Tag Archives: 2002

Top 100 Films #1 – Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

 

punch-drunk-love2#1. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman

The moment of truth – my all-time favorite movie is one that I’ve seen dozens of times and a film I think back to almost every single day. Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love is the most beautiful, unique, and challenging experience I’ve ever had with a movie. It explores themes of love, loneliness and isolation, and insecurity in a relatable and stylish way that resonates in ways that no other movie could ever accomplish. Punch-Drunk Love tells the story of toilet plunger distributor Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) as he struggles with his lonely, trapped, and insecure existence. He is alienated by his seven domineering sisters, and constantly made to reevaluate himself and his identity as a man. After an attempted extortion scheme from a phone sex operator, Barry meets a woman named Lena (Emily Watson) who is strangely attracted to him. On a whim, the neurotic and compulsive Barry surprises Lena in Hawaii, where the two hit it off and begin a romantic relationship. Unfortunately for the new couple, the phone sex operator’s extortion scheme leads to the couple being harassed, forcing Barry to fight for the woman he loves. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson brilliantly creates a palpable feeling of isolation and loneliness throughout Punch-Drunk Love, giving viewers a look inside the mind of Barry Egan. Barry is my all-time favorite movie character for a variety of reasons – his overly anxious, awkward, and nervous personality is something I’ve always been able to relate to, but also because it’s just plain funny to see his interactions with the world around him. He struggles to stay cool in social situations, and frequently has surprising and violent outbursts when he is left alone. Anderson’s writing of Barry Egan feels deeply personal and committed – he isn’t making fun of the awkward and lonely Barry, he’s empathizing with him and using the character to portray themes that are not often tackled in movies. Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction throughout Punch-Drunk Love is incredibly frantic and constantly on the move, but always feels small and relatively isolated which helps further the themes of entrapment. Anderson would win a well-deserved Best Director prize at the 2002 Cannes film festival for his work on Punch-Drunk Love. On top of incredible writing and directing from one of the world’s great contemporary filmmakers, the film features a truly terrific score from composer Jon Brion. Brion’s score is experimental and erratic, providing the perfect underlay for Barry’s many moments of nervousness, high anxiety, and misdirected anger. The use of the harmonium throughout is inspired and adds an extra layer of uniqueness to the score – the instrument is even reflected in the film’s plot. The film’s sound mixing plays a large part in the first half of Punch-Drunk Love, featuring constantly ringing phones, warehouse noises, and beautiful tone of the harmonium. Adam Sandler delivers a career-best performance as Barry Egan, being believably unpredictable and awkward at all times, but also surprisingly romantic and brave in his shining moments. Anderson’s brilliance as a director is reflected in Adam Sandler’s performance, as it’s clear that the actor was extra inspired in the performance. Emily Watson’s performance as Lena is equally as weird and compelling, even though she doesn’t have nearly as much screentime as Sandler. The two have more than enough chemistry to make the film’s central love story believable and adorable, and their interactions are some of the best moments in the film. I can’t possible state how big of an impact Punch-Drunk Love has had on my adult life – it provided me with a relatable, humorous, and beautiful story to escape in during some of my worst years. It’s a wonderful film that I can come back to again and again and still feel as moved as I was the first time – an unsung masterpiece whose brilliance can’t be understated. I’m proud to call Punch-Drunk Love my all-time favorite film, even if it’s a bond only I can understand – it’s a beautiful, incredibly well-crafted movie with themes that truly resonate with me.

