Friday, February 19, 2010

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this is not a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the rolling/limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know and we'll correct the mistake).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Phyllis and Harold - (63% rating) Phyllis and Harold is an astoundingly frank journey through a disastrous 59 year old marriage. Drawing on a lifetime of her family’s home movies and interviews made over 12 years, filmmaker Cindy Kleine mixes reportage, cinema verite and animation to uncover family secrets and tell a story that could not be shown publicly as long as her father was alive. Phyllis and Harold delves into the mystery of time passing, the nature of living a life, and the challenges of losing those we love. But it is also a loving, funny expose on the sins of suburbia. Imagine Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage seen the prism of I Love Lucy. (

Celine: Through the Eyes of the World – (no rating available) Celine Dion, the international superstar and best-selling female artist of all time, has toured around the world and back again, and now, Sony Pictures Releasing's special programming division, The Hot Ticket, will let audiences follow her everywhere. Celine: Through the Eyes of the World will bring Celine Dion's 2008-2009 Taking Chances World Tour to theaters. This special motion picture event gives Dion fans who attended the extremely popular tour – which placed Dion second only to Madonna in ticket sales in 2008 – another chance to experience the magical event, this time from a vantage point unparalleled by any ticket. (

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vampires, Nerds and Cheesburgers Unite!

I would like to think I'm a calm person, but there have been some impressive bits of documentary news this week that have turned me into a giddy child. And today, to my utter delight, "unnamed sources" revealed documentary pop-star Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice!) and beloved filmmaker Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) are teaming up to create a documentary about this year's Comic Con.

While details are limited it appears Spurlock and Whedon are looking to follow various Comic Con attenders for several months (leading up to the event, at the event and afterwards).

With the success of King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Darkon, Nerdcore Rising and other films, nerds have become a popular source material for the light-hearted documentary genre (i.e. films ignoring global epidemics or political issues, etc) and Comic Con should certainly present a wealth of options for this film making tandem.

So, what do you think? Are you excited about the pairing of Spurlock, Whedon and Comic-Con? Post your thoughts below!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Trailer: The Art of the Steal

Though the final product may fall flat, the trailer for Don Argott's newest documentary The Art of the Steal provides that combination of high power corporate/government greed and stylized entertainment usually found in an Alex Gibney film. But whether you are big into art and/or conspiracies or not, this is a trailer worth checking out.

The story is simple: man collects numerous art masterpieces and stores them in an out of way gallery, man dies, wealthy and politically connected art-trepreneurs (you like that turn of phrase, don't you?) do everything possible to possess his collection.

Sounds like a pretty good story to me (especially when you hear the details!) so why not head on over to Apple's website to sneak a peak. The Art of the Steal opens in theaters starting February 26th.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Doors finally getting the documentary treatment

This is old news for you film circuit buffs, but for the first time (shockingly ever) the Doors finally have a documentary. Titled When You're Strange (and you should all be humming the song by now), the film details the band from it's formation to the death of lead singer Jim Morrison.

If that's not enough to excite you, When You're Strange features narration by Johnny Depp (who recently raved about the film) and is produced by Dick Wolf (of Law and Order and Miami Vice fame). Ok, that last one is less appealing, but my motto is you always need two extra reasons and director Tom DiCillo doesn't really cut it on the excitement meter.

But why am I trying to persuade you? You should be clamoring to see this. Don't believe me, head to the film's website to see a trailer for yourself. In the meantime I'm going to go wait in line for the April 9th release date.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Academy Awards' unending list of rules

With all the angst over the Academy Awards' selection process in the documentary film category, I found it interesting how few people actually know the rules set in place. Thanks to a hilarious article posted in the New York Times, I was able to find a link to the Academy's legal speak outline.

And wouldn't you know it, there is quite a lengthy list of do's and don'ts- we're talking more regulations than a fringe religion. It's obviously not the most entertaining read in the world (legal documents = bleh), but it's worth browsing if you are curious as to why certain films qualify while others don't. Of note is the odd requirement that any Academy member wishing to weigh in on the process watch the film in theaters and only in theaters (DVDs, screeners, etc do not count). Also of interest is the demand to prevent documentaries from airing on TV or online until 60 days after it's theatrical run (which, by the way, has to include a week's stint in New York and LA).

These rules are understandable when you consider the sheer number of possibilities in a grassroots heavy field like documentaries, but they also force filmmakers to choose between critical or commercial success. Let's face it, most documentaries aren't meant for the theatrical crowd and with limited finances, relying on Internet and television powers to distribute their product is practically essential (plus a week's run time in two cities is hardly enough time for the entire voting Academy to see a film).

Because of these rules Ken Burns hasn't been nominated for a documentary since the mid 1980s. Similarly, ESPN's recent string of sports films all failed to qualify despite their collection of top notch directors and monumental critical success.

There is a need for the filter, but clearly it's keeping good films from being recognized. But now you know my brief thoughts on the subject, what's your opinion? Read the rules and post below!