The Topp Twins — True Kiwiana

FILM: Topp Twins – The Untouchable Girls

FILMMAKER: Leanne Pooley

REVIEWER: Becky Beamer

This documentary is true kiwiana.  If you aren’t sure what that is – I guess you’ll have to watch.  The documentary was shown prime time on NZ Channel 1.  It’s a free channel here in New Zealand.  Actually, this documentary has taken nearly $2 million at the NZ Box Office making it the Top Documentary Film ever released in New Zealand !

Summary:  Leanne Pooley’s documentary – offers a revealing look into the lives of the world’s only yodeling lesbian twin country-and-western singers.

The documentary was shot and composed in a very traditional manner and thus a bit dry.  But, it was watchable because the twins have a good story.  They are unique and special.  I found myself downloading a few of their songs from iTunes.  If you notice them coming to a folk festival near you – most definitely check them out!

The official website and trailer for the movie: http://topptwins.com/tv-and-film/untouchable-girls

 

Twins Rule !

3 out of 5 Cheers

b.b  (I may be a Twin)

 

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More Family Drama in “Tarnation”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM: Tarnation  (2003)

FILMMAKER: Jonathon Caouette

This film was recommended by my friend – Craig G.  We got into a discussion about the most F*ed up movies/documentaries that we’ve seen . I think the conversation started with “Happiness” but, it definitely ended with the documentary “Tarnation”.He said “you have to see tarnation”.

General Plot:  Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette’s documentary on growing up with his schizophrenic mother — a mixture of snapshots, Super-8, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, and more — culled from 19 years of his life.

Yes, the story was sad.  But, I focused on the good things about the film.  I got to experience – first hand – how a person’s parents shape them as a child and continue to permeate their life as adult – even if they are nuts. The most impressive thing was the amount of video gathered from the main character’s childhood.  I was impressed by the density of footage, audio recordings, and photographs collected for the film.  He showed all of his family’s faults.  I am sure that wasn’t easy but, hopefully –it was therapeutic.

The film was all about the filmmaker.  This was the films advantage and main disadvantage.  I can’t imagine the director doing another film.  This one was so indulgent.  It was the type of indulgent usually reserved for well-known narrative directors like Quentin  Tarantino.

I do also really like the film’s tag line.  “Your Greatest Creation is the Life you Lead.”

Cheers and Beers — becky beamer

4 out of 5 Cheers.

Silverdocs is NEXT WEEK ….. hollllllla

The D.C area’s best documentary Film Festival and arguably one of the most anticipated events of the year invades Silver Spring next week.

Everyone should take advantage of the access to the hippest – hottest and hard to find docs.  Check out the long – the short and the conferences.

And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, Doc & a Drink will be giving the weekly play by play as official bloggers of the festival.

Bookmark these blogs for the inside scoop:

http://silverdocs.wordpress.com/

http://www.docandadrink.com/

Inside Scoop of the Week: Many of the evening shows are selling out. Buy your tickets today online!

Highlighted Doc of the Week: MEN WHO SWIM

I’m really looking forward to a doc that features Men Synchronize Swimming.  To learn more check out my blog for SilverDocs.

Cheers and Beers — becky

Doc of the Week : This Film is Not Yet Rated!

Becky Beamer Doc and a Drink Review documentary www.beckybeamer.com

FILM:  This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

FILMMAKER:  Kirby Dick

REVIEWER:  Becky Beamer

This Film documents a history of the MPAA ratings board. Talks to numerous directors and actors about the censorship of their movies before they could be released. Includes directors, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, John Waters, Darren Aronosfsky, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan. Director, Kirby Dick hires a lesbian family of private investigators to find out the names of the MPAA ratings board and see if the raters are actually parents of children 5-17 like the MPAA tells American parents they are.

I love when documentaries make me think about something I’ve taken for granted.  Case and point – the MPAA rating system.  I started thinking about censorship and the all-powerful studios.

Knowing me, if my film was critiqued in an unfair way by the MPAA, I also would have felt the need to push boundaries and boycott the system by rolling with the “NR” or not rated cut of the film.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy in “real life”.  The “real life” in which your film rating means distribution, marketing, and making a living.

Sad.

I feel the need to mention that this documentary had great interviews with many well-known filmmakers.  The filmmakers speak quite frankly about censorship of their films by the MPAA.  Even This Film is Not Yet Rated had more than a handful of scenes that needed editing before the NC-17 rating could be removed.

Personally, I do believe that American’s can be prudish.  The MPAA is a reflection of this majority.  The MPAA is not the first system set up to regulate a type of business that ends up favoring big business.  (Check out our review of Beers Wars for another story of conquering big business).

I wish this film actually changed the ratings process.  It didn’t – but maybe it will start the ball rolling…..

4 out of 5 Cheers

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Doc of the Week > Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

becky beamer painting of pollock

FILM: Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

FILMMAKER: Harry Moses

REVIEWER: Becky Beamer

What’s Art worth?  This painting worth is so controversial – a feature doc was constructed around it.

