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Telluride Review: Errol Morris Goes for Laughs with Tabloid

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 6, 2010 at 11:48AM

Telluride critic Tim Appelo was surprised that documentarian (blogger/tweeter) Errol Morris's latest, Tabloid, is well, funny. Having spent some time with the man, he can be quite witty, as are his famous Oscar shorts. Dark humor informs all his films, even his dead-serious docs Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure. I can't wait to see Tabloid in Toronto, where I'm scheduled to talk to Morris, and he is scheduled to dialogue with another seriously funny filmmaker, Werner Herzog.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Telluride critic Tim Appelo was surprised that documentarian (blogger/tweeter) Errol Morris's latest, Tabloid, is well, funny. Having spent some time with the man, he can be quite witty, as are his famous Oscar shorts. Dark humor informs all his films, even his dead-serious docs Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure. I can't wait to see Tabloid in Toronto, where I'm scheduled to talk to Morris, and he is scheduled to dialogue with another seriously funny filmmaker, Werner Herzog.

Errol Morris has more gravitas than Thanksgiving has gravy. In The Thin Blue Line, he defended the Constitution against Texan tyranny; The Fog of War probed the dark, bizarre heart of the architect of Vietnam, the template of American debacles. But the world premiere of his new doc Tabloid will shock his fans, and win him hordes of new ones. It’s the funniest farce of 2010, with a tragic core and absolute fidelity to the facts, I’m convinced.


In three days of shooting, Morris bagged his most astounding character ever, Joyce McKinney, a see-through-blouse wearing North Carolina beauty-queen acting student turned S&M hooker with boobs out to here, an alleged 168 IQ, and such a yen for a Mormon boy (inexplicably, since he’s built like the Pillsbury Doughboy) that she hunted him down with a gun on his Mormon mission, manacled him to a bed, opened his magic underwear and…but I don’t want to spoil it for you. And that’s not the half of it.

The other five or so characters are also vivid (the dueling Brit tabloid journos feasting on Joyce’s fantastic imagination, her horndog pilot), but Joyce is the find of a lifetime, or two. She says she’s no movie star, just a regular person. But she’s crazier than the stars of Grey Gardens put together, and very much a star. Nobody has a more malleable face, and her shamelessness puts Sarah Palin’s to shame. When she shared a tabloid-flashbulb-strobed kiss with The Who’s drummer Keith Moon, she was the one more fast, loose and out of control.

Errol Morris’s control is total, as ever. He’s never been greater, but who knew he could be so uproariously hilarious?

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Reviews, Telluride, Documentaries


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.