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Whether you want to immerse yourself in the world of birds, bees, baseball or backup singers, Netflix has a documentary for you. Missed "Man on Wire"? It's on there.
Here are films that changed the world, righted wrongs, pinpointed a moment in history, or simply shone a light on a previously unknown subset of society. (Availability subject to change. Films are unrated, except as noted.)
1. "20 Feet from Stardom" (2013) PG-13
2. "The Act of Killing" (2012)
The director invited killers -- men who took part in the horrific purge that left more than 500,000 dead in Indonesia in the 1960s -- to reenact their crimes on film, resulting in a bizarre look inside the mind of men capable of mass murder.
3. "The Battered Bastards of Baseball" (2014)
Two filmmakers pay homage to their grandfather, »
- Sharon Knolle
One of the signature attributes of the late great critic Roger Ebert was his extraordinary generosity to rising talent, often from unexpected quarters, from documentary filmmakers Errol Morris and Michael Moore to Ava DuVernay, whose debut film "I Will Follow" and Sundance director-prize-winning entry "Middle of Nowhere" he championed. Ebert also started the ball rolling on Steve James' "Hoop Dreams" at Sundance. James directed documentary "Life Itself" without realizing at the beginning that it would chronicle Ebert's moving last days. He also included an interview with DuVernay, who is also in the Oscar conversation this year with her third feature, the Martin Luther King drama "Selma." See our exclusive clip below. Read: 'Life Itself' Director Steve James Gets Up Close with Roger Ebert "Life Itself" is currently leading the documentary awards pack along with main rival »
- Anne Thompson
Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen Fyc's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Glenn on Citizenfour.
Only one documentary has ever been nominated for an editing Oscar, which is actually rather shocking given the pure logistics of the craft. How much footage of various and how many points of view they have to juggle, not to mention how quickly the sands of reportage can shift in a film that doesn't have a clear start and finish. That one film was Steve James' Hoop Dreams, which followed the schooling and personal lives of two aspiring professional basketball players. It was one of the first documentaries I recall being truly gobsmacked by, flawed by the fact that »
- Glenn Dunks
Chicago-based documentary production group Kartemquin Films ("The interrupters," "Hoop Dreams," "Life itself," "The Homestretch," "The Trails of Muhammad Ali") has announced that it is currently accepting applicantions for their 2015 Diverse Voices in Docs program. The program, which is done in association with the Community Film Workshop in Chicago, will mentor 20 emerging documentary filmmakers over the course of 6 months, as they work on their respective projects. According to Margaret Caples, the Executive Director of the Community Film Workshop: “Our goal is to empower ordinary citizens in the use of media and to »
By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter
As discussed in another post earlier this month, only 20 Oscar nominations have ever been accorded to documentary features in categories other than the one designated for them. The most famous examples include “best writing, motion picture story” for Louisiana Story (1948), best film editing and best sound for Woodstock (1970), best film editing for Hoop Dreams (1994), best original song for An Inconvenient Truth (2006), best foreign language film for Waltz with Bashir (2008) and, most recently, best original song for Chasing Ice (2012).
Read the rest of this entry…
- Anjelica Oswald
As discussed in another post earlier this month, only 20 Oscar nominations have ever been accorded to documentary features in categories other than the one designated for them. The most famous examples include "best writing, motion picture story" for Louisiana Story (1948), best film editing and best sound for Woodstock (1970), best film editing for Hoop Dreams (1994), best original song for An Inconvenient Truth (2006), best foreign language film for Waltz with Bashir (2008) and, most recently, best original song for Chasing Ice (2012). The nom for Chasing Ice, a call-to-action about global warming, went to the
- Scott Feinberg
No documentary in history has ever scored a best picture nomination at the Oscars. Not “Hoop Dreams.” Not “The War Room.” Not “Harlan County, U.S.A.” All the classics of the genre failed to make the cut, but the 2009 expansion of the best picture category to up to 10 nominees could work in the favor of “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’ superb documentary about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The film has been hailed by critics for holding up a mirror to our digitally connected and politically fractured present with the intensity of a modern-day “Three Days of the Condor” or “The Conversation.” Its achievement is all the more compelling because unlike those classic thrillers, “Citizenfour” is a real-life drama, with much of the action unfolding in a drab Hong Kong hotel room.
