LawrenceA

From the Last 18 Years

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Bloodworth (2010) - Backwoods domestic drama indie from Samuel Goldwyn Films and director Shane Dax Taylor. Teenager Fleming Bloodworth (Reece Thompson) is a high school dropout with aspirations to become a writer. He finds ample material in his own family: his angry, cuckolded father (Dwight Yoakam); his womanizing uncle Warren (Val Kilmer); his voodoo-practicing other uncle, Brady (W. Earl Brown); and his country-singer grandfather B.F. (Kris Kristofferson), who has just returned to town after a 40 year absence. Also featuring Frances Conroy, Hilary Duff, Hilarie Burton, Sheila Kelly, Brent Briscoe, Rance Howard, Afemo Omilami, and Barry Corbin.

There's some genuine Southern atmosphere here, and some unusual touches, especially the vaguely supernatural elements involving Brady (W. Earl Brown). Brown himself adapted the screenplay, based on the novel Promises of Night by William Gay. Ultimately, I felt that this material probably worked better in the novel format, as there's just too much crammed into the 105 minute runtime to give every story thread justice.   (6/10)

Source: Amazon Prime video

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Death Kappa (2010) - Abysmal Japanese spoof of giant monster movies, from Nikkatsu and director Tomo'o Haraguchi. A failed pop singer returns to her rural hometown just in time for a kappa, a sort of Japanese goblin from folklore, to come to life in her yard. This draws the attention of terrorists that want to use the kappa's DNA to make an army of monster soldiers. Instead, a nuclear explosion creates a giant dragon monster, which has to be defeated by the now-also-giant kappa. 

This has the shot-on-digital-video aesthetic endemic of modern Japanese genre films, which lends an additional layer of amateurishness to the proceedings. The filmmakers intentionally make the model cities as phony as possible, as well as gleefully showing the string holding up the model jets that fly about. Unfortunately, none of it is funny in the least, and even at 79 minutes, the movie feels at least 30 minutes too long.   (3/10)

Source: Tokyo Shock Blu-ray

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Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) - Documentary on street artists, from Paranoid Pictures and director Banksy. A look at the influential guerrilla street art movement of the late 90's/early 00's. The film follows the unlikely journey of French-American Thierry Guetta, a camcorder fanatic who began filming street artists around the world as they created their unique works of (often illegal) art, before deciding to become an artist himself.

The film's first half, showing the various artists and their works, is fascinating and impressive in the range of talent on display. The second half of the film, tracking Guetta's "transformation" into pop-art upstart Mr. Brainwash, is a searing indictment on the art world in general, and the modern art scene in particular. Recommended.   (8/10)

Source: Amazon video

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LAWRENCE, what is your own personal favorite docu (feature) or top 5 to 10 i9f you want?

 

My vote goes to 1985's 9hr SHOAH

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Future World: City of Mass Destruction aka GR30k (2010) - Wretched science fiction from director Daniel Falicki. Set in the year 30,000 A.D., the film features a series of vignettes all taking place in the last inhabited city on Earth: Grand Rapids, Michigan. Multiple nuclear wars have decimated much of the population, and mutations run rampant in the survivors. A giant corporate conglomerate controls every aspect o the citizens lives, although a handful fight against them. I won't bother listing cast members as they're all local unknowns.

This shot-on-video effort has been computer processed to make it appear vaguely animated, although most of it is murky and it all looks terrible. The script is a blend of sophomoric humor and countless post-apocalyptic SF cliches, with the most obvious influence being the animated film Heavy Metal. I'm sure it was a labor of love for those behind the camera, but for the audience it's 127 minutes of pure torture.   (2/10)

Source: DVD, part of the Grindhouse Galore: Guns, Babes and Gore collection.

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Incendies (2010) - French-Canadian drama from Sony Pictures Classics and writer-director Denis Villeneuve. After the death of their mother (Lubna Azabal), twin siblings Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) are tasked by their mother's last will & testament to travel to the Middle East and find their father, who they believed dead, and their older brother, whose existence they were never aware of. Also featuring Remy Girard, Aladeen Tawfeek, Allen Altman, and Mohamed Majd.

