A few notes about Bartholomew Cubbins’ Artifact, a documentary about Jared Leto’s divisive band 30 Seconds to Mars. I reviewed the documentary here on Entertainment Maven as part of my shitty TIFF coverage. As you can see,
a) A friend of mine told me that Leto is a germophobe which is half-true (he later confided in me that the rock star does shake hands on occasion). And obviously it’s strange to watch him walk around New York City, the dirtiest city in the world where half of the teenagers mob celebrities like him. How gentrified is New York for him to feel safe to walk around in?
b) There’s also this assumption that Leto’s foray into music is some misguided thing to avoid the matinee-idol fame brought on my his TV and movie career. But he’s starring and directing a movie, this movie, so he’s probably more comfortable within the movie-making world than I was led to believe. If anything, I have a new theory now that he only got into acting (he’s back at that industry again, by the way) to pay for the music which, as the documentary reveals, is not as lucrative even for big name bands such as his.
Anyway, the reason I’m writing all of this is to explain that in one of the scenes in Artifact, a quasi-movie star walking around the streets of New York was mobbed by a little group of teenage girls. One girl tells him that she’s his biggest fan, yadda, telling him about her favourite movie in the world. A brief guessing game ensues, ending quickly when she says ‘the one with the crazy lady.’ He correctly figured that the movie she was talking about was Requiem for a Dream, but without saying that the ‘crazy lady’ is Ellen Burstyn. Young people have no respect.
b) During the end credits, director Bartholomew Cubbins and the band thanks Olivia de Haviland. de Haviland, back in the day, fought for the rights of actors against restrictive contracts that the studios were signing them up for. Here’s to hoping that Leto, his band, and musicians under record labels, who apparently have little chance of making money in their music careers, will get the same freedom that actors do.
I’m linking and recommending you to two websites that have Hot Docs coverage, because I write for both. The first is Nathaniel R’s The Film Experience (link below), where I write my first impressions on the Hot Docs line-up, intimidated by a few stand out movies that have too serious of subjects. Or at least that is true with some of the festivals’ opening movies such as The Invisible War and Outing. The former captures talking heads who have firsthand experience of the rape within the military while the latter is about a man who, at fifteen, discovers his sexual attraction to children. But there is a silver lining to the festival’s programs as I’ve discovered other, fringe-y subjects who look at the bright side of their imperfect circumstances.
The second is Entertainment Maven, where our friend Kirk Haviland has written a preview of the festival. He starts his coverage by reviewing Brett Whitcomb’s Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I share reviewing duties with him, starting with the Ross Brothers’ Tchoupitoulas, a movie sharing a name with a bustling street in New Orleans’ French Quartier. I’ve also seen Najeeb Mirza’s Buzkashi, about a traditional Tajik sport that’s raising Western eyebrows. I also have pending tickets about Tajikistan’s powerful neighbours in The Boxing Girls of Kabul. I’m sensing that my coverage is more international than I previously thought. I’m also looking forward to our co-reviewer Nadia Sue Sandhu who is bravely facing the James Franco doc, among others. This week will be tiring, as most scary fun things are.
- Hot Docs: Paolo’s Opening Reactions (thefilmexperience.net)
Oh Pina, you esoterically creative movie you. You adequately use 3D. You let old people dance. I thought you were going to be just one dance piece after another but you also show the titular Pina Bausch teaching her company and those dancers whose lives she has touched. Here’s a media-heavy, pretentious are the movies/ dances/songs that I remember when I watched you.
1940: Fantasia – Walt Disney uses the end of the Jurassic period to accompany the music as opposed to the original subject matter. Speaking of which, how old was I when I knew about human sacrifices. I couldn’t have been that old. Also, my high school put together a performance of Printemps.
2009: Coco and Igor – Director Jan Kounen takes us to the first performance of Vaslav Nijinski‘s vision. We mostly see the the blackness that envelopes the dancers as the wait for the audience’s reactions while having to go on like professionals should. Nijinsky and Igor Stravinsky later fight about the piece’s reaction.
2009: Mao’s Last Dancer (Bruce Beresford. ch. Graeme Murphy) – Instead of a woman, the company’s star is a man, Li Cunxin. I’m not sure what the story is here, whether he’s the sacrifice or the one doing the sacrificing but this athletic, daring and exposing choreography looks enthralling.
2011: Pina (Wim Wenders) – Bausch’s interpretation of the dance is more arm-y although it incorporates the jumps in Nijinsky’s original choreography. The story is more coherent and shows how death randomly chooses its young victims as the multinational company pass along the chosen virgin’s ironic red dress.
