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Thompson on Hollywood

Sundance Dealbook: Oprah Winfrey Buys Feminist Media Critique Miss Representation

One of the big stories out of Sundance was Oprah Winfrey's determination to acquire docs for the Oprah Winfrey Network Documentary Film Club, to do for docs what she has done for books. At Sundance, OWN acquired Chaz Bono's Becoming Chaz, which offers the right combo of celeb biopic and gender-bending exotica. Also feeding the female demo is actress-documentarian Jennifer Siebel Newsom's earnest feminist media critique Miss Representation, which lays out the argument about how the way women are portrayed in the media--as objects of beauty-- impacts real girls and women. Siebel interviewed a wide range of women leaders including Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 10, 2011 6:13 AM
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Jamie Foxx Presents: Thunder Soul, A Tribute To Kashmere's Funk Powerhouse

Music doc Thunder Soul is a heartfelt celebration of Funk and the transformative powers of a great teacher. Mark Landsman's doc, which won an audience award at SXSW and Los Angeles Film Fest, among other fests last year, also earned an Indie Spirit nomination. It's about how in the 1970s one teacher turned Houston's Kashmere High School jazz band into a tight-grooving funk award-winner, years in a row. (Think Glee on Funk steroids.) Landsman follows the alumni from Kashmere, who after 35 years, travel home to play a tribute concert for 92-year-old Conrad Johnson.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 4, 2011 7:52 AM
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Oscar Watch: Documentary Noms Shockers Explained

Oscar Watch: Documentary Noms Shockers Explained
One of the great subjects of debate this Oscar season is what happened with the documentary branch's voting for the final five nominations. Two hits from Oscar-winners were left off the list: Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman and Alex Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, while outsider Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop came through.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 3, 2011 11:45 AM
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SXSW's Pierson Talks 2011 Features Program; Will Sundance Buying Spree Continue?

The South by Southwest Film Festival has never historically been a market. Set in March in Austin's vibrant film community, nourished by the concurrent SXSW Interactive Fest and the wildly popular Music Fest to follow, SXSW Film Fest has continued under the canny direction of Janet Pierson to nourish indie newcomers, launch male-driven commercial comedies (Simon Pegg sci-fi comedy Paul would be this year's example) and pull a young hip moviegoing demo. One hot ticket this March will be Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood. Last year's SXSW breakouts include Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, Aaron Katz's Cold Weather, Gareth Edwards' Monsters and the doc Marwencol. (Full 2011 line-up is posted below.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 2, 2011 7:58 AM
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IBM Centennial Shorts: 100 x 100 vs. Errol Morris's They Were There

To celebrate their centennial anniversary, IBM has produced two videos (below). Compare and contrast 100x100, which tells IBM's history through the eyes of 100 different people, from a 100-year-old to a newborn baby, with Errol Morris’s 30-minute doc They Were There, scored by his frequent collaborator, Philip Glass.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 1, 2011 8:15 AM
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Sundance Video: Alex Gibney Talks Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady on Magic Trip

With Magic Trip, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and his longtime editor Alison Ellwood have cut together a rich piece of 60s history using archive video and audio of the iconic literary figures on the famous cross-country Magic Bus trip recounted by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Gibney talks (our video interview is below) about how Ken Kesey created the original footage that he uses in Magic Trip. "It's archival cinema verite," Gibney says. "I wanted more of an immersion experience... it's like the origin story of the 60s."
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 1, 2011 7:20 AM
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Sundance Video: Doc Resurrect Dead Explores Toynbee Tiles, Wins Prize, Kickstarter Raises $13,000

One of the surprise word-of-mouth hits at Sundance comes from an unexpected source: first-time filmmaker Jon Foy, of Philadelphia, who landed in the Sundance competition with Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. Veteran doc filmmaker Doug Block (Home Page, The Kids Grow Up), who runs the doc community site The D-Word, got a call from the rookie Philadelphia filmmaker and film school dropout, seeking advice. He had been toiling away for more than five years on a doc about the Toynbee Tiles, which crop up embedded in roads around the country, from the North East spreading all the way to South America, inspiring many theories about their origin. UPDATE: The doc won the best directing documentary prize Saturday at Sundance.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • January 30, 2011 1:39 AM
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Sundance Video: Robert Redford at Sundance 2011, Buck, Owning Chaz, Oprah Winfrey

Sundance Video: Robert Redford at  Sundance 2011, Buck, Owning Chaz, Oprah Winfrey
Sundance Festival and Channel founder Robert Redford opened up the Fest with his customary press conference, where he talked about new Sundance initiatives and Slamdance. As a big supporter of the doc Buck, about the original inspiration for his film The Horse Whisperer, it was no surprise when the film sold to Sundance Selects. Redford opened the fest with the debut screening of Sing Your Song, a doc about his old friend, Harry Belafonte, 82.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • January 28, 2011 8:32 AM
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EXCLUSIVE: Kenner, Weiss Talk HBO Doc "When Strangers Click"

HBO doc When Strangers Click premieres Valentine's Day. Below, director Oscar nominee Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) and producer Marc Weiss answer some questions about why they made this film about finding love and human connection online, as well as their process: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the making of When Stranger Click?
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • January 28, 2011 7:48 AM
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Doc/Fiction Hybrid The Arbor Wins Guardian First Film Award

Clio Barnard's film The Arbor has won The Guardian's First Film Award. The film is a about English playwright Andrea Dunbar, best known for Rita, Sue and Bob Too, an autobiographical sexual-adventures drama about teenage girls living in the slums of Bradford, England. The play was turned into a film by Alan Clarke in 1986 and caused un uproar with residents of the Buttershaw council housing estate, where Dunbar lived.
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • January 28, 2011 6:29 AM
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