The Playlist

Review: 'Granito: How To Nail A Dictator' A Remarkable Tale About The Quest For Justice

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 28, 2012 6:00 PM
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We're living in something of a golden era of documentary filmmaking. Whether on the big screen, and more frequently on cable -- where a plethora of specialty channels offer a variety of outlets -- documentaries can more easily reach an audience than ever before. But are they making an impact? It seems that every doc that comes along is pushing some kind of issue or agenda, but that little of that is felt once the credits roll ninety minutes later. But every now and then comes a movie that shakes the ground just a little bit, and not only opens eyes, but inspires action and "Granito: How To Nail A Dictator" is a remarkable chronicle of one film that did just that.

Review: 'Walk Away Renee' A Manic, Deep Look Into Mother & Son

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 27, 2012 12:09 PM
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Born out of a truck load of home videos, answering machine recordings, and photographs, Jonathan Caouette's 2003 autobiographical "Tarnation" was a dearly personal and often frightening, no holds-barred look into a family torn apart by a tortured past. Cobbled together with iMovie before YouTube was even a twinkle in a vlogger's eye, the film bleeds honesty and its fearless look at the subjects (including the director himself) can be downright terrifying at times. But it wasn't just a family arguing or bitterly digging into old wounds -- Caouette had a manic, assaulting editing style and a penchant for some truly disturbing experimental sequences, an aesthetic that exhibited their emotional states in a fresh, genuinely perturbing way.

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'The Queen Of Versailles' Is A Bundle Of Sarcastic Laughs With A Little Heart Thrown In

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • June 19, 2012 9:56 AM
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“The Queen of Versailles” lives up to the dual meaning of its title. The documentary, directed by Lauren Greenfield, follows Jackie and David Siegel and their eight children – one of the wealthiest families in America – as they task themselves with building the largest home in the country, a mansion estate that they have dubbed Versailles. Midway through construction, however, comes the onset of the current economic recession, sending the family’s finances reeling and work on their new home screeching to a halt. Documented over the course of three years, this film showcases the slow demise of the closest thing this country has to an aristocracy, equating the Siegels’ financial downfall with the dethroning of a King and Queen.

Review: 'Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present' Is A Good But Conventional Doc On An Unconventional Artist

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 14, 2012 10:04 AM
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In 2010, performance artist Marina Abramović had the attention of everybody, from snobby Manhattanites to Fox News. Her work (which includes a nude couple standing in a busy doorway; exactly what sent the latter into rage) was to be recreated by a number of assistants selected by the artist herself while, at the same time, she put on a new piece: “The Artist is Present.” The idea was simple -- Abramović would be seated in a large room, mute and still, with a patron perched across from her -- yet it proved to be intensely powerful for many (some even moved to tears) and incredibly exhausting for the performer herself. With “Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present,” Matthew Akers attempts to give an informative overview of her oeuvre, while detailing the extensive and strenuous Museum Of Modern Art retrospective of her work and the strangely ethereal titular performance.

'Tahrir: Liberation Square' Director Stefano Savona Talks Egypt, New Projects, Michael Moore & More

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 12, 2012 5:05 PM
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Media coverage for the Arab Spring has slowed down in recent months, but that doesn't mean things in the Middle East have settled down. Egypt, for example, is facing election woes, and the President they toppled more than a year ago has just been given a verdict for his various crimes.

Brooklyn Film Festival Review: '[s]comparse' Is An Interesting If Unadventurous Documentary

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 9, 2012 9:57 AM
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There's a small Italian island in between Sicily and Africa that, for years, has served as a stepping stone for African immigrants looking for a brighter future. Recently, a large film production took to this haven in order to tell a fictional account of these people -- though, as it turns out, the migrants play second fiddle to a white character who leads the narrative. Camera in tow, Antonio Tibaldi documents the behind-the-scenes riff raffs, shooting both the African extras and the local townspeople as they display their respective frustrations with the grandiose movie attempting to tell their story. "[s]comparse" has plenty of intelligent, great ideas -- for example, the movie shoot is treated like an unwanted foreigner by the natives, opening up plenty of interesting layers -- but is brought down by its conventional, repetitive structure.

Robert Altman And Dennis Hopper To Become Subjects Of New Documentaries

  • By Ryan Gowland
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  • May 18, 2012 1:40 PM
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With a career that dates back in the 1950s, Robert Altman started out making industrials and working in television before switching to features in 1970 with "MASH," a film that kicked off a decade where the director flirted with perfection, with classics like "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," "The Long Goodbye," and "Nashville." The 1980's wouldn't be as kind after Altman started the decade with the musical "Popeye," but he would eventually bounce back commercially with 1992's "The Player" and 1993's "Short Cuts" before receiving his fifth Academy Award nomination for directing with 2001's "Gosford Park." The director's career career ended with Altman's death in 2006, and documentarian Ron Mann ("Comic Book Confidential") is planning to examine his career in the upcoming Epix Original Documentary "Altman."

Review: 'Bill W.' Draws You Into The Trials And The Triumphs Of Alcoholics Anonymous

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • May 17, 2012 6:21 PM
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  • 3 Comments
“Bill W.” tells the story of the largely unsung hero William G. Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that has saved the lives of thousands and thousands of people. The documentary, led by directing and producing team Kevin Hanlon and Dan Carracino, is an effort to tell a relatively unknown story about a man who has been a guiding light for many other relative unknowns. The title stands in the tradition of A.A., where members are granted absolute anonymity, both to protect them from the stigma of alcoholism and to shelter the organization from potential media hounds. Even as his organization grew to include tens of thousands of members, Wilson’s identity was not revealed to the public until his death in 1971: many recovering alcoholics knew their savior only as “Bill.”

Review: 'With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story' Is Breezy And Somewhat Superficial But Tons Of Fun

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • May 3, 2012 3:03 PM
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Few figures in comic book lore command the attention and devotion of Stan Lee. Now in his late eighties, with a grey-white caterpillar of a moustache perpetually perched atop his upper lip and oversized, dark-tinted glasses, he’s an easily identifiable character, as iconic as one of his pop culture creations (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men, to name a few), and just as important. But many don’t know the story behind the man. “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story,” a zippy and somewhat superficial documentary, attempts to fill in some of that backstory, and the result is as compulsively entertaining and colorful as any Marvel comic book. Excelsior!

Review: '65_Redroses' A Compelling, Inspiring Doc That Will Make You Want To Take A Breath & Appreciate Those Roses

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • May 2, 2012 12:02 PM
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Take a deep breath. Unless you have cystic fibrosis, this is probably something you take for granted. About halfway through the documentary "65_Redroses," which documents the life of CF sufferer Eva Markvoort, you might find yourself gasping for air, if only to relish in your ability to do so. "65_Redroses" refers to Eva's online handle with which she communicates with other CF patients, and her connections with them are an integral part of her story. But the spine of the film belongs to Eva, as she is such a compelling and arresting persona from the outset, that audiences can't help but be drawn in by her.

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