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We spout opinion, comment on the current zeitgeist and overanalyze pop culture and mainstream movies. Whether in the form of lists, survey questions or straight editorials, we hope to make thinking deeply about film a fun and stimulating activity for all.

Interview: Don Argott and Demian Fenton on "Last Days Here"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 29, 2012 3:10 PM
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  • 5 Comments
It’s always a treat when great documentary filmmakers are as prolific as Don Argott and Demian Fenton are. Since their first feature, 2005’s "Rock School," they’ve churned out another four films in only six years. Their highly engaging art world doc, "The Art of the Steal," was one of my top 10 of 2010. And their surprisingly uplifting crack-addicted rocker film, "Last Days Here," was listed among my picks for best docs to look for in 2012. And they’ve already unveiled their next film, the nuclear power expose, "The Atomic States of America."

The Doc Option: Instead of "The Lorax" Watch Dr. Seuss' "Your Job in Germany" and "Our Job in Japan"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 28, 2012 6:29 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Do you think the new animated feature, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" is liberal propaganda? Lou Dobbs does, and I'm so sure it has nothing to do with this latest animated Seuss adaptation being at Universal instead of Fox (like the previous one, "Horton Hears a Who"). Regardless, though, if you'll be avoiding this "tree-hugger" cartoon for political reasons, I have some conservative-minded Doc Options for you:

"Act of Valor" is Actually TOO Authentic, Yet Not Real Enough

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 23, 2012 3:26 PM
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  • 8 Comments
After "Act of Valor," we can no longer complain about inaccuracies and inauthentic material in action movies. This relatively fictional and dramatized look at the work of a U.S. Navy SEAL team is unquestionably the most realistic portrayal of the special ops branch in a "narrative" motion picture, and having employed actual active duty SEALs in the lead roles of the main characters, that's obviously the intention of stuntment-turned-filmmakers Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh. But action movies aren't really meant to be realistic, and this one just proves why authenticity isn't necessarily a positive thing when it comes to entertainment. 

Do the Oscars Still Matter - Even for Documentaries?

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 23, 2012 1:19 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Once again, as we near closer to another Academy Awards ceremony, people are asking the same old question: do the Oscars still matter? It’s a silly question by itself, because we must consider whether they’ve ever mattered, and if so to what extent. To address the debate in full would take a lot of thought and a tremendous amount of words. Fortunately for my sanity this column is specific to documentaries -- not that focusing on the Academy’s treatment of nonfiction films is anything but one of the most complicated topics associated with the Oscars.

The Doc Option: Instead of "Bullhead" Watch "Bigger Stronger Faster"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 17, 2012 5:05 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Usually I aim this column at a mainstream studio release, but sadly there are no documentaries about antihero motorcyclists with flaming skull heads or tiny people who live under the floorboards or spies involved in love triangles (That I know of anyway. If I've missed them, please let me know, because those sound like great doc topics). Instad this week I have an alternative to the Oscar-nominated foreign film "Bullhead," which opens in limited release today. If you're wondering if you should see this slow and terribly unsatisfying Belgian crime drama, I have a Doc Option for you.

"Undefeated" is a Good But Not Great Underdog Sports Film

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 16, 2012 4:57 PM
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  • 7 Comments
It’s very hard not to like “Undefeated,” the underdog sports film that is currently also considered the underdog among the 2012 Oscar nominees in the feature documentary category. I’m not exactly sure why it’s thought to be a long shot, though, since it is a gorgeously shot, expertly edited and very accessible movie with a familiar narrative and appealing characters. Also it’s got distributor backing from Harvey Weinstein (not that he’s ever bagged an Oscar for a doc before, as far as I can recall). Is it the crowd-pleasing quality that has people thinking it’s not serious enough to win? Or, is it truly a dark horse because it deserves to be, since it’s not anywhere near as significant an achievement in nonfiction filmmaking as the other four contenders?

Amir Bar-Lev on His Latest Documentary, "Re:Generation Music Project"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 16, 2012 10:42 AM
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  • 0 Comments
After directing the very significant and highly successful feature documentaries "My Kid Could Paint That" and "The Tillman Story," as well as serving as a co-producer on the Oscar-nominated "Trouble the Water," the very talented Amir Bar-Lev found himself being recruited for and hired on to helm an interesting new doc called "Re:Generation Music Project," which I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys music of any kind.

"If a Tree Falls" Director Marshall Curry on His Second Oscar Nomination, What He Looks for in a Subject and What Keeps Hollywood Interested in Remaking Docs

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 8, 2012 1:53 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Since his debut in 2005 with "Street Fight," documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry has remained one of the most acclaimed nonfiction directors working today. That first film, about the 2002 Newark mayoral race, went on to receive many major festival awards before snagging nominations for an Oscar, an Emmy and a Writers Guild award. His next doc, "Racing Dreams," about young NASCAR hopefuls, won the Best Documentary honor when it premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. It also quickly attracted the attention of DreamWorks, which announced plans for a dramatic feature adaptation. 

The Doc Option: Instead of "Big Miracle" See "The Whale"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • February 3, 2012 12:40 PM
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  • 0 Comments
I can understand the appeal of "Big Miracle," the cheesy looking new movie about a whale trapped in Arctic ice. I was once a preteen kid obsessed with marine life and I definitely would have gone to see it. Now I'm a thirtysomething kid obsessed with documentary so I have other films to see. If you're with me on wanting a more grown-up alternative, I've got another Doc Option for you:

Sundance 2012: Reviews of "The Other Dream Team," "The Law in These Parts" and "Love Free or Die"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 27, 2012 5:30 PM
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  • 0 Comments
As a documentary fan and critic who discovered so many great nonfiction films at Sundance last year, including some of 2011’s very best, it’s been extremely painful not being in Park City this week. To make things easier I could have tried to ignore the festival, stayed off Twitter, not read reviews, definitely not researched and talked about films ahead of time let alone written about the resulting most anticipated docs in my last Doc Talk column. Hearing enormously positive buzz on "The Imposter," "Searching for Sugar Man," "Detropia," "The Queen of Versailles," "The Ambassador," "West of Memphis and others is driving me absolutely bonkers.

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