Documentary Feature

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Documentarian filmmaker Michael Moore announced via Twitter that his new film, Where to Invade Next, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this September. He made the announcement via Twitter.

More Tiff announcements coming later today.

Nina Simone

The documentary category is, once again, filling up quickly. Five slots really can’t possibly account for the abundance of documentaries, most of which are better than the feature submissions in any given year.  Look at the overwhelming number of great titles from last year alone. While it dilutes the excitement and prestige of the awards to have more than five nominees in any category, it also is not a good way of honoring the documentary movement, which has been exploding in recent years.

Nonetheless, three strong contenders for the category have been directed by women and could make this a record-breaking year for women directors nominated in that category.  Debra Granik’s critically acclaimed follow-up to Winter’s Bone, Stray Dog, Liz Garbus’ heartbreaking look at Nina Simone’s life in What Happened, Miss Simone, currently streaming on Netflix, and The Wolfpack, directed by  Crystal Moselle about a group of boys who grew up in a restricted environment where their only outlet was movies. All three films paint dramatically different stories of American life and have all received rave reviews so far.

Stray Dog looks at a Vietnam war vet who runs a trailer park in rural Missouri. His new wife emigrated from Mexico and the two caravan with other vets on an annual pilgrimage to the Vietnam memorial in DC.

Other documentaries that are garnering buzz include Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala, Alex Gibney’s Going Clear, Asif Kapadia’s Amy, Bryan Carberry & J. Clay Tweel’s Finders Keepers, Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land, Jimmy Chin and E. Chai’s Meru, among others.

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In this unprecedented look at Amy Winehouse’s early life and commitment to music, bits and pieces of what made her life a painful one bob to the surface.

Watch the trailer here.

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Asif Kapadia’s 90-minute documentary on Amy Winehouse confirms the age old notion that watching self-destruction is like catnip for humans. We love to watch the rise but we even more we love to watch the fall. It’s big business and somehow has become a normal part of our daily lives. Though Winehouse’s legacy has long been tied to her drug use and sudden death, this doc will likely bring back the reasons most fell in love with her in the first place: that voice.

She was a brilliant musician, songwriter and singer. Brilliant is not an exaggeration in her case. She was gifted with vocal range, a unique interest in jazz singers, and that unteachable ability to connect deeply with the music. Her songs seemed to come from a dark place, one that Winehouse had never inhabited. She didn’t come from tragedy. She was never abused. She wasn’t mistreated by men. Her only real problem was addiction – to food, which led to lifelong bulimia that probably killed her, drugs (of course), alcohol and men.

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This was part of what held back Winehouse’s ultimate acceptance as a true jazz singer. She was singing about stuff she couldn’t possibly have lived. She was fine as a pop star but would she ever join the ranks of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett and Nina Simone? This documentary makes a good case that she very likely will and should.

Spend enough time with addicts and you quickly realize that life as it is won’t do. It’s too boring. When your brain is addicted to the very highs you can’t tolerate the middle for very long. Winehouse’s addictions were more important to her than anything else, even her dedication to music and her will to survive. She was warned again and again but nothing could really stop her.

At one point she admits that life is boring without drugs. Her husband Blake is the one many accused of leading to her downfall, as he introduced her to crack and heroin. She wanted to keep him and he wanted to keep her money which gave him a steady supply of drugs and the good life. Once he was out of her life, however, it was still hard for her to maintain any kind of healthy life. It wasn’t that she couldn’t — it was that she didn’t want to.

Director Kapadia seems to want it both ways. We’re meant to see Winehouse demise as a tragedy yet she doesn’t have the kind of miserable upbringing someone like Marilyn Monroe had. She didn’t come from extreme poverty like Elvis Presley. The worst thing that ever happened to her was her mother putting her on anti-depressants when she was a teenager. Whether that helped opened the door for the continual need to zone out is up for debate. As it stands, she is more along the lines of Jim Morrison — someone to whom most things came way too fast and way too easy. Morrison has easily slipped into the legend zone, with no lingering negative feelings about his drug use.

Other than bearing witness to her downfall, the documentary does provide footage of Winehouse singing. It’s also a relief to see video of her being a normal teenager. She was funny and she didn’t much care what anyone thought of her. Even when she was hounded by photographers and her tragedy was splayed out for all to see in the tabloids she continued not to care. She wasn’t interested in fame, nor in having people like her. She was very simple in what she was — someone who liked to make music and someone who liked to get high.

In the end, the film goes on a little too long about someone who just wasn’t all that interesting beyond what she could do with her voice. She was so young when she hit it big she didn’t really have time to become someone interesting. As Tony Bennett says at some point in the film, “life tells you how to live it if you can stick around long enough.” Winehouse would have become someone interesting. Who knows what great things she might have done. Her withering body, her drunken antics, her loser boyfriends all eclipsed that undeniable talent. But perhaps it’s time for that story to change.

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Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, acclaimed director Alex Gibney’s latest investigative doc, will head to HBO on March 29th. It is a deep dive into the Church of Scientology, which has already started messing with Gibney in advance of the film’s theatrical run. I can’t imagine how this will go over when industry votes start counting because I’m guessing there are a lot of Scientologists voting on the awards themselves. Going Clear has earned great reviews so far (for the most part, Manohla Dargis did not seem to get it, however) with only 10 reviews at Metacritic so far it looks good.

In the meantime, it’s a great opportunity for you to catch up on three previous Gibney docs that are currently streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend them as they are must-see viewing for any American (specifically – not sure you would care if you didn’t live here).

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room – has to be one of the greatest documentaries ever made.

Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer

What a body of work Gibney is building so far in the past decade.

