Category Archives: Documentary

The Imposter (2012) – Film Review

The Imposter feels like it was directed by David Fincher: atmospheric, paced with a lunge, and very eerie. I was excited the minute I saw the trailer: so If you haven’t yet, there’s no point putting it in words, here:

Very intriguing, right? Well, It is: featuring a narration by the Imposter himself, Frederic Bourdin, the movie is well put together, and thrives off hiding and obscuring things for the sake of the story. Basically, the movie is fooling you as much as the Imposter.

I don’t feel right going into much detail, and that’s a testament to how well this movie was made: see it blind and you’ll be surprised.

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Corman’s World

Corman’s World, directed by Alex Stapleton, is an inspiring and coherent film about the Director/producer Roger Corman. It features a handful of hollywood names being interviewed for and about Roger Corman and how he jump-started their careers in the industry, like Jack Nicholson and Peter Bogdanovich. It has short recaps of his filmography, discussing several of his most-known Poe adaptions, as well as showing the action on many of his sets, examples of his film style and guerrilla film-making techniques. The director uses a pretty standard documentary framework, but it’s well-paced and it certainly fulfills the task it sets out to do. Ultimately, it’s going to be mostly hardcore Corman fans that will really be interested in the doc, and it will assuredly remind them of why they love the man and his work in the first place.

Roger Corman is the rebel, they say. He’s the director who was fine with making his films under the million-dollar budget, and often is cited as an artist in how he was actually able to stay under such a tight budgetary ceiling. He test drove vehicles off the lot and filmed them in a race, returning them to the set promptly. He filmed in locations without the proper licensing. He used every tool a filmmaker used, but he used them like a sneaky con-man.

The films of Roger Corman are praised as pulpy and plain fun, featuring monsters from the deep and planets far away. He was the blockbuster man before George Lucas and Steven Spielberg commercialized the business: he’s the great artist of the affordable, but yet not lowly small-budget movie . Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, is a crowd-pleasing documentary, serving up a breezy walk-through of his films for newcomers, and many actor testimonials for the already dedicated fans of Roger Corman.

Girl Model (2011)

6/10

Girl Model is co-directed by a modeling scout. The movie weaves through long-lines of ghastly thin girls, picking out the ones that they believe are the most ‘aesthetically’ promising. The catch of it is that she’s really choosing a young girls fate, similar to the fate she had as a young model, by sending them off to Japan in hope for jobs, only to  return with a heap of financial debt. The problems of the industry supersede the problems of the exploitation being committed by the filmmakers; some of the scenes seem incredibly staged, like an MTV show. When the scenes feel authentic, mostly during the moments where the 13-year old subject, Nadya, is crying, it feels wrong to be filming.  The problems are clear: yet, for whatever girl watches this and decides against a temptation of being recruited, or sponsored as they would think, it most definitely is good. And for that sacrifice, praise should be given to Nadya, a mix of beauty and maturity that outruns her real age.

The ending of Girl Model is dismal: In text, we are told that Nadya has returned to Japan and found other jobs across-seas; maybe she Is a model, or maybe a prostitute; the latter seems too devastating, though, to be said in a subtle manner. From what we see of her, she would not stoop so low even for the sake of her rather poor family. At times, it is a very poignant view  of the cruelty that happens in the modeling industry, including interviews with the ‘business’ man, where he consistently states he is in the business for the sake of the girls, and the good he does for them. It would have been more interesting if the camera-man chimed into the conversation, since the talent-scout remains neutral in her responses to the modeling executive. Even if she no longer sees an abundance of glamor in her job, she still has to remain doing it, partly because it is all she has ever known; though, to put the executive on the stand and test his easily avoided issues of morality would definitely be rewarding for the film.  The scout has one foot in her job and the other in her film: pick one.

Girl Model’s pivotal problem is voyeuristic: we know someone has a camera, to a girl’s face, crying, laughing, hugging, and is filming for our enlightenment. The end-goal is amiable and revealing, but on a single-case basis it just seems wrong.

Paradise Lost 3, Purgatory

The third film in the Paradise Lost series is a provocative and concise look at the errors in the justice system; rather than emotional testimonials, though it has many, it leans its elbows on new facts from DNA and circumstantial evidence. It has created celebrity out of the Memphis Three, which consists of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelly, who ever since they were convicted of the murder of three West Memphis boys have sustained their innocence, other than a temporary guilt plead from Misskelly, who was lead on by the police: he later revoked this on account of the polices pushing.

