Functional Filmmaking

When is a film more than just a movie? When the subject is portrayed in a way that the audience is forced to rethink their opinions? Try again. Randall Adams would contend that The Thin Blue Line had more of an effect on the world than any other. Adams was pardoned and released from Death Row as a direct result of this film by legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. TBL was recently released on DVD as part of The Errol Morris Collection. Original music by Philip Glass.

While You're Waiting For...

...Lords of Dogtown, you might want to check out Thirteen (same director); or Yeah, Right, a documentary by Spike Jonze about some of the world's best skateboarders; or Dogtown and Z-boys, the true story of the Zephyr skateboarding team from Venice (CA's) Dogtown.

Good Night, and Good Luck

"Good Night, and Good Luck", the signature sign-off of legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, is the title of George Clooney's second directorial effort. Edward Murrow is most famous for taking on Joseph McCarthy and his aggressive tactics during the Red Scare. The library's collection includes The Edward R. Murrow Collection, a multi-disc DVD set featuring Murrow's work and his influence on broadcast journalism. Point of Order, a recent documentary featuring clips from the 1954 McCarthy-Army hearings, and Guilty by Suspicion, starring Robert DeNiro, are also recommended.

Viewing Chief Justice John Roberts

on our own terms

One thing we did learn about Chief Justice John Roberts during his confirmation hearings is that his two favorite movies are Doctor Zhivago and North By Northwest. Now that the Supreme Court is tackling the delicate subject of physician-assisted suicide, I might suggest A Death of One's Own. This episode from On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying "...unravels the complexities underlying the many choices at the end of life, including the bitter debate over physician-assisted suicide. Three patients, their families, and their doctors discuss some of the hardest decisions, including how to pay for care, what constitutes humane treatment, and how to balance dying and dignity." "...beautifully and sensitively illustrates the need to put humane and empathetic treatment back into the dying process...Highly recommended. Editor's Choice." (Video Librarian)

The lure of Madame Satã

The directorial debut of Karim Ainouz’s, Madame Sata, is a pictorial marvel detailing the life of Joao Francisco dos Santos, a black Brazilian living in 1930’s racially and socially oppressive Lapa (northern Brazil). Joao (Lazaro Ramos), along with Laurita, (Marcelia Cartaxo) his best friend and Tabu, (Flavio Bauraqui) his pseudo household maid, construct a colorful yet restrained, irrational yet tender, spellbinding yet dark world through prostitution, drug usage and fantasy. Having the desire to rise above his meager lifestyle, Joao aspires to be a celebrated stage entertainer and loved by the public.

In the Realms of the Unreal

"The term 'outside artist' has never been so apropos, or so wistfully sad, as it is in the true case of Henry Darger, who spent his childhood in a home for 'feebleminded children' and his adulthood in near seclusion, working as a janitor and, in secret, on a 15,000-page epic novel with accompanying illustrations. Even those closest to him, relatively speaking--his landlady and a neighbor--did not know about his creative output until his death at the age of 81, after which his fantasy world came to light. Jessica Yu's In the Realms of the Unreal is an extraordinarily respectful documentary portrait of this strange, childlike man....highly recommended." (Video Librarian) Nominated for the 2004 Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Festival.

Fred and Ginger on DVD!

cheek to cheek

Finally! You've waited years and now they're here. Critics generally give Swing Time the edge, but my favorites are Shall We Dance (if only for the Gershwin score and that goofy roller-skating routine) and Top Hat. The latter film also gets my vote for the best all-time dance sequence with "Cheek to Cheek": Fred's delivery, the choreography and that feather dress (see left) all conspire for a sequence of cinematic bliss so purely escapist it even features as a plot point in other films such as The English Patient, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and The Green Mile.

Visions of Light

These days anyone who owns a digital video camera and fiddles around with iMovie can call themselves a filmmaker, but in order to do it right you really should do some studying. After all, even close friends and family members wouldn't mind a little more quality (and a little less quantity) the next time you show one of your home movies. All wannabe filmmakers, especially aspiring cinematographers, would be smart to check out Visions of Light, an excellent documentary film on the art of cinematography. See how master cinematographers such as Gregg Toland, Conrad Hall, and Gordon Willis approach their work and prepare to be inspired!

"Klaatu barada nikto!"

49 years ago today the earth stood still when this alien command was spoken in theaters across the country on the opening day of the Cold War, sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, directed by recently deceased director Robert Wise. But America was also mesmerized by the new sound of the theremin, which earned its place in the pantheon of good (and bad, see: Ed Wood) movie soundtracks, reaching its quivering peak in 1966 with the Beach Boys' unrivaled "Good Vibrations". For more on this unusual instrument, the Library owns the compelling documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Whether or not you're a fan, Bob Dylan, the brilliant songwriter/musician who pioneered multiple schools of songwriting and almost single-handedly redefined what it meant to be a singer, musician and performer in the 1960s, is certainly a worthy subject for a documentary...even if it is over 3 hours long. Martin Scorsese's long-awaited film about the erstwhile Robert Zimmerman airs this week on PBS, but if you miss it, don't get tangled up in blue: The Library will be getting the DVD in October. In the meantime, check out D. A. Pennebaker's fascinating 1967 documentary Don't Look Back, or the energetic first volume of Dylan's autobiography which covers much of the same period as the Scorsese documentary.

So what's your favorite Dylan song?

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