Episode 111: Doc Talk Part 5: Hot Docs 2021 / Audible / Archipelago / A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces

“In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.”

Alfred Hitchcock

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

On Episode 111 of Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: The Witches of the Orient & IWOW: I Walk On Water and the Hot Docs 2021 Documentaries: Audible, Archipelago, and A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces.

Streaming links for titles this episode

Audible will begin streaming on Netflix on July 1st.

Archipelago and A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces are currently seeking distribution and/or are not yet available.

Visit us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook or connect with the guys on Letterboxd | Michael Clawson on Letterboxd | Taylor Baker on Letterboxd

Episode 110: Rescreening Short Cuts

“People have asked me throughout the years which directors have influenced me. I don’t know their names, because I was mostly influenced when I’d see a film and think, “Man, I want to be sure to never do anything like that.” So I never learned their names. It wasn’t a matter of copying or emulating somebody I admired. It was getting rid of a lot of stuff.”

Robert Altman

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor Rescreen Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and provide a First Impression of the next Rescreening episode title, Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat.

Short Cuts Trailer

Streaming links for titles this episode

Short Cuts is available to purchase physically but is not currently digitally available
The Big Heat is available to rent and purchase from select digital storefronts

Visit us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook or connect with the guys on Letterboxd | Michael Clawson on Letterboxd | Taylor Baker on Letterboxd

Episode 108: Rescreening Donkey Skin

“There’s a bit of happiness in simply wanting happiness.”

Jacques Demy

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor Rescreen Jacques Demy’s Donkey Skin and provide a First Impression of the next Rescreening episode title, Robert Altman’s Short Cuts.

Streaming links for titles this episode

Donkey Skin is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel

Short Cuts is available to purchase physically but is not currently digitally available

Or connect with the guys on Letterboxd | Michael Clawson on Letterboxd | Taylor Baker on Letterboxd

Visit us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Mr. Soul!

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

90/100

Mr. SOUL! is a remarkable documentary. It tells the us the story of a variety program and its host Ellis Haizlip, an openly gay Black man, during the late 1960s early 1970s. The documentary resonates today, just like SOUL! did back then, because it unabashedly showcases Black pride.

One of the through lines is that the media has been weaponized to argue for the inhumanity of African Americans. This still holds true today. The media landscape is built on whiteness. SOUL! did just the opposite. It presented Black men and women without having to justify their blackness.

SOUL! was the definition of something special. It propelled the Black Arts Movement and showcased remarkable performances by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Kool and the Gang, and Ashford and Simpson. It also included interviews with Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan, and James Baldwin.  

The main takeaway from this piece is cliche and simple. Representation matters! The documentary ends with Quest Love, from the Roots, asking to imagine if SOUL! had a 20 year run? This question is important since we see few Black faces and voices on late night TV.

If you are looking for a similar vibe consider checking The Late Show with Trevor Noah (on Comedy Central), The Amber Ruffin Show (on Peacock), and Wilmore (on Peacock).

Recommended.

Mr. Soul Trailer

Mr. Soul is currently available through virtual cinemas.

Thanks to David Magdael & Associates for providing this film.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

My Mexican Bretzel

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

    80/100

During the past few months I have developed a love for documentary filmmaking, but this “documentary” is unlike any other I’ve seen so far. From the opening title card which reads “lies are just another way of telling the truth.” I knew I should have been prepared but what happened next was surprising. 

The film starts with WWII Swiss pilots and culminates in the crash of a pilot called Leon Barrett who loses his hearing. From there we get more insight into his relationship with Vivian Barrett, through a series of homemade videos, and their eventual trip to Paris where they secure a business deal to develop a new antidepressant called Lovedyn which has minimal side-effects.  

As the documentary progresses, or so we are told, we see their journey across Europe, to places like Barcelona and Majorca, and the United States. We also see an apparent deterioration of their relationship when Vivian falls for a man named Leo. When Leon and Vivian eventually reunite in NYC they continue traveling by land, air, and sea promoting Lovedyn. 

The biggest technical achievement of this piece is audio-visual manipulation and not the story itself. Bretzel is mostly silent and sound is used sporadically throughout. When sound is used it conveys a particular purpose or emotion typically used to indicate movement such as the sound of an airplane crashing, a train passing by, an owl flying down to catch its prey, the sound of a gondola, the roaring of the engines at a race track, or the crashing of waves. There is little to no dialogue and in the rare moment we hear spoken words it is the voice of an announcer calling a race. Instead of relying on sound the director, Gimenez, relies on archival home video footage overlaid with diary-like entries to explain what is going on. 

This piece is the definition of a slow burn. I suspect that this is more of a pastiche of the stories that the director heard growing up as opposed to a strict documentary. When you try to learn more about who Leon and Vivian Barrett were nothing comes up. This genre bending compilation of images and people is worth a watch for those who have the patience to appreciate the little things in life. If you go in, like me, with zero expectations you might be pleasantly surprised.

Recommended.

My Mexican Bretzel Trailer

My Mexican Bretzel screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

Available to stream thru IndiePix Unlimited here

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

The Empty Man

Written by Taylor Baker

82/100

The Empty Man marks the first time since The Invisible Man that I’ve been to a theater this year to see a film that I had low expectations for and came out the other end of the auditorium doors feeling completely different than when I went in. The Empty Man isn’t new IP, nor is it a directorial debut, it isn’t really doing anything remarkably “new”. But there’s something about it, something that simultaneously brings the hope and joy of storytelling through the lens format and plots itself along the methodical dark brooding that the horror genre can touch at its best.