2002: Hable con ella – This movie’s Cafe Mueller scene is probably many movie lovers’ introduction to Bausch. Her gaunt face and slenderness complements the piece’s theme of yearning, even in an adult, contemporary setting where those kind of emotions should be eliminated by civilization and choice. The movie ends with Bausch’s piece Mascura Fogo, which is so simple and physically expressive that only someone like Bausch can invent it.
2011: Pina – The movie both shows Bausch’s rendition of her own choreography with the equally moving tribute by one of her company’s dancers. They also take bits of Café Mueller to different environments, making its lines look natural and transcendent. Oh and her pieces mostly seem to be about mating, barriers and behaviours about love.
1946: It’s a Wonderful Life – Kontakthof strikes me as a very American piece with the multipurpose dance hall setting. It’s if its context would be relatable on both sides of the Atlantic, the dance hall a place for people to reacquaint with each other. I’d also make the same association with They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? if I saw that movie.
2011: Pina – Unlike the two movies I stated above, Kontakthof uses the setting to play around with age and dancing traditions. A ‘senior’ troupe performed this piece in Britain. The Wuppertals mix the ages around, the seasoned veterans sharing the floor with the new blood. The pieces have their different purposes, Printemps showing what Bausch is famous for, Mueller retraces her steps, Kontakthof passes her legacy to new generations.
2002: “The Private Press” -Contemporary dance seems like the medium’s Wild West in a way that despite of the dominant use of (contemporary) classical and baroque music used in the pieces, any company can use whatever music they like. My favourite scene is when I’m sure that are the performers dancing to a song from the first half of DJ Shadow’s second album.
2010: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky. ch. Benjamin Millepied?) – It’s taken me this long and this piece to revisit that movie’s histrionics. The set here is just a full moon at the background, one of James Wolcott’s points against the movie in his scathing review. I can only compare Black Swan‘s sets to Wuppertals’ big rock and flooded stage as apples and oranges. There’s an air to their approach to how both stage dance as minimalist if not for the ornamental details, like the translucent curtains that both movies share.
- The Magic Of Pina Bausch (buzzfeed.com)
I first watched Morgan Spurlock‘s Sundance hit Super Size Me some time within my last two years in high school, possibly during my Media Studies class where all we did was watch movies. Or maybe was it in Ethics class. The director has a weird reputation for me now, seeming like some attention-grabbing, condescending liberal to end all condescending liberals. The fact that fellow (and possible rival) liberal Michael Moore is no longer on the spotlight doesn’t help to take any heat off Spurlock. In the film, he goes on this thirty-day experiment of only consuming the foods and drinks is on the McDonalds’ menu, agreeing to be ‘Super Sized’ when asked. But at least, I suppose, he wasn’t drinking or smoking during those thirty days.
He points the camera mostly to himself, renting a car to cut his physical activity and exercise. Being ‘strung out on ham’ and complaining about the diet’s effects which I couldn’t really see. This ‘performance’ part of the movie sticks out in the eight years between the first and second time I’ve seen this, being one of three documentaries that occasionally lifts my willing suspension of disbelief. Super Size Me‘s popularity has also prompted him to do a cable series called “30 Days” where he convinces Americans to place themselves within different shoes for thirty days, like an Islamophobe to Muslim Michigan or himself to prison. I don’t remember anyone else watching this show.
But I can admit that I misread Spurlock as a filmmaker and person. He explains that he was raised in West Virginia and as a tall, athletic man with weird facial hair, he makes sense both as a New Yorker and as a middle American, just like the people he visits and interviews to get the McDonalds experience in different states like California, DC and the fattest state of Texas (I suppose that with the knowledge of the physical state of the latter state, if there was another Civil War the gun-less, pacifist Union might still win).
And it’s not all just him hogging the camera. Yes, the B-roll of ‘fat’ Americans both young and all makes me feel like I have to poke fun of someone as part of experiencing this movie. But as one of many ‘experts’ in this film says, it’s better to convince someone to stop smoking or drinking than to tell someone to go on a diet. A black lung or liver is a state that people get themselves into, as opposed to obesity that might be genetically inherited. But the States has become the world’s fattest country and the proves this by letting these experts speak, whether they be general practitioners (doctors), dietitians, civil litigators, ‘cooks’ in American public schools and surgeons. He also makes statistics about American obesity rates and the dynamics of the food market both fun and scary to look at between watching him get queasy after a Big Mac.
Let’s also look at how the film perceives women. Two thirds of the doctors he consults before and during his experiment are women. There’s also his girlfriend, whose complaints about his sexual worthlessness during those thirty days. She’s also an archetypal vegetarian, attempting to use the experiment as a way of convincing him that meat is hazardous to one’s health even if it’s within or outside the McMenu. She has also planned a detox diet for him after his McDonalds month and I’ll just be bitchy and say that he could have planned his own detox.
