It’s hard to be objective when talking about the remarkable documentary “Life Itself” as a critic who admired it’s subject very much, the world’s most famous film aficionado Roger Ebert, as I imagine it has been for many sitting down to review this film. Director Steve James, of “Hoop Dreams” and” The Interrupters” fame, takes us through the life of Mr Ebert, but also manages to be the benefactor of opportunistic timing as he takes the audience all the way through the end of his subject’s life as well. The stories of his long lasting feud that eventually turned to friendship with co-host Gene Siskel, his public speaking and movie deconstructions along with the love of his life Chaz, who he met at 50, are all examined, but they are juxtaposed between the documenting of the final months of Ebert’s life, caught on film by James himself.
Life Itself is at times heart wrenching, inspiring and revelatory throughout the film as James never shies away from Ebert’s very combative and unlikeable side, showing us a true portrait of the entire man. Starting off as a brash, outspoken and over confident young man, who at 21 inherited his movie review column at the Chicago Sun-Times that he never let go over the next 46 years, Ebert also quickly became an out of control alcoholic. Winning his Pulitzer Prize at a young age did not help either, as James examines all this material and shows us a much darker and angry Roger Ebert, light years away from the one most of the public knew. (more…)
A Story of Children and Film is a documentary by Mark Cousins which explores the history of cinema and the roles that child actors have had in it. The film uses an interesting approach that utilizes a magnitude of different movies dating back to the earliest era and cinema and reaching all the way across different parts of the world. Cousins also intercut footage he took of niece and nephew and contrasts it to the films he’s talking about creating the actual narrative of the documentary. Aside from the footage that he took, and a few brief shots at the end of the piece, a majority of the film is footage from other movies with Cousins narration.
The topic that the A Story of Children and Film explores is not a commonly covered one, so Cousins does a good job at breaking new ground and exploring the various aspects of it. However, the films biggest downfall is its narration which is done by the director himself. Some filmmakers can pull off narrating their own films, however Cousins done so in the most monotone way imaginable. It can only be assumed that this is done intentionally with an attempt to speak in a somewhat poetic way; however it can often feel dry and boring at times. The footage really is the essential attention grabber in the documentary, and it becomes really interesting to see how the earliest pieces of cinema have had an ever growing influence on the most modern films released. Cousins goes on to point out that cinema is one of the newest art forms and that it is almost a child itself, something not often thought about considering how young of an art form film really is. Instead of simply narrating the entire piece, real life footage of family members was used to flow from topic to topic, thus removing the choppiness that a documentary like this could have easily fallen victim to.
The underdog sports story is one of the oldest tales in film. This is the one where the athlete that nobody believed in eventually proves everyone wrong to roaring applause. Such is the true life story of professional basketball player and overnight sensation, Jeremy Lin. Lin grew up living a normal life, idolizing his favourite basketball players on TV, and mimicking their moves on the courts with his brothers. He would time and time again prove he was an exceptional player but was often passed over because he didn’t look like a traditional basketball star.
Evan Leong’s Linsanity focuses on the meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin and chronicles his early childhood memories while paralleling it with Lin’s current NBA stardom. The documentary does a great job of capturing the real Jeremy Lin, and getting a first-hand account from the star himself, which reveals the very personal and spiritual journey that the basketball sensation has been on since his youth. The strongest aspect of the film is that it doesn’t just gear itself towards basketball fans; it instead opts for a broader approach making it accessible and fun to watch for everyone. Even someone who has never sat and watched an entire basketball game will stay engaged in the film throughout. .
While training for the 2010 Winter Olympics, champion US snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a devastating accident on the slopes, putting him temporarily in a coma and leaving him with a debilitating brain injury. When he finally recovered both speech and mobility, Kevin shocked his supportive, tight-knit family by announcing that he wanted to return to the sport he loves—despite doctors’ warnings that even the slightest blow to the head would be enough to kill him.
The Crash Reel is an engrossing exposé on the world of extreme sports and more specifically the terrible accident and recovery of Kevin Pearce, known to his fans simply as KP, who before his tragic accident was poised to upset Shaun White for the gold in the Vancouver Olympic Games. The film follows diligently the Pearce family as they try to recover from his head injury that almost cost Kevin his life. Through practice and competitive footage, director Lucy Walker does excellent job of examining the psyche of an athlete and paints a compelling picture of the athlete and the man that Pearce would become.
Hot Docs 2013: 5 Films that need your attention
With Hot Docs in full swing starting today after last night’s gala premiere of “The Manor”, here’s a quick checklist of 5 films that should not be missed. With the over 100 films playing this year this is far from a comprehensive list of the best films overall, but these are some definite winners.
With his new documentary “Downloaded” having it’s Hot Docs debut tonight, Alex Winter has finally graduated from being Bill from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” into a seriously talented documentarian with a sharp eye for story and humor. The film is a rousing crowd pleaser and one of the most sought after tickets from this year’s fest. I got to sit down with Mr. Winter for a brief Q&A about the film.
