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Posts Tagged ‘Documentary’

CrowdFUNding: Jamie Tiernay’s Kenny vs. Spenny: On The Road

March 12, 2014 1 comment

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By: Addison Wylie

It’s no competition that Kenny vs. Spenny – whether you like it or not – has become a staple in Canadian pop culture.

Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice’s reality television show featured the buddies going toe-to-toe with each other in various matches such as Who Can Win a Ten Mile Race and Who Can Stay in a Haunted House the Longest.  However, as the competitions became increasingly irreverent and Hotz’s strategies more torturous to his mensch sidekick, the pair’s cult following grew as stakes got riskier with episodes such as Who Can Drink More Beer and Who Can Get Further With The Other Guy’s Mom.  It was a classic case of Schadenfreude.

The show’s been off the air for over three years, and the men have spun off to do their own side projects;  leaving Kenny vs. Spenny to settle.

The high demand of a comeback may be what started the inception of an on-the-road reunion.  Hotz and Rice are teaming up to hit various parts of Canada and hold Q&As, screen segments from the show, and hand out autographs.

Jamie Tiernay, who worked on Kenny vs. Spenny as a crew member on Kenny’s side of the show, has started a Kickstarter campaign to accumulate funds to make a documentary about the tour.

Learn more below:

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The Kenny vs. Spenny On The Road Tour Documentary Kickstarter Campaign is about documenting these two cult legends on their KVS tour across Canada.

Having worked with Kenny and Spenny for over 10 years I’ve convinced them to give me unrestricted access to the tour, themselves and the final cut!  I’m going to be poking, prodding, manipulating and uncovering shit you couldn’t even imagine in your wildest wet KVS dreams.  A road trip tour friendship extravaganza with dick jokes, fart jokes, drunken nights, insane fans, hot fans, dumb fans and shit that’ll make you pee your pants. 

With this $46,000 campaign goal we’ll be able to shoot the whole west coast tour, edit and deliver a pretty kick ass film BUT there’s more tour locations and dates to come this year.  So if we PASS OUR GOAL it’ll let us shoot more tours, more insanity and give more editing time to make this the most insane Kenny vs. Spenny documentary film ever!  

Visit Jamie Tiernay’s Kickstarter page for more details.

My Two Cents:

Tiernay’s documentary sounds and looks promising, but $46,000 sounds like an inflated random number.  However, I trust Tiernay, who obviously has the best intentions for his film and clearly knows how to handle these types of projects.  After all, equipment rentals, transportation, and accommodations do add up rather quickly.

I hope the doc doesn’t take on usual road movie and concert film tropes these projects tend to helplessly accept (see: Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights – Hollywood to the Heartland and any live event featuring a member of the Jackass crew).  Tiernay’s brief video preview featured enough farting around to make me weary.

But, Tiernay also appears to be focused on the love/hate friendship between Hotz and Rice.  As a possible investor, this is a hopeful opportunity that could potentially propel the film in a surprising direction.  This could shed more of a natural light onto these two performers.

I wish Jamie Tiernay luck with his