To tell you the truth, I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times I’ve watched the ending of Bo Burnham’s previous comedy special, Make Happy. With his closing song “Can’t Handle This,” he showed everyone watching the kind of uniquely gifted talent he is. I remember thinking so many times about the line from the song that intimated that Burnham struggled to make himself happy, and I also learned since then that he quit stand-up comedy shows due to him having suffered from severe panic attacks on stage. But his talents off the stage have nonetheless shone since then, which was evident from his incredible directorial feature film debut, Eighth Grade.Continue reading “Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ is the First Masterpiece of 2021”
Directed by R. J. Cutler — Distributed by Neon / Apple TV+.
Veteran filmmaker and documentarian R. J. Cutler’s The World’s A Little Blurry is a fantastic year-in-the-life documentary about the rise to stardom for Billie Eilish, the immensely popular teenage singer-songwriter, who, in early 2019, had her debut studio album — When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — released to critical acclaim. Cutler’s film is — for the most part — a vérité documentary that allows you to experience several private moments, as well as critical moments in her — and her brother Finneas’ — creative process, as a fly-on-the-wall. It’s an eye-opening documentary epic (it even has an intermission) about the life of a somewhat anxious teenage superstar that cares deeply about her fans, precisely because she is still a fan at heart, and she knows what it’s like to need that kind of bond. Continue reading “REVIEW: Billie Eilish – The World’s A Little Blurry (2021 – Documentary)”
Directed by Alexander Nanau — Seen on HBO Nordic.
It was inevitable that during this global coronavirus pandemic we would all start to think more about the state of our countries’ health systems and hospitals. During both the first and second wave of the pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about how many patients each hospital can take in, and so on and so forth. I thought about all of this as I watched the incredible and infuriating Romanian documentary Collective, which is an exposé of widespread corruption in Romania and a health system that, as one whistleblower puts it, has lost its humanity. Continue reading “REVIEW: Collective (2020 – Documentary)”
Directed by Kirsten Johnson — Distributed by Netflix.
A couple of years ago, I saw Martin Scorsese’s documentary short film Italianamerican, which is basically a very personal documentary wherein the filmmaker films his parents, has them tell their life stories, and even reveal their best recipes. Since I first saw Italianamerican, I’ve actually been thinking a lot about the best way to celebrate your parents in the documentary format. This made me very interested in Kirsten Johnson’s documentary about her father, Dick Johnson is Dead, but when I sat down to watch her documentary, I was slightly trepidatious about what film I was about to watch. The title is obviously ominous, but the poster looks more like a comedy than anything else. I eventually came to realize that Kirsten Johnson’s documentary was the total package. Dick Johnson Is Dead is one of the best documentaries of the year. Continue reading “REVIEW: Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020 – Documentary)”
The following is a review of Boys State — Directed by Jesse Moss & Amanda McBaine.
Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s Boys State is a documentary about an American leadership and citizenship summer program that teaches young Americans about how politics, government, and campaigning works. Although the documentary focuses on a ‘Boys State,’ there are apparently identical summer programs for young women. The documentary focuses on the 2018 Texas Boys State and the gubernatorial campaigns of the competing Texas Boys State parties the Nationalists and the Federalists, during which it becomes clear that young Americans have learned a lot about politics from the difficult and contentious state of American politics. Continue reading “REVIEW: Boys State (2020 – Documentary)”
The following is a review of the documentary Anelka: L’Incompris — Directed by Frank Nataf.
Once upon a time, I reviewed another Netflix documentary about a French professional footballer. I remember being perplexed as to why that documentary, Antoine Griezmann: The Making of a Legend, insinuated that Antoine Griezmann, its subject, was already becoming a legend of the game, and I also remember how it felt like the documentary was more fascinated with France’s achievement at the World Cup than Griezmann’s own achievements as a footballer. That documentary felt incomplete because it was about a footballer whose career was by no means over and, again, because it felt like the documentarians really wanted to focus on the World Cup. Continue reading “REVIEW: Anelka: L’Incompris (2020 – Documentary)”
The following is a review of Road to Roma (Orig. Title: Camino a Roma) — Directed by Andrés Clariond Rangel & Gabriel Nuncio.
Andrés Clariond Rangel and Gabriel Nuncio’s Road to Roma is a making of-documentary about Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning Netflix film Roma. This documentary is available on Netflix right now, but it will also be available on the upcoming Criterion Collection release of the Netflix film. Therefore, one could argue that this is really just a glorified special feature, but since the documentary has a runtime of 73 minutes, I think, it deserves to be treated as its own thing and be reviewed, just like I reviewed Anthony Wonke’s The Director and the Jedi. Continue reading “REVIEW: Camino a Roma (2020 – Documentary)”
The following is a review of Apollo 11 — A documentary directed and edited by Todd Douglas Miller.
Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 is, as you have probably already gathered from the title, a documentary about the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, which ultimately culminated in the spaceflight landing two men on the moon for the very first time in our history. It is arguably mankind’s greatest achievement, and the iconic words from Neil Armstrong are imprinted on the minds of every adult alive. In 2018, one of the year’s very best films, Damien Chazelle’s First Man, studied Armstrong’s private life and the sacrifice that he, his family, and many Americans made to reach the lunar surface. This year, Todd Douglas Miller has made a documentary that isn’t just an outstanding companion piece, but also one of the decade’s finest documentaries. Continue reading “REVIEW: Apollo 11 (2019 – Documentary)”
The following is a review of Cold Case Hammarskjöld — Directed by Mads Brügger.
In Mads Brügger’s Cold Case Hammarskjöld, a Danish filmmaker and journalist teams up with Göran Björkdahl from Sweden who has inherited a particular obsession from his father. Björkdahl is obsessed with the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN General Secretary who died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia in 1961. Together, Brügger and Björkdahl hope to uncover what exactly happened to Hammarskjöld by investigating the theory that he was murdered. But, in doing so, Brügger and Björkdahl come upon a complex conspiracy theory about a mysterious paramilitary organization, the so-called South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), with sinister plans for the continent. Continue reading “REVIEW: Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019 – Documentary)”
The following is a short review of Game of Thrones: The Last Watch — Directed by Jeanie Finlay.
Jeanie Finlay’s Game of Thrones: The Last Watch is a feature-length documentary released on HBO a week after the series finale of Game of Thrones aired. Though it does show us the last scenes that several pivotal actors appeared in, the documentary is less interested in the cast and creators than you may have thought. Game of Thrones: The Last Watch is, on the other hand, really a documentary about the unsung heroes of the show. These include production designers, extras, and even those who operated the food truck next to the set. Continue reading “REVIEW: Game of Thrones: The Last Watch (2019 – Documentary)”