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My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (Honorable Mentions)

Disclaimer: These are the ten films that would have absolutely made my all-time favorite list if I had expanded it to thirty films.  All of them come very highly recommended, and deserve some sort of mention or shout out, no matter how brief.  I chose to disqualify any film covered in my Doctober features this past month, otherwise many of those films would have appeared on this list without a doubt.  Without further ado, here are my ten honorable mentions in alphabetical order:


00071431-644990_500102 Minutes That Changed America (2008)

Directed by: Nicole Rittenmeyer, Seth Skundrick

Starring: n/a

This is exactly what the title implies – 102 minutes of amateur videos taken from ground zero and the surrounding areas on the morning and afternoon of September 11th, 2001.  102 Minutes That Changed America was a History Channel original that premiered in 2008, bringing with it a great deal of never-before-seen footage.  The film takes place in real-time and splices the footage together seamlessly.  The home movies shown throughout 102 Minutes are startling as they show just how terrifying and real this event was, especially in an age where not everybody had internet access.  People struggle to contact their families, flee from ground zero, while others look on helplessly from their high-rise apartment buildings as the world falls apart in front of their very eyes.  102 Minutes That Changed America is incredible in its use of amateur footage, and is incredibly difficult to watch because of the memories and emotions it evokes.  This isn’t some idiotic piece of conspiracy theorist rhetoric, but instead reality in its purest, ugliest, most tragic form.


Beauty Day (2011)r67aNN4

Directed by: Jay Cheel

Starring: Ralph Zavadil

Film Junk Podcast co-host Jay Cheel’s directorial debut shows restraint and passion that few documentary debuts ever have.  Beauty Day tells the story of Ralph Zavadil, better known to many Canadians (especially those in the Niagara region) as Cap’n Video, the host of a Jackass-style cable network TV show during the early 1990’s.  Zavadil gained international fame after a failed stunt for his show saw him fall from a ladder head-first into his pool-side deck, a video clip that has been shown endlessly for years since.  The accident left Cap’n Video severely injured, but the show went on.  After the series was cancelled in the mid-90’s for reasons too absurd to reveal here, Zavadil quickly falls into obscurity. Beauty Day documents the odd career of a cult icon to many young Canadians, and gets into the mind of a truly unique man.  The film is hilarious and incredibly touching, and it’s one I can’t recommend enough.  Cheel’s upcoming film How to Build a Time Machine is one I’ll be keeping my eye on for sure.


1000021Bus 174 (2002)

Directed by: Jose Padilha, Felipe Lacerda

Starring: Sandro do Nascimento

Bus 174 is a film I finally caught with the intention to cover during my Doctober month, before I opted to write multiple-film feature reviews.  This is a documentary that has stuck with me since the moment I saw it, and one I wish I had watched years ago.  Bus 174 tells the incredible story of one of the most famous hostage-negotiation situations in modern history.  The story is so notorious solely due to how absurd the situation was, and how it was handled by both the police and the news media in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Bus 174 features live coverage by the news media, showing every single angle and aspect from on-the-ground of the hostage crisis.  Police officers and media officials involved in the four-hour negotiation process are interviewed, and a background of the perpetrator is given, detailing possible motives for why somebody would attempt such a desperate act.  Bus 174 has a lot to say about the relationship between law enforcement and the public, as well as the media’s obsession for a bloody lead story.  Bus 174 is a thrilling documentary that just narrowly missed my top 20 list, and I can’t recommend it enough.  It’s surprisingly relevant in its commentary, and will challenge anybody willing to be challenged.


The Invisible War (2012)The_Invisible_War_Poster

Directed by: Kirby Dick

Starring:  Kori Cioca

Kirby Dick is a filmmaker who loves to tackle incredibly difficult subjects, and his Oscar-nominated The Invisible War is absolutely no different.  His film exposes the shocking amount of sexual assault and trauma that takes place in the American military, and the disgusting lack of support given to the victims of these assaults.  The Invisible War features eye-opening interviews with veterans who have been taken advantage of by their superior officers and their colleagues, and they are guaranteed to break your heart and make you lose a lot of respect for the way the system works.  The lack of support for the survivors of these assaults is chronicled, with perpetrators being protected by the system, and victims left helpless or punished for coming clean.  The Invisible War follows Kori Cioca throughout the film as tries to earn medical benefits in order to pay for treatment after her own assault and rape.  Cioca is incredibly strong throughout the film, and does everything in her power to right the system she was once proud to be a member of.  Kirby Dick’s documentary exposes those responsible for the rape and assault of officers in the service, as well as those responsible for protecting the perpetrators.  The Invisible War is incredibly difficult to watch because of the subject matter, but is an incredibly important film in today’s social climate.


