9 items from 2014
Many people may know Les Blank most for his association with Werner Herzog, who he filmed while on the brink of creative madness in Burden of Dreams and earlier in Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, in which the notoriously true-to-his-word filmmaker indeed ate his shoe after having promised he’d do so if Errol Morris managed to finish his pet cemetery film, Gates of Heaven. But those ignoring the larger majority of Blank’s overflowing oeuvre would be sorely missing out on the jubilance of life that the quietly curious documentarian managed to strike on film with just his trusty 16mm Eclair, his appreciation for cultures of all kinds, and a fervent hunger for life. Sadly, Blank passed away in the spring of last year, just weeks before receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award and a restored retrospective of his body of work in Toronto at the Hot Docs Film Festival, »
- Jordan M. Smith
Bill Hader has come a long way since his stint on Saturday Night Live, creating many popular characters and impersonations such as Stefon, Vincent Price and CNN’s Jack Cafferty. He is one of the highlights in such films as Adventureland, Knocked Up, Superbad and Pineapple Express, and so it is easy to see why author Mike Sacks interviewed him for his new book Poking A Dead Frog. In it, Hader talks about his career and he also lists 200 essential movies every comedy writer should see. Xo Jane recently published the list for those of us who haven’t had a chance to read the book yet. There are a ton of great recommendations and plenty I haven’t yet seen, but sadly my favourite comedy of all time isn’t mentioned. That would be Some Like It Hot. Still, it really is a great list with a mix of old and new. »
The 2014 march of outstanding documentaries about artists continues on with the best of the impressive group of feature films. But this artist’s means of expression are not the brush as in Tim”S Vermeer or still photography as seen in Finding Vivian Maier or cinema itself (along with many superb illustrators) in Jodoworsky’S Dune. Nope, this artist’s (and after viewing this film, that title is not up for debate) means of expression were words with typewriters, computer keyboards, and his own voice utilized instead of brushes on canvas or cameras. The subject of Steve James’s (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) new feature documentary is celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert. He had been a fixture on TV screens for decades, discussing and debating current movies usually with Gene Siskel, so you may think that you know everything about good ole’ “Uncle Rog”. But though he left »
- Jim Batts
In the last decade of his life, Roger Ebert took to the Internet without looking back. While cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands would eventually mean Ebert could no longer share his thoughts with the world with his voice, the Internet gave him an outlet, opening his life even further to fans of the late, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic as never before. I didn't personally read every word Ebert wrote on his blog or on Twitter, but I read a lot of it and can even say I had the pleasure of meeting him upon my first visit to the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, corresponded over email a couple times and he even took to batting a few comments back and forth on this very site in December 2008. All things considered, a lot of what is presented within Steve James' loving documentary Life Itself, titled after Ebert's 2011 memoir of the same name, »
- Brad Brevet
Beyond The Edge is a tale of insurmountable odds. As a documentary recounting the 1953 expedition to the tip of Mount Everest, which saw Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay become the first to reach its summit, it takes quotes collected from the years since the journey and blends them with dramatic reconstructions of key points in their story. Reenactment has almost become an artform in its own right within the documentary format; in showing us something constructed as artifice, we’re given a rare chance to glean the truth. But it’s not as old as you’d think. So where did the trend originate from? How has it impacted how we make and – more importantly – watch documentaries?
The popularisation of reenactment can easily be traced back to 1988, when Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line first wowed audiences and critics. The film revisited a murder case from 1976, in which Randall Adams »
- Gary Green
The video team here at HitFix constantly impresses me with not only the volume of work that they produce, but also the quality. We've gotten very lucky with the people we've hired, and they make any of our collaborations both easy and fun. Last week, they approached me about a new ongoing feature that they wanted to do, and tomorrow, we're going to shoot the first episode of "Ask Drew," which is exactly what it sounds like. I am constantly asked questions via e-mail and Twitter and in our comments section, and I feel like I never fully answer all of them, something that makes me feel terrible. I am grateful for each and every reader of the work we do here at HitFix, and if I can answer something, I try to. To that end, we are going to try something a little different here starting tomorrow. I want »
- Drew McWeeny
He’s won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. His debut is in Roger Ebert’s 10 Greatest Films of All Time. He was instrumental to solving a murder case. He made Werner Herzog eat his shoe. He needs no real introduction, for Errol Morris is one of the world’s best makers of documentaries, if not the best.
In light of his forthcoming new film, The Unknown Known, which concerns ex-us Secretary of Defense and his interesting use of political language, Errol sat down with HeyUGuys and spoke at length about everything from his own obsessions, the legacy of The Thin Blue Line, the rise of digital technology in cinema, and Rumsfeld’s smile.
I guess I’d like to start by asking a very basic question. How did you manage to get Donald Rumsfeld to sit down and be interviewed?
I asked him. You know, there’s no great »
- Gary Green
In wake of the massive non-fiction success that was The Thin Blue Line, singular director Errol Morris really could have done any number of things with his new found critical clout and studio interest. Having been contacted by Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment, who had purchased the rights to A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking’s pop-culture piercing piece of science literature, shortly after its release in 1988. The book, which attempted to explain the physics behind the history of our universe in terms digestible by anyone willing to waltz into an airport bookstore, was of philosophical interest to Morris, but it was the unimaginably brilliant man trapped within his own crippled body that the filmmaker found much more fascinating. How fascinating that the man to envision the cosmos as a thing with a lifespan like any other, a beginning and an end, expanding and collapsing, just as Hawking himself has, »
- Jordan M. Smith
The new trailer for legendary documentarian Errol Morris' (Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven) film about Donald Rumsfeld hit the web this weekend. It begins with Morris asking the former defense secretary to read from one of his infamous memos. Rumsfeld recites, "All generalizations are false, including this one," then looks at Morris with a Cheshire cat grin and says, "There it is." This moment, along with many others in the trailer, make one thing abundantly clear: Those hoping for a Fog of War-like confession or sense of humility from Rumsfeld, similar to what Morris extracted from
- Chris O'Falt
9 items from 2014
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