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The power of an activist documentary to change the world is astonishing. Even though it wasn’t nominated, Blackfish has brought awareness to the plight of orcas in captivity. Virunga, a film I hope wins the Oscar (and if not that, Last Days in Vietnam, though CitizenFour will win), outs a mining company for further endangering the mountain gorillas. Very few of them are left. The Church of England very rarely, according to this Guardian piece, reveals its investments but has released the following statement:

“Following board-level engagement between the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) and Soco International plc, the EIAG has raised serious concerns about the company’s determination to satisfactorily address, in an open and transparent manner, allegations concerning the operations of Soco in and around the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The film’s producer said, “We always hoped the film would bring the story of Virunga to the fore. We are truly excited that the Church of England has responded in this way.”

If you have not seen Virunga, what are you waiting for?

Full statement from the Church of England:

EIAG issues statement on National Investment Bodies holding in SOCO

The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has issued a formal statement relating to the holdings of the Church’s National Investing Bodies in SOCO International Plc.

“Following Board level engagement between the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) and SOCO International Plc (SOCO), the EIAG has raised serious concerns about the Company’s determination to satisfactorily address, in an open and transparent manner, allegations concerning the operations of SOCO in and around the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

These allegations are of a serious nature and require a response from the Board that urgently seeks to restore the confidence of shareholders. We find the efforts of the Company to date have not been sufficient.

Through the engagement undertaken by the Church of England EIAG a series of steps were identified to the Company that should be taken to restore confidence. These included:

1. Instigation of a wide ranging and transparent independent enquiry of SOCO’s operations in and around Virunga National Park, including the publication of the enquiry scope, outcome and confirmation of any resulting actions.

2. Amendment of the previously issued statement agreed between SOCO and WWF to remove any room for doubt about their intentions within existing or future boundaries of a World Heritage Site so that there are without exception, no circumstances in which SOCO would conduct further exploration or production activities in the Virunga National Park. And for this to be communicated to the World Heritage Committee.

3. To adopt and publish best practice standards across a wide range of its operations.

4. To date it is unfortunate that the Company has not felt it possible to take these steps. The EIAG do not normally disclose the contents of our discussions with a company. However, if we judge that sufficient progress is not being made we reserve the right to issue public statements, seek to move shareholder resolutions and/or to divest from the company.
The EIAG will continue to monitor the company’s activities and to engage with the Board.

ENDS

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Have you seen Virunga yet? It’s currently streaming on Netflix and it’s one of the best features in a documentary category full of great films. Of the five, I’d rank the current frontrunner last in terms of actual filmmaking. CitizenFour is history in the making, a noble effort to show Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing as it went down. But it is too one-sided for my taste – it really just bolsters Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, coming from a very specific point of view. How you feel about the subject will likely determine how you view the film. The other four are as engaging, if not more so. Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam about our willingness to cut and run at the end of the Vietnam war, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s brilliant Finding Vivian Maier, Wim Wenders’ breathtaking Salt of the Earth, and finally, the heartbreaking, unforgettable Virunga, written and directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. Two films directed by women in the race are both worthy winners, though of the two Last Days in Vietnam is the better film, in my humble opinion.

Virunga is a film that rips your heart out. It’s about a group of brave soldiers who are risking their lives to keep alive a family of mountain gorillas amid civil war and the raping of the Congo for natural resources. It is such an important message about how humans really are the sixth extinction. We’re destroying all other life on earth at a rapid pace.

The doc category, like the shorts category, mostly blows away the feature film category in terms of storytelling. They are about our world, our past, and our potential future. Of the other four, probably only Virunga can beat CitizenFour but I doubt anything will.

Source

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CitizenFour has just won Best Documentary at the International Documentary Awards. Last Days in Vietnam takes editing. Here is the full list:

2014 IDA Documentary Awards Honorees and Winners

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Robert Redford

PIONEER AWARD
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

PRESERVATION AND SCHOLARSHIP AWARD
Rithy Panh

EMERGING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AWARD sponsored by Red Fire Films and Modern VideoFilm
Darius Clark Monroe

BEST FEATURE AWARD
CITIZENFOUR
Director: Laura Poitras
RADiUS-TWC, Participant Media, and
HBO Documentary Films

BEST SHORT AWARD
TASHI AND THE MONK
Directors: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke
HBO Documentary Films

BEST CURATED SERIES AWARD
INDEPENDENT LENS
Executive Producer: Sally Jo Fifer
Deputy Executive Producer: Lois Vossen
Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with PBS

BEST LIMITED SERIES AWARD
TIME OF DEATH
Executive Producers: Cynthia Childs, Dan Cutforth, Casey Kriley, Jane Lipsitz, Alexandra Lipsitz
Co-Executive Producer: Miggi Hood, Sandy Shapiro
Showtime
BEST EPISODIC SERIES AWARD
OUR AMERICA WITH LISA LING
Executive Producers: Amy Bucher, Gregory Henry, Lisa Ling, David Shadrack Smith
OWN

BEST SHORT FORM SERIES AWARD
PLANET MONEY MAKES A T-SHIRT
Executive Producer: Alex Blumberg
NPR

DAVID L. WOLPER STUDENT DOCUMENTARY AWARD
MY DAD’S A ROCKER
Director: Zuxin Hou
University of Southern California

HUMANITAS DOCUMENTARY AWARD
LIMITED PARTNERSHIP
Director: Thomas G. Miller
PBS / Independent Lens

PARE LORENTZ AWARD
TASHI AND THE MONK
Directors: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke
HBO Documentary Films

ABCNEWS VIDEOSOURCE AWARD
1971
Director: Johanna Hamilton
Independent Lens/ PBS

CREATIVE RECOGNITION AWARD WINNERS

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY presented by Canon
ELEVATOR
Cinematography By: Hatuey Viveros Lavielle

BEST EDITING
LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM
Editing By: Don Kleszy

BEST MUSIC
ALFRED AND JAKOBINE
Music By: Nick Urata

BEST WRITING
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
Written By: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel

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A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
NAMED 2014 BEST FILM OF THE YEAR BY
THE NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW

 

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2014 Gala to be held on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 hosted by Lara Spencer 

 

New York, NY – (December 2, 2014) – The National Board of Review has named A MOST VIOLENT YEARthe 2014 Best Film of the Year.