After semi-truck driver Teri Horton bought a large splatter painting for her friend for $5, she was forced to sell it in her own garage sale when her friend said she had no place for it. Eventually someone commented on the painting stating it might be an original Jackson Pollock. This documentary follows Teri, her son, and a forensics specialist as they attempt to prove to the world, or more specifically the art community, her painting is a true Jackson Pollock.

I really thought the movie was fun.   It was riddled with talking heads but, unlike other docs we’ve reviewed, the interviews were shot with great lighting and composition.  The characters were quirky and the soundbites were well thought out.  The length was perfect – not too long – and plot continued to build through out the 70 minutes.

I walked away with a new appreciation for Jackson Pollock’s’ work and character.  (spoiler alert – next sentence)  I personally think 1. Teri should have taken the 9 million offered for the painting and 2. I think it’s totally real 🙂  I also feel like taking some paint to canvas – if you know what I mean!

4 out 5 stars

– b.b

becky beamer painting of pollock documentary filmmaker

Doc of the Week > Adventure is my Middle Name!

FILM: Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale

FILMMAKERS: David Shapiro &  Laurie Gwen Shapiro

REVIEWER: Becky Beamer

 documentary becky beamer Doc and a Drink

In 1955, while a Fulbright scholar, a Manhattan painter named Tobias Schneebaum spent seven months in the Amazon basin with the Harakambut. When he returned to the US, he could no longer paint. What happened? Nearly 45 years later, filmmakers want Tobias, now 78 and suffering from Parkinson’s, to return to Peru & New Guinea.

This documentary is an adventure.  It will whisk you away to far away lands and answer cannibalistic curiosity.  Tobias’ story is exciting and nostalgic.  It’s infused with primitive culture and extremes but it’s just plain humanity that shines through.

Tobias is a wonderful painter, explorer, and anthropologist.  My heart was touched when Tobias re-unites with his ex-Lover who he thought had passed. I appreciated Tobias’ interview candor.   He speaks from an acceptance of dying and with an open mind .  Tobias had the opportunity to explore many cultures before they were severely influenced by Western Culture.  I envy that.

Through out the documentary – Tobias expresses a mental battle regarding returning to the jungle in Peru where he witness and participated in murder and cannibalism.  In fact – I was so distracted by the story – I hardly noticed the constant soft focus and poor framing.  I just wasn’t impressed with the camerawork from any angle.  I guess that just goes to show that the most important thing is putting the story to tape and not fretting over “what you are shooting on”.

I really enjoyed the journey – being exposed to traditions passed down through generations.  The tribes display their dancing, sculpting, their sexuality and language.  I like that this documentary will keep some of these traditions “alive”.

AND Don’t worry – you won’t fall asleep for this adventure.  But, you may think about death, watching National Geographic, and taking a holiday to a far away land.

Verdict?

4 out of 5 Cheers

— b.b.

Doc of the Week: A Music Doc

FILM: The GITS Movie
FILMMAKER:
KERRI O’KANE
REVIEWER: Becky Beamer

The rousing and heartbreaking story of Seattle band The Gits, whose promising start was cut short by the tragic murder of spirited lead singer Mia Zapata.

I run into tons and tons of music documentaries.  I usually run the other way as fast as possible but – this Doc was rated 4.5 stars on my Netflicks que.

The Gits  documentary becky beamer Doc and a Drink

After watching it – I know why the doc got a high rating – the only people who rated this film were friends and family of the artist.

Unfortunately, this documentary just came across as a glorified memorial.  I was looking for a murder mystery and instead I  was bored to death.  I learned about The Gits history as a band for the first 75 minutes of the film.  I was also disappointed by the surprising lack of quality archival video and photos of Mia throughout the film.  The family and The Gits were involved in the doc – so what happened?  I don’t know….

Is that too harsh? sorry.  I mean no ill will towards anyone related to the band.  I did enjoy The Gits music – so – go buy some Gits Singles on iTunes when you have a chance.

AND – If I haven’t scared you away – learn more on the movie’s website:  http://www.thegitsmovie.com/

1 out of 5 Cheers.

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Doc review: Why are you eating what you are eating?

FILM: Food Inc.

DIRECTOR: Robert Kenner

REVIEWER: B. Beamer

 documentary becky beamer Doc and a Drink

SUMMARY :  “In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.”

More Movie …..

My reaction to this documentary was similar to how many are affected by a placebo.  It hit “home”  right away and then fell away from my thoughts just as fast as it had entered.  Immediately following the film viewing,  I made a personal pact to buy from local farmers and visit a local farmer’s market.  But,  I was quick to find myself eating at McDonald’s during a road trip over the holidays and I still  haven’t bought anything from a local farmer – yet.  My excuse for now is the winter months.