Life_in_a_DayLife In a Day (2011)

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald

Starring: You

In the Summer of 2010, a call was made by Ridley Scott and director Kevin Macdonald on the still-young YouTube for the public to record videos of themselves on the day of July 24, 2010.  Those videos were edited and compiled into one incredibly unique project called Life in a Day, known to some as “the YouTube movie”.  Life in a Day is a truly special experience as it shows a completely normal and mundane day, but puts you in the shoes of hundreds of different people of all nationalities and social classes.  We get to see people commuting to work, mourning the loss of loved ones, being with their family and loved ones, having their hearts broken, and many other seemingly boring day-to-day activities.  Through the use of some incredible editing and storytelling, Life in a Day is anything but boring.  It’s an incredibly beautiful, relaxing, and compelling film that brings tears of joy to my face literally everytime I see it.  Films like these show how special life in all its mundanity, no matter how big or small these moments are, they’re nonetheless beautiful and affecting in ways most films could never achieve.  Life in a Day just narrowly missed my list in favour of Little Dieter Needs to Fly, a film I had seen more recently than this.  Do yourselves a favour and see this film immediately. It’s light and brief while at the same time being intimate and inspirational.  In short, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.


Searching for Sugar Man (2012)Searching-for-sugar-man--poster

Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul

Starring: Rodriguez, Stephen Segerman

The 2012 Academy Award-winning Searching for Sugar Man took the world by storm and quickly became one of the most popular and talked about documentary films in years.  Malik Bendjelloul’s film tells the story of a nearly-forgotten American rocker, Sixto Rodriguez.  Rodriguez was rumoured to have killed himself on stage during a live performance in the 1970’s, and wasn’t heard from until his re-discovery by two fans in the 1990’s.  Rodriguez had great critical and commercial success in South Africa, where the two fans in question were originally from.  Searching for Sugar Man’s search for the legendary musician is thrilling, and thankfully features an incredible payoff that makes the whole journey worthwhile.  The film is very touching and thankfully exposed the Western world to the music of Rodriguez, giving him belated, but deserved, fame and success in the United States.  On a much darker, more tragic note, the film’s director Malik Bendjelloul would commit suicide in 2014 (shortly after his Oscar win) after struggling with depression for years.  This is an incredibly inspirational and uplifting documentary about the search for a legend, and is bound to inspire you in some way.


The_Square_(2013_film)The Square (2014)

Directed by: Jehane Noujaime

Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Ahmed Hassan, Dina Abdullah, Magdy Ashour

The Netflix “original” documentary The Square is another film that just narrowly missed my official list, and one I struggled to remove.  Though I may have a great deal of problems with the “original” content provided by Netflix, The Square proves that the popular on-demand service definitely has an eye for acquiring worthwhile films when they’re available.  The Square puts the audience right in the middle of the Egyptian Revolution of the early 2010’s, starting with the beginnings of the movement in Tahrir Square in 2011, and chronicling the many hits and misses until the time of the films release.  The Square is incredibly compelling as it puts viewers right in the middle of the turmoil, showing some of the very harsh realities being faced by the revolutionaries in Egypt.  It’s truly thrilling to see a group of people rise up against tyranny and oppression, and never backing down until some sort of change is made.  The Square earned Netflix its very first Academy Award nomination this past year, and is a good sign of things to come as far as the service’s acquiring of documentary films goes.  I can’t recommend this film enough, whether or not you know anything about the important events happening in Egypt.  It’s powerful, sobering, and moving, and something that everybody should see at least once.