Below is a full list of the awards given by the National Board of Review:

Best Film:  A Most Violent Year
Best Director:  Clint Eastwood – American Sniper
Best Actor (TIE):  Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year; Michael Keaton – Birdman
Best Actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor:  Edward Norton – Birdman
Best Supporting Actress:  Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year
Best Original Screenplay:  Phil Lord & Christopher Miller – The Lego Movie
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
Best Animated Feature:  How to Train Your Dragon 2
Breakthrough Performance:  Jack O’Connell – Starred Up & Unbroken
Best Directorial Debut:  Gillian Robespierre – Obvious Child
Best Foreign Language Film:  Wild Tales
Best Documentary:  Life Itself
William K. Everson Film History Award:  Scott Eyman
Best Ensemble:  Fury
Spotlight Award:  Chris Rock for writing, directing, and starring in – Top Five
NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Rosewater
NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Selma

Top Films

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
Fury
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Lego Movie
Nightcrawler
Unbroken

Top 5 Foreign Language Films

Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Leviathan
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!

 Top 5 Documentaries

Art and Craft
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Keep On Keepin’ On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam

Top 10 Independent Films

Blue Ruin
Locke
A Most Wanted Man
Mr. Turner
Obvious Child
The Skeleton Twins
Snowpiercer
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Starred Up
Still Alice

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“Art and Craft,” Purple Parrot Films
“The Case against 8,” Day in Court
“Citizen Koch,” Elsewhere Films
“CitizenFour,” Praxis Films
“Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures
“The Internet’s Own Boy,” Luminant Media
“Jodorowsky’s Dune,” City Film
“Keep On Keepin’ On,” Absolute Clay Productions
“The Kill Team,” f/8 filmworks
“Last Days in Vietnam,” Moxie Firecracker Films
“Life Itself,” Kartemquin Films and Film Rites
“The Overnighters,” Mile End Films West
“The Salt of the Earth,” Decia Films
“Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” Lafayette Film
“Virunga,” Grain Media

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We watched the Vietnam war play out on television and the subsequent war narratives built by the media and politicians over the past few decades. So many films have been made about “America’s great failure,” which eventually transformed into the story of how badly the war destroyed the lives of soldiers coming home, not to mention the wreckage inflicted on Vietnam. And yet, most of us still see that war as a series of bad decisions by bad presidents — the one war America never wanted to repeat.  Now, here we are in the last days of Iraq, unable to pull out, our mission having failed spectacularly – Rory Kennedy’s film about the end of Vietnam is a glaring reminder that not only has it happened before but it’s likely to happen again.

Using extraordinary, rare archival footage, Kennedy focuses her documentary on how the war ended, how America left Vietnam and how desperately those who counted on America to win that war needed to escape when we lost. Refugees piled onto freighters in the middle of the ocean. Mothers and their babies jammed into helicopters and dropped onto ships – all in hopes of starting a new life in the United States.   The story here is not only about the brave refugees but about the American heroes who have mostly gone unrecognized in the years since.

By the time South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam it was all over but the shouting. The United States could not rescue any more refugees. Many of them were sent to re-education camps, or killed.  What is so remarkable about the film is that it plays like a suspense thriller. Kennedy features many witnesses to those events but it never feels like talking heads because there is so much real footage of events urgently unfolding it sometimes feels like you’re watching a narrative rather than a documentary.

One never feels lost or confused about what was going on, which is a testament to Kennedy’s skill in assembling all the material. One of the reasons most Americans don’t think much about Vietnam is that so conflicting spins have confused the issues about who or what we were fighting for and why it was considered such a failure. This film more than any other lays it out plainly, and profoundly.

Hollywood has taken us into Vietnam many times before – from Coming Home to Apocalypse Now to Platoon to Born on the 4th of July. We know this war through movies. We know it through movies about presidents. We know it because it is entangled in the Kennedy assassination by conspiracy theorists who believe Kennedy was going to stop the war, which was, according to Oliver Stone, one of the reasons he was killed.  But no one can say what Kennedy would have done or how the war would have ultimately played out. Last Days of Vietnam is not really about who was right or how badly Nixon escalated the bombings — it is about heroes who risked life and limb to get Vietnamese refugees out of a collapsing country.

Kennedy has a firm grasp of structure and story, leaving some of the film’s most shattering moments to occur near the end. It is a film that does what all stories about Vietnam should do – shame those who made the big decisions that ended hundreds of thousands of lives while honoring those who gave their lives for our country and for a cause they felt at the time was worth fighting for.

If it all sounds familiar that’s because Last Days of Vietnam eerily echoes what’s going on in Iraq right now. How we view those events, what we choose to pay attention to or ignore will ultimately define this history we’re living through. What little was filtered through the media back in the 70s is nothing like how little gets through to people now. The problem with 2014 is that so many people have become numbed and apathetic. At least in the 1970s some were still involved and motivated enough to protest the war in large numbers.

America’s involvement with Vietnam was long and deep. Whole families were built there and brought back here.  Watching Kennedy’s film one can’t help but marvel at how little anyone thinks about or cares about Communism now, sold to us as the greatest threat to American life back then. It has faded so dramatically into the rearview the word itself feels like a relic. But Kennedy’s film serves a living memorial to how irrational fear and defense of an empire in the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing can lead to monumental tragedy.

Last Days of Vietnam ends up as a story about bravery more than anything else. In those last days the people who were willing to stick it out to help those left behind reveal the best humanity has to offer in war time. This is a film every American, as citizens of this empire, this democracy must see.

Last Days of Vietnam is one of the best films of 2014.

