REVIEW: Echo In the Canyon [2019]

You always brought your guitar. It started with Jacques Demy‘s Model Shop. Director Andrew Slater saw it, thought about the era depicted (it was released in 1968), and got that Laurel Canyon sound—where so many of the folk-to-rock transitional bands lived—stuck in his brain. This shouldn’t be surprising considering Demy recruited Spirit to create a soundtrack (what should be their third album) that captured this exact vibe before the film’s box office failure made it so the material wouldn’t see the light of day until 2005. One thing apparently led…

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REVIEW: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché [2019]

How come she got lost in the shuffle? An opening montage of images and maps briskly moving backwards from present-day to the late nineteenth century while moving from Hollywood to France foreshadows exactly what Pamela B. Green has delivered with Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. This is a history lesson, investigative journal, and memorial for one of the great pioneers of cinema who inexplicably had been left out. With phone calls, interviews, archival footage, and Skype sessions discovering new and unknown ancestral lineages in real time, Green…

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REVIEW: Framing John DeLorean [2019]

He is open to interpretation. I was three when Back to the Future immortalized John DeLorean‘s namesake automobile the DMC-12 (known plainly as the DeLorean since no other model was produced). Doc Brown’s time machine was therefore unsurprisingly the extent of what my mind could associate with the former visionary of General Motors who continuously found himself flying close enough to the sun to harness its power and ultimately be destroyed by it. So it was confusing to watch Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce‘s comical procession of filmmakers who…

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REVIEW: The Russian Five [2019]

Literally—we’re making it up as we go along. While everyone hates division rivals when it comes to loving the Buffalo Sabres, I don’t necessarily care. They despise Toronto, loathe Boston, and dislike Montreal. Hartford earned ire when they had a team and Ottawa too upon coming back into the league. For me, though, it was always different. Because Toronto was in the Western conference when I started watching hockey, I actually liked them. And I still kind of do despite their switch to the East in 1998. Conversely, however, the…

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REVIEW: Hail Satan? [2019]

Very quickly everything got real. There’s subjectively no greater terrorist threat to America than Evangelical Christians. At their side is Catholicism: itself an extremist branch of Christianity shouldering centuries of blood and abuse on its hands spanning genocide, murder, rape, and child abuse. It’s these Christian zealots who yell that Muslims are bringing Sharia Law to our country with no basis in fact besides fear-mongering propaganda propagated by government officials rejecting the Constitution’s secular tenets for those of God’s Ten Commandments. They have spent so much energy vilifying other groups…

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REVIEW: The Biggest Little Farm [2019]

Diversify, diversify, diversify. If I learned anything from John Chester‘s The Biggest Little Farm, it’s that you can do anything you choose to do. You can use your privilege to tell your city friends the crazy idea of wanting to buy a huge farm and make it self-sustainable, accept their ridicule, and eventually reap the benefit of their friends of friends with ample financial support—I’d love full disclosure on that price-tag because this project is massive with professionally branded farmers’ market wares and enough renovations to blow through a full…

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REVIEW: Ask Dr. Ruth [2019]

“My parents actually gave me life twice” A couple mentions of Dr. Ruth Westheimer as “Grandma Freud” are seen and heard throughout Ryan White‘s documentary Ask Dr. Ruth, but it isn’t until the conclusion that we discover the label is apt beyond its original intent. On the surface it’s hardly an original nickname considering she was over fifty when starting her radio show “Sexually Speaking” and thus an easy backhanded compliment to make. When the film turns to her ninetieth birthday party, however, her grandmotherly ways actually rise to the…

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REVIEW: What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine [2019]

We were the ‘dark’ Star Trek. More than merely a look back at what was, Ira Steven Behr‘s documentary project What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine is also a way to look forward—a perfect contrast considering how maligned the show was during its tenure compared to today. You could say “Deep Space Nine” stands as a dividing point amongst fans that appreciated the grand social and political ideals of the Star Trek universe and those who wanted spaceships fighting with laser beams. The latter are the…

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HOTDOCS19 REVIEW: Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man [2019]

Turning poop culture into pop culture. This statistic says it all: 40% of citizens on Earth don’t have toilets. A big part of that number is India and China, but it’s still insane to comprehend as someone from a country that won’t allow homes or businesses to be built without one. It’s the type of problem you’d assume tops every nation’s to-do list and yet most cases have it found at the very bottom. Why? Because change isn’t easy. If your family has practiced open-air defecation for generations, why stop?…

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HOTDOCS19 REVIEW: Willie [2019]

I’m not done. It was 2003 before a Black hockey player had the honor of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. That player was Grant Fuhr, the Stanley Cup winning goalie of the Edmonton Oilers and multiple other teams (including a short stint with my hometown Buffalo Sabres). Because he was far from the first Black player in the league, however, you wouldn’t be faulted for wondering why the man with that unique distinction hadn’t already been enshrined. The reason was simple: Willie O’Ree only played forty-five games…

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REVIEW: Amazing Grace [2019]

We want you to let the folks know you’re here. Released in 1972, Aretha Franklin‘s live album with Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir entitled Amazing Grace took the country by storm selling over two million copies in America alone on its way to double platinum certification. Knowing it was going to be special, Warner Bros. hired a film crew and director Sydney Pollack to record everything for an accompanying documentary much like they did with Woodstock and Michael Wadleigh two years prior. Fresh off his first…

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