Undefeated (2011)Undefeated_FilmPoster

Directed by: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

Starring: Montrail Brown, O.C. Brown, Bill Courtney, Chavis Daniels, Jeff Germany

The Academy Award winning Undefeated is a film I went into expecting absolutely nothing, and instead left being incredibly touched.  It’s a film that on the surface appears to be just another sports documentary, but it’s so much more than that.  Undefeated tells the story of a Memphis high school football team, the Manassas Tigers, as they attempt a successful season after many years of crushing defeats on the field.  Head coach Bill Courtney helps turn the lives of his team members around, ensuring that they’re much more efficient in both the classroom and on the field.  Courtney is incredibly inspirational throughout the film, ensuring that the needs of every single player on his team is seen to and that all these young men get what they deserve.  Undefeated is both heartbreaking and inspirational in many of the same ways a film like Hoop Dreams is, and I can only hope that this film earns half that reputation.  Bill Courtney makes the world of his young players a better place in his own small ways, something that many people can learn from. Undefeated is currently available on Netflix streaming.


¥Winnebago_poster40x27-2Winnebago Man (2009)

Directed by: Ben Steinbauer

Starring: Jack Rebney, Ben Steinbauer

“I gotta read it again because my mind is just a piece of shit this morning!” – If you’ve had access to the internet at all in the past twenty years, there’s a great chance that you’ve seen the hilarious outtakes from Jack Rebney’s winnebago sales video.  Winnebago Man chronicles the extreme popularity of Rebney’s outtakes videos, making him known universally as “the angriest man in the world”.  Nobody does swearing and outbursts quite like Jack Rebney, and it’s these moments and outbursts that make Winnebago Man a truly hilarious and feel-good documentary that has seemingly flown under the radar of too many people.  The film proves that there’s more to Mr. Rebney than swearing and angry outbursts, and provides the audience with a very humanizing look at a polarizing man. Director Ben Steinbauer finds that Rebney is now living in a remote California home away from the public, and may not be the high-strung character he thought he would be.  Winnebago Man is surprisingly touching and emotionally-engaging for a film about such a funny viral video, and is something you’ll be quoting for days on end.  “Accoutrement!?   What is that shit!?”


The Wolfpack (2015)Wolfpack_film_poster

Directed by: Crystal Moselle

Starring: The Angulo Family

The final film on my list of honorable mentions also happens to be the most recently released film.  The Wolfpack is a brand new documentary by Crystal Moselle, taking a look at the lives of six brothers who grew up in a small New York City apartment, forbidden by their father to leave the confines of the apartment – leaving them isolated from the rest of the world.  The boys learn about the ways of the world through Hollywood and foreign-language films, learning a great deal of real of both legitimate and completely false information from the many films they see throughout their lives.  The boys not only learn a great deal from the films, but recreate them on video with the use of incredible homemade costumes and props, and a hell of a lot of passion and originality.  When one of the boys leaves the apartment one afternoon to walk the streets unsupervised, their worlds are quickly turned upside down and will never be the same.  The Wolfpack is a film that hits incredibly close to home for me, especially in the passion for film and pop culture the boys have and continue to hold.  Though we led incredibly different lives growing up, I feel I understand the minds of the Angulo boys, and they are now people I very much relate to and look up to.  The Wolfpack is incredible in every single way, and is a film that I can guarantee will only grow in esteem as the years go by.


Part 1 (#20-#16) can be viewed here

Part 2 (#15-#11) can be viewed here

Part 3 (#10-#6) can be viewed here

Part 4 (#5-#1) can be viewed here

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My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (#15-11)

Grey_Gardens_(1975_film)_poster15. Grey Gardens (1975)

Directed by: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer, Ellen Hovde

Starring: Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale, Edith Bouvier Beale, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Brooks Hyers