Based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad, the location of the Middle Eastern scenes are kept deliberately vague, and the Muslim vs Christian conflict a fictional one, standing in for any number of real-world wars. The story is told in a fractured narrative, jumping from time period to time period, and not always with any notice. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I settled in fairly quickly. The performances by Azabal and Desormeaux-Poulin are very good. I can see the coincidental nature of the later film revelations to be viewed as a bit too much of a stretch in credibility by many, but I went with it, although I'll say that I found it the weakest part of the film. Otherwise, I thought it was very well done, and I would recommend it. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.   (8/10)

Source: Sony Blu-ray

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Made in Dagenham (2010) - British labor-struggle true story, from Sony Pictures Classics and director Nigel Cole. Set in 1968, the women seamstresses at the Dagenham Ford Motor plant decide to go on strike for equal pay, led by feisty fellow worker Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins). However, the consequences may be too much to bear for some of the ladies, as the strike lingers on and tensions mount. Also featuring Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Georgina Brown, Rosamund Pike, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winstone, Rupert Graves, Richard Schiff, Lorraine Stanley, Nicola Duffett, Kenneth Cranham, Matthew Aubrey, Daniel Mays, Phil Cornwell, and Andrew Lincoln.

This fits comfortably into that particular British film subgenre of the working-class comedy-drama, usually based on true events, that's a crowd-pleaser as well as a critical success (think The Full Monty, Billy Elliott, Brassed Off, etc.). The story follows a predictable path, but that's okay as long as there's sharp dialogue and winning performances, both of which this film has. Hawkins is always good, and she's become one of my favorite British actresses of the modern era. Riseborough has fun as a saucy co-worker, as does Jaime (daughter of Ray) Winstone as a would-be model. Georgina Brown gets some dramatic meat to dig into, Rosamund Pike has some good moments as a frustrated housewife, and Miranda Richardson earned a BAFTA nomination as a fiery government minister. I was shocked by the small role from Andrew Lincoln, playing a condescending school teacher, his last movie role before moving to the U.S. and TV stardom in The Walking Dead. And seeing Bob Hoskins again made me realize how much I miss his presence in films.  (7/10)

Source: Sony DVD

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Meek's Cutoff (2010) - Arthouse western from Evenstar Films, Oscilloscope, and director Kelly Reichardt. In the 1840's, a small wagon train of three families is being led west by scout and trail guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood). It soon becomes apparent to the families that they are lost, although Meek won't admit it, and they've come too far to turn back. As water becomes scarce, they run across a sole native (Ron Rondeaux) and take him prisoner. Meek urges that they kill him immediately, but the families choose to keep him alive, and one of their number (Michelle Williams) insists on treating him with compassion. Also featuring Will Patton, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, and Tommy Nelson.

Reichardt's low-key style approaches on the somnambulant, and her insistence on using natural light renders the evening scenes almost indecipherable. Still, there's a certain hypnotic appeal if one doesn't fall asleep first, and a slow-burn sense of dread builds over time. The most talked about aspect of the film may be the ending, which I won't divulge here, only to say that I'm not sure what the idea behind it was, or its ultimate meaning, if it has any.   (6/10)

Source: FilmStruck

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Nostalgia for the Light (2010) - Chilean documentary from writer-director Patricio Guzman. The film looks at the Atacama desert in Chile, and the various ways people there look into the region's past. Home to some of the most technologically advanced telescopes and observatories in the world, astronomers delve into the cosmic past of the universe. Archaeologists catalog the evidence of mankind's earliest travels through the region, going back 10,000 years or more. And finally, grieving family members search the desert flats for the remains of missing loved ones who were "disappeared" during the military dictatorship of Pinochet in the 1970's. The relationship between these three facets seems tenuous at first, but the director weaves a compelling tapestry of man's design to know his past, no matter how recently or far back into the abyss of time one looks. Recommended.   (8/10)

Source: Amazon video

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Radio Free Albemuth (2010) - Science fiction drama based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, from Open Pictures and writer-producer-director John Alan Simon. Record-shop employee Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) begins receiving secret messages from an orbiting satellite he calls VALIS (Vast Alien Living Intelligence System). It instructs Nick to move with his wife Rachel (Kathryn Winnick) to Los Angeles, where he gets a job as a record company executive, eventually teaming up with fellow-VALIS acolyte Sylvia (Alanis Morissette) to hide subliminal messages in pop songs in order to foment revolution against the fascist U.S. President (Scott Wilson). Nick's only other confidante is his best friend, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick (Shea Wigham). Also featuring John Prosky, Julie Warner, Jon Tenney, Rich Sommer, Hanna Hall, Will Rothhar, Richard Cox, and Ashley Greene.

This independent production may be one of the few film adaptations of Dick's work that stays true to the source material. It's a shame, then, that it's based on one of Dick's least notable novels, one that the author himself filed away as incomplete, only for it to be released posthumously. The VALIS concept was carried over to a few other of Dick's later books, as it was based on an event that the author swore was true, wherein he was contacted by an alien intelligence that imparted secret knowledge. The filmmakers managed to assemble a competent cast, but the film itself looks cheap (shot on digital video), and the few special effects are terrible. The movie screened at one film festival in 2010, and it wasn't until four years later that it was finally widely released, on video-on-demand. 