On the other hand – I did buy organic milk this morning.  Maybe the movie did make me think twice about what I’m putting in my body and who I am supporting with my purchase.  Over all – I found this movie extremely easy to watch.  It was just well done – creative, interesting and fast paced.  I didn’t fall asleep once.  I also didn’t find it “preachy” which could have easily been an issue for this type of program.

This film is currently available “on demand” from Netflicks.

4 out of 5 Cheers.

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FILM REVIEW: Encounters at the End of the World.

Encounters at the End of the World Movie Poster
Encounters at the End of the World Movie Poster

FILM: Encounters at the End of the World

FILMMAKER: Werner Herzog

REVIEWER: Katy Jones

Werner Herzog “Encounters at the End of the World” is an…interesting movie.  Imagine giving a quixotic filmmaker an amazing camera, sending him to Antarctica and letting him wander around aimlessly at whatever thought pops into his head. Viola! “Encounters at the End of the World.” Strangely the most obviously directed and aimless, beautiful and possibly useless documentary I’ve ever watched.

The story begins on the transport plane – wandering about with a fisheye lens.  Herzog narrates – and promises that he will be making a different kind of Antarctica film.  He’s curious about “deeper” questions – like why some ants milk other insects – what? No, I’m serious, that’s his deeper question.

After landing at McMurdo, the launch point for all Antarctic research, he wonders what sort of strange characters he will meet in Antarctica – who goes there and why?  Ah, a plumber, a truck driver, an iceberg geologist!  Shocking to find such people here. Only the iceberg researcher is actually allowed to speak during his interview.  Herzog graciously summarizes the other interview subjects for us, in voiceover, while the subjects are still speaking on screen.  It’s like saying (in heavily accented German) “Dis person talked TOO LONG.”  Wasn’t that what editing was invented for?  So you don’t have to narrate? Is this a comedic element?  Because it’s weird and kind of rude.

So for seven weeks he wanders aimlessly about the South Pole from McMurdo to Mt. Erebus and cuts off at least 50% of the people he interviews.  I have to give him credit for going up to a penguin researcher and asking (German accent), “Ar dere any gay penquins?” and “Ken PENquins go IN-SANE?” – questions which I have never seen asked of any other penguin researcher on film.  It is most certainly not your “typical” film about Antarctica.

While I have some issues with the story, which was really more travelogue than documentary, there is no doubt that the footage is outstandingly beautiful.  Even a sequence of events at a training camp in which the trainees were trained for “white out” conditions by wearing a bucket on their heads was fantastically well-shot and conceived. One of my favorite segments is a conversation with seal researchers who, after shoving a bag over a nursing mother seal’s head and forcibly extracting her milk so they can analyze it, go on to talk about the “Pink Floyd” quality to seal calls swimming in the ocean beneath the ice they stand on.  The shots of these scientists putting ears to ice to listen to seal calls were obviously directed, and yet, strangely appealing.

The most outstanding, eerie, and breath-taking footage was definitely the underwater footage.  Every time the ice covered underwater world was revealed to the camera I could feel my eyes grow large and the critic within me quiet down.  There is nothing comparable to that world.  And the scientists working in that world are astronauts as much as biologists.  One scientist said it was a nasty, violent world, and supposes that this is why mammals evolved – to escape.

I couldn’t quite figure out whether this was a comedy or a documentary.  The characters had kind of a weird mockumentary quality to them.  Like he just picked the craziest people and moments to speak to.  He included such awkward interviews, and then clearly didn’t even find them interesting enough to let the characters speak for themselves.  The moments at the research station McMurdo are occasionally laugh out loud funny.  And he is critical of the station for having luxuries like a yoga class so close to the end of the world.  Um, please come to my small town and criticize us, Mr. Herzog, for trying to make our lives enjoyable.

This film was nominated for last year’s Academy Award for “Best Documentary Feature.”  The previously reviewed “Man on Wire” was the winner that year.  I am glad, because I liked that movie better.

For me, Encounters at the End of the World just didn’t puzzle itself out into anything at all other than man wandering around with camera.  Occasionally, there are great moments in the film.  Occasionally, there are crappy moments in the film.  It all seems so accidental it wasn’t that much fun to watch even for the good moments.

Two out of five cheers.

–Katy

Doc of the Week > Anyone wonder about Swinging?

DOCUMENTARY: American Swing

DIRECTORS:  Jon Hart and Matthew Kaufman

REVIEW BY: becky b

This week review comes from a place of personal in-experience.  I’ve never had a “swing” experience.  But, I wondered about it.  Are you like me?  Check out American Swing.  This documentary talks about the rise and fall of the NYC swing clubs in the 1970s.  The film combines interviews with archival video and stills from the time.  Yes – there is plenty of nudity and yes – there are people willing to show naked photos of themselves and then talk about the “good old days”.  You can’t fall asleep during this roller coaster.  Warning : You may wish you were around for the Swinging 70’s after watching this flick.

4 out of 5 Cheers

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