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By now, with 134 entries for Foreign Language feature, it’s time for the Academy to acknowledge that documentary filmmakers are making an abundance of vital, important films right now. Five slots for Documentary Feature is simply nowhere near enough to honor the groundswell of non-fiction filmmaking. Since mainstream Hollywood seems more inclined towards fantasy, we need documentaries now more than ever. The Documentary category looks the way the feature film category SHOULD look and yet one allows for more than five and the other doesn’t.

Films directed by women are far more common in the documentary field, which would help greatly increase gender equality within the Oscars without breaking a sweat. But five does not adequately reward what is happening in the industry, the country and the world.

Sure, to have ten slightly diminishes how special the usual five are but let’s face it. So much has changed that the more popular documentaries get in while the most important, culture-altering ones do not. Blackfish has caused Sea World to scramble towards ending their barbaric (emphasis mine) practice of capturing and breeding Orcas in captivity yet Blackfish was shut out of the Oscar race. By anyone’s definition that film should have been included. It is the one category that should not come down to publicity, publicists and money and yet every year we see that dynamic play out.

How in the world are voters going to plow through 134 documentaries to pick only five? They never will. They’ll cherry pick the ones they’re either interested in or they’ve heard buzz about. The end result is always predictable and almost always disappointing.

While we’re at it, maybe the Academy ought to consider expanding the directing category from five to ten, since they now have more than five Best Picture nominees. It makes no sense to have five for director and not five for picture. They should expand both to an even ten and forget this herding cats version of choosing between 5 and 10.

If I had things my way I would divide the directing category by sex, the way the acting categories have done. Best Male Director and Best Female Director. That would mean several significant changes. The first, voters could no longer ignore the work of women but would have to acknowledge it to fill five categories. Second, it would help to motivate studios to hire more women to direct their Big Oscar Movies. This would be one of the coolest things anyone has ever done and yet I know it would never happen, the main reason being no one wants to admit that when it comes to filmmaking, there are the trusted directors (men) and the untrustworthy directors (women). This would be blatant affirmative action, in which I am a great believer. Affirmative action exists to provide opportunities to a group that has been systematically shut out, which women clearly have been in Hollywood, particularly Hollywood in 2014.

Imagine if voters had the freedom to choose five women and five men for director this year. Imagine how that would change things – how it would obliterate an ongoing problem. Since we’re splitting Picture and Director anyway, why not open things up for women?

Just a thought.

Neither of these things are likely to happen. The Oscars like things how they are. Very little has changed in the 16 years I’ve been covering them.

What do you think, readers? Good idea or bad idea?

The submitted features, listed in alphabetical order, are:

“Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq”
“Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case”
“Algorithms”
“Alive Inside”
“All You Need Is Love”
“Altina”
“America: Imagine the World without Her”
“American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”
“Anita”
“Antarctica: A Year on Ice”
“Art and Craft”
“Awake: The Life of Yogananda”
“The Barefoot Artist”
“The Battered Bastards of Baseball”
“Before You Know It”
“Bitter Honey”
“Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity”
“Botso The Teacher from Tbilisi”
“Captivated The Trials of Pamela Smart”
“The Case against 8”
“Cesar’s Last Fast”
“Citizen Koch”
“CitizenFour”
“Code Black”
“Concerning Violence”
“The Culture High”
“Cyber-Seniors”
“DamNation”
“Dancing in Jaffa”
“Death Metal Angola”
“The Decent One”
“Dinosaur 13”
“Do You Know What My Name Is?”
“Documented”
“The Dog”
“E-Team”
“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me”
“Elena”
“Evolution of a Criminal”
“Fed Up”
“Finding Fela”
“Finding Vivian Maier”
“Food Chains”
“The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden”
“Getting to the Nutcracker”
“Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
“Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia”
“The Great Flood”
“The Great Invisible”
“The Green Prince”
“The Hacker Wars”
“The Hadza: Last of the First”
“Hanna Ranch”
“Happy Valley”
“The Hornet’s Nest”
“I Am Ali”
“If You Build It”
“The Immortalists”
“The Internet’s Own Boy”
“Ivory Tower”
“James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge”
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”
“Journey of a Female Comic”
“Keep On Keepin’ On”
“Kids for Cash”
“The Kill Team”
“Korengal”
“La Bare”
“Last Days in Vietnam”
“Last Hijack”
“The Last Patrol”
“Levitated Mass”
“Life Itself”
“Little White Lie”
“Llyn Foulkes One Man Band”
“Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles”
“Manakamana”
“Merchants of Doubt”
“Mission Blue”
“Mistaken for Strangers”
“Mitt”
“Monk with a Camera”
“Nas: Time Is Illmatic”
“National Gallery”
“Next Goal Wins”
“Next Year Jerusalem”
“Night Will Fall”
“No Cameras Allowed”
“Now: In the Wings on a World Stage”
“Occupy the Farm”
“The Only Real Game”
“The Overnighters”
“Particle Fever”
“Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes”
“Pelican Dreams”
“The Pleasures of Being Out of Step”
“Plot for Peace”
“Point and Shoot”
“Poverty Inc.”
“Print the Legend”
“Private Violence”
“Pump”
“Rabindranath Tagore – The Poet of Eternity”
“Red Army”
“Remote Area Medical”
“Rich Hill”
“The Rule”
“The Salt of the Earth”
“Shadows from My Past”
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”
“A Small Section of the World”
“Smiling through the Apocalypse – Esquire in the 60s”
“Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon”
“The Supreme Price”
“Tales of the Grim Sleeper”
“Tanzania: A Journey Within”
“This Is Not a Ball”
“Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence”
“Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People”
“True Son”
“20,000 Days on Earth”
“Unclaimed”
“Under the Electric Sky”
“Underwater Dreams”
“Virunga”
“Waiting for August”
“Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”
“Warsaw Uprising”
“Watchers of the Sky”
“Watermark”
“We Are the Giant”
“We Could Be King”
“Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”
“A World Not Ours”

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LOS ANGELES, CA – One hundred thirty-four features have been submitted for consideration in the Documentary Feature category for the 87th Academy Awards®.

