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Sketches of Frank Gehry

dir: Sydney Pollock
[img_assist|nid=1127|title=Enjoy the afterlife, boys|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=372]
Friends making documentaries about friends sounds like mutual masturbation, but it can work, if you’re into that sort of thing. Your interest level in this movie is pretty much dictated by whether you can enjoy a doco about a famous architect who has designed some pretty kooky buildings. Or not. My guess is that a lot of eyes glaze over before you even finish saying the word architectu….zzzzz

Can you really imagine something as staggeringly dull as a doco about an architect? Unless it’s the architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer, maybe, or the architect of some badly negligent buildings that fall down and kill people. Otherwise it’s a date with dullsville, you’d be forced to think. Well, force yourself to think a little more, ya deadbeat.

Frank Gehry has architected up some pretty freaky looking buildings. Even if his name doesn’t ring any of your bells, you’ve probably seen images of his crazy constructions all the same. I can’t pretend I knew anything about the guy beyond images of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, that I’d seen, and the kooky episode of The Simpsons where Gehry guest stars and designs a new building for Springfield that gets turned into a surrealist prison. Snitch 4 Life indeed.

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2007 Film Year in Review

dir: Me

2008

Another great year of movies. Another couple of hundred reviews read by a few bored people online and by harvesting bots trying to find email addresses to send crucial details regarding penis breasting and Nigerian viagra accounts to.

From a film-watching point of view, I was forced by dint of circumstance, in other words, by the entry of my daughter Dawn Matilda into this harsh and occasionally beautiful world, to watch a lot of flicks on DVD (legitimately) and a few via the illegal largesse of the download fairies. I’m not justifying it, I’m not excusing it, I just think that when I can barely make it to the cinema a dozen times due to looking after a baby girl, I am morally justified in watching stuff that I didn’t and you didn’t pay for.

There’s a logic there that I hope I won’t be explaining to any prosecutors any time soon. Hey, if they can find a babysitter for me, then I’ll be happy to watch Scary Movie 5 or the next Lindsay Lohan flick in the salubrious confines of a theatre the way the Gods of Cinema intended.

Still, I got to see a fair few films I liked this year, and less that made me want to unleash an apocalypse of jihad and tickle torture on the world.

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Bridge, The

dir: Eric Steel
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I know it’s called The Bridge. But don’t go thinking this documentary is actually about the bridge or a bridge. Very deceptive advertising, I guess. There you are at your local Blockburster, hoping to hire a DVD about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and instead you get this macabre slice of time and life about suicide.

A lot of people have committed suicide from leaping from the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s iconic for those seeking to end the miserableness of their existences. They’ll travel from across America to get to the bridge in order to fling themselves off of it with certainty of outcome, thenceforth leading them towards the oblivion they so desperately crave.

In the year that most of this footage derives from, which was 2004, 24 people killed themselves by leaping from this bridge. That’s an average of about one a fortnight. This documentary contains footage of some of these people offing themselves, and interviews with their friends and families.

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2006 Film Year in Review

dir: Andrew Moshos

It was the best of years, it was the blurst of years, to quote Mr Burns from The Simpsons reading something written by one of thousands of monkeys typing away at thousands of typewriters. There were a few really good films this year, a lot of crappy films, but there were a lot of mediocre films too. Mediocre movies are worse than outright shite movies.

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Devil and Daniel Johnston, The

dir: Jeff Feuerzeig
[img_assist|nid=1218|title=Oh, Daniel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=271|height=400]
Documentaries are great for finding the true stories behind people known for something they did or something they were. Documentaries are also great at illuminating the stories of people for whom obscurity and anonymity would have been a blessing.

Firmly, firmly within the tradition of doco subjects such as Robert Crumb and his insane brothers in Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, the eccentric mother and daughter of Albert Maysle’s Grey Gardens and the indulgent, excruciating self-laceration of Jonathan Caoutte’s Tarnation, The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals the life and times of an absolute nutter.

Daniel Johnston enjoyed a certain kind of notoriety in the late 80s-early 90s when too-cool hipsters and try-hards like Sonic Youth and the shmucks from Nirvana raised him to public consciousness. Of course he was oh-so-famous in his home town and around his family, but this virtually unknown singer-songwriter became famous mostly because he is crazy.

He started off with promise, of some kind that I can’t really figure out, but degenerated into the darkest pit of manic-impressive madness. He was obsessed entirely with music and becoming a famous musician, but never really seemed to achieve the goal of learning how to actually write or play music properly.

