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A very very very important documentary
I'm compelled to write this review only because no one else has. I saw this a while back, so it is not fresh in my mind.
In the years since this documentary, there have been two fictional films on the topic: Quebec's "Starbuck (2011)" and USA's remake of Starbuck "Delivery Man (2013)".
We live in a society who's principal religion, beyond the church stuff and faith based philosophies, is growth. Economic growth, technological growth, production growth, and the population growth which permits all of it.
This human obsession with growth is what prevents society from questioning the value and ethics of the assisted reproduction industry. We see what we want to see, we make excuses such as "biology doesn't matter, only love does", or "adoption takes so long", or "fostering is too difficult", or "I just MUST see my genes passed on". None of these stand up to criticism.
This documentary is about one human's hunt for answers. It reflects on the challenges faced by children manufactured this way. It questions the notion that biology does not matter, it questions the risks of siblings meeting and mating, it questions the ethics of the business that provide these services.
This documentary could have been a start to a great ethical discussion in society, but society is not ready to question this. Meanwhile, we're stuck in this path, that too few are questioning. Some countries have banned anonymous donation of gametes, but even without anonymity, there are so many ethical problems with this industry.
It's not an exciting documentary, but it is highly worth watching.
The Girl King (2015)
A beautiful film about a lesser known historical period
I caught this film entirely by accident, with zero expectations or knowledge of the subject matter. I am unqualified to speak to the historicity of the events. But if it is close to historical events, what a beautiful film was made of it. Dealing with politics and religion and feminism, it is a rare little gem.
Christina, the Queen (actually "King") of Sweden from 1632 (age 6) until 1654, was tutored by a unique man, and grew up to be a young woman with curiosity about the world and a taste for life, she shook the institutions of the day, with an unkind mixture of success and failures. The film is mostly in English with a little French (accompanied by subtitles), the actors do a fine job, and I really appreciated the makeup team's subtle approach. I might have appreciated a script less focused on romance and more on personality and accomplishments, but then again, in our 20s, hormones can dominate all.
There are many great films on this topic, this one may be the worst
I am a huge fan of documentary film making. I watch as many documentaries as I can. I am also a biologist, and am already on side against genetic engineering of plants/animals and patenting of life and the general nasty attitudes of the chemical companies who have a stranglehold on our food production systems. So when people say "preaching to the choir" I am indeed a member of that choir.
So why did I hate this film? I am a fact seeker, I am looking for solid information, backed up by evidence. I find hysterics and badmouthing for the sake of badmouthing to be a turn-off in the documentary medium.
This film's first 20 minutes have several talking heads, each and every one of them delivering hysterics, no facts, no plan, no content, just a bunch of crazy flapping lips.
This kind of documentary does a disservice to healthy food politics. It's a real shame. The horrible cinematography and the choice of flapping hysterical lips was so so irritating that I had to shut it down. If it's horrible for the choir, imagine how unconvincing it is to those who need convincing!
Our Brand Is Crisis (2005)
Completely underwhelming and unworthy of praise
This is one of the least compelling documentaries I've ever watched. I was going to just pop onto IMDb and vote 2 and leave. But when I saw the number of positive reviews, I felt I must have missed something, so I watched it again. But was revealed nothing new from the first viewing.
The first purpose of a documentary is to inform, to reveal information not yet known to the public, or to present old information in a new light. There is also propaganda that passes for documentary... this is closer to propaganda than to documentary. We herein learn absolutely nothing about the socio-political context of Bolivia, the presidential elections are presented outside of any factual reality context. The documentarist seems to view the election process within a vacuum.
I suppose there are youth who watch this movie, who are inexperienced enough to not realise that electoral victories are purchased with money and statistical analysis of critical demographics, but the rest of the adult world already knows this. If this documentary was meant for those youth, it would have had to spend a little less time watching boring speeches, and more time giving a bit of context and history.
As for the adults watching this, there is simply no content, nothing that we all haven't already experienced in North America. In fact, the documentarist, more than any other sentiment, seems to side with the consultants, asking non weak questions, observing them doing what the candidate pays them for, without questioning their presence, their cost, their previous achievements, and the expenses/actions of the other candidates. No history of Goni is presented, he looks like an idiot, behaves like an idiot, and the documentarist does not question any of this.
What's the point of this documentary, it has no world context, no Bolivian context, no N.American context. Frankly it looks almost more like a sales pitch for those poor "good guy" consultants than anything else. Hire us, we'll get you elected... This is neocon propaganda disguised as "unbiased" docudrama. Blah
The Fruit Hunters (2012)
Enlightenment through realism
There are so many hogwash BS films coming out of Hollywood these days tending to people's needs for emotional feel-good spiritual uplifting, in the forms of Terrence Mallick and pseudo intellectualism, god talk, gazing at swirling milk in a cup of coffee as an allusion to the universe. So much bunk.
But this film succeeds where all pseudo-intellectual films fail. In partaking of the multiples beauties of nature and quality of life, in valuing the ecosystems that surround us, that nourish us, that define us. This film is quite beautifully shot, macro cinematography does not make it to the big screen every day and is a real treat. My taste buds and salivary glands were excited during the entire film.
