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Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Recently watched Private Violence, about a domestic violence advocate in North Carolina fighting to prosecute a guy who kidnapped and beat his wife for four days nearly to death but avoided any jail time.

Mostly explores how a society that's getting better at recognizing the issues of domestic violence still struggles with jurisprudence, and directly addresses issues of "why didn't she leave earlier?" etc.

While a lot of it is fairly straightforward and just interesting to know, the movie opens with a thrilling scene where a woman in a shelter is being stalked by her ex. That scene alone earned the next 30 minutes of the movie. But the no-narration, no title cards, camera guy trying to keep up as people walk around-thing is one of my favorite doc styles.

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Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


HUNDU THE BEAST GOD posted:

Seen Citizenfour?

No, although I loved the trailer. Anywhere online to watch it? I'm in LA but it's only playing in a couple theaters.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Caught The Bridge, about suicide jumpers on the Golden Gate Bridge. The film crew spent an entire year filming the bridge and actually caught 23 of the 24 suicides that occurred in 2004 on camera. But the movie doesn't follow through on its own thesis — it doesn't offer an interesting theory about why this bridge draws so many to commit suicide there in particular, and it becomes bogged down with very flat interviews with surviving family members. By far the most interesting part is an interview with someone who jumped and survived (!).

Also saw Bobby Fischer Against the World on HBO Go, a very cookie-cutter biopic that's worth watching just for the new interviews with nearly every one of Fischer's contemporaries. But the "mystery" of why he went off the deep end is no mystery, since it's clear cut mental illness. So the last 40 minutes really drag. You'd do just fine watching up through his match with Spassky and then quitting.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Caught another HBO documentary, Thin, by the same director who made Queen of Versailles.

The director spent 6 months at an in-patient eating disorder rehab center in Florida, and the film focuses on four girls going through the whole process of recovery. Strikes the perfect balance of hooking you with an "ISSUE" but quickly gets very personal and keeps you interested in how these women approach rehabilitation. It ends on a very somber note that underlines how deep these problems run, running the gamut from deep depression to physical abuse and generalized body dysmorphia and anxiety.

And while I don't have children, I think this would actually be an excellent guided watch for parents with young teens in order to discuss with their children, if that's something anyone here is looking for. I would just watch it first to make sure you're prepared for some of the more gruesome and emotional moments.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Just to reiterate because I'm sure it's been mentioned in this thread already -- watch The Thin Blue Line on Netflix instant if you haven't.

I think I'd put it off for so long because I was aware of the whole case, the result and Morris' techniques. But it was even better than I'd hoped.

The Philip Glass score and repetitive recreation (with slight variation) of the scene of the crime is a home-run decision that perfectly melds form and message of eyewitness unreliability. Even KNOWING it was coming the final scene remains a gut-punch. Just excellent.

A nice post-script that I didn't know until looking it up – this movie wasn't in competition for best doc oscar because of the dramatizations (none of which have dialogue!). Which is a fascinating commentary on what we expect from our docs, which is presumably a parade of interviews and photos. And is especially hilarious given the shredding of evidentiary techniques that the movie presents.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


spankmeister posted:

Yeah but what's it about?

I can't detect if you're being sarcastic, but just in case — a man in Texas is convicted and put on death row for killing a cop during a traffic stop. At every step the convicted man protests his innocence.

Errol Morris (the documentarian), while working as a private investigator, begins interviewing those involved in the case, and piece by piece is convinced that the wrong man has been convicted. He begins developing a movie in parallel with his investigation, and the stunning result is The Thin Blue Line.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Did anyone else watch The Jinx on HBO about the Robert Durst murders? I think it's going to be a 3 part series. But the hook at the end of episode one is that Durst has asked the documentary filmmakers to do an all-encompassing interview with him about his life. I can't wait!

Edit: oooo, six parts! Fun stuff.

Cocoa Ninja fucked around with this message at 18:11 on Feb 10, 2015

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Has anyone else been watching the news today about Robert Durst? If you don't want to spoil yourself don't check it.

All I'll say is that if you haven't caught up for the season finale of HBOs true crime series The Jinx by tonight...oh man I'm excited.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


amazeballs posted:

I finally got around to watching Citizenfour.

I enjoyed it but in a different way than I was expecting. The issue is so important and that lends some credence to the film, but I didn't walk away from it feeling any more informed than I was already on the subject. I thought it did a really good job of conveying the tension in the people involved leading up to Edward's coming out as the whistleblower. The scene with the fire alarm testing was really important to the overall feeling I got from the film.

I guess I was expecting it to be more of a factual dissection of the issues brought to light by Edward's leak, but instead it ended up being a window into the experience of the data being leaked. I was taken by surprise but ended up really enjoying it.

That's excellent because I far prefer character docs to "issue" docs.

