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The Playlist

Review: Emotional & Inspiring 'How To Survive A Plague' Is One Of The Best Documentaries Of The Year

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • September 19, 2012 6:27 PM
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It can seem like ancient history to the millenial generation, but many remember the all-too-harrowing realities of the AIDS crisis and the subsequent social movement that arose out of the desperation and fear of imminent death faced by young, vibrant individuals with a fierce will to live. This movement has been inscribed in history by the new documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” from first-time filmmaker David France, an award-winning journalist who covered the crisis from a fly on the wall standpoint from the beginning. The film is skillfully crafted from hours of archival footage shot on the front lines -- on the streets at protests, at ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) meetings, in the halls of international health conferences, on the lawn of the White House -- and from eyewitness accounts of key members of the movement.

Interview: Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing Talk Detroit And Their Film 'Detropia'

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • September 7, 2012 4:40 PM
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Once a bustling city and your one-stop shop for American automobile manufacturing, Detroit is now a shadow of its former, glorious self. It's broke, the former lucrative auto industry employ very few, and the neighborhoods are generally lined with empty, abandoned houses. Lifelong inhabitants retain hope and fight for the place they call home, but it seems like the area is facing a steady, unyielding decline.

Watch: Engaging, Inspiring Trailer For AIDS Documentary 'How To Survive A Plague'

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • August 15, 2012 10:37 AM
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  • 1 Comment
While certainly a considerable threat to this day, it's easy to forget how massively destructive the country's AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s -- and how little politicians and health administrations did to curb it. Refusing to let go without a fight, a collective of Greenwich Village activists formed "ACT UP" (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) and took to the streets, forcing the conversation to be had. The group's effort yielded a fantastic number of developments in the battle against the disease, including quickly pushing essential medication into pharamacies.

Review: 'Gerhard Richter Painting' An Uneven Portrait Of Process & Fame

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 28, 2012 4:38 PM
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If one were to compare Corinna Belz's "Gerhard Richter Painting" to music documentaries, it would fall somewhere between Sam Jones' "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" and Grant Gee's "Meeting People Is Easy." Eschewing the standard biographical framework, the film instead offers up a slice-of-life look at the 79-year-old artist that largely forgoes any context (for better or worse) as it dips into the banality of various show openings (like the Radiohead doc) and the fascinating method he uses to create his work (like the Wilco film). But unlike those aforementioned movies, if you don't know anything about the life and career of Gerhard Richter, your appreciation of what's captured will vary.

Review: 'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry' Charts The Rise Of A Multimedia Artist

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 26, 2012 6:58 PM
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If you were not familiar with the multimedia artist Ai Weiwei, the title of the new documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” would almost seem like a countercultural taunt, perhaps with a hip-hop undercurrent. The reference is apt in regards to his art, which is at turns edgy agitprop and charmingly cheeky, much like the boundary stretching of early rap music. And with his moony eyes and mischievous grin, Ai Weiwei would not be out-of-place next to the politically-charged likes of the young Run DMC, or even Afrika Bambaataa.

'The Imposter' Director Bart Layton Talks The Stranger Than Fiction Story & Its Subjective Nature

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • July 13, 2012 11:59 AM
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The Barclay family suffered a devastating blow in 1994 when 13-year-old Nicholas disappeared without a trace. However, 1997 brought a sign of hope -- the young boy had been found in Spain. Seemingly damaged due to sexual abuse by his captors, he was ready to come home. The only problem? It wasn't Nicholas at all -- Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin adopted his identity, fooling authorities and the Barclay clan themselves into thinking that he was the real deal. As you might imagine, it wasn't long before someone started to doubt this ruse (detective Charlie Parker, oddly enough, noticed the ears of Bourdin and Nicholas didn't match up), but the exposed identity only makes the situation uglier, ferreting some nasty theories concerning the whereabouts of the real Nicholas Barclay.

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.

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