The Playlist

Doc NYC Review: 'Persistence of Vision' Is A Heartbreaking Account Of A Thwarted Animated Masterpiece

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 9, 2012 2:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
When Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis needed a team to provide animation for their ambitious hybrid "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," they didn't turn to their own team at Disney Feature Animation who, with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," singlehandedly invented the animated feature (and was responsible for the medium's continued popularity). Instead, Spielberg and company turned to Richard Williams, an eccentric, Canadian-born animator who ran an animation studio and ad agency in London and who, quite recently, had been responsible for developing a technology to shade animated characters that were inserted into live action plates. The collaboration was a rousing success, netting Williams a pair of Oscars, but his directorial debut, "The Thief and the Cobbler," wasn't so lucky. "Persistence of Vision" explores the monomania of a man determined to push the envelope of the medium, until the envelope explodes.

Review: 'A Man's Story' A Refreshingly Honest & Candid Look At One Designer's Journey In The Fashion World

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 1, 2012 5:58 PM
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From the outside, the world of haute couture often seems ridiculous, and it certainly lives up to that reputation often. But lost among the magazine spreads, photo shoots, ad campaigns, red carpet parties and so on, is the reality that it's not only a very tough business to break into, it's just as hard to maintain visibility. It bears many similarities to the movie world in that regard, where today's hot screenwriter is tomorrow's trade paper footnote.

LFF Review: Rolling Stones Doc 'Crossfire Hurricane' Is Little More Than A Familiar Nostalgia Trip

  • By Joe Cunningham
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  • October 19, 2012 1:43 PM
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There’s been the little-seen “Charlie Is My Darling” and “Cocksucker Blues,” Jean-Luc Godard’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” 1970’s Altamont-focused “Gimme Shelter,” Julien Temple’s “Stones at the Max” and Martin Scorsese’s “Shine a Light,” and that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to documentaries that have put “the world’s greatest rock and roll band,” The Rolling Stones, up on the big screen. For a band who are celebrating their 50th anniversary perhaps that’s to be expected, but it leaves "Crossfire Hurricane" (the official celebration of said anniversary) with the onerous task of having to tell a story that has been well documented many times before.

Review: 'Ethel' Is A Powerful Personal Portrait Of Love & Liberalism

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 18, 2012 5:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Few American dynasties hold the same mystique as the Kennedy clan. Defined largely by professional triumph and personal heartache, the Kennedys are the closest thing the United States has to royalty, and as the years go by, the amount of historical miscellanea that is produced or unearthed about the family seems to grow exponentially. Even as the kings and queens of the dynasty grow old and die, which is a far less tragic exit than many members of the family, our nation's collective fascination deepens and intensifies. One of the latest pieces about the Kennedy empire is "Ethel," a film by Rory Kennedy, about her mother, Ethel Kennedy, wife of slain senator and presidential nominee Robert F. Kennedy.

Exclusive: U.S. Trailer For Celebrated Doc 'Tchoupitoulas'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 18, 2012 12:07 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Where does documentary end, and reality and dreams begin? That is the question many will be asking after experiencing "Tchoupitoulas," the latest documentary from Bill and Turner Ross, the makers of the small town portrait "45365." After drawing rave reviews at SXSW where it premiered earlier this year and winning awards at the Dallas, Ashland and Hot Docs film festivals, Oscilloscope Laboratories is bringing the picture to theaters, and the first trailer will you a glimpse of the special film they have put together.

Interview: John Scheinfeld Talks Harry Nilsson, VOD, Jeff Bridges, And New Music Documentaries

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 17, 2012 7:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Documentary fanatics should hopefully already be familiar with SundanceNOW’s terrific DOC CLUB program (for the uninitiated, it’s a carefully curated VOD/streaming program by doc connoisseur Thom Powers of Toronto International Film Festival, DOC NYC, Miami Film Festival and others). October is “Music Month" on SundanceNOW and one of the documentaries prominently featured is John Scheinfeld’s excellent tribute to Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter/still-underrated musician Harry Nilsson titled “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?” An informative tribute to a talent that tried like hell to stay out of the spotlight, the filmmaker’s effort is an enjoyable one and is near-guaranteed to propel you towards Nilsson’s discography.

Review: Kids Are King In Winning Chess Doc 'Brooklyn Castle'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 17, 2012 6:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It is often said that soccer is the world's game, because all you need is a ball, and anybody -- of any race or class or social standing -- can play. But if there was a close second, chess could arguably fill that slot. All you need is a board and someone to play with and you're good to go, and there is a case to be made that the mental dexterity needed to perform at the highest level equals that to any overhead volley on the pitch. However, it differs from sports in one key facet. While most other athletic competitions define success by statistics, chess celebrates problem solving and requires players to not necessarily eliminate their opponent's pieces but to craft the most cunning way to victory. But as audiences will see in the documentary "Brooklyn Castle," the problems the kids of I.S. 318 face go beyond the board into real life, and yet, what they learn from their bishops and pawns has indelibly marked them forever.

NYFF Review: 'Leviathan' An Otherworldly Peek At A Life At Sea

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 11, 2012 8:59 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Every sound in “Leviathan” is a shuddering staccato. Every visual wears darkness like a cloak. With absolutely no context, there’s no awareness of what’s up or down. When it is promoted, the ads will suggest “Leviathan” is a documentary, and a scan of the press notes will reveal exactly where the film is set, and what’s taking place onscreen. But those peripheral elements are not the text, they are distraction. The experience of “Leviathan” is wholly singular, without context, enveloping and immersive. In some ways, it might very well be the most terrifying picture of the year.

Review: 'Escape Fire' Paints A Portrait Of A Broken System & A Hopeful, Humanist Solution

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • October 5, 2012 9:58 AM
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"Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" opens with an anecdotal analogy that initially seems kind of out of place in a documentary about health care systems. Dr. Don Berwick relates how a firefighter, while combatting an out of control forest fire, chose to set a fire around him in order to burn up the fuel and wait out rampaging flames to escape unscathed. Quickly though, the film, directed by documentarians Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke, establishes that the forest fire our nation currently faces is our inefficient, money-gobbling health care system, and the best idea might just be to torch the whole thing to the ground. This thesis is quickly laid out with a sense of extreme urgency in a title sequence that juxtaposes talking heads, statistics, news reports and footage of patients in hospitals in order to get us all on the same page: this health care system we’re working with ain’t cutting it.

Hamptons Film Fest Review: 'Decoding Deepak' Is A Warm & Fuzzy (But Not Exactly Illuminating) Look At A Beloved Guru

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 4, 2012 3:18 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The first few moments of the mercifully brief "Decoding Deepak" (it runs a scant 74 minutes) promise something intriguing. In the opening few scenes, the movie teases a look at Deepak Chopra, the spiritual advisor and self-help guru who has written something like sixty books and helped lead the rich and powerful towards existential oneness, not through some detached, analytical third-party lens, but from first hand knowledge, since the filmmaker/narrator/co-star is Chopra's son, Gotham. Is Deepak a fraud, the genuine article, or something in between? If anyone could figure it out, it's his son and heir to ChopraCorp. Sadly, while it is entertaining in spots and certainly heartfelt, "Decoding Deepak" favors glazed-over generalities over any actual introspection.

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