Oh dear goodness people. Watch the Jinx. The final episode was a great ride.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


mintskoal posted:

This is one of those things that you cannot sit down and think you'll only watch one episode. Fantastic.

What do you think of the intro? Part of me loves it and is stoked for some cold cases when the gun goes off and the singer yells, and my friend thinks it's too much like True Detective.

Although it sets up some amazing moments from cold open to intro, like the finale:Son of a BITCH! *dum dum dum dum*

Cocoa Ninja fucked around with this message at 21:04 on Mar 16, 2015

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Buck is a solid Netflix recommendation. A profile of Buck Brannaman, perhaps the most well known horse-tamer in the US who not only informed the fictionalized "Horse Whisperer" book but was also recruited by Robert Redford for the film as both trainer and riding double for Redford.

As someone with no real interest in horses the movie was a fascinating look at someone who is not only exceptionally in tune with animals but also their owners. It dives into Buck's traumatic childhood and follows him giving horse training lessons all over the US, climaxing with him having to face an unbelievably aggressive colt.

Much better than I would've thought with a gentle story and great moments of emotion. Give it 10 minutes and if the scenes of him training are as transfixing for you as they were for me then you'll like it.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Re: Going Clear

There's no question that between Miscavige and L. Ron the latter is the more interesting character. Pulp sci-fi writer, lying navy captain, member of an explicit satanic cult?! The way that these threads of his life formed the lexicon and ethos of Scientology was hands-down the most interesting part of the movie. As he descends into madness and he starts sampling his own product we get a great snapshot of his charisma and the mindset of those closest to him (the members of "Sea Org.") The interviews with former members was an interesting enough framing device and addresses the common concern of why good, smart people are so gullible.

Miscavige brings none of the interesting background. Indoctrinated from youth he's just an rear end in a top hat, and from the way he wages private war on perceived traitors to the direct physical abuse it all feels very one-note. While certainly his reign provides the most actionable evidence against Scientology in the year 2015, it was dramatically inert for me. I could've lost the whole last half-hour of the movie and been satisfied.

I think ultimately Going Clear does exactly what it intends — it clarifies the history of Scientology and its obvious opportunism, provides a modicum of sympathy for the victims and even L Ron Hubbard, and suggests a clear call to action regarding the group's tax-exempt status. But from an emotional or aesthetic standpoint it doesn't move the needle for me. Glad I saw it, could recommend it to those with some interest in the subject, but otherwise it was average.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Periodiko posted:

I thought that duality of the two church heads was really interesting and compelling. L. Ron cultivates this avuncular public persona and seems genuinely mentally ill, a man who went to live in a sci-fi universe of his own creation. He definitely comes across as a bad guy, with the abuse of his wife and scientologists, but then there's the details like him pointing up at the sky and narrating the universe to Sea Org members, or his letter asking for help from the VA, or when he basically tries to commit suicide by having that man build an electrocution machine, which humanize him and make him seem pathetic and tragic.

David Miscavige is terrifying because he just comes across as a power obsessed, intelligent psychopath. There's no looking up at the sky, no moments of vulnerability. He's just accumulating power and dominating people, and literally psychologically torturing co-workers and subordinates. But on top of that, he's effective. He got the church tax-exempt status, he's overseeing their billion-dollar assets, he's micromanaging Tom Cruise's life, he's having people personally destroyed for tiny personal slights. This is all this man does, there's no Navy career, no sci-fi career, no satanic cults, he's been in Scientology basically his entire life.

L. Ron Hubbard seems crazy and unstable and dangerous, but Miscavige seems stable and dangerous. As a villain, I think Miscavige is far more frightening than L. Ron, and since that part of the documentary is when they really start bringing out the physical abuse and mental torture stories, I feel like there's a compelling shift in tone.

Thanks for taking the time, I see how the comparison was an interesting contrast for you.

But I also thought Miscavige was ultimately less frightening because the vast majority of the sea org types and PR people all left under his reign for abuse of power. And it's no wonder that scientology's numbers are shrinking.

He might have saved the church from immediate financial destruction, but in terms of projecting ideology he can't match L. Ron's bizarre charisma. He's the king of a fabulously wealthy, but tiny, hill.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


I shouldn't have waited as long as I did to watch The Two Escobars,, I built it up hugely in my mind. It was just OK.

It draws a connection between the rise of Pablo Escobar and the success of the Colombian national soccer team, culminating in their 1994 world cup bid. Beyond that, they try to show a bit of parallel lives between Andrés Escobar, one of the team's top players, and the drug lord himself. It doesn't really hold up beyond them both growing up poor and feeling connected to their communities.