The Maysles Brothers might be two of the most influential documentary filmmakers in the history of the medium, and 1975’s Grey Gardens might be one of their absolute best, most unique works.  The film takes a look at the incredibly odd and hopelessly grungy lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Little Edie, the aunt and first cousin of former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy.  The very eccentric mother-daughter pair have resided at the titular Grey Gardens estate for decades, the massive home now dirty, cluttered, and dilapidated.  Their interactions with each other and with directors Albert and David Maysles are hilarious, unique, weird, and charming in ways I can’t possibly describe in a short blurb about why I adore the film.  The Maysles Brothers step back and allow Big Edie and Little Edie to tell their own story throughout the run-time of the documentary, painting a funny and disturbing portrait of this family.  The Beale’s many cats (and raccoon’s), their gardener Brooks and other friends of the family, and the Grey Gardens estate feature heavily throughout the film, making it an incredibly memorable experience, and one I can’t possibly recommend highly enough.  Grey Gardens is available on Blu-raythrough the Criterion Collection, and I recommend it to anybody interested in the genre.


14. Deep Water (2006)Deep_water_poster

Directed by: Louise Osmond, Jerry Rothwell

Starring: Donald Crowhurst, Clare Crowhurst, Tilda Swinton

During the painstaking process of composing this list, Deep Water is one of the films I immediately thought of, despite not knowing where or if the film would end up on my list when all was said and done.  The fact that the film, which I’ve only seen one time several years ago, made the list is a testament to just how powerful Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond’s 2006 documentary is, and the emotional effect it had on me as a viewer.  Deep Water tells the story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst and his experiences in the 1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, which took a number of yachtsmen around the world for a trophy, a cash prize, and the obvious fame and notoriety that would come with it.  Not to spoil things for those who haven’t seen this thrilling doc, but things don’t exactly go entirely smoothly for the amateur seaman, and his trip around the world becomes much more about survival than it does about a measly cash prize.  Coupled with archival footage and photos of the time, we get a realistic account of Crowhurst’s time at sea through interviews with those close to him, as well as terrific narration by the incomparable Tilda Swinton.  Deep Water is a film that is criminally under-seen in the film community, and could really do with having a resurgence of sorts.  Deep Water is exciting, it’s depressing, and it’s incredibly interesting.  The film is currently available on US Netflix for those looking to see it based on my recommendation.


InsideJob2010Poster13. Inside Job (2010)

Directed by: Charles Ferguson

Starring: Matt Damon

Inside Job is the timely Oscar-winner that took the world by surprise in 2010 by being both incredibly relevant, entertaining as hell, and making more than three times its meager budget at the box office, a rare feat for a documentary.  This is especially shocking because it’s not a documentary about a famous person, an iconic or influential movement or artist, but rather about a devastating financial crisis that hit the United States just two years earlier.  Inside Job tells the story of how the financial crisis of the late-2000’s took place through five parts: “How We Got Here”, detailing the burst of the internet stock bubble in the early 2000’s, investment banks and other protected corporations and agencies that dealt in things such as unpayable subprime loans, “The Bubble”, which covers the housing boom of the 2000’s, “The Crisis”, about the market collapse of investment banks, the fall of corporations like Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and AIG, as well as the asset relief program put into effect by US President George W. Bush, “Accountability”, which targets the executives, directors, consulting firms, and others who played a part in the recession, and lastly “Where We Are Now”, about the mass layoffs of American factory workers, and the efforts by the Obama administration to combat the effects of recession.  Charles Ferguson’s pressing documentary is insightful, entertaining, and has a hell of a lot to say about those responsible for the market crash.  If you’re even the slightest bit interested in important contemporary events that have shaped the Western world, I implore you to check out Inside Job.