Movie Junkie TO (MJ) -Thanks for taking some timeout to speak with me today Alex. I got to see the film the other day and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I was working in a music store when the Napster thing exploded so I had a very personal relationship to what I was seeing. What was your introduction to the story and how did you get involved in telling this story? (more…)
Playing as part of this year’s Canadian Film Fest at the Royal Cinema in Toronto this week is the new documentary from the director of 2011’s The Collapsed Justin McConnell, Skull World. The film, playing Friday Mar 22 2013, is the tale of one man’s dreams and obsession over the growing phenomenon known as Box Wars.
Starring: Greg “Skull Man” Sommer
Directed by Justin McConnell
An enterprising man in his early 30s Greg, and his alter-ego Skull Man, is at war, ‘Box Wars’ that is. Step into Greg’s world full of warriors, magic, glory, and metal music. Greg is e founder and developer of the Canadian-chapter of Box Wars, an international (more…)
The Waiting Room
Directed by Peter Nicks
Today (Friday, Jan 18), the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema begins an exclusive run of another of its 2012 festival favorites, The Waiting Room. When the shortlist of documentaries up for nomination for this year’s Academy Awards was released back in early December, director Peter Nicks found his film among the contenders. And even though it did not make the cut the film was in the mix for a reason, the day in the life of a U.S. hospital is an impactful and insightful piece of film making.
The Waiting Room is a riveting day in the life of an Oakland, California, public hospital’s overtaxed emergency room. The purely observational character-driven documentary expertly weaves the stories of several patients, most of them are uninsured, and who come to the inner-city facility because they have nowhere else to go. (more…)
With the holiday season fast approaching, the fine folks at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema have decided that with all the holiday themed options around the city they would offer up some cinematic counter programming. Starting Friday December 14th the cinema starts an exclusive run of the Hot Docs festival alumnus “Meet the Fokkens”. The seemingly innocent documentary based on a pair of 69 year old twin ladies living in Amsterdam might even remind you of your own lovely grandmother. Until you find out that the pair has been working the notorious Red-Light district of Amsterdam for over 40 years! And one of them is still active today!
Meet the Fokkens
Starring Louise and Martine Fokkens
Written and Directed by Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schroder
“Meet the Fokkens” follows Louise and Martine as they go about their daily routines, (more…)
Better known as a filmmaker nowadays, with acclaimed films like Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants under his belt, former Z-Boy and Skateboarding Hall of Fame inductee Stacey Peralta brings us his latest project based on his historic mentorship of some of skateboarding’s greatest innovators, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography. A decade after the now seminal Dogtown, and after being pestered by the Brigade members for a Bones Brigade film for almost the same amount of time, Peralta has finally delivered a follow up showing the 1980`s segment of his skateboarding career that saw him move behind the scenes and put young stars in the spotlight.
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
Starring: Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill, Tommy Guerrero, Tony Alva, George Powell, Christian Hosoi and Stacey Peralta.
Directed by Stacey Peralta
Shortly after retiring from competition, Peralta teamed with business partner George Powell to form Powell-Peralta (more…)
The Fruit Hunters (2012)
Written by Yung Chang and Mark Slutsky – based on the book by Adam Gollner
Directed by Yung Chang
After a highly successful Toronto debut screening as part of last week’s Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival Richmond Hill program, Yung Chang’s The Fruit Hunters starts an exclusive engagement this weekend at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema. The film about people obsessed with seeking out and growing exotic fruits from around the world spans the globe in search of these hidden treats and director Chang introduces us to people of all nationalities. From the South American trying to save the banana business from extinction to the Hollywood celebrity trying to launch a community orchard in the Hollywood Hills, we are invited into all of these stories through Chang’s lens.
The Fruit Hunters is indeed a globetrotting tour of places with the (more…)
Planet In Focus Environment Film Festival 2012
Bay of All Saints (2012)
Directed by Annie Eastman
Part of the lineup at this year’s Planet In Focus Environmental Film Festival, Bay of all Saints takes us deep into an area of a world we rarely get to see. In Brazil’s Bay of all Saints district the otherwise homeless have taken to the water for refuge. Rows and Rows of palafitas, haphazard hand built shacks supported directly over the water on stilts, house this makeshift urban community. When the government decides that the land is too valuable as a development project to allow these palafitas to continue to exist, the residents are slated for relocation. Over the course of six years, Norato, a friendly and flirty refrigerator repairman raised in these sea-lodged slums, guides us through the personal histories and daily struggles of Geni, Jesus and Dona Maria, three single mothers that have settled on the bay.
Written and Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
The once bustling city of Detroit is a shadow of its former self. Starting back in 2010 when the economic downturn was in full swing, Detroit went from downturn to depression in a heartbeat. With the closures of local automobile production plants, the heart of Detroit’s manufacturing industry, other key business people started leaving Detroit in droves. Once one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Detroit now ranks among the highest cities in lost population over the last couple of years. While the families have moved on, the younger generation of bloggers and performance artist have now claimed it due to cheaper housing and access.
Detropia starts before the economic buyouts that turned around the auto industry in Detroit. These were the leanest of days, focusing on the few that stayed fighting and trying to rally the…
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