Doc News: Morton Downey Jr., the Death of “Reality TV”, “Klitschko” Release Date

– Remember Morton Downey Jr.? The late talk show host was the Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh of the ’80s, as we’ll be reminded with a new documentary titled “Évocateur.” The film, which is expected to release sometime next year, will feature interviews with Sally Jesse Raphael, Chris Elliott, Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan. Directed by the team of Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger (“The Linguists”), the last wrote to Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson today to assure her that the doc also devotes a “whole section” to the man’s cult album “Morton Downey Jr. Sings!” I admit I’d forgotten about Downey until this news but am now excitedly looking forward to the film. There’s already a trailer available, so you can check that out below and join me in anticipation:

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Doc News: Herzog, New Academy Membership, Silverdocs, Ryan Dunn

– Werner Herzog‘s next documentary has been retitled from “Death Row” to “Gazing Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life” and has been picked up by ZDF Enterprises for worldwide TV rights and theatrical distribution outside the U.S. and UK. The filmmaker is quoted by Variety as describing the film as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul,” though more literally it involves interviews with Texan death row inmates, including: “two men convicted of triple murder, another who killed his girlfriend and her two mentally retarded sons, and a woman — one of only 10 on Texas’ death row — charged with abducting a newborn baby and killing the child’s mother.”

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Doc News: Ken Burns Tourism; Colin Hanks Reaches Goal; Netflix Removes “Death Scenes”


– Any documentary fans looking for summer vacation ideas? Well, as was announced last fall, Ken Burns is now involved in the tourism industry with a company called Tauk. Through the partnership, the filmmaker has produced a series of “filmed narratives” called “Stories by Ken Burns” which coincide with special Burns-inspired trips (titled) “Crafted by Tauk & Ken Burns.” One involves places featured in his “Civil War” series while another, based on his “National Parks” series, takes you through the national parks of the southwest. One-day-only trips called “Ken Burns Events” are also offered, one tied to “Civil War” (which happened in May) and another based on his “Jazz” series. It’s kind of like Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow in a way, bridging cinephiles with special cine-tourism opportunities, yet these are more about pre-existing significance as opposed to locations turned famous by films.

Check out a trailer/ad for the tours and events after the jump.

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News: Terrence Malick, Sarah Palin, Ellen Page and “50 Documentaries to See Before You Die”

– Producer Bill Pohlad revealed to ComingSoon.net that Terrence Malick is still working on an previously announced IMAX documentary titled “Voyage of Time.” Footage for the film, which Pohlad hints will focus on something like the history of the universe, was shot during the making of Malick’s new drama, “The Tree of Life” (pictured above). No word on when the doc will be finished, and Pohlad notes that with more shooting occurring it could all change into something else entirely, hence one of many reasons for secrecy at this juncture. Also still just a rumor is the possibility that Brad Pitt will narrate. For now you should just go see “The Tree of Life” for an old-school-effects presentation of the origins of Earth. It’s kind of like a documentary.

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Short or Reality Series

Here’s something that just occurred to me while watching Cindy Meehl’s “Buck,” the documentary about a horse whisperer that won an audience award at Sundance and is now getting standing ovations at SXSW: some docs shouldn’t be features, but it’s sometimes hard to say if they should instead be a short or a TV series.

On the one hand, I really don’t think there’s enough of a story in “Buck” to play out near 90 minutes. It repeats itself a lot, particularly regarding its explicit metaphoric anti-abuse message. On the other hand, Buck Brannaman is such an amusing and likable character, and his on-the-road job is so episodic, that I could see his life further followed as a reality program.

I wonder how many other docs that seem ill-fit as features are the same, could go either other way.

Review: “Kings of Pastry”

As Oscar weekend begins, it’s worth noting, as many bloggers like to do, how many great filmmakers have never won Academy Awards. Documentary legends Frederick Wiseman and DA Pennebaker are among them, and each released new films last year. But they were both considered “light” works for their talents. I nevertheless consider Wiseman’s “Boxing Gym” to be one of the best docs of 2010, while Pennabaker’s latest, “Kings of Pastry,” is definitely on the insubstantial side of his career. At 85 years old (you wouldn’t know it, if you’ve seen him in person recently), he’s at least still working. But I don’t think I’d recommend it to people who aren’t total foodies or Pennebaker fanatics, and even then it’s likely too unrecognizable in style to his direct-cinema classics that even devotees may be a little disappointed.

Penny seems mainly a co-director of the film (as IMDb credits him), somewhat secondary to wife Chris Hegedus, who can be heard a few times from behind the camera. The two were Oscar-nominated as a team back in 1994 for “The War Room” (screening on the Documentary Channel this weekend) and haven’t done a whole lot of major work together since — though Hegedus has done great, timely collaborations with other filmmakers, like “Startup.com” (co-directed by Jehane Noujaim) and “Al Franken: God Spoke” (co-directed by regular cinematographer Nick Doob), which I listed as one of the best of the 2000s. I guess it’s a shame she still hasn’t won an Oscar, as well.

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Trailer: “Cinema Verite”

“Cinema verite, right? Whatever happens happens”

That’s the sound bite to leave with from this trailer for HBO’s Cinema Verite, which dramatizes the making of the pioneering reality series (then still thought of as a documentary series) An American Family. Directed by American Splendor‘s Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the movie  stars Tim Robbins and Diane Lane as the Loud parents, Thomas Dekker as gay hero Lance, James Gandolfini as producer Craig Gilbert and Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins as future Oscar winners Alan and Susan Raymond.

All this does is make me want to finally get to watch the original series, which isn’t officially commercially available.