12. The Central Park Five (2012)The_Central_Park_Five_poster

Directed by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon

Starring: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise

Ken Burns is perhaps one of the most famous names in documentaries because of his epic-length films covering major historical events, wars, and movements.  His filmography includes The Civil War, The Dust Bowl, The War, Prohibition, and Jazz.  Burns’ 2012 film The Central Park Five is a different monster, quite different from many of his epic historical documentaries.  The film covers the famous Central Park jogger case, which saw five young minorities falsely accused and imprisoned for the brutal rape of a female jogger late one Spring night.  The assault left the young woman in a coma for nearly two weeks, and resulted in one of America’s most famous cases of false imprisonment.  The case was immediately jumped on by news media of the time and involved a great deal of racist implications, finger-pointing, and false accusations being leveled at the five young men.  Ken Burns lays all the facts out on the table in the two-hour run-time of The Central Park Five, shocking the audience with accounts of how the defendants ended up in such a dire situation, including stories and evidence of intimidation, lying, and coercement by police officers.  Ken Burns’ daughter Sarah joined her father in writing and directing the film, and helped inspire the documentary with her thesis on the cases media coverage.  The Central Park Five will move you to tears, infuriate and frustrate you, and make you feel both hopeless and hopeful about the change in direction of news media and law enforcement as a whole.  The film is available on Netflix Instant for those interested.


Bowling_for_columbine11. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

Directed by: Michael Moore

Starring: Michael Moore

Not only did Michael Moore win an Academy Award for his social-political documentary Bowling for Columbine, but he also made himself an icon in the process; setting the bar for future generations of documentary filmmakers – especially those who wish to eclipse the popularity of their film with their own popularity.  Bowling for Columbine is Moore’s heartbreaking, entertaining, and thought and discussion-provoking 2002 documentary that took the world by storm.  It was one of the first major pieces of pop-culture to openly criticize the new Bush administration, and started a brand new conversation about gun control and America’s obsession with violence, both in the media, entertainment, and in their political affairs, that is still raging to this very day.  The film covers the tragedy that took place at Columbine High School in 2000 in-depth, interviewing some of the survivors of the shooting, features the now famous bank-opening scene, as well as multiple montages and humorous segments covering America’s foreign policy history – installing and overthrowing dictators for fifty years, violent moments in recent American history that the media heavily focused on, and a brief animated piece on the history of the United States and the creation of suburban communities and racism.  Though Bowling for Columbine never features a dull moment, the film isn’t all jokes and lightheartedness, it features incredibly eye-opening pieces on the National Rifle Association, the domestic creation of weapons of mass destruction, and the country’s constant obsession with fear-mongering.  In short, Bowling for Columbine is a documentary masterpiece in every way, bringing important, valid information to viewers while also being highly entertaining and digestible.  Seek it out immediately if you haven’t already seen it.


Part 1 (#20-#16) can be viewed here

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My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (#20-16)

Disclaimer: Having always admired and appreciated the art behind documentary films, I felt it would be appropriate to dedicate an entire month to the subject of documentaries and the filmmakers behind them.  I haven’t seen every revered, influential, and critically-acclaimed film in existence, but my knowledge of documentary films is more than enough to create an all-time favorite list.  Since I see so many brand new and classic documentaries every year, I hope to be able to revise the list every year for Doctober.  Enjoy the list, let me know if I’m missing out on anything special or memorable, and let me know what your favorites are!


Dieterpstr20. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Starring: Werner Herzog, Dieter Dengler

Werner Herzog is a filmmaker who has always fascinated me, whether he’s making documentary or narrative films, he almost always has an incredible story to tell, featuring incredibly unique personalities.  Little Dieter Needs to Fly is the perfect example of this, chronicling Navy Lieutenant Dieter Dengler and his struggle to survive in the jungles of Laos as a prisoner of war by the occupying North Vietnamese.  Dieter recounts his plane being shot down by anti-aircraft fire, days of torture, starvation, escape from the North Vietnamese soldiers, and survival in the jungle.  Werner Herzog, being the eccentric madman that he is, goes as far as bringing Dengler back to Laos in order to relive and recreate his journey for the documentary.  This is an incredible story of survival that needs to be seen by all.  Herzog went on to tell the story of Dieter Dengler in 2007’s narrative film Rescue Dawn.  For more on the films of Werner Herzog, check out my Doctober Triple Feature.


