Documentaries Watch: August 12 to 18, 2013

March 11, 2014

Becoming available to documentaries viewers during the week of August 12, 2013:

August 13:

  • Junior – Directed by Jenna Rosher – Acclaimed cinematographer Jenna Rosher takes on the role of director for this character-driven documentary about the lives and times of a devoted Italian-American mother and son who’ve lived under the same roof for decades and are growing old together. “Ma” is 90-something Josephine Belasco, who attracted media attention a few years ago when she graduated from high school. Eddie Belasco is her 70-something son, a theater entrepreneur whose life is nothing less than high drama. They are funny, irascible and endearing. And, they are very worth getting to know. The film is become available on VOD from Cinedigm.
  • A Band Called Death – Directed by Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett – This music documentary tracks the pre-punk band called Death – brothers Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) – who began playing in 1971, disbanded in 1977 and reemerged in 2009 to stardom, when their previously unreleased demos were marketed for the first time. Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins are also featured in the documentary. Like Anvil! The Anvil Story, this update on pop musicians provides another chapter in music history that will no doubt please fans. The film becomes available on DVD from Drafthouse Films.

August 16:

  • Cutie and the Boxer – Directed by Zachary Heinzerling – This highly entertaining character-driven art documentary follows an unconventional couple of engagingly quirky Japanese artists, Ushio Shinohara and Noriko Shinohara, who have for the past 40 years been married, resided in Brooklyn and have been part of New York’s lively art scene. Ushio, the ‘Boxer,’ who is now a strong 80 year old, creates abstract action paintings by using boxing gloves to punch vivid colors onto huge canvasses, and he also assembles found objects and other junk he picks up on the streets into large sculptures that look like surreal motorcycles or other sort of modern machines. Noriko is the ‘Cutie.’ She serves loyally — but not without evident resentment — as Ushio’s assistant, while struggling to pursue her own art career with a series of charming autobiographical ‘Cutie’ illustrations that depict her physical and emotional life. It’s her point of that is the real focus of the film, which is a quirky and delightful watch. Opening in theaters in limited release. Read my full review.
  • Spark: A Burning Man Story – Directed by Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter – Life as art and art as life is what happens at Burning Man, an annual festival held in the middle of the arid, dusty Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where more than 60,000 people from around the globe congregate each year for a week of self-expression and personal transformation. Filmmakers Jessie Deeter and Steve Brown have done a marvelous job of telling the Burning Man story and capturing the Burning Man experience on the screen. Using exciting archival footage from many past festivals and interviews with the people who staged the original Burning Man in 1986, and who currently run the vastly expanded event, the filmmakers show how Burning Man has grown into a celebrated celebration of artistic expression and personal freedom that has far-reaching influence well beyond the borders of the United States. Spark: The Burning Man Story is pure inspiration and will recharge your own creative impulses, and will, perhaps, make you want to attend a Burning Man festival for yourself. The film opens in theaters in limited release.
  • Guitar Innovators: John Fahey Nels Cline – This is a double bill of music documentaries. In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Farley, directed by James Cullingham, is a comprehensive profile of the ‘father of American primitive guitar,’ the player who influenced the styles of ensuing generations of musicians, and paved the way to the understanding and appreciation of numerous musical genres, including Appalachian bluegrass, Delta blues, New Orleans Jazz and more recent industrial and electronica genres. The film features Fahey playing and interviewed on camera, along with interviews of Pete Townsend, Joey Burns (Calexico), Chris Funk (The Decemberists) and D.J. Demento, among others. Approximately Nels Cline – Directed by Steven Okazaki – A recording session short that’s chock-a-bloc with wonderful moments of playing by the masterful and innovative lead guitarist of Wilco, in concert with Scott Amendola and Devin Hoff, with special guests Carla Kihistedt, Ron Miles, Yuka Hoda, Ben Goldberg and Matthias Brossi. The music is meserizing! Presented individually or as a double bill, these films are extremely satisfying and important musical documentaries. Opening theatrically in limited release.
  • jOBS – Directed by Joshua Michael Stern – This biographical film about Steve Jobs is a ‘truth-based’ narrative about the life and work of the influential inventor and entrepreneur. Based on interviews with Jobs’ cronies, but not on Walter Isaacson’s best selling biography, Matt Whitely’s script follows Steve Jobs through shifting lifestyles and business models, and it is a dramatic homage to the Apple founder’s visionary achievements. Staring Ashton Kutcher, the film is likely to be seen by millions of iPhone-toting viewers around the world, many of whom are likely to accept it as factual. Those who wish to know more about Steve Jobs (for real), should also track down Robert Cringely’s penetrating Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, which is available on DVD. Opening in theaters in wide release.

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Originally posted 2013-08-12 19:12:23.

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