Box office has been brisk, with the film earning nearly $1 million in limited release, an impressive figure for a documentary. »
- Brent Lang
Legendary American film critic Roger Ebert gets a loving tribute in the form of documentary Life Itself. It's a fitting match between filmmaker and subject - director Steve James is the man behind Hoop Dreams, a film Ebert championed and named his best of the year in 1994.
Using Ebert's 2011 memoir as a jumping off point, Life Itself follows the writer from his formative years at the University of Illinois, to his hard-drinking newspaper days at the Chicago Sun-Times and on to TV fame with Gene Siskel on syndicated show At the Movies.
James's film picks up with Ebert in the final months of his life - he's wheelchair-bound having undergone a succession of surgeries and treatments for papillary thyroid cancer. As a result, large sections »
Documentary film is often claimed to be the most “truthful” form of the cinematic medium. People turn to this genre to find facts, make discoveries, and learn something new. It’s a genre that’s been around from the very beginning too – with Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory considered by many as the first real documentary ever made, along with its known reputation as one of the first ever cinematic productions.
Indeed, documentary is a genre that has spawned some of cinema’s greatest achievements. A variety of wonderful films have employed the form, ranging from Michael Apted’s Up! series, to Steve James’ Hoop Dreams.
Other directors such as Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock have used the documentary method to help turn heads to troubling societal issues such as health care and fast food, whereas the likes of Woody Allen have used the form to provide a false sense »
- Gaz Lloyd
Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz enthusiastically embraced the idea of a documentary of his bestselling memoir "Life Itself," and wanted Chicago filmmaker Steve James, whose "Hoop Dreams" Ebert had discovered at Sundance 20 years ago, to direct it. James found himself in an unusual situation as Ebert's health took a turn for the worse as he was filming, and Ebert and Chaz allowed the filmmaker access to the last weeks of Ebert's life in the hospital before he faded from view. Some of the close-ups on what was left of the critic's face and jaw are hard to take, as we watch him undergoing a rather unpleasant windpipe suction routine. Some have suggested that we're still in the throes of grieving for a man many of us came to feel intimate with via print, television and the internet. Maybe this movie comes too soon? Ebert embraced the film »
- Anne Thompson
By Anjelica Oswald
Films have captured the passage of time in a variety of unique ways throughout the years. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which premiered at Sundance this year, presents the movement of time in an unprecedented manner. By filming the same cast three to four days per year for 12 years, Linklater was able to capture the real changes the cast went through instead of relying on CGI, makeup or different actors to show the aging process. The seamless way in which the passage of time is presented could garner a best editing nomination at the 87th Academy Awards. Here are 10 other films portraying the passage of time that have been nominated for best editing (in chronological order):
Gone With the Wind (1939)
The film follows the O’Hara family and how they are affected before, during and after the Civil War, particularly through the eyes of Scarlett O »
- Anjelica Oswald
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, and right about now, with the many think pieces and fond memorials of the 20th anniversary of "Pulp Fiction" that have been doing the rounds, it feels quite easy to lapse into an overly sentimentalized view of the past as being somehow better than what we've got today. Because we like to kick against that a bit, and because we're total masochists who enjoy dredging up deservedly forgotten dross and forcing ourselves to sit through it, we recently looked back 30 years and ranked the films of Summer 1984. Finding ourselves in grave danger of going "Hey, October 1994 had 'Pulp,' 'Hoop Dreams,' 'The Shawshank Redemption,' and more all open within a few days of each other, weren't the old days great?" we decided to do it again, only this time skipping back a mere two decades and covering the releases from just this one month. »
- The Playlist Staff
Going to the movies is expensive, and in this economy there’s less incentive than usual to make it to the multiplex just for a couple hours of entertainment, especially when so much of it is just reruns on the big screen (another Dracula, seriously?) — never mind all the other complaints you all have about the theatrical experience. The movies should be seen as a getaway from our troubles, just as they were for much of the Great Depression, but this time around we have so many other options to keep us distracted. Well, what if there was a movie playing in theaters for free? Yeah, you’ll still have to pay for a babysitter, gas, parking and concessions, if those things apply, but the main event costs you nothing on October 20th when you go out to see a bunch of new movies by Adam McKay (Anchorman), Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Steve »
- Christopher Campbell
It's been 25 years -- yes, 25 years -- since documentary filmmaker/overall s**t-disturber Michael Moore came out with his seminal doc "Roger & Me," which took a look at the United States' precarious dependence on the auto industry and the crumbling city of Flint, Michigan (his hometown).