The movie makes some bad but forgivable aesthetic choices (zooming in on every talking head, adding fake film grain), but the middle third of the movie, which focuses almost entirely on Pablo, is far and away the most interesting. The connection between soccer and drug trafficking is strong based on the history that the movie presents, but Andrés Escobar's personality doesn't cut through the way Pablo's ridiculous scheming does. Pablo wanted to buy soccer fields for the poor so they would elect him to the house of representatives in Colombia so he wouldn't be extradited (!!!). Andrés does it because he wants to help poor people.

At one point I laughed because they say, "Andrés thought blah blah blah..." and it had been so long since they mentioned Escobar number two that I had to think hard who they were even talking about.

It's not a pass, but...eh.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


The waiting room on Netflix is a day-in-the-life view of an Oakland hospital ER. No statistics or non-diagetic VO, just a well rendered series of hospital vignettes. It felt a little better than the best episodes of those TRUE ER shows, mostly due to the humor they find in the people.

The straightforward presentation has an order of magnitude more impact than the bombast of something like Sicko.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Kull the Conqueror posted:

There's a real nice transfer of Huston's Let There Be Light from 1946 on the 'tube. Much of the stuff shown is adorably arcane but the early interviews with shaken veterans is devastating stuff. I'm really kind of astounded by the photography in this. It portrays real moments in a classical Hollywood style that documentaries would not often emulate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiD6bnqpJDE

You might know this but this doc was half of the inspiration for The Master.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Kull -- I was going to feel smart and make this point but then you hit on it: the history of documentary is very tied up in the history of propaganda as well.

I'm with Herzog that ultimately documentary is at its best when it takes the power of what we consider traditional fiction techniques to impart feeling, conflict and catharsis, rather than presuming DOCUMENTARY as a moving picture version of a NY Times editorial exposé.

I think most people approach fiction as something that should move them emotionally, whereas they believe good documentary should convince them intellectually without "resorting" to emotions. And yet it seems clear that, for the top works in both genres, the distinction is moot — the best documentaries leave you aware of deeper truths of the human experience, whether true as a piece of reportage or not, and the most outstanding fiction performances are convincing because they reflect our own understanding of the human experience.

We could say genre is almost always a reductive description unless we use it to easily communicate how a particular work challenges those same boundaries.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


The Saddest Rhino posted:

What's the thread's view on The Look of Silence (done by the same people who did The Act of Killing)? There's a screening I'm meaning to go on Sunday https://www.facebook.com/events/445355628979601/ but I have conflicting plans on the day itself, and need to weigh my priorities.

Dude, it's even followed by Q&A with Joshua Oppenheimer! Go and tell us how it is. Worst case you can say "Hey, I liked your old stuff..."

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Sweet!

My best doc experience was getting to see Restrepo at a doc festival with a Q&A afterwards hosted by Tim Hetherington and a bunch of the soldiers that were in it.

It's definitely not my favorite doc but it was a treat to have him talk about his process and goals.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Watched The Source Family doc over the weekend - Netflix Instant.

It's a profile of a new-age cult leader in the early 1970s (former WW2 pacific theater veteran, judo master, bank robber, multi-millionaire and acquitted murderer) who takes LA's first health food restaurant and leverages it to become worshipped as "Yod" by a cult of a couple hundred.

The material is supported with gobs of photos and films shot by the official cult photographer and the entire soundtrack is psychadelic rock that was recorded by the cult itself (60 albums in all!). Most of the interviews are with former cult members. The execution is totally fine, nothing special, but the story is such a specific time and place I found it fascinating.

I wish I had seen this before I watched Inherent Vice, I think they'd be a good double feature.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Girl Model follows a former-model turned talent scout as she discovers a 13 year old girl from Siberia and sends her to Japan.

This doc has a few surprise weapons that make it more than its misleading Netflix poster (this is not an anti-modeling screed, per se). It shows the poverty and hopes that these Russian families pin on their daughters sent abroad. It is right next to these almost prepubescent girls as they struggle in a new culture and shoulder the weight of money and trouble far too heavy for them to bear.

The real surprise is the talent scout -- a hauntingly introspective and depressive personality with dreams of children who struggles to connect with her protégés. The movie has a quiet, desperate tone, and is fleet yet also unrushed.

It leaves a lot of "details" unspoken but the mood says it all. The more I think about it the more I liked it. A couple moments where the director interacts with the characters provides occasional welcome relief but is not overbearing.

Only 75 minutes.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


BonoMan posted:

Finally watched The Overnighters.

I don't know what to think. I kinda feel like it cheap shotted me. Like they knew what the twist was and just inflated the original story to feature length just so they could turn around and reveal a "shocking twist" end the movie and take off before folks can have a moment to go "whoa... you owe me more of an explanation than that!"

For me the movie holds up even if you didn't know the "twist." Maybe that's personal preference. Just a really sharp take on the idea of the American dream and the contrast between the ideals we aspire to and what we're willing to do in practice.

It's more about adding a shade to his character motivation as opposed to being truly integral to the plot.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


I dunno, I thought it was pretty clear what the militia leader in Cartel Land's weakness was...