19. Nanook of the North (1922)800px-Nanook_of_the_north

Directed by: Robert J. Flaherty

Starring: Allakariallak, Nyla, Allee, Cunayou, Allegoo, Camock

Though many of the scenes in Robert J. Flaherty’s classic documentary Nanook of the North are up for debate as far as validity goes, the film is nonetheless breathtaking in its technique and scope.  Nanook of the North is often considered the first feature-length documentary, and easily one of the most memorable of all-time despite claims of many of the film’s best scenes being scripted or staged.  The film follows young Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic, showing the Inuk family constructing an igloo, trading good with white men after the year’s hunt, and an exciting full-length walrus hunt.  Though Nanook of the North is dated by today’s documentary standards, the film manages to thrill the audience, and have them care for Nanook and his young “family”.  Staged or not, the documentary is undeniably impressive and remains a celebrated classic for a reason.


5_Broken_Cameras18. Five Broken Cameras (2012)

Directed by: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Starring: Emad Burnat

Five Broken Cameras is a gripping documentary directed by Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli, and follows the journey and stories of each of Burnat’s five doomed video cameras.  Five Broken Cameras begins in 2005 as young Palestinian Burnat decides to record his fourth son’s childhood, but ends up capturing much more than the innocence of childhood.  The documentary shows Emad Burnat’s small village and olive groves begin to be absorbed into Israel, and the reactions and resistance by the Palestinian villagers of the area.  Each of the filmmakers cameras tells its own story through the film, capturing friendships, arrests and beatings by the police, the rebel resistance by the villagers and activists in the country, and the murder and detention of those close to Emad Burnat and the Palestinian villagers.  Every time one of the film’s titular cameras are smashed or shot through the film is both thrilling and terrifying, but helps to create a very unique and innovative narrative.  Five Broken Cameras was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award in 2012, and remains one of the best slice-of-life documentaries about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


17.The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)Poster_of_the_movie_The_Kid_Stays_in_the_Picture

Directed by: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen

Starring: Robert Evans

Famed and acclaimed film producer Robert Evans recounts his life and career in The Kid Stays in the Picture, one of the most interesting and entertainment industry documentaries ever made. Evans had a hand in the making of such hits films in the 1960’s and 1970’s as Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, The Odd Couple, Love Story, and Chinatown, and tells the story of how many of the films came into being, as well as chronicles his rise to the top of Hollywood.  Evans narrates his own story in the film, using his famed “been there, done that” voice to recount incredible meetings, productions, and his own nightmare encounter with drugs, crime, and depression.  The Kid Stays in the Picture tells the almost unbelievable story of a young, hopeless actor who makes it to the very top of the industry, and doesn’t hesitate to get down and dirty about its subject. If you’re the least bit interested in Hollywood and one of its most famed bad boys, don’t hesitate to seek this film out immediately.


Anvil_ver216. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi

Starring: Steve Kudlow, Robb Reiner, Gary Greenblatt

The first of two rockumentary films to make my list, Anvil! The Story of Anvil tells the story of a highly-influential rock band that you’ve probably never heard of.  Anvil started their career by headlining tours with bands such as Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, and Whitenake in the 1980’s, but went on to see nowhere near the fame those groups did.  After fading into relative obscurity and not going as far as their skill and potential should have allowed them, the film sees the now-aged metal band reunite for a doomed European tour, turmoil between the members of the band, the recording of their thirteenth album, and a surprising performance in Japan.  Avil! The Story of Anvil is peppered with heartfelt moments, memorable interviews with rock stars influenced by the band, tremendously funny quips by the band members, and drama as the band fights, breaks up, and gets back together numerous times throughout.  The film’s success went on to propel Anvil into being re-discovered by the metal and rock scenes, and the band remains together even after all their ups and downs.  