The one failure of the film is having Bill Pullman as a lead character. He fails in two respects. First he admits to suffering from anosmia, a lack of sense of smell. Smell is a major factor in our ability to taste food, and any time he is seen munching into some lovely fruit, he seems to be faking it. Which brings me to his second failure: faking it is a Hollywood leitmotiv, and all his time on screen seemed to just be a Hollywood wannabe real person, he was painful to watch.
Notwithstanding his long screen time, the gorgeous camera work and content and informativeness make this well worth the watch.
The End of Time (2012)
Does not live up to any of the aspects it's said to
Things this film is not: does not explore time, is not a documentary, is not artistic, is not experimental, is not animation, is not about death, is not sufficiently edited, is not thoughtfully soundtracked. In fact, most sentient folk have long known that "time" does not exist per se. This film makes as much sense as trying to render a pseudo-intellectual rendition of the concept of distance. blah.
For those of us old enough to remember the children's game Spirograph, and its younger equivalent Spirotot, much of this 2 hour film is just that. Another major "artistic" unoriginal is the abusive use of slow-motion, as if the simple act of slowing reality down a little made it somehow more "beautiful". Slow motion is fine to document and examine events that are too quick for the human eye, but that's pretty much the limit of its usefulness.
The trouble with this director, also evidenced in some previous films, is he thinks that he has a fantastic eye for beauty and uniqueness, when in reality, the cinematography is cold, uninspired, uninformative, and unoriginal. A reasonably tech savvy elementary school student could produce something of equal impact. He seems to want to be in the same league as Baraka and the Koyaanisqatsi series, but fails on all counts.
Faith, Fraud, & Minimum Wage (2011)
Cute on the surface, but ugly in essence
This film is an example of what goes wrong when a society becomes tolerant of intolerance. It leads to moronic behaviours, institutional abuse, and poor unoriginal film-making passing itself off as something cute and original, because the institutions funding these films need to justify their belief systems.
Sad sad sad.
This could have been a good film, the story's potential was there, if the film-makers had just demonstrated some guts and originality, to step out of the bounds of group think and say something thoughtful. But no, all it had to say was platitudes.
There are days when the anglo-Canadian film industry is just depressing beyond belief, making films for the sheer sake of making a film, without any intent to have any impact in anyone's life.
Chasing Ice (2012)
Such waste of an excellent topic
Yes, the photography is lovely, yes the photographer passes himself off as heroic, yes the locations chosen are amazing. But this film contributes next to nothing to our understanding of glacial melt or AGW. It is most unfortunate that someone such as he, who once claimed disbelief in the science of global warming, would be so assuming as to think he could take a couple of years worth of photographs, and thereby produce "better" or shall we say more compelling, evidence than thousands of scientists. To those out there so naive of science, please hear this: modelling and statistical inferences are thousands of times more valid evidence of global warming than a couple of lovely photos, PLEASE update your perception of the world! These photos are but anecdotal, they contribute nothing to the understanding of AGW. As far as movie production values are concerned, this film also underwhelms.
The Whale (2011)
How Selfish and Petty Humans Prove Themselves Once More
It made me so sad watching this movie. Sad to the point of tears, but even more so: angry. I simply can't believe how selfish humans can be. This poor baby Orca so badly wanted to be with his pod. Instead, humans insisted he remain their playmate. The DFO, upon the very first contact, should have relocated him to his pod (instead of three years later). The DFO lady interviewed in the film was thinking along the proper biological lines, but forgot to act upon them fast enough. It's not like his pod was unknown... his pod is known, identified, tracked, his birth was identified early on.
We relocate bears, wolves, cougars, reptiles, birds, we relocate all animals in need of their groups if they belong to species which aren't in excessive numbers. We even relocate them sometimes when they ARE in excessive numbers (certain birds, alligators).
But no, here the human greed to be able to say "I touched it" was more important than the Orca's need to be with his pod. The idiots in the movie kept talking about "friendship", but it wasn't friendship, it was "acquaintance" only! Luna wasn't looking for friendship in that superficial human way that we see on Facebook or between kids with cell phones. He needed the intense bonding 'friendship' of his pod, something no human on earth can possibly give him.
The death of Luna should loom heavily on the conscience of every single selfish citizen who fought to keep Luna away from his pod. It should also loom heavily on the government, for failing in its role of protector of wildlife.
Luna was essentially murdered by parasitic misguided human TLC. If we found a child in a shopping aisle (as the movie in the beginning compares), would we pass it along from human to human, for the human enjoyment of gooing and awing over it instead or returning it to its family? In some ways it reminds me of the little Cuban boy who landed in Florida a few years ago, and whom the community wanted to keep away from his family, in Florida, for political reasons... all the while his father in Cuba wanted him back. This poor kid got jostled around the legal system for over a year before he was returned to his Cuban family.
Signing Off (1997)
Inventive Short Comedy
What a surprise this little gem is! Stuck in a nondescript extra on a 1988 DVD called Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, this little piece of art practically trumped the main feature.
This is what a comedic short is all about: great timing, a memorable lead, and an off-the-wall script. The story of an near retirement DJ who needs to satisfy the request of one last listener, and willing to go to all extremes to make this happen. This film easily bounces - literally - from realism, to the surreal, and ends with a ... well no I can't tell you, it would spoil it.
A must-see for all fans of comedic shorts.