Tag Archives: michael moore

The Final Member: A Documentary About Penises, And On A Deeper Level, About Documentaries

finalmember


The Final Member (Completed in 2012, Released in 2014)
Directed by Zach Math and Jonah Bekhor
90 min.

Spoiler-free.

There’s a scene in this delightful film about a penis museum and the men who want their members to be immortalized in it that is so important that I shouldn’t even talk about it, but I have to, because it unintentionally has a lot to say about documentaries. Don’t worry—I’ve figured out a way to discuss it without spoiling anything.
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An Interview with Director and Actress Joan Darling, Pioneer of the 70’s

joandarling
Joan Darling (bottom left), part of the cast of Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1973)

Joan Darling entered show business as an actress on the New York theater scene in the 1960s, then became a fixture of early 70’s television. In 1974, she made the leap from acting to directing and quickly made history as one of the first and most successful women directors in television. She had an instant knack for it—her debut, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a soap opera parody, has become an enduring cult classic for its dark-edged humor and deep understanding of the desperation and sadness of the American home.

Highlights of her career include a Mary Tyler Moore episode, Chuckles Bites the Dust, which, for its deft tightrope-walk between comedy and pathos, TV Guide calls the greatest television episode ever; a classic M*A*S*H episode, The Nurses, which  revolutionized the way the show portrayed women; and a leading role in an episode of The Psychiatrist, directed by a pre-Jaws, pre-Duel Spielberg.

These days, Joan teaches acting and directing classes at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. She agreed to a phone interview, and in about an hour, I learned more about the arts of acting and directing than I ever thought possible:
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Documentaries: The Most Repulsive Genre

bowling

Michael Moore, being repulsive. That was not intended as a dig at his physicality. He’d be repulsive even if he looked like Kat Dennings. Okay, maybe not then, but you get the point.

What is a documentary?

I know that may seem like kind of a ridiculous, pretentious question to ask, especially right off the bat of an essay or whatever, but I don’t mean it like that. I’m absolutely serious, and it’s an entirely valid question. What the fuck is one? I don’t think we really know. I mean, we know ‘em when we see ‘em I guess. Basically, they’re movies about real life. Nothing staged. Except interviews, of course. Interviews are, by their very nature, extremely staged and controlled and can very easily be manipulated by both the interviewer and the editor, but those get a pass, I guess. (As do dramatic reenactments, which can be very misleading, but are thought of as okay for some reason.) I think we can all agree though that documentaries definitely must not have a script that people are following. That’s for sure. Well—except of course in the case of a sort of monologue through-line or whatever. The documentarian gets a pass on having a script. Even if it’s way subjective. Man, this is getting contradictory. And confusing. And gross.
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