This isn't a tell-all doc about the iconic filmmaker: it's a love letter from his friends and family. With a terrific range of film clips, home movies, behind-the-scenes footage and never-seen stills, this movie explores how Robert Altman's work has forever changed the way Hollywood makes movies, simply because his inventive filmmaking style forced everyone else to try and keep up.
After getting his start directing industrial films in Kansas City, Altman made the jump to Hollywood in the late 1950s, annoying a range of studio executives with his preference for naturalistic, overlapping dialogue in television programmes. Then he made the jump to cinema and took the world by storm with M.A.S.H. In 1970, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes and introducing the "Altmanesque" combination of earthy interaction, ensemble casts and political subtext. In his documentary, filmmaker Ron Mann cleverly asks many of Altman's actors to define the word Altmanesque, not as it relates to the movies but as it relates to the man himself.
Altman was a rare filmmaker who was loved by his casts and crews as well as the critics. Notoriously picky film journalist Pauline Kael famously wrote that "he can make film fireworks out of next to nothing", and this documentary demonstrates this with clips and backstage moments from his classics, ranging from McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976) and Popeye (1980) to The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993) and Gosford Park (2001). The film's focus is on his movies, although it's narrated through personal interviews with Altman and his widow Kathryn Reed and features some superb footage of his sons. It also traces his ongoing health issues, from his heart transplant to his death from leukaemia in 2006. But there's little mention of his lifelong anti-war efforts or his controversial efforts to legalise marijuana.
Continue reading: Altman Review
Roth's story includes the elements of iconoclastic rebellion and mechanical genius right up to his death in 2001. The film is immersed in animation by Mike Roberts and a CGI boost to animate available archive stills, all of which suggests the rebel's own grand cartoonish style.
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If you answered yes to all three questions, you'll love Comic Book Confidential -- presuming you haven't seen it at some point in the last 14 years. Now available on DVD, the documentary lightly traces the history of the comic book medium since its inception, complete with stories about censorship, underground comics, parody, women's issues, and the various genre changes the medium went through.
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Nothing wrong with that, but the film is so riddled with cliches and old information that it's hard to muster much interest in the cause or, by extension, enthusiasm for the "film."
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Cleverly structured with archival dance instruction footage between vignettes, we are exposed to dances like the Lindy Bop, the Hop, and the Stroll, leading up to the infamous Twist, plus dances like the Monkey and the Mashed Potato that followed. Of course, nothing ever reached the popularity of the Twist (jeez, "Let's Twist Again" was #1 on the charts for over three months!).
Continue reading: Twist (1992) Review
Grass amiably traces the war on marijuana throughout the 20th century, from old archival footage, newsreels, and propaganda films and moving on into 1960s counterculture footage and Presidential speeches. All of it works well in explaining -- to some extent -- the political underpinnings of the drug war. As well, the medical research over the decades (all of which conveniently states there is no basis for the criminalization of marijuana) is trotted out.
Continue reading: Grass Review