The film also nods to its earlier chronicles of the west Memphis three, and rightfully so; It has created an uprising that is worth analyzing in itself, with celebrities such as Johnny Depp and the Dixie chicks coming out in support of the re-trial. The power of film and documentary is displayed here, yet also how easy some people can be persuaded if facts are presented wisely. Though we here little from the people who think the boys still remain guilty–except extremely self-conscious moments where they refrain from talking intelligently–It takes a little bit of hypocrisy a long way; we are shown how police corrupt the judicial system through quoting out of context, interrogating for hours for a slip of wording from the interrogate, though this is little different than the editing being done in this film.

It displays great affinity for pace, through pans of the high-tops of a forest, most likely the one shown in the film to be where the murder occurred. We aren’t only told the details, we are also taken to the scene of the crime, where the boys were located in a river. Their is a somewhat eerie magnitude towards Damien Echol’s personality, a black-dressing, quiet, yet intelligent man. But I found Jason Baldwin to be very convincing, who through his time in jail became more and more articulate, and at first refused to plead guilty in order to be released; he agreed partly for Damien, who would be sentenced to death if not. He proved to be strong-willed. But one thing fails to quench my curiosity throughout these films: Where are the displays of emotional crisis? The crying, outbreaks, and natural sobs that would help so much to authenticate their innocence. Throughout, they take it like stunned kids: they are kids.

The film is a great, albeit scattered documentary about unjust witch trials in West Memphis. The people interviewed show the passion behind the unjust nature behind three boys’ conviction, as well as the passion of the filmmakers standing back and filming it all.

Following Sean


“Following Sean” is an engaging documentary, focusing on the youth of a hippy-parented boy and then finding him, Sean, again later in life. It isn’t fictional, which can make you cringe a few times that we are following a normal, family occupied man with a camera because his dad was a hippy. But the film bars your expectations, and one is equally enigmatic as the filmmaker to see how Sean turned out.

Sean was smoking cannabis at age four, running through the crowded street corners beneath long-legged and bearded smokers, wearing ti-dye shirts and colorful scarfs. He was a child of the peace-movement. The documentary, “Following Sean” poses from the beginning, “What will Sean be like as an adult?” And as the student-film footage of the Director’s hippy years are shown, we grow an inexperienced nostalgia for this area. Following Sean is a bit directionless, but it is also a poignant and effective sentimental documentary.

Film Review: Winnebago Man (2009)

8/10

Winnebago doesn’t ask the internet-era philosophical questions straight-on, but rather takes an approach that is not discomforting, but still funny. It is about the Winnebago man, Jack Rebney, a trailer salesmen who has a series of rage-fits while filming a commercial for the trailer company; his camera-men find it comical after-the-fact, and it becomes an internet sensation, the Winnebago man being watched and re-watched with hilarity. The documentary hopes to find him, who is now similar to  J.D. Salinger with his enclosed wilderness life, and ask him how he feels about his life and what the out-takes of the trailer commercial has done to it: The filmmaker is never pushy, nor do we sense him restraining laughter behind the camera, and because of this it is a great study in the Winnebago Man’s true character, who is now very much blind.

He writes about the wrongness and spends time with his dog; he gets in a scary episode when he loses his track while walking in the forest, and he is often blunt and insensitive to the filmmaker, his shouting partly being done one senses out of his still-remnant desire to fill his character. The director says at one point “I feel like I’ve stepped inside the Winnebago outtakes”, and I instantly felt a sense of wrongness: Why give the internet-hounds what they want? Why can’t he be like Roger Corman, who seems like he’d be a pony-tail wearing madman, but instead is a quiet, intellectual-like figure; why can’t we exploit! But wait, how is that any different then what has been done? Nothing. We cannot change to please, nor change to displease, without it being untrue and disembodied: This is difficult in a world that adores, brands, and cherishes personalities. What is Youtube doing to culture? We’ll, not to worry I believe, because within a small amount of years people will be so practiced in the art of adoration that all the popular Youtube videos will be manufactured: Shaky camera, laughing in the background, all the necessities of a home-video will be remade in a studio: Why? For views. Commercials have already begun: Flo from progressive, the state farm danger man, and more are their for familiarity and laughs.

The movies ends on a strong note when the Winnebago man decides to talk at a fan-expo, and he realizes that them loving him is not so much out of ridicule, but genuine like of his character; how this could be possible, considering he was raging all over the place, we don’t know, but don’t question it. It will last as a strong, albeit multi-faceted, study of the man, but we must decide which character he plays is truly real: Will he hate that he spoke in front of people the next day? Who knows.