Spurlock narrates in the beginning that most of his memories of his mother was her cooking food except for those special occasions when his family would eat out. Which is no longer the case in most families in America and he shows a food court that replaces the dinner table. It’s almost as if there’s a warped mind somewhere thinking that the country’s obesity problem is rooted on mothers who no longer toil for their families’ dinners. That we can return to equilibrium again if we put women back in the kitchen. He thankfully never says that. Instead he goes on for five minutes about an overhaul and regulation of fast food ubiquity, getting rid of many cola vending machines, introducing real food that’s inaccessible to places in the States and cracking down on fast food corporations. Too bad he’s just preaching to the choir.
- Super Sell Me: Spurlock Keen To Expose Brands (news.sky.com)
Not to be confused with the Rick Mercer show, the documentary “Made in Canada” is coming out on SunTV at the fall. It’s so cool it doesn’t have an iMDb page yet. Well, it is fall now, and I hope my fellow countrymen sees director Scott Boyd’s journey into making a film in his land. He brushes us up on Canada’s film history and the ridiculous quest for Canadian public funding centred in Toronto (film) and Banff (television). Boyd interviews the people running the system and those defeated by it, as well as discussing the fate and reception of the material that does get approved. Although there’s a lot of footage of Boyd in a funding conference, cringing in a large chair with a drink in one hand, there should be an optimistic end to this rainbow. Like him, the people he interviews have a great sense of humour about the system and the marketing of Canadian films, a quality that helps them in their journey to get their stories out.
This documentary also takes me back (remember “ZedTV?”)when I actually watched the real films in Showcase in my high school years when the channel was still cool. The latter channel, as much as they showed worldwide and Amerindie fare, also introduced me to the work of Vincenzo Natali and is the reason Don McKellar, pre-Grey’s Sandra Oh and Sarah Polley, not interviewed in the doc, are still my heroes. Thus, the defeatist tone of the film’s first half differs from my experience, because the same people who say that Canadian films suck are the same people who say that Toronto is boring, which, get out there, you’re wrong. Which brings us to the people who don’t give Canadian content a chance who get ‘fair’ representation in the documentary.
It wasn’t until watching “Made in Canada” that I realized if any of those movies made money in theatres where it’s supposed to count. And like every other boring film fan, there’s a few screenplays dancing inside my head, and if writing it feels like walking a mile, getting it out there will feel like a thousand. Good luck to us all.
Since the titular institution in Frederick Wiseman‘s Boxing Gym runs for 24 hours, it would be right for the film to have, structurally, a cyclical and impressionistic feel instead of having an arc. We see the Austin-based gym owner interviewing new applicants. Yes, the gym has its share of professionals and attractive ones – which might motivate someone like me to keep going to a gym, honestly – but the most captivating ones are the amateurs. The owner talks about how the more braggart newbies are the kind that never stays, tell a young mother that her newborn is safe in his environment and ask a young. He also asks a college age applicant whether the latter is joining just to beat up a man he doesn’t like.
From his applicants we see that the owner is pretty hands on by training some of the members are running some creative strength and cardio classes himself. In one scene, a mother, while binding and gloving her son’s hands before training, shares how the owner has helped her in her boxing stance. Another scene showing one of the cardio classes is the most visual in the film. Start just after sunrise, the yellow-brown bricks making up the buildings of Austin depicted like a de Chirico painting, the class running up and down a grey multi-story parking lot closer to the downtown core.
Wiseman captures these people learn to box on their own. The film closes up on the members’ backs while throwing punches in the air or their feet while a timer intermittently goes off in the background, latently providing the film’s rhythm. Some of these scenes and be considered as endurance tests for say, a five-minute long scene just showing a member’s sneakers. It’s reminiscent of what Jake Cole said in review of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, especially with watching Nina Sayers practice her multiple spins without Tchaikovsky’s piano music nor a partner. It feels awkward watching these boxers in a private dance in their own heads, although most of the time there’s some spiritual and communal connection to the space even when these people are alone.
Speaking of white people, Susan G. Cole‘s review of the film negatively pointed out that the NYT workplace depicted in the documentary is whiter than Obama’s dance moves. The rest of this paragraph will show my weird expectations about the film and the institution, the expectations being that it’s all ‘liberal’ elite kind of white. However, they do show it’s Iraq-war pushing history or David Carr looking like the kind of guys that hung out where I would shoot pool when I was in high school. I don’t mind white as long as it’s not vanilla.
- Here’s Why There Are (Almost) No Women In The Big NYT ‘Page One’ Documentary (thenewspundit.com)