The submitted features, listed in alphabetical order, are:

“Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq”
“Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case”
“Algorithms”
“Alive Inside”
“All You Need Is Love”
“Altina”
“America: Imagine the World without Her”
“American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”
“Anita”
“Antarctica: A Year on Ice”
“Art and Craft”
“Awake: The Life of Yogananda”
“The Barefoot Artist”
“The Battered Bastards of Baseball”
“Before You Know It”
“Bitter Honey”
“Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity”
“Botso The Teacher from Tbilisi”
“Captivated The Trials of Pamela Smart”
“The Case against 8”
“Cesar’s Last Fast”
“Citizen Koch”
“CitizenFour”
“Code Black”
“Concerning Violence”
“The Culture High”
“Cyber-Seniors”
“DamNation”
“Dancing in Jaffa”
“Death Metal Angola”
“The Decent One”
“Dinosaur 13”
“Do You Know What My Name Is?”
“Documented”
“The Dog”
“E-Team”
“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me”
“Elena”
“Evolution of a Criminal”
“Fed Up”
“Finding Fela”
“Finding Vivian Maier”
“Food Chains”
“The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden”
“Getting to the Nutcracker”
“Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
“Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia”
“The Great Flood”
“The Great Invisible”
“The Green Prince”
“The Hacker Wars”
“The Hadza: Last of the First”
“Hanna Ranch”
“Happy Valley”
“The Hornet’s Nest”
“I Am Ali”
“If You Build It”
“The Immortalists”
“The Internet’s Own Boy”
“Ivory Tower”
“James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge”
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”
“Journey of a Female Comic”
“Keep On Keepin’ On”
“Kids for Cash”
“The Kill Team”
“Korengal”
“La Bare”
“Last Days in Vietnam”
“Last Hijack”
“The Last Patrol”
“Levitated Mass”
“Life Itself”
“Little White Lie”
“Llyn Foulkes One Man Band”
“Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles”
“Manakamana”
“Merchants of Doubt”
“Mission Blue”
“Mistaken for Strangers”
“Mitt”
“Monk with a Camera”
“Nas: Time Is Illmatic”
“National Gallery”
“Next Goal Wins”
“Next Year Jerusalem”
“Night Will Fall”
“No Cameras Allowed”
“Now: In the Wings on a World Stage”
“Occupy the Farm”
“The Only Real Game”
“The Overnighters”
“Particle Fever”
“Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes”
“Pelican Dreams”
“The Pleasures of Being Out of Step”
“Plot for Peace”
“Point and Shoot”
“Poverty Inc.”
“Print the Legend”
“Private Violence”
“Pump”
“Rabindranath Tagore – The Poet of Eternity”
“Red Army”
“Remote Area Medical”
“Rich Hill”
“The Rule”
“The Salt of the Earth”
“Shadows from My Past”
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”
“A Small Section of the World”
“Smiling through the Apocalypse – Esquire in the 60s”
“Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon”
“The Supreme Price”
“Tales of the Grim Sleeper”
“Tanzania: A Journey Within”
“This Is Not a Ball”
“Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence”
“Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People”
“True Son”
“20,000 Days on Earth”
“Unclaimed”
“Under the Electric Sky”
“Underwater Dreams”
“Virunga”
“Waiting for August”
“Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”
“Warsaw Uprising”
“Watchers of the Sky”
“Watermark”
“We Are the Giant”
“We Could Be King”
“Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”
“A World Not Ours”

Several of the films have not yet had their required Los Angeles and New York qualifying releases. Submitted features must fulfill the theatrical release requirements and comply with all of the category’s other qualifying rules in order to advance in the voting process.  A shortlist of 15 films will be announced in December.

Films submitted in the Documentary Feature category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other categories, including Best Picture, provided they meet the requirements for those categories.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

# # #

ABOUT THE ACADEMY
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards—in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners — the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.

FOLLOW THE ACADEMY
www.​oscars.​org
www.​facebook.​com/​TheAcademy
www.​youtube.​com/​Oscars
www.​twitter.​com/​TheAcademy

AWARDS PUBLICITY
8949 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD | BEVERLY HILLS, CA 90211-1907
(310) 247-3090 TEL | (310) 271-3395 FAX | PUBLICITY@​OSCARS.​ORG | WWW.​OSCARS.​ORG/​PRESS

2_citizenfour

BEST FEATURE AWARD

Citizenfour
Director: Laura Poitras
RADiUS-TWC, Participant Media, and HBO Documentary Films

Finding Vivian Maier
Directors: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Sundance Selects

Point and Shoot
Director: Marshall Curry
The Orchard

The Salt of the Earth
Directors: Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
Sony Pictures Classics

Tales of the Grim Sleeper
Director: Nick Broomfield
HBO and SKY ATLANTIC

BEST SHORT AWARD

Ghost Train
Directors: Kelly Hucker, James Fleming
Premium Films (France)

Our Curse
Director: Tomasz Śliwiński

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Director: Edgar Barens
HBO Documentary Films

Tashi and the Monk
Directors: Andrew Hinton & Johnny Burke

The Queen
Director: Manuel Abramovich

BEST CURATED SERIES AWARD

American Experience
Executive Producer: Mark Samels
Senior Producer: Sharon Grimberg
PBS

American Masters
Executive Producer: Susan Lacy
PBS

Independent Lens
Executive Producer: Sally Jo Fifer
Deputy Executive Producer: Lois Vossen
Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with PBS

POV
Executive Producer: Simon Kilmurry
Series Producer: Chris White
POV/ PBS

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
Executive Producer: Rick Bernstein
HBO Sports

BEST LIMITED SERIES AWARD

Chicagoland
Executive Producers: Mark Benjamin, Marc Levin, Laura Michalchyshyn, Robert Redford
CNN/ BCTV and Sundance Productions

COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
Executive Producers: Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, Ann Druyan, Seth MacFarlane
FOX/ National Geographic Channel

