Sunday, March 02, 2014

More Docs

I finally watched the two remaining nominees for the Documentary Feature Oscar. Previously I reviewed 20 FEET FROM STARDOM (click to see the reviews), which won the Film Independent Spirit award yesterday, as well as THE SQUARE (which won the IDA Documentary Award) and THE ACT OF KILLING.


CUTIE AND THE BOXER is a fantastic documentary about a married couple who are elderly Japanese artists living in New York City. It's a wonderful character study, and it is extremely well directed. There are several sequences in the film that could be removed in their entirety and play as a short documentary or as a short art film. It is beautifully photographed and brilliantly edited. I'm surprised this was not nominated for more of the other major documentary awards (although it did won a directing award at Sundance and was nominated for DGA award). I highly recommend the film, which is available on Netflix streaming. In fact, four of the five nominees are on Netflix. The fifth, 20 Feet from Stardom, is on Amazon streaming.




The final film is DIRTY WARS. I'm not really going to discuss the political content of the film, which is completely worthwhile of the intensive scrutiny that a feature-length documentary could offer. Instead, I'm going to say that this is one of the worst-made films I have seen all year and I have no idea how this piece of crap got nominated for an Oscar. I am always wary when someone puts himself in front of the camera to be the star of the movie, especially when the movie is not about them. This film comes off like poorly made propaganda, and not a documentary, even if its heart is in the right place.

The film is based on a book, which to me says that much of the footage is probably comprise of staged recreations of what he had written about earlier. (I'd love to know if that is not the case.) The writer not only put himself in front of the camera, he also reads the voiceover, which is a huge mistake. The text of the film is hurt by his flat, somnambulistic reading. I kept imagining how much better the film would have been with another voiceover artist, even the guy from FRONTLINE would have injected more interest into the subject matter. Also, the film could easily have at least a half hour cut out of it and would have been far more effective.

So clearly it's not my choice or prediction for the Oscar. Of the other films, I have to say (as mentioned in my other reviews) that this was a fantastic year for documentaries and I find it hard to pick a favorite. I will be rooting for my friends who worked on 20 FEET, but I would not be upset if three of the other films won. Congratulations to them all!
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