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Girl Model (2011)
Disturbing documentary, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered
[...]The film is obviously dark and upsetting, but it left me with so many unanswered questions. Perhaps in our age of America's Next Top Model, the directors expected a certain base understanding of the modeling industry, but I could have used some more guidance. I would have appreciated a narrator or on-screen captions saying things like "This is a recruiter. It is the recruiter's job to " or "Nadya is now auditioning for " Maybe I just have a way below average understanding of modeling, but the whole time I kept asking myself very basic questions that could have been easily explained, and would have made for a much more educational film.
Additionally, the filmmakers failed to elaborate on certain themes that were mentioned in passing, often by Ashley (who was an utter enigma as a character, hovering between denial and insanity). Themes like prostitution and sex trafficking, and illegal underage models. These are issues that could use some unpacking. Ashley would say something like, "We all know that some girls turn to prostitution (though she never even says the word), but I don't have any first-hand evidence of that," and then she would move onto another topic. I think in cases like this, it is the filmmakers role to step in; if not to press Ashley further in the interview than at least to provide the audience with a statistic or something. However, the directors seemed determined to keep the narrative confined to the claustrophobic world of the characters that they were following, leaving the audience to scratch their heads and speculate. Additionally, with no additional information, the viewer is left with no idea about the scope of the problem. Are situations like this the exception or the rule? Are they limited to Japan, or to this one particular agency, or should we now assume that any photograph we see in a fashion magazine has a crying Russian child behind it? What can we do to prevent situations like this? We simply are never given any of the answers.
Girl Model was an engaging and disturbing documentary, though it left me wanting to know more. It showed us the characters and told us their story, but left out a lot of the context necessary to create a holistic understanding. I'll probably end up trying to do some more research about the topic to answer some of the questions that I had, but it would have been nice it the directors had done that work for me.
Read the full review here: http://mattreviewsstuff.com/2012/04/25/girl-model/
Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011)
Wonderful and dark look at an organization with a once pristine image
[...]The film looks at the issue from many different aspects. It looks at the marketing of a disease, and what could be called the "breast cancer industrial complex," in which many corporations are profiting from women's pain. They, of course, look at the amount of money that Komen spends on marketing, legal battles, and executive salaries versus the comparatively small amount that it contributes to research. It also examines the environmental hypocrisies of the pink ribbon movement, including the fact that many of the corporate sponsors of the movement have historically used products linked to cancer, such as Yoplait using RBGH-containing dairy. It looks at the fact that so little funding is designated to examining potential environmental causes such as pollutants, and the clear conflict of interest that would involve given the industrial contributors to Komen.
The film also explores the problems with Komen's messaging. They speak to a support group of women living with stage four breast cancer, who talk about how it feels to have cancer paraded as something pink and pretty and normal. (The filmmakers typically juxtaposed these interviews with shots of people at Komen race events waving pink pompoms and streamers and cheering.) They spoke candidly about how they feel that there is not a place for them in the current dialogue surrounding cancer, as they are viewed as the "angel of death" in a typical group of people living with breast cancer. They also touch on the sexualization of the disease, speculating that one of the reasons that it receives so much media attention is that it affords people the opportunity to say "breast" on the news. All of these interviews were incredibly poignant, articulate, and at times heart-wrenching, and while in general I would have liked to have had interviews with more people overall, the subjects that were featured were chosen very wisely.
This is an exemplary work of activist documentary filmmaking. Unlike some other examples of the genre, it does not beat you over the head with emotional pleas (though some moments are incredibly emotional), but rather calmly lays all of the rational arguments out before the viewer. It is a difficult task to take down a giant like Komen, but this film firmly does so with elegance and grace.
Read the full review here: http://mattreviewsstuff.com/2012/04/28/pink-ribbons-inc/
The Amateur Monster Movie (2011)
Hilarious spoof of a spoof
The writing here in general was quite good. There were many laugh-out-loud lines that perfectly captured the absurdist travesty that is much of the dialogue that dominates many amateur monster movies. What it really came down to for me, however, was the acting. It has been said that only the best singers are able to do a perfect impression of terrible singing, and I feel that this is an apt analogy for the acting in this film. For a movie like this to work, it needs to be believable as an actual attempt at legitimate filmmaking. In order to really pull this off, actors cannot simply do their most over-the-top, chewing-the-scenery impression of bad acting. There is a surprising amount of delicacy to bad acting, and it was touch and go here. Unfortunately, I think the worst offender was the lead actor playing Walter. While he grew on me towards the end, his overacting and frequent smirks to the camera broke the illusion for me. There were some actors who mastered this art, however, including Richards himself, and several of the small roles. When I was able to believe that these people were honestly trying their hardest to make a good movie yet failing miserably, the film was absolutely hilarious and brilliant.
I definitely enjoyed myself during this movie, it was the perfect late-night snack after a long day of much more serious films. Richards seems very familiar and comfortable with the genre of film that he lovingly mocks, and the result is a film that stands on it's own. This is an admirable first attempt by Richards, who shows a surprising amount of wit and insight for such a ridiculously over-the-top gore-fest. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
Stunning and thought provoking film
At first, I was prepared to call this film a slow-burner, however there's something more unique going on here. The story lines introduced throughout the beginning of the film do not ultimately grow and resolve, nor do they eventually tie together. Rather, they simply lead no where, and the audience is left to wonder why we were shown them at all, a question that I don't have a clear answer to. On one level, it functions as a statement to show that these characters indeed have lives, loves, challenges and struggles, even if they do not directly relate to the plot. On another level, the director may simply be looking to fill out the character study, showing us what is going on under the surface of these outwardly vocal and militant characters, on both sides of the law.
Aside from this, the acting in the film was universally superb. The characters we meet are incredibly multifaceted and nuanced, and these actors met that challenge admirably. The characters are not on the whole very likable or sympathetic, but they are incredibly compelling, due in large part to the acting. The writing and directing were equally effective and even-handed. Undoubtedly, this film had a lot to say about Israeli society, and in particular Israeli law enforcement, youth culture, activism, and terrorism, all topics that I am decidedly ill-equipped to comment on. Although aspects of this brooding film elude me, it was certainly thrilling to watch, and left me with a lot to think about.
Read the full review here: http://mattreviewsstuff.com/2012/04/30/policeman/