The Sixties
Executive Producers: Gary Goeztman, Tom Hanks, Mark Herzog
CNN/ Playtone and Herzog & Co

Time of Death
Executive Producers: Cynthia Childs, Dan Cutforth, Casey Kriley, Alexandra Lipsitz, Jane Lipsitz
Co-Executive Producer: Miggi Hood
Showtime

Years of Living Dangerously
Executive Producers: Daniel Abbasi, Joel Bach, James Cameron, David Gelber, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Weintraub
Showtime

BEST EPISODIC SERIES AWARD

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Executive Producer and Host: Anthony Bourdain
Executive Producers: Chris Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig
CNN

Morgan Spurlock Inside Man
Executive Producer and Host: Morgan Spurlock
Executive Producers Jeremy Chilnick, Mathew Galkin
Warrior Poets/CNN

Oprah’s Master Class
Executive Producers: Jon Kamen, Jonathan Sinclair, Justin Wilkes, Oprah Winfrey
OWN/ Harpo Studios

Our America with Lisa Ling
Executive Producers: Amy Bucher, Gregory Henry, Lisa Ling, David Shadrack Smith
OWN

VICE
Executive Producer: BJ Levin, Bill Maher, Eddy Moretti, Shane Smith
HBO

BEST SHORT FORM SERIES AWARD

A Short History of the Highrise
Executive Producers: Jason Spingarn-Koff, Silva Basmajian
National Film Board of Canada and The New York Times

Last Chance High
Executive Producer: Jason Mojica
VICE News

Op-Docs
Executive Producer: Jason Spingarn-Koff
The New York Times

Planet Money Makes a T-shirt
Executive Producer: Alex Blumberg
NPR

Russian Roulette
Executive Producers: Jason Mojica, Kevin Sutcliffe
VICE News

HUMANITAS AWARD

How I Got Over
Director: Nicole Boxer

Keep On Keepin’ On
Director: Alan Hicks
RADiUS-TWC

Limited Partnership
Director: Thomas G. Miller
PBS / Independent Lens

DAVID L. WOLPER STUDENT DOCUMENTARY AWARD

Cast in India
Director: Natasha Raheja
New York University

Evaporating Borders
Director: Iva Radivojevic
CUNY – Hunter College

Hotel 22
Director: Elizabeth Lo
Stanford University

My Dad’s a Rocker
Director: Zuxin Hou
University of Southern California

Solitary Plains
Director: J. Christian Jensen
Stanford University

ABCNEWS VIDEOSOURCE AWARD

1971
Director: Johanna Hamilton
Independent Lens/ PBS

The Assassination of President Kennedy
Executive Producers: Gary Goeztman, Tom Hanks, Mark Herzog
CNN/ Playtone and Herzog & Co

Captivated The Trials of Pamela Smart
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
HBO Documentary Films

Concerning Violence
Director: Göran Hugo Olsson
Kino Lorber

The Joe Show
Director: Randy Murray
Investigation Discovery/ Film Buff

CREATIVE RECOGNITION AWARDS

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY presented by Canon
Elevator
CINEMATOGRAPHY BY: Hatuey Viveros Lavielle

BEST EDITING
Last Days in Vietnam
EDITING BY: Don Kleszy

BEST MUSIC
Alfred and Jakobine
MUSIC BY: Nick Urata

BEST WRITING
Finding Vivian Maier
WRITTEN BY: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel

PARE LORENTZ AWARD
Tashi and the Monk
Directors: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke

EMERGING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AWARD sponsored by Red Fire Films and Modern VideoFilm
Darius Clark Monroe

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Robert Redford

PIONEER AWARD
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

PRESERVATION AND SCHOLARSHIP AWARD
Rithy Panh

birdman-michael-keaton-emma-stone1-600x421

Birdman did exceedingly well in limited release, with a $28,721 per theater average playing in just 50 locations. Whiplash needs a bit more word of mouth which it will get once the awards start rolling in. But with no major stars like Birdman has, it did respectable business with $5,778 per theater average in 46 locations, significantly less than Birdman. But with such a micro budget it doesn’t really matter if it makes bank at this stage.

Three documentaries hit theaters that are well worth seeing. They are doing decent box office in limited release as they make their Oscar qualifying runs. CitizenFour made $25,034 per theater average in just 5 locations, while Last Days in Vietnam and the Overnighters are also trucking along, making money.

For more, check out Indiewire.

11

Seaworld is attempting to change the conversation after news their stock plummeted to record lows in light the little doc that could, Blackfish. Seaworld’s news?

Battered by controversy over its treatment of killer whales, SeaWorld San Diego announced Friday that it plans to double the size of its orca environment, contribute an additional $10 million to research on the species and establish an independent advisory committee of scientists to oversee its orca program.

Yeah, no. That’s like hiring the tobacco companies to appoint an oversight committee on tobacco companies. No self-respecting scientist should sell themselves out to help Sea World keep getting richer off the backs of orcas. The breeding program must come to an end. Whales in captivity must be given rehabilitation facilities that help them matriculate back into the oceans and SeaWorld must help to lead the world in ending this cruel, inhumane and way past its sell-by date “entertainment.”

All of this because someone made a powerful documentary that shed light on something we’ve turned a blind eye to for too many years. In typical Academy fashion, the film did not receive an Oscar nomination – what did it matter anyway. While The Cove’s outing of the barbarism in Japan’s dolphin slaughter could not change that culture’s tradition, here in America the almighty dollar rules all, meaning, publicity is everything.

The fight is nowhere near over. Blackfish continues to play on Netflix. Soon, everyone will have seen it. They can’t watch that movie and pay money to go to SeaWorld or any park that keeps orcas and dolphins in captivity.

SeaWorld should admit defeat and do what they can to salvage their reputation.

