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The Playlist

Review: Michel Gondry’s Noam Chomsky Documentary ‘Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?’

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • November 20, 2013 5:16 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?
Twice in 2010, director Michel Gondry met with Noam Chomsky for a series of conversations about the philosopher, linguist, and author’s childhood in Philadelphia and his theory of generative grammar. The film that resulted, “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?,” gives no reason beyond curiosity for this collaboration, but it is all we need — how else should any worthy project be assembled? “If you’re willing to be puzzled, you’re able to learn,” Chomsky says at one point. To his credit (and without affectation), Gondry doesn’t cloak the fact that he is often perplexed by his subject. Because of his confusion though, we are able to learn quite a lot.

Review: 'The Square' An In-Depth Look At The People Behind Egypt's Revolution

  • By Diana Drumm
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  • November 8, 2013 6:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Jehane Noujaim, The Square
Revolution is a word bandied about often, arguably too often. In times of disconnect and discontent, people look for answers, relying on the strength of their ideals to carry them past status quo fear-mongering through to actual change. Two weeks ago, Russell Brand raised a vague call to revolutionary arms while promoting his guest-editing gig for The New Statesman’s revolution-themed issue. Both the TV spot and that issue received derision for Brand's uncertain, though grandiose, terms. Similarly, this week marks the second anniversary of the Occupy movement, which has become a pratfall of an uprising (as seen on The Onion). The danger in both (and many more examples, due to the atavism of higher idealism, which you can check out at your local library) is that we have become desensitized to the word revolution: its immediacy, its call to act, the need of it as a check to the balance of "democracy."

NYFF Review: Documentary 'American Promise' A Flawed, Yet Fascinating Look At Coming Of Age

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 5, 2013 3:29 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Raising a child seems to be both an act of love and faith. You provide the absolute best you can for them, and then hope and trust that you've put them on a path that will lead to the kind of rich and fulfilling life you want them to have. But even in a situation where seemingly nothing is left to chance, and only the finest opportunities are afforded, so much is decided by chance and fate. And the expectations that parents place in their children, and the dreams that children envision for themselves, can often diverge. Watching your child grow, is a continual act of acceptance and renewal of love of who that child has become. And all of this is observed in Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's "American Promise," in which the filmmakers take a page from "Hoop Dreams," turning the camera on their own son Idris and his best friend Seun, and tracking their education and lives from grade school through graduation.

Review: 'GMO OMG' Is A Personal Journey Into The Food Industry

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • September 13, 2013 8:02 AM
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  • 4 Comments
GMO OMG
There are moments in “GMO OMG” that feel a little bit like “Jaws” and “Psycho.” What those films did for the beach and the shower, this documentary from Jeremy Seifert could do for the grocery store for those who are easily persuaded. We left the movie stressing out over what we could eat for dinner that wouldn’t leave us riddled with tumors in 10 years. The film posits that even Whole Foods isn’t safe from the plague of the titular evil, with the documentary calling out the supermarket giant for stocking processed foods with GMOs.

Exclusive: Poster & First Clip From Basketball Phenom Doc 'Linsanity'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 9, 2013 3:11 PM
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  • 1 Comment
'Linsanity
Documentaries at film festivals have a reputation being depressing, dour affairs that tackle big social or environmental issues that more or less want you to crawl inside a dark cave and die. But not so! Sometimes they can be positively uplifting affairs, like "Linsanity," which played at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and details the rise of NBA sensation Jeremy Lin. We have an exclusive clip from the doc (which features a little kid version of Lin that will make you go awwww), as well as the film's poster. It proves that film festival docs don't have to be grim. In fact, they can be as light and bouncy as a basketball and yet still make the same kind of impact.

Exclusive: Photos & Trailer For Eco-Preservation Doc & TIFF Entry 'Midway'

  • By Diana Drumm
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  • September 6, 2013 11:50 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Midway
With the Toronto International Film Festival kicking off yesterday, the reviews have started to roll in (though only the tip of the proverbial iceberg) along with more and more buzz. While we're gathering more news from our people on the ground up in Toronto, we got our hands on exclusive photos and trailer from TIFF Doc "Midway." Directed by photo-based artist Chris Jordan and "March of the Penguins" editor Sabine Emiliani (both making they're directorial debuts), "Midway" follows the albatrosses of Midway Atoll Island (a U.S. territory roughly midway between the U.S. and Asia) and their sometimes terrible fate.

Telluride Review: Shane Salerno's 'Salinger' Documentary Makes For A Compelling Mystery Yarn

  • By Chris Willman
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  • September 2, 2013 6:10 PM
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  • 1 Comment
J.D. Salinger
Making a documentary about the 20th (and 21st) century’s most notorious recluse is rife with both hazards and rewards for filmmaker Shane Salerno, whose “Salinger” has to make do without a single video or audio clip of its titular subject — not because of rights restrictions, but because they apparently don’t exist. That’s an awfully big hole to compensate for, but then again, as anyone who ever enjoyed “The Usual Suspects” could tell you, having a central figure whom everyone talks about but hardly anyone has ever seen can make for a pretty compelling mystery yarn.

5 Things You Need To Know About 'King: A Filmed Record' On 50th Anniversary Of The March On Washington

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 28, 2013 12:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington, and across the country, various events are happening to mark the historic occasion. For the cinematically minded, there's something worth paying attention to: the epic Oscar-nominated documentary "King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery To Memphis" is screening at over 400 locations nationwide for one night only. And for anyone who perhaps wasn't old enough to experience the March On Washington for themselves that needs a reminder and education of just how powerful the moment was and everything that led up to it, 'Montgomery To Memphis' is worth checking out.

Exclusive: Poster For Sundance Documentary Hit 'Narco Cultura'

  • By Edward Davis
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  • August 23, 2013 2:39 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Narco Cultura
While we've seen the headlines and portrayals on TV shows like "Breaking Bad" and movies like "Savages," the knotty world of the Mexican drug cartels is expansive and far-reaching, going far past the political muscle they pull and the drugs they sling. And the forthcoming documentary "Narco Cultura" delves into another aspect of the trade that you might not know anything about.

Review: 'The Trials Of Muhammad Ali'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 22, 2013 10:01 AM
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  • 2 Comments
"In the '60s and '70s, he was the most recognizable face in the world. We created a symbol. Muhammad Ali has long since been supplanted by what we believe he is. There's so many ways of looking at him that have only to do with us, and have nothing to do with him," New York Times writer Robert Lipsyte sagely observes in "The Trials Of Muhammad Ali." Far more than a boxer, Olympian, Muslim and father, it wouldn't be a stretch to call him the eighth wonder of the world, a distinction that his daughter Hana Ali half-jokingly admits would love to see bestowed on him. There have been countless films and documentaries about the man who was born Cassius Clay, but Bill Siegel's "The Trials Of Muhammad Ali" is a wholly illuminating look at Muhammad Ali in all his complexity, providing a surprisingly fresh and vivid portrait of a man who played rope-a-dope with a history, religion and sport and emerged from the ring as an inspiring, and flawed icon.

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