...las Mujeres.

I also agree, the American half of the movie did nothing for me. The guys were quite sad to watch, and since we didn't really get into the depressing background of them beyond a one-off sound bite there wasn't anything to hang onto.

It felt like a producer said, "If you tie in the American side of this, it'll sell better as a doc."

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Finally saw "the look of silence," about the Indonesian genocide, the follow-up to the stunning "act of killing."

I think I might like it even more than than the act of killing because the doc style is so refined and focused. It's more a perfect execution with no flab, versus the daring concept for the act of killing. but they're both really drat good.

What's also so great is that you could imagine either one of them existing in a vacuum and still being noteworthy, but the fact that Joshua Oppenheimer made both of them is incredible, and they compliment each other really well. Lots of long takes where it's up to you to read the human face and try to judge a person's soul. It's deeply empathetic, I think.

I also noticed about halfway through that there's no music at all. And the muted sound design is fantastic. Superb use of quiet and...silence.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Popelmon posted:

Jesus, HBO's Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War is good. Extremely unpleasant (especially the closeup of the dude dying at the end) but very well done. Can't really say more right now, need to sleep on it.

I liked it a lot. But it's funny how even with a legitimate and great POV I still found the director's voiceover overbearing.

It doesn't diminish the great work, but him saying things like, "it was then I knew I didn't care about dying anymore" while filming himself in the mirror feel incredibly false and performative.

But yeah, holy crap. The ending. Reminds me of moments (like after a car accident or something) where it feels like life has derailed for a moment and you're looking at things from a distant perspective.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Ropes4u posted:

Only the Dead is a pretty good documentary on Netflix's about a reporter in Iraq. It's not super investigative but it was an interesting look at one mans experience with the craziness that was Iraq.

Description:

In 2003, war correspondent Michael Ware travels to Baghdad during the invasion. As he tries to find out about a brutal Al Qaeda leader, he receives a tape from Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Trailer

I don't remember the particular city, (not Fallujah, which is harrowing for other reasons...Ramadi?) but there's a section where the guy's embedded with an American squad that is basically running for their lives while being shot at in tight city streets. And running up to Iraqis and hopelessly begging them to stop supporting the insurgents. Just insane.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


cstang posted:

There are three recent American Experience documentaries that are worth checking out. One is about the Ruby Ridge stand off, another is about the Oklahoma federal building bombing and the other is Command and Control about an accident at a nuclear missile launch facility.

This was a great recommendation. I mainlined the Ruby Ridge, Waco and Tim McVeigh episodes. :911::heritage:

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Just finished American Vandal on Netflix. Anyone who is reading this thread is surely familiar enough with Serial / making of a murderer / the jinx and other true crime style docs to enjoy it.

The first couple episodes were laugh out loud funny for me, and they’ve got some great actors playing very specific high school types really well. The guy who plays Dillon is brilliant and makes the high school’s “dumbest kid” completely believable.

But be forewarned, the jokes level off pretty quickly, and episodes 4 and 5 are the turning point where it feels a little stretched out. But like any good genre parody American Vandal is actually a really good true crime “doc”, and the humor is just a method to steep you in these characters until you care what happens and you genuinely want to solve the mystery. My wife and I had a lot of fun debating the suspects, and I’d be curious how many people figure it out before the end. By the end I didn’t mind that it was 8 episodes.

At 30 minutes an episode it’s a quick commitment, so you should watch the first episode at least. #whodrewthedicks

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Groovelord Neato posted:

how the hell does ken burns open his vietnam documentary with the war being started with the "best intentions"???

Give it more than a few minutes. The value of the doc is not found in its narrative thesis statements, especially the first episode which is by its nature very summary heavy. The documentary absolutely interrogates the intentions of many of the leaders and draws a more and more cynical conclusion as it goes.

I would actually say it’s a great strategy for luring in mild mannered doc viewers - “ah, ok, this won’t attack me or my country” - only for it to later rake its viewers over the coals very pointedly when the US makes the wrong choice year after year. Most school kids, for example, do not learn that Macnamara wrote a memo that 70% of being in Vietnam was to “save face.”

You’re obviously allowed your own reaction, but don’t let its gentle beginnings think you should toss it outright.

Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


There is something stupid about a magician explicitly saying “this isn’t how I do it” and then immediately doing that thing.

Obviously adults watch magic for the moment of mystery. Either let that have its own life, or be crazy good like Penn and Teller and tell people how you’re going to accomplish the trick...and then STILL astound them.

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Cocoa Ninja
Mar 3, 2007


Groovelord Neato posted:

i liked it for putting faces to names.

And you need to at least see 30 seconds of Elizabeth Holmes looking you square in the eyes with her (affected?) baritone and telling you she's going to change the world. It really does explain why these older men were smitten.

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