Trailer: “Skull World”

One thing to love about documentaries is all the little-known worlds they unveil. But just their trailers alone does this in a way. For example, I recently discovered the Canadian documentary “Skull World” by way of its latest (third) trailer. And through that trailer I got my first ever look and information about the underground phenomenon known as Boxwars. Simply put, it involves a whole ton of people going at it “Braveheart” style while wearing elaborate cardboard costumes. Kind of a less-sissy version of the usual Ren-fair medieval battle reenactment thing, as this “extreme sport” seems a bit dangerous. “Skull World” focuses on a Boxwars chapter up north created and led by Skull Man, a metal-obsessed gravedigger who wears a skull mask as part of his celebrated look (at times he reminded me of “Hesher”).

I don’t know if this movie will be great, but I bet it’s big with Gwar fans. Outside its niche demographic, though, there could be a cult audience waiting out there if it’s humorous and wild enough. It reminds me a bit of the new real-life superhero doc “Superheroes,” except these costumed warriors aren’t trying to fight crime.  And I’m always up for learning more details on strange subcultures. Hopefully “Skull World,” which was at the Cannes film market earlier this month, will hit at least DVD soon. Check out the third trailer for the doc after the jump.

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Watch Martin Scorsese’s “A Letter to Elia”

Last week was a good one for fans of Martin Scorsese documentaries. First, his new Fran Lebowitz showcase, “Public Speaking,” hit home video on Tuesday (see my review here). Then, a day later, his other recent doc, “A Letter to Elia,” became available for free on PBS.org. This second film, an ode to filmmaker Elia Kazan, had aired as an episode of PBS’ “American Masters” program. It’s also a supplement to the DVD box set The Elia Kazan Collection, which features 15 films curated by Scorsese himself. Before all this, it screened at the 2010 New York Film Festival, where I reviewed it. Here’s an excerpt:

it’s a film as appropriate, if not more so, for a Scorsese retrospective since it’s as much about himself as it is his idol…and it’s worth addressing the fact that nobody but Scorsese, who has previously made personal “journeys” through Italian and American cinemas, could make such a subjective tribute like this and have anyone caring. This is fine, it’s mostly for those people who will pay $150 for a set of 15 Kazan films personally selected by Scorsese, but the doc isn’t just for die-hard Kazan fans. You have to be a die-hard Scorsese fan, too.

The film is only an hour, and I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are seriously into both Kazan and Scorsese, so go ahead and watch the whole film at the “American Masters” site (apparently PBS video embeds are not supported by WordPress, so my apologies on not being able to watch here).

[via Gordon and the Whale]

Doc News: Judy Garland; Tupac Shakur; Colin Hanks

– Oscar winner Rob Epstein  (“The Times of Harvey Milk,” “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt”) is re-teaming with longtime collaborator Jeffrey Friedman following their sort of venture into narrative filmmaking (“Howl”) for a project involving the late Judy Garlandaccording to 24 Frames. Also on board is filmmaker Steven “Flip” Lippman, who makes short musical documentary  films. This feature documentary, titled “Stay All Night,” will piece together a “re-creation” of Garland’s famous 1961 comeback concert at Carnegie Hall, which was not filmed. However, Super 8mm backstage material has been uncovered, and this will be combined with music excerpts and interviews with people who were there. The idea is not to present a certain record but an experience as close to being there as possible. It doesn’t sound like they will actually be reenacting the concert, which is what the use of the word “re-create” seems to imply. It’s in beginning stages, though, so it will be some time before we see what the trio achieves. Meanwhile, Epstein and Friedman (who are likely just producing “Stay All Night”), are currently still trying to get their Linda Lovelace biopic, “Lovelace,” off the ground.

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Watch Gil Scott-Heron in “Black Wax”

Gil Scott-Heron, who died yesterday at the age of 62, is best known for the spoken-word single “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” His influence on black culture, political poetry and music is tremendous, but what about documentary film? Well the title of his most famous track has been borrowed for the title of one prominent non-fiction film: Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain’s 2003 film on Hugo Chavez, which unintentionally/fortuitously documented the attempted coup in 2002.

And then there is Robert Mugge’s “Black Wax,” a 1983 music doc focused on Scott-Heron as he performs in and walks around D.C. and hangs out with wax figures of political and historical figures. You can’t rent it from Netflix as it appears to be out of print, with new DVDs selling for about $80 on Amazon — VHS copies are only $3, though. There are at least a few clips here and there on the web, one of which — I think it’s the beginning — you can check out after the jump.

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Doc News: Brad Pitt; “The King of Kong” Remake; Wim Wenders; Divine

Brad Pitt has allegedly been confirmed as narrator for Terrence Malick’s upcoming IMAX documentary “Voyage of Time,” which will apparently be like “Tree of Life” without all the pesky human drama stuff. (Hopefully Malick can also one day give us a version of “Tree of Life” that’s just the human drama stuff without the ineffectual space-time context. Or Sean Penn, who is hardly part of the human drama stuff because he’s so lacking in anything resembling a human being. Anyway, that’s a discussion for another place.) Up to now, Pitt’s involvement in documentary has surprisingly been fairly slim. He has an executive producer credit on “God Grew Tired of Us,” appears in Spike Lee’s “If God is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise,” and can currently be heard supplying part of the voice-over narration in Harry Shearer’s “The Big Uneasy.” I actually don’t see any certainty in the claims that Pitt will be attached to this film, since the L.A. Times’ 24 Frames blog only references an old outline that gave us the initial notion in the first place. But it’s probably going to happen anyway.

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Must-See: “How to Die in Oregon” Debuts on HBO Tonight!

One of the best docs to come out of Sundance this year — in fact, it took the grand jury prize in the fest’s U.S. documentary competiton — is Peter D. Richardson’s “How to Die in Oregon.” And now you can finally see this tissue-box-depleting film, as it premieres on HBO tonight. Tackling the topic of Death With Dignity, which is a better way of saying physician-assisted suicide, and its legality in Oregon, you’re sure to be either debating or bawling or both by its end. Here’s an excerpt from my review from Sundance:

‘How to Die in Oregon’ features no bells and whistles or big narrative surprises or interesting camerawork that gets most docs notice these days (though the excellent final shot/moment is a distinct and unexpected way to end). All it has, and all it needs, is a controversial topic addressed sufficiently and respectably. It does raise awareness and inspires a conversation. There is not one of us who this moral dilemma and debate could not affect one day. So it will possibly scare you as much as it will rip your emotions. Even if you try to guard yourself up. I’ll be honest, I prepared myself so much to not get upset with the tragedy that I ended up exploding at a moment of sudden joy experienced by one of the characters.

Just go in knowing that pretty much every character you meet will probably die, maybe even on screen. It won’t necessarily keep the tears away, but it might help some.

Watch the trailer after the jump. And either prepare with or afterward visit All These Wonderful Things for a great interview with Richardson.

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Trailers: “Tarantino: Disciple of Hong Kong”; “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” and “The Flaw”

There are a few documentary trailers out this week for films that I haven’t yet seen but which seem pretty interesting. To both myself and other doc fans and non-doc fans alike. The range of topics include film history, biography and the financial crisis.

One that is obviously making the more mainstream blogosphere rounds this week is the French-produced film “Tarantino: Disciple of Hong Kong,” which of course covers Quentin Tarantino‘s HK cinema influences. And, um, I saw a “Cannonball Run II” poster slipped in there somewhere. Anyway, it features interviews with many filmmakers, such as Ringo Lam, and scholars, such as David Bordwell. Watch that one after the jump.

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