Source: Freestyle DVD

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Killer High (2018) - Horror comedy from the SyFy Channel and director Jem Garrard. A former prom queen (Kacey Rohl) who never got over high school organizes her class's 10-year reunion in their now-abandoned school. Unfortunately, a cursed mascot costume turns one poor soul into a giant killer warthog, which totally ruins the evening. Also featuring Humberly Gonzalez, Varun Saranga, Asha Bromfield, Nikki Duval, Jonathan Langdon, Lauren Collins, and Linda Goranson.

There's a lot more wit in the script and style in the filmmaking than in your typical SyFy Channel movie, and while I would never call this a favorite, I enjoyed myself.   (6/10)

Source: SyFy Channel

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Senna (2010) - Outstanding sports documentary from Universal Pictures and director Asif Kapadia. The movie follows the career of champion Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna, from his beginnings as a competitive go-kart racer, to the becoming a 3-time world champion on the F1 circuit. 

The mark of a successful documentary is when it takes a topic that a viewer cares little to nothing about, and still manages to make a movie that's interesting and compelling, as well as intellectually and emotionally engaging. I care very little about motor sports, and if pressed would rank them among man's more dubious achievements, and yet I was gripped throughout the film, and rank it among the best documentaries that I've seen. I can't exactly say why, either. It's mostly made up of news footage and private video from the era (late 70's through the mid 90's), with some narrated comments from family members, competitors, and sportscasters. Whatever the reason, I found this a triumph, and highly recommend it.   (9/10)

Source: Amazon video

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Southside with You (2016) - Romantic drama from Miramax, Roadside Attractions, and writer-producer-director Richard Tanne. The film details the first date of future first couple Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) and Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers). They talk, attend an art exhibit, talk some more, attend a community action meeting, and talk even more over drinks. Also featuring Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phillip Edward Van Lear, Taylar Fondren, Deanna Reed-Foster, and Jerod Haynes.

When I first heard about this movie, I thought it sounded silly and perhaps premature. I expected a hagiography, or at least mild propaganda. I found neither in this straight-forward and engaging romance, set in a time and place (the black community in Chicago circa 1989) little noticed by Hollywood. It's interested in these two people as people, and avoids any attempts at profound statements about them. A pleasant, if ultimately lightweight, entertainment.   (7/10)

Source: NetFlix

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Queen of Katwe (2016) - Feel-good true life drama from Disney and director Mira Nair. Young Ugandan girl Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) has her life turned around when she's introduced to the game of chess by local coach Robert Katende (David Oyelowo). However, her status as a chess prodigy does little to satisfy her mother Nakku (Lupita Nyong'o), who struggles to support their family of five by selling corn on the street. 

An exotic locale, universal characters, and a compelling underdog story help elevate this into excellent entertainment. The positive message will resonate with girls of all ages, and Mira Nair's direction keeps things energetic and interesting.   (7/10)

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The Tempest (2010) - Gaudy, CGI-laden adaptation of the William Shakespeare play, from Miramax, Touchstone, and director Julie Taymor. Exiled witch Prospera (Helen Mirren) lives with her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) on a remote Mediterranean island. A ship is caught in a storm, washing many of the occupants ashore, including King Alonso of Naples (David Strathairn) and his retainers, who were responsible for Prospera's exile. Prospera plans revenge, while Miranda falls in love with Alonso's son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney). Also featuring Djimon Hounsou, Ben Whishaw, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Alfred Molina, Tom Conti, and Russell Brand.

Visually and audibly overly-busy, the richness of Shakespeare's text is lost in a misguided take on the material that utilizes CGI effects at every opportunity, but often in a way that looks cheesy, distracting rather than enhancing. The gender swap of the main character is inspired, and Mirren plays the role with relish, arguably coming off the best in the cast. British comic Russell Brand, while a cheeky choice as jester Trinculo, has the worst time trying to make the dialogue sound natural, even more so than Hounsou, who was working in with English as a second language. The movie earned a surprising Oscar nomination for Best Costumes (Sandy Powell).   (5/10)

Source: Miramax/Touchstone DVD

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I don't understand the topic of this thread at all. Culture output is not demarcated by dates, calendars, numbers. Just look at the Beidermeir Era in Germany. Do you think that people stopped every year and counted on their calendar, how long the mediocrity was lasting? No. They were simply in a trough.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biedermeier

In our country, it suffices to say that everything after the influence of the studio era had faded,  is merely self-conscious, juvenile twaddle, aping and playing catch-up to better timeperiods containing real importance and pioneering. The studio era is our High Renaissance.

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