LoMein
Play

Rain Perry is making the leap from music to film with The Shopkeeper: A Documentary about Mark Hallman & the Congress House. While the documentary genre has more female directors in it than probably any other, it still isn’t easy to break through, especially since fundraising is often the hardest part of it. A lot of female directors have revealed that it’s usually all fun and games until money is involved, but trusting “women” with money is often a sticky area.

Full Disclosure: I’ve known Rain Perry for more than 30 years. We shroomed on Ventura beach back in the 1980s, slogged through the agony of high school together in Ojai, and stared up at the stars on one too many summer nights wondering what we would end up doing with our lives. Rain went on to become a successful songwriter and musician while I went on to a series of mishaps that brought me here. She’s always been someone I greatly admired, not just for her dark and dirty sense of humor but because life threw at her a series of difficult situations that she somehow managed to overcome. Her mother died when she was just five years old, leaving her in the care of her father, who wasn’t anywhere near ready to become a single parent. All she ever wanted to do was play guitar, which she began learning as a teenager, but when she  got rheumatoid arthritis she could no longer play. None of that defines who she is and none of it has derailed her own evolution as a mother, a wife, a musician, a writer and now, a filmmaker.

Since we’re all about helping women filmmakers when we can here at awards daily, I thought I’d ask Rain a few questions about her project. Budding filmmakers out there might find some of this interesting.

1) What’s more embarrassing, that we were in a high school drama department called NAG (Nordhoff Actors Guild) or that we were once drunken wenches on the kissing bridge at the Renaissance Faire?

Ha! Well, as I recall, you were repeatedly dragged off to the kissing bridge due to your hotness. I may have found myself there once or twice. Oh, those were the days. But I still think everything about Nordhoff Actors Guild beats even the Renaissance Faire.

J’aime être.

2) Seriously, what made you decide to make this film? Why this story? Why now?

I actually did not plan to make a movie at all. My producer, Mark Hallman, who has worked with a lot of important singer-songwriters including Carole King and Ani DiFranco, is celebrating the 33&1/3 year anniversary of his recording studio, the Congress House in Austin Texas, this year. He’s an unsung hero of music, as far as I and his many devoted clients are concerned. I got to thinking about Mark and his battle to keep his studio open as the music business implodes. I realized that you could actually tell the story of the rise and fall and uncertain future of the singer-songwriter genre through him and his clients. So then I thought, “someone should tell that story.” And I began to realize with some panic that “somebody” was going to be me. Also, the issues I’m addressing in the movie are issues I’m wrangling with in my own professional life. I’m working on a log line about it – something like “everybody can make a record, but nobody can make a living.” What is that going to mean to the music we love and the artists who make it? It’s a big question of the day.

3) What has been the hardest part about the fundraising? You’re starting a campaign on Indiegogo. How difficult has it been?

Well, the Indiegogo campaign is the very beginning of the fundraising. Because we are doing this so lo-fi – just my Director of Photography Micah Van Hove and his Blackmagic camera and me – we have very minimal production expenses. We spent one weekend so far in Austin shooting a half dozen interviews and a bunch of B-roll and sleeping on the Congress House couches. What’s going to be expensive are the rights to the songs I want to use. I want every song in the soundtrack to have been recorded by Mark and of course I have a list of songs a mile long that I want to use. So we’ll see. The documentary “The Wrecking Crew” held a crowdfunding campaign because they needed to raise a quarter of a million dollars to clear their songs. (The were successful and it was a great campaign.) I’m not using a bunch of huge Beach Boys hits, but still, it really adds up, and part of my goal with this movie is to actually pay some of the songwriters I love a little money for their music.

4) In your music career, did you find any roadblocks about the way the music industry works now?

The road doesn’t exist anymore, it’s washed out. Let me give you an example. At one point while my song “Beautiful Tree” was the theme song to the CW Network’s Life Unexpected, I got my BMI statement and I had 250,000 streams between Spotify and Pandora. Guess how much money that added up to? $27.00. I figure I will just go from not making any money in folk music to not making any money as a documentary filmmaker.

5) What is the production timeline?

We’re going back to Austin in October to shoot the anniversary party and do a bunch more interviews. Then we will have a few more trips to interview a couple more folks-to-be-announced. So I expect to be done shooting early next year, and I’m planning to release it next fall. This is my first film and I’m learning everything as I go, so this production timeline is totally theoretical. But the DP, Micah, is going through the festival & release process currently with his feature Menthol, so I’m relying pretty heavily on lessons he’s learned, and asking lots of good people for guidance.

6) What is your hope for this film? Whom do you want to reach?

Well, of course I want everybody to see it! But I think it’s of interest to music lovers of all kinds – anyone who likes Carole King or Ani DiFranco or Tom Russell or Eliza Gilkyson, obviously. And I think it will be illuminating to anybody who’s following what’s going on in the music business because we are getting some great insight into how things have changed and some spirited debate about where we ought to go next. But honestly, it’s going to be heartfelt and funny and hopefully entertaining, so I think it will have general appeal. I don’t really care much about horses, but I loved Buck. I think people will love Mark Hallman and really be rooting for him.

7) What was more embarrassing, that I had an “I heart being” bumper sticker or that you tried in vain to teach me how to sing Feelin’ Groovy for an audition (which I didn’t get)?

I think the bumpersticker wins, but what was that song for? I have a vague memory of that but what were you auditioning for??? But don’t forget how bitchen we were when we translated “I heart being” into french and went around saying “J’aime être.”

It was for, are you sitting down? L’il Abner at the Community Center. How could you forget??

8) Do you think you have more interest in making films now or making music or will you always do both?

I am making this film. I guess we’ll see what happens with it! I want to make a movie about Mark – I’m passionate about him and about what might be a great cultural loss with the way things are going in the music business. I don’t know if I’ll want to make another film after that, but I will certainly always be making music.

9) Now we both have almost half our lives over with, do you have many regrets? Are you happy with how your turned out?

