to associate Muslim with terror but that should not be the case. That's just ignorant and pure generalization. From this video, you see for yourself what life is like in Iran. The family, the people, the government. To affect changes, we must be more conscious of what's happening around the world. Iran may not be a country I've ever visited nor do I personally know anyone who lives there, however, it is one that I might visit one day. Not now, not when the government is a maniac. But then again, to call names is not going to change the better for the Iranians. They have a war to fight for themselves. Neda has become the powerful symbol and an icon for many Iranians. An icon for their quests for freedom. She has certainly not died in vain.  As for how much change her death can affect, it is really up to the society at large.

The scenes from this film not only shown Iran, but it could be any country in South East Asia. Not long ago, Thailand was in a state of emergency. The scenes look similar. And despite the fact that we live in peaceful countries, there are still a lot of uncertainties and instabilities out there. It is thus a film which brings one's consciousness to a different and higher level. Especially for those of you who tend to travel, be aware of the environment you'd be operating in, especially political environment. I had thought of going to Kyrgyzstan this summer but after seeing the unrest that's prevailing in the country, it makes me think twice!!! 

(A Lunch Featured Review)]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/online_video/UserReview-For_Neda-756-1478337-23282-The_Voice.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/online_video/UserReview-For_Neda-756-1478337-23282-The_Voice.html Sun, 13 Jun 2010 17:00:49 +0000
<![CDATA[For Neda Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/online_video/UserReview-For_Neda-77-1478337-58762.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/online_video/UserReview-For_Neda-77-1478337-58762.html Sat, 12 Jun 2010 14:59:15 +0000 <![CDATA[For Neda Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/online_video/UserReview-For_Neda-1478337-58761.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/online_video/UserReview-For_Neda-1478337-58761.html Sat, 12 Jun 2010 14:53:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ The transformation of the nation from the mentality of a hermit to that of a great power]]> The dark side of the internment of Japanese-Americans is also covered as well as the dramatic changes that took place in American society. For the first time, millions of women joined the labor force doing factory style work and blacks demonstrated that they could and would fight as hard as any other group. Once the war ended with victory, it was impossible to roll back those gains, although it took several years before they were solidified and codified.
The American people that lived through the depression and won World War II were without question the "greatest generation." While we hope that the country never has to face a crisis of that magnitude again, it makes sense to hope that subsequent generations have that stamina and fortitude.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Perilous_Fight_America_s_World_War_II_in_Color-756-1515220-76540-The_transformation_of_the_nation_from_the.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Perilous_Fight_America_s_World_War_II_in_Color-756-1515220-76540-The_transformation_of_the_nation_from_the.html Fri, 11 Jun 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ BABIES is cute, funny and sometimes moving.]]>
That could be the point of BABIES..."look, how cute." And frankly, it's pretty satisfying on that level alone. But it could also be showing us, and the most basic levels, how we're all so VERY similar, at least when we start out. That all of us, whether from Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo or San Francisco...we all have so very much in common. That's a simple, almost clichéd "lesson", but BABIES presents it in a clear and undeniable manner.

I very much appreciated the underlying points to ponder of BABIES...but mostly it was just a 79 minute delight. It's a wonderful cultural lesson: short after birth, we see the Namibian baby essentially spending his time completely nude and the little Mongolian child swaddled tightly in many layers. Both are valid child-rearing approaches...but are starkly different and both are moving. Seeing the Mongolian child wrapped like a cocoon is a startling image...yet given his stark and cold surrounding environment...it is a way for his family to show their love and caring for this child when they are unable to physically be there holding the baby.

The Mongolian child was my favorite (although I liked all the kids)...and I suspect each person will have their own favorite. For American viewers, the San Francisco baby may either strike a strong chord, or may seem to be the least interesting. The Mongolian child was interesting because he was so darn cute, but also because he had a deep relationship with the animals that were such a part of his family's farm: roosters, cows, goats, cats, etc. You can see how this tiny child will grow up to care for and understand the animals in his charge, because being around them is as natural as breathing. I found all those scenes to be rather touching.

Do be sure to enjoy contrasting the American child-raising to the styles around the world. One of my favorite moments: we see a toddler aged Namibian baby enjoying sitting outside his hut with his extended family, enjoying tribal music in the very area of the world it originated in. It feels integrated and RIGHT. Then we cut to the American girl, who is with her father participating in a group with lots of other kids and parents, sitting in a circle in a classroom, singing "African" songs and clapping their hands in a "tribal" rhythm. The American baby leaps up and runs screaming to the door of the room, trying to get out. The audience I saw this with just busted out laughing...we all saw the irony of an African child enjoying African music and an American child balking at enjoying "fake" African music. Draw your own political conclusions.

If you've seen the trailer for this film and enjoyed it...then you WILL enjoy the movie. It's just more of that. Simple and sometimes moving. And while there's lots of baby nudity and topless women in Africa...the movie is suited for the whole family, in my opinion.

(PS: It's a French movie, but that makes no difference. There is no "dialogue" or narration...nor is it needed. Sure, you understand what the American parents are saying...but believe me, when you hear the Mongolian boy say "papa" for the first time...you don't need a translator.)]]>
http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Babies_2010_-756-1661512-150736-BABIES_is_cute_funny_and_sometimes_moving_.html http://www.lunch.com/DocumentaryFilms/reviews/movie/UserReview-Babies_2010_-756-1661512-150736-BABIES_is_cute_funny_and_sometimes_moving_.html Fri, 21 May 2010 12:00:00 +0000