The Empty Man isn’t a great film, I’d likely concede in conversation that depending on your preference for cinema it may not even be good film. However I find myself having loved the experience of watching it. David Prior very visibly had a clear direction he wanted to go with the film. It’s blending the expectations of horror tropes and go to cinematic moves and then twisting them just a bit. This isn’t a director with a story over his head, putting a hat on a hat to try to “get” the audience. This is a storyteller, who has a voice and isn’t making bold choices in how he presents his story but rather smart, simple, and effective ones.

Prior not only directs, but edits his film. A decision that may be wholly responsible for my positive response. There are more than a handful of moments that a transition or editing choice won me over as an audience member. Even in the face of it’s flaws, I’m looking at you CG pan down into the forest from a sub-orbital location. James Badge Dale turns in a sturdy performance. The special effects almost never underwhelm. The use of attention to negative space and sound design were incredibly flattering to the films progression.

I don’t know that I expect David Prior to continue on and grow further as a director. I can say that this work has me willing to offer him another chance. I’ll end on the most positive note I have, in the first third of the film there is a Google Search sequence with some of the most deft work of parsing and shooting search results and Wikipedia results that I’ve ever seen.

The Empty Man is the first true reason to go back to a theater since Tenet.

Recommended.

–Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/27/20

First Man

Written by Taylor Baker

96/100

Visual Jazz

Chazelle assembles a first-rate series of high high’s, high low’s, low high’s, and low low’s. I couldn’t agree more with everyone heaping praise upon the technical proficiency found aboundingly in this film. If one were to put it in a class of technical mastery based off of recent films you would lump it amongst Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, and just ever so slightly beneath Mad Max: Fury Road. During this film I experienced shock, awe, jubilation, grief, anger, and solace. Chazelle tosses narrative norms to the side and brings you into an emotional ride loosely tied together by it’s handful of main characters and main goal.

Reach the Moon.

I’ve been trying to think about it’s narrative depths so as to express it’s wrinkles and omages and it keeps slipping through my fingers like that fine grain silt on the Moon’s surface. What I am absolutely certain of is that beauty and love are the two most apt words to describe what Chazelle packs into First Man’s omages to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The lights reflected to us off of Gosling’s helmet near the end, the docking sequence, the brief AI concern, the Moon as a monolith, and that last shot of Foy reflected off the glass within Gosling’s head. The love while not easy to see on the surface was always there, it was behind everything. Behind the sacrifices.

Gosling’s performance is amazing, and of the Fall fare as of yet Foy’s supporting role is peerless. The entire ensemble is almost sure to grab the best ensemble cast this year unless Vice or Widows really floor audiences. This is a bonafide blockbuster and a wonder to behold. See it in a premium format if you can, whether it’s IMAX or Dolby you won’t be let down.

Highly Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/12/18

The Invitation

Written by Michael Clawson

40/100

The characters of Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation” are stunningly resilient in uncomfortable situations, which the film has plenty of. It’s the story of a man named Will and his girlfriend Kira attending a dinner party hosted at Will’s former home by his ex-wife, Eden, and her new husband, David. Ostensibly, Will, Kira, and friends have been brought together because it’s been years since the tragedy that led to Will and Eden’s divorce and the fracturing of their friendships. Eden and David have seemingly overcome their grief and want to re-unite their social circle. While other guests are distracted with the expensive wine that’s being served, Will is attuned to Eden and David’s odd behavior and is uneasy about their creepy new friends, Pruitt and Sadie. Before long, he begins to suspect they have a hidden agenda and that the evening’s festivities may devolve into something dangerous.

Kusama strives to slowly ratchet up the suspense as the interaction between the characters becomes increasingly disturbing. Will effectively functions as the audience surrogate, asking the questions that the audience wants asked (with several major exceptions) and the chilling score helps to cultivate the sense of an impending violent climax. But it’s the material itself that makes the film less than thrilling. The ease with which the character’s shrug off the ever growing number of warning signs and each other’s downright absurd behavior is too baffling to keep you invested in their fates. The ending is an attempt to provoke a sense of awe by extending the horror beyond the house in which nearly the whole story takes place, but by then you’re too frustrated to care.

Michael Clawson originally posted this review on Letterboxd 04/08/16

Available on Netflix

A Thousand Cuts

Written by Taylor Baker

85/100

“And we have a bomb threat, so that’s a good sign.”

A Thousand Cuts as many have aptly pointed out feels unfinished, which is more a beauty mark than a blemish. It seems fitting that a documentary about the volatility, development, and set backs presented to a democracy feels unfinished. The Philippines though is a democracy that may feel foreign and unknown to many viewers, it certainly was for me. A Thousand Cuts focuses on the story of Maria Ressa, targeted by the Filipino government for her work, she is a journalist, founding partner of Rappler Media, and CEO of Rappler Media. That resume does not begin to do justice to the human Maria is shown to be by the end of the film. Equally stoic as she is fleetingly humorous, she has a well of knowledge and a vocabulary that can easily convey her intent.

There’s been quite the hoopla made recently about Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, not to be comparative but this is a far superior, succinct, and eloquent demonstration of it’s many points-with a backdrop that feels all to familiar. The landscape presented of politics in the Philippines hinges with a war on drugs, social media influencers performing Pussy Cat Dolls songs, and people looking up in exaltation to a murderer handing out T-Shirts from the back of truck for votes. It’s plain that whatever story Ramona Diaz was filming to begin with, nothing could have prepared her for how this ended up.

I won’t spoil the actual happenings of the documentary here as that would take away from the thrust of it and it’s message. Suffice to say it’s a story we could all benefit from witnessing. PBS FRONTLINE will make this Documentary available in January of 2021 here in the U.S.. In the meantime you can view it in virtual cinemas, such as the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival here. This is one of the most impressive pieces of documentary film I’ve seen all year.

Highly Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/13/20

A Thousand Cuts is part of the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival 2020 line up.

DEIFF Website: https://dxfest.com/