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The Playlist

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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  • 0 Comments
"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.

Review: 'The Other Dream Team' A Riveting, Inspiring Tale Of Sports History & Politics

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 27, 2012 9:57 AM
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With NHL players and NFL referees currently locked out, for people who aren't sports fans to begin with, it's hard to sympathize with players making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, in billion dollar industries. For the most part, in our day-to-day lives, sports doesn't mingle with politics or history, except every four years when nations come together to compete on the global stage. And while the Olympics do indeed anchor the key moments of Marius A. Markevicius' winning documentary "The Other Dream Team," the film wisely constructs a decades-spanning and wholly riveting narrative that chronicles how one basketball team became the hope of an entire country.

Review: 'Head Games' A Rich, Eye-Opening & In Depth Look At The Concussion Crisis In Sports

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 21, 2012 9:04 AM
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It takes just under twenty minutes in Steve James' riveting documentary "Head Games" until we see a brain getting sliced open. And while that's the lone visually queasy moment in the movie, the startling facts and figures presented in the film may still make your stomach churn. Given that the movie the comes from the man behind excellent films like "Hoop Dreams" and "The Interrupters," it's no surprise that his latest effort is another comprehensive and focused piece of filmmaking. But everything else about the movie is a true eye-opener, with James zeroing in on one of the most important topics that faces the future of sports and atheletes at all levels, that the industry, players and spectators continue to ignore.

Review: 'I'm Carolyn Parker' Tells The Story Of Post-Katrina New Orleans Through The Eyes Of One Resilient Woman

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 20, 2012 3:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It has been seven years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and the impact is still being felt both locally and nationally. The event is still a touchstone for conversations about race, class and government, one that usually pits the haves against the have nots. But in truth, the story of how New Orleans and its residents continue to live and rebuild is something much more layered and complex, with the past playing a prominent role in how to shape the future. And for director Jonathan Demme, he found a way to delve into the many sides of post-Katrina life by telling it through the eyes of Carolyn Parker. Joining her from months after the floods and tracking her life for years afterward, "I'm Carolyn Parker" is an insightful and at times moving eye on the ground of the day-to-day struggles that are still common for many in the city.

Review: 'Three Stars' An Interesting Look At What It Takes To Run A Michelin-Starred Restaurant

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 19, 2012 7:04 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The perception of food and how we interact with it in our daily lives is at an interesting crossroads in the media. For the most part, the message of the moment is about keeping things organic and simple, using the best ingredients on hand, sourced locally if at all possible. On the other end of the spectrum, reality TV pushes a mixed message of preparing high end, highly crafted food, but as fast as possible. From the top shelf "Top Chef" to the lowly "Hell's Kitchen," they both have the same goal of spotlighting refined eating and, eventually, positioning participants on a path to earn a coveted Michelin star, should their career take them on a path to work on that level. And Lutz Hachmeister's documentary, "Three Stars," explores what it takes to earn those coveted honors, and even more, what's required to keep it.

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