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Bloody Sunday (2002)

ImageBloody Sunday (2002)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writer: Paul Greengrass

Starring: James Nesbitt, Allan Gildea, Tim Pigott-Smith

Runtime: 107 minutes

Rating: 92%

Views: 1st Viewing

Paul Greengrass’ television film was perhaps the directors first landmark film, and an incredibly important one at that. The film is set in a small Northern Ireland town called Derry on January 30, 1972, the day now known to many as “Bloody Sunday”.  The movie of the same name accurately portrays the tragic events that took place that afternoon, where thirteen (later fourteen) people marching for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association were killed by the British Army, with many others being injured.  The events in the film are shown with incredible realism in a gritty documentary style.

The documentary style of Bloody Sunday works incredibly well, especially since it captures both sides of the story.  Both the British Army and members of the NICRA are given almost equal sceen-time, and it gives the audience a real sense of what was going through the minds of both sides.  Not everything about the events on January 30th are known even forty years later, but Greengrass’ film seems to do an incredibly accurate job of portraying the facts.  Since there are no central characters in the film other than James Nesbitt’s Ivan Cooper (the leader of the NICRA), there isn’t opportunity for the audience to attach themselves to characters in the film.  Instead, the cold hard facts are laid out in front of the viewer over the 100 minute runtime.  The last half of the film is incredibly tense, violent and heart-wrenching, showing exactly how important this film really is because of its portrayal of the Bloody Sunday events.  One of the films biggest flaws is the style of editing used throughout the entire movie, constantly cutting between sides and between characters, giving no sense of location or time, and making it very difficult to follow at times.  The editing is crude and raw, and really distracts viewers from the events that are unfolding.  This style of editing and the disassociation with any characters in the film leave me respecting the film more than actually enjoying it.  I recommend it to those interested in a gritty, raw portrayal of British and Irish history.  7.5/10.

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24 Hour Party People (2002)

Image24 Hour Party People (2002)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Lennie James, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson

Runtime: 117 minutes

Michael Winterbottom isn’t a name I hear very often, but I am very familiar with his two most popular films A Cock and Bull Story (which I haven’t yet had the chance to see) and 2011’s The Trip, which was one of my favorite films of that year.  I had always heard that Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People is one of the most underrated films of the 2000’s, and I must say that I was fairly disappointed when the credits rolled, especially after adoring The Trip.

24 Hour Party people is about legendary head of Factory Records, Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan), a punk rock/new wave music label in 1980’s and 90’s Manchester.  Along the way, he signs artists like Joy Division (later New Order), A Certain Ratio, and Happy Mondays, and many ups and downs with all parties, including the suicide of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.  Tony Wilson and company experience success with the rise in popularity of punk rock and rave culture, and eventually the group opens a club of sorts.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the film lived up to its true potential for quite a few reasons: The supporting cast was muddled, with many characters coming and going as the script saw fit, and Steve Coogan, while being a very versatile leading man, just didn’t have a whole lot to work with in the film, especially comedically.  He manages to carry many of the films darker and more serious scenes, but one actor alone couldn’t make 24 Hour Party People live up to the hype for me.  I understand that his character is meant to be more of a spectator to the events going on around him (“I’m a minor character in my own story”), but it really detracts from the film and makes it feel like there is no weight to any of the dark situations he’s encountering.  Giving the film a central character with some sort of real development or maturity would have greatly benefitted it in the end.

The music in the film is terrific, as is the atmosphere of 1980’s Manchester.  Everything felt accurate and believable in this respect, even though I don’t have a lot of knowledge of the time period, and specifically of the punk rock movement in the city.  Despite sometimes being slightly confusing, the supporting cast did feature a host of familiar faces, including Andy Serkis, Rob Brydon, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, and Peter Kay.  The film was often very funny, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a full-blown comedy because of the various dark situations Tony Wilson and Factory Records deal with and live through.  I felt at times that the heavy stylization of the film’s editing often worked against the film, almost to the point of distraction.  The effects and editing techniques used here simply don’t seem to have aged well, and it was a huge turn off to me.  Though there were a lot of things about 24 Hour Party People that didn’t work for me, I still had a lot of fun while viewing this, and I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing it.  If it had been a more polished and consistent film, it could have been phenomenal.  7/10.

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