Since that film, we all know the story: Moore shot to super-stardom and essentially became the face of the modern documentary with international hits like "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9/11," and "Sicko." In many ways, he paved the groundwork for future of-the-moment pop-culture documentarians like Morgan Spurlock and the "Catfish" brothers.
Moore attended the recent Toronto Film Festival (where "Roger & Me" first premiered a quarter-century ago) to be feted by the cinematic community and to speak at a conference, and Moviefone Canada caught up with him for a brief chat. Wearing his ever-present askew baseball hat, Moore went off on a small tangent about Canada, »
- Chris Jancelewicz
Uruguayan drama A Moonless Night (Una Noche Sin Luna) has won the top prize for best international film at this year's Zurich International Film Festival. The low-key drama, set in rural Uruguay, follows the fate of four lonely souls over a single night. It won over the international jury, headed by Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier (In A Better World). The prize for best international documentary went to Toto and His Sisters from Romanian director Alexander Nanau, which traces the lives of children and teenagers in a tough suburb of Bucharest. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) was
- Scott Roxborough
The SundanceNow Doc Club have given themselves a reboot and are inviting docu film lovers to renew their passion for the doc form and essentially, get acclimatized with a new site and awesome curated list of docu items. To kick off the new look and improved service, curator Thom Powers (programmer at Tiff, Doc NYC) put together a program called The Essentials.
This month the list of seven includes Stop Making Sense, Sherman’s March, Let’s Get Lost, Atomic Cafe, Brother’s Keeper, Hoop Dreams, and the seminal film in my own personal appreciation for the form (I was 14 when I caught the theatrical release of this) in Errol Morris’ 1988 game-changing groundbreakingly innovative The Thin Blue Line. Here’s an exclusive clip on Powers discussing the above mentioned titles — if you’re salivating to discover or rediscover these essentials – then head on over to the Doc Club.
- Eric Lavallee
For more than a century, great artists, novelists and filmmakers have examined the question: What is the American Dream? Their stories of men and women rising from rags to riches, in means dignified and corrupt, have electrified audiences. The latest masterwork to explore that dream state (or the lack thereof) is Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, a masterfully acted and searing look at a fractious time of modern American history: the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which left both rich and poor out of their homes. However, in a world of enormous disparity between the ultra-rich and the paycheck-to-paycheck poor, a better question would be: Where is the American Dream?
Well, it is certainly not in Florida, where 99 Homes is set, a state where the prosperity of gated communities meets the grind of small-town poverty. Bahrani’s drama opens on a man lying dead in his bathroom, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. »
- Jordan Adler
The 10th Zurich Film Festival (Sept 25 – Oct 5) has revealed its full line-up, which comprises 145 features – up from 122 last year – from 29 countries.
Co-director Nadja Schildknecht revealed a rise in budget for the festival as well as growth in anticipated guest numbers.
“This year, we expect some 500 guests (previous year 450) from around the world to accompany their films,” she said.
“And the budget has increased accordingly to CHF6.9m ($7.4m) (previous year CHF6.1m/$6.5m).”
The International Feature Film Competition includes 14 titles, some of which have received critical acclaim at previous festivals such as Yann Demange’s action thriller ‘71, which debuted at the »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Michael Rosser)
Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier (In a Better World) will head up the international jury for the 10th Zurich International Film Festival. Bier, whose latest, A Second Chance, just had its world premiere in Toronto, will oversee the five person jury that selects the winner's of Zurich's main feature film honors. Actor Val Kilmer, Green Lantern producer Donald De Line, French actress and producer Marie Masmonteil and Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic complete the international jury. Oscar-nominated director/producer Steve James (Hoop Dreams) will be president of Zurich documentary film jury, together with British director Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney), Indian
- Scott Roxborough
Fury (David Ayer)
[via the BFI]
The programme for the 58th BFI London Film Festival launched today, with Festival Director Clare Stewart presenting this year’s rich and diverse selection of films and events. The lineup includes highly anticipated fall titles including David Ayer’s Fury, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, the Sundance smash Whiplash, Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3D, The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild.
As Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s oldest film festivals, it introduces the finest new British and international films to an expanding London and UK-wide audience, offering a compelling combination of red carpet glamour, engaged audiences and vibrant exchange. The Festival provides an essential profiling opportunity for films seeking global success at the start of the Awards season, promotes the careers of British and »
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