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2005 Film Year In Review

dir: Me

Each year there are nincompoops who'll say it was the worst year in film ever, and each year they'll be wrong. The worst year in terms of cinema was the day Jim Carrey started acting, but other than that,
every year since and after has had plenty of decent stuff to watch, whether it's homegrown, from the States or from the more obscure heathen corners of the world. And for someone like me whose main hobby

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Enron - the Smartest Guys in the Room

dir: Alex Gibney
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Based on the book The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, this documentary tracks the rise and fall of one of the most fraudulent and corrupt companies in corporate history. That we know of.

Enron’s existence and eventual demise is an incredibly powerful modern tale about the poisonous organisational culture that can exist under the gleaming PR-heavy corporate exterior, the laxity of corporate governance in contemporary business, the ‘embedded’ and tame nature of business journalism, shameless dishonesty and personal hubris.

But it’s also an ode to human stupidity. That so many could be sucked in by such an obvious, nonsensical scam is an indictment of contemporary society. And it makes modern civilisation look dumber as a consequence.

How did it happen? Perhaps people were so completely blinded by greed that they were happy to believe anything as long as the company’s share price kept going up.

The business reporters who would have ordinarily sniffed out and exposed such a fiasco were captive, collaborators in the system, which only seems to keep chugging along if journalists keep quiet about all the glaring illegalities they must surely know about or suspect.

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Fahrenheit 9/11

dir: Michael Moore
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It's a testament to the era that we live in that the more complicated issues of human rights, international diplomacy and the role of the media becomes, the narrower the range and scope of response is becoming. We are either for the terrorists, or against them. We are either fascists who hate everything that is anything than a darker shade of albino, or we are decent folk who hug puppies and love cherub-cheeked children. You either want to destroy every last stinking bit of Mother Nature, or you love the earth and everything in it or on it.

Was the world always so polarised? Do we really believe that there are really only two points of view on pretty much every single topic in existence? That the universe or at least everything on this planet exists in some kind of binary state, so that every molecule of matter and every thought or idea exists in only one of two possible states? It seems like with the increasing number and complexity of the ideas and concepts that permeate civilisation it might be a natural consequence that our vision somehow narrows simultaneously. Confronted with a multitude of competing voices we focus on those sounds that most conform with what we've heard and liked before. Out of the cacophony we hear only the tune we want to whistle ourselves.

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Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

dir: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
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There’s something simultaneously engaging and repellent about a documentary where three of the titans of metal, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett act like bitchy teenage girls. They might be squillionaires, their band could be the biggest metal band of all time, but they’re still incapable of speaking to each other like adults.

I guess they have no need to be adults anyway. When you’re that rich, who needs maturity or reasonableness to get along with other people? You can hire assistants to do everything you need, PR people to handle your fuckups and indiscretions, and psychiatrist super coaches to hand-hold you through every emotionally difficult moment.

Well, it becomes a problem when your band and your management are desperate for another trip to the money well for another hefty load of the cold, hard green. That desire to get paid ensures every step needs to be taken in order to guarantee the product is finally pumped out, even when that product should probably have never seen the light of day in the first place.

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Bukowski: Born into This

dir: John Dullaghan
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The likelihood of you seeing this film and enjoying it depends on whether a) you’ve heard of Charles Bukowski, b) you’ve read and liked the writing perpetrated by Bukowski, and c) you’re happy to watch a two hour documentary about a very damaged, eloquent bastard in a cinema.

You have to weigh this up against likely alternatives, such as instead of watching Bukowski: Born Into This, you could be watching a reality television program where one of the participants is called Hotdogs. How do you live with yourself?

On each of the three points, I am sold, so along I went to watch a flick about this deeply ugly man. Heroically ugly. Child-traumatisingly ugly. Anyone who has read the man’s work and did not know what he looked like might be both surprised and reassured. He looks pretty much exactly as he should. The real ugliness is on the inside though, and that is represented as well, because it cannot help but pour forth.

As a career alcoholic he clearly developed a way of speaking so that, whether drunk, really drunk, fall over drunk or sober, he always sounded the same. Speaking either conversationally or reading his poetry, you can never tell whether he’s drunk or sober. Just to clarify matters a tiny bit more, I doubt at any stage of the two hours that we ever see him completely sober.

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