I am happy with how my life turned out. I love my kids and my husband and the people I get to work with and the fact that I have figured out how to have an imperfect career as a musician. This is going to sound really cheesy, but what you and I were dreaming of, looking up at the stars, was an artistic life, and I have one. I do compare myself to some of my peers and covet their careers, though, I can’t deny that, though I know everybody is scrambling at this point.

10) How does Rain Perry define herself?

Oh boy – Okay, how about this? I’m a devoted wife and mom who loves hanging around guitar players.

That works for me.

If you want to contribute to Rain’s new doc, there is an Indiegogo campaign towards the effort.

You can find out more about Rain and her life by visiting her website, which has links to stories that have been written about her and links to her music. These are my favorites:

pink-play-icon-hi copy
Girl in the Boys Room

pink-play-icon-hi copy
Yosemite

pink-play-icon-hi copy
Atlas

In case you were wondering what Rain and I were doing at the Renaissance Faire, here we are with some friends back in the 1980s.

That’s Rain and I on the bottom right.

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EbertWedding

What we know about life: it lasts mere seconds by any measure. What we know about Roger Ebert: No one knew this better than he did.

EbertWedding

Ah, the horror and the beauty of this fleeting life. Time goes by too fast. There is too much beauty. Everywhere. The film about Ebert is a fitting tribute to a man whose life was so much bigger than movies but whose legacy is nonetheless tangled up in them. He loved his work, but more than that, he recognized that the work is the thing he’d leave behind so he didn’t waste a single minute of the remaining seconds, writing constantly, publishing reviews, books – building websites, using Twitter. But no amount of praise a person can heap upon Ebert isn’t said better in the film, Life Itself.

Drawing from bits and pieces of the legacy that is now Roger Ebert, his history as a self-made reporter, his ever-expanding world view, his partnership with Gene Siskel and the love of his life, Chaz, Life Itself puts Ebert’s work into proper perspective. Yes, in a way it was everything. In another way it couldn’t buy him a minute more of life. He beat back his own mortality as his cancer and the treatment of cancer simultaneously kept him alive and killed him. He gripped tightly to what remained.

It should not be missed. I started my website in 1999 as oscarwatch.com. What I would do is each time a film came out I would watch the critic reviews. There were so few then and their voices mattered so much it was easy to track them. Waiting on a Todd McCarthy or Kirk Honeycutt review was a nail-biter. What would they say? You see, back then it mattered what they thought more than it mattered what I thought. Back then, not just anyone could be a film critic, not like now. Owen Gleibermann, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Manohla Dargis, AO Scott, Glenn Kenny, Peter Travers – these were the tastemakers. So much has changed since then but Roger Ebert was always one of the major voices not just for films coming out but for the changing internet, which eventually swallowed up and destroyed film criticism as we all knew it then.

Ebert evolved as the internet evolved. That is what made him so ahead of the game. My entire experience watching Oscar for 15 years is woven with Ebert’s opinions all over it. Railing against him before he got sick, trying to not pity him after he got sick. I once got in an email fight with him about Crash vs. Brokeback. He was a supporter and advocate of Crash because he, unlike almost everyone else who writes about film, cared about the imbalance of white stories vs. stories about people of color. Only Ebert was both an activist and a film critic. Critics now do not take such things into consideration – as was witnessed last year with 12 Years a Slave vs. Gravity. Ebert would have loved both films but he would have been the only critic, and a powerful one at that, who would have really gotten the importance of 12 Years a Slave’s presence in the race at all. He got it because he watched film history for 46 years and because he cared more about the big picture than about his own limited perception of what he was seeing on the screen. Critics who see the bigger picture still exist but they are disappearing fast.

Life Itself tells Ebert’s story from Ebert’s perspective, and from the perspective of those who knew him, worked with him, were influenced by him. With a national audience at his fingertips, Ebert brought the genius of Martin Scorsese to the mainstream. Without Ebert’s early advocacy and support, who knows what might have happened to Scorsese. I watched with horror as critics spit on the brilliant work of Xavier Dolan, a very young up and coming artist, at Cannes – and I suddenly realized the impact someone like Ebert can have on film overall. Ebert saw Scorsese’s promise early on with Who’s That Knocking on My Door. He wasn’t the guy being flown out to see the fancy set of some powerful film director to help build up the fan base. He was recognizing talent and advocating for it.

At the same time the film doesn’t back off what an arrogant asshole Ebert could be – and that might be the final irony of what a fatal illness can do to a person. Petty things don’t matter anymore when you’re facing the big sleep. He found love. He found family. He found satisfaction in his work. He really had a wonderful life, too wonderful of a life that he didn’t want to let it go. Watching Life Itself is inspiring that way. In truth, we’re all just sitting around here waiting to die. But this film is like a battle cry to anyone who has the luxury of sitting around thinking about anything at all: get busy living or get busy dying.

He leaves behind him an unmatchable legacy and perhaps one that flourished because Ebert himself evolved with the changing times not by becoming part of the status quo but by defying it; he became a leader and pioneer, always, with each new phase of his ever-changing life.

If you miss Ebert, look for him. He’s everywhere. As Walt Whitman describes in Song of Myself:

I depart as air,
I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,

I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,

And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,

Missing me one place search another,

I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Life Itself is currently playing in theaters and on VOD.

thedog

The Dog, directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, is ten years in the making. You can find it in theaters on August 8th and on VOD August 15.

An intimate portrait of the vivacious John Wojtowicz, the inspiration behind Al Pacino’s character in Sidney Lumet’s Oscar®-Nominated Dog Day Afternoon.

Coming of age in the 1960s, John Wojtowicz took pride in being a pervert. His libido was excessive even by the libertine standards of the era, with multiple wives and
lovers, both women and men.

Continue reading…

ebert

Sasha first posted an except from Roger Ebert’s memoir in July 2011. In 2012 I posted news that it would become the basis for a film — featuring tweets from Ebert himself. Glad to have shared this journey with Mr. Ebert. (Trailer after the cut.)

Continue reading…

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