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Documentaries, good and bad


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#16 dirac

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 06:39 PM

Grizzly Man is fascinating, although at the end I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, or poor Treadwell (who seems to have wanted to wind up as hot lunch). It certainly is worth seeing and I'm annoyed that I didn't mention it first. :)

The Isherwood/Bachardy film is wonderful, too. I admit Bachardy's voice grated on me a bit, but I got used to it and he's a most interesting man and a great interview.

#17 innopac

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 03:56 AM

I just watched Salesman (1968) directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. This documentary follows four door to door salesman as they try to sell Bibles to working class families.

In speaking of the Maysles film shortly after it opened, Arthur Miller wrote: '' 'Salesman' is an adventure into the American dream where hope is a sale and a sale is confirmation of existence itself. It seems to me to penetrate deeply the men who make the wheels go round in a form of cinema that has never been used in quite this way.' Fred Pezzulli



#18 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 07:53 AM

... and speaking of the Mayles, their cult classic "Grey Gardens" is well worth a watch, too. The brothers document the daily life of reclusive one-time socialites "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier (yes, there's a Kennedy connection) Beale while their once splendid Hamptons mansion collapses around them, their cats, and some resident racoons.

The two Edies are an extremely discomfiting mix of lucid and delusional. Little Edie suffered from alopecia, but was determined to be glamorous nonetheless, despite hair loss, straitened financial circumstances, and isolation; the results of her efforts are a combination of demented and awe-inspiring. Who knew you could construct a headdress out of a sweater and an old brooch?

Cult classic Little Edie fashion quote:

"This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don't like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today. "


The HBO biopic, which dramatizes the backstory, isn't bad -- Drew Barrymore's impersonation of Little Edie is spookily realistic -- but it's better to see the Mayles' film first. It always provokes me into a fit of house cleaning and home repair ... (And at some point I always yell "pick up a broom for heaven's sake" at the screen)

#19 miliosr

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 04:33 PM

Went to see Soul Power this afternoon.

Soul Power is a documentary/concert film which captured on film 1974 concerts in the former Zaire. (The concert occurred roughly in tandem with the famous Muhammed Ali-George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" heavyweight boxing match.) The filmmakers released a documentary of the Ali-Foreman fight in 1996:

http://en.wikipedia....n_We_Were_Kings

Now, 13 years later, the filmmakers have released Soul Power, which utilizes the unused footage from the concerts to create a companion piece to the Ali-Foreman documentary.

I found that the documentary dragged for the first 40-45 minutes as this portion of the film dealt with the set-up for the concert. This wasn't terribly riveting as the concert preparations went more or less smoothly. But the film really picks up when the performances kick in. The roster of performers consisted of some of the most formidable acts of that (or any other era) -- James Brown, Celia Cruz, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners and Bill Withers. Unfortunately, due to so much time being spent on the concert preparations, most of the acts (with the exception of James Brown) are only seen performing partial versions of one song. (The absolute highlight for me was Bill Withers' intense performance of "Hope She'll be Happier" with only an acoustic guitar as accompaniment.)

If the music doesn't interest you, there's plenty of footage of Ali. Since the When We Were Kings documentary already covers the concurrent fight, though, Ali's appearances were redundant to me.

Even though the concerts only occurred 35 years ago, they may as well have occurred 350 years ago in terms of the hair, fashion and general "Seventies-ness" of the goings-on (i.e. cameos by Stokely Carmichael and George Plimpton.) Still, a not unpleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

#20 innopac

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 11:06 PM

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash is a documentary about the demise of oil. Some reviewers criticized it as being one- sided. For that reason :wink: I recommend it highly, especially for the clear and rational explanation of issues by Dr. David L. Goodstein, Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Caltech.

#21 dirac

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 12:52 PM

Thanks for reviving this thread, miliosr and innopac. When We Were Kings is a terrific movie, with commentary by Plimpton, Mailer, and all the usual suspects you would expect from the period. I wonder if the running time of this new film was extended with the footage of concert prep because not all the surviving musical footage was suitable or available?

You know, innopac, sometimes there is only one side. :wink:

#22 miliosr

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 04:43 PM

When We Were Kings is a terrific movie, with commentary by Plimpton, Mailer, and all the usual suspects you would expect from the period. I wonder if the running time of this new film was extended with the footage of concert prep because not all the surviving musical footage was suitable or available?


I don't know why there wasn't more footage of the actual concerts in the film. The pre-concert preparation footage was OK but really didn't add much to the movie. Unlike Woodstock, where the weather and the general disorganization were practically characters in the movie, the concert prep in Soul Power was rather orderly.

I suppose Soul Power will work better as a DVD than as a theatrical film. If additional concert footage exists, then some or all of it can be put on the DVD as extras.

#23 innopac

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Posted 04 August 2011 - 03:03 PM

Pianomania

I really loved both this documentary and the "extras" on the dvd.

Link to review

"It does not, at first, seem the most promising of premises. But Pianomania, a delicate Austrian documentary about the painstaking work of a master piano-tuner, has spent the last six months scooping up international awards.

The film takes us into the life of Steinway's piano technician Stefan Knüpfer as he works on the instruments of the world's greatest virtuosos. In the pursuit of perfection, Knüpfer bounces tennis balls on piano strings, replaces the leg of one instrument with a cheap violin as an experiment – and spends an entire year working on one piano until it's the ideal instrument on which to play an unfinished masterpiece by Bach."



#24 dirac

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 09:18 AM

This looks wonderful, innopac, and I hadn't heard of it. I'm going to look for this movie. Thanks!

#25 diane

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 02:31 AM

Oh, yes! I agree. :) It sounds like just the sort of movie I tend to enjoy.

Thanks for the reccomendation.

-d-

#26 bart

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 06:31 AM

A friend of mine, an amateur pianist, saw this with her daughter, who actually IS a piano technician. Both loved it. I missed the short run here but hope it will return.

#27 innopac

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 01:56 PM

Just saw the wonderful documentary about the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs: They Came to Play.

Official website with trailer


Three of the performers:


Clark Griffith -- 2011 (filmed at a later competition)

Slava Levin -- performance from the 2007 Competition (dvd)

Esfir Ross -- (from a different and later competition)



#28 dirac

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 09:02 AM

Thanks again, innopac. This sounds like another good one.

#29 innopac

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 01:24 PM

Two more -- this time about building the piano and the search for a desired sound. Both I could watch again. Fascinating.

Note By Note

Youtube trailer


Note By Note
is a feature-length independent documentary that follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037— from forest floor to concert hall. It explores the relationship between musician and instrument, chronicles the manufacturing process, and illustrates what makes each Steinway unique in this age of mass production.



Building a legend: The quest for the original sound of the first Steinway Grand


Link to more Information


Building a Legend focuses on the quest for the lost sound of a legendary piano: the Steinweg 1836 or the Steinway n° 1, built by Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg, in Seesen, Germany.
Chris Maene, a Flemish renowned pianoforte builder; pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha, and the 91 years old great grandson Heinrich Steinway, all have their own particular interest in hearing the original sound of this first Steinway Grand again.



#30 innopac

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:22 PM

Just watched the documentary: Casino Jack and the United States of Money. What hope do we have. . . .

From wikipedia: "[font=Times New Roman][size=3][size=3]The film focuses on the career of Washington, D.C. lobbyist, businessman, and con man Jack Abramoff, who was involved in a massive corruption scandal that led to the conviction of himself, two Bush White House officials, Rep. Bob Ney, and nine other lobbyists and congressional staffers."[/size][/size][/font]

http://www.takepart.com/casinojack


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