Miami 2011: “Mooney vs. Fowle”

I don’t know that I’ve ever attended a screening where the crowd is so into the documentary on screen (well, maybe the Bieber doc). James Lipscomb’s 1962 “Living Camera” episode “Mooney vs. Fowle” played to a crowd mostly made up of people who are in the Drew Associates’ vérité classic, and they understandably treated the film as if it were a slideshow projected at their high school reunion. People all around me talked amongst themselves, pointing out themselves or friends. At first it irritated me that I couldn’t always hear the dialogue from the actual film, but after a while I had an appreciation for what this experience was for everyone there. Most had apparently never seen it.

The doc brings us back to a 1961 football game played in front of 40,000 people at the Orange Bowl. A high school football game, pitting Miami High against their rivals from Edison High. The title refers to the coaches of each, and the film follows them separately, with their real families and their clan of players, in the days leading up to the big event. And then at last it astonishingly chronicles the game from all kinds of angles you wouldn’t expect from even the newly mobile tools of the Drew crew. Today’s television coverage doesn’t come nearly as close to capturing the spirit of the sport and its fans the way Lipscomb does here.

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Miami Film Festival is Underway With Excellent Documentary Program

The 2011 Miami International Film Festival began last Friday, but I won’t be arriving to the event for another two days. I want to highlight the fest in advance, though, because I’m very excited about the new documentary program, Doc-You-Up, which has been curated by Thom Powers (Toronto Film Festival, DOC NYC, Stranger Than Fiction), surely one of the best doc programmers in the business right now.

Many of his picks for Miami are lifted out of Sundance, and so I’m happy to (1) recommend some of the films I saw there and (2) catch up with some of those I missed. Of the latter, I’m looking forward to seeing great-buzz titles like “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” “Black Power Mix Tape,” “We Were Here” and “The Redemption of General Butt Naked” (and perhaps “Magic Trip,” the buzz on which was less than great in Park City).

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Review: “Worst in Show”

If a bar was set for competition-based documentaries last decade with the edge of your seat drama and opposition in “Spellbound” and “The King of Kong” (which I named as the best of their kind for the 2000s), two recent films have proven that suspenseful editing and formulaic narrative is not necessary for engaging non-fiction stories. Last week I reviewed “Kings of Pastry,” which isn’t really about a contest but rather an examination, and it’s comparatively slight and insignificant but it works. Now I’ve just seen the festival-touring “Worst in Show,” a doc about the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest that ignores intensity for basic human-interest magic.

Obviously it’s also a dog-interest story. The hour-long film takes us to Petaluma, California, for the 2010 competition of hideous canines (you’ve no doubt heard of Sam, the undefeated pooch who put the contest on the map). But it’s not Animal Planet fluff. And the real freak show is with the owners. I’m not necessarily saying some of them are ugly — though what they say about pets and their owners looking alike is validated here — so much as they’re just amazingly odd (but not mocked or exploited as such). Christopher Guest could not make up characters better than what you find here.

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Doc Talk: Oscar Winners vs. Classic Documentaries

Doc Talk is a bi-weekly column at Cinematical.com dedicated to non-fiction cinema.

Which film is more likely to become a documentary classic, ‘Inside Job’ or ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’? Regardless of our preference, we can all agree Banksy’s Oscar-losing fan favorite is a more timeless story and will likely be more enjoyable with repeat viewings. Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award-winning look at the financial crisis will certainly remain a great piece of historical document but probably won’t be revisited often for entertainment or artistic value. And sadly, like many timely docs, it could even one day be forgotten, like Lee Grant’s 1986 Oscar-winning Reagonomics critique ‘Down and Out in America,’ which is pretty obscure only 25 years later.

Before announcing the Best Picture winner Sunday night, Steven Spielberg made a comment clearly meant to appease Team ‘The Social Network’ by implying that losing the award still puts a film in good company (his examples being ‘Grapes of Wrath,’ ‘Citizen Kane,’ ‘The Graduate’ and ‘Raging Bull’). The same goes for the Best Documentary Feature award. ‘Inside Job’ joins the likes of ‘Woodstock,’ ‘Hearts and Minds,’ ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and ‘Man on Wire.’ ‘Exit,’ meanwhile, joins a group including ‘In the Year of the Pig,’ ‘Streetwise,’ ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ and ‘Encounters at the End of the World.’

Continue reading this column at Cinematical.

Trailer: “How to Sell a Banksy”

Do we really need another Banksy documentary? One not even directed by him? A new film called “How to Sell a Banksy” is on its way from directors Alper Cagatay and Christopher Thompson and it’s kind of like “Exit” combined with “Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollack” (or does that not really need combining?) since it deals with guys removing Banksy graffiti and trying to sell it, and whether or not that’s okay by the art world. The film’s website says it “raises questions of ownership, authentication and the true value of art itself. Through all the chaos and incompetence comes a modern-day, true-story, crime-theft, comedy-caper.” That won’t be nominated for Oscar.

[via /Film]

Watch Jane Russell in “Hollywood on Fire” and “Hollywood Uncensored”

I’m bringing something I used to do at Spout over to this blog, as it is more appropriate here. Rather than write up a full tribute for someone and reference the same old classic fiction films, I like to spotlight documentaries featuring the late celeb or film talent. Today we lost actress Jane Russell, whose last screen appearance may well have been a new short doc about ugly dogs titled “Worst in Show.” Directed by John Beck and Don R. Lewis (of Film Threat), the film is currently circulating the festivals and I really do need to review it here asap (sorry, Don!). Here’s a link to the trailer, which I’d embed if there was a shot of Russell in it.

What I can share is a short clip of the screen legend in “Hollywood on Fire,” a recent feature by “Kimjongilia” producer Kyle Saylors about faith in the film industry. Russell of course founded the “Hollywood Christian Group,” which she talks about in the clip below, including an anecdote about inviting Marilyn Monroe to the Bible study.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

She’s also prominently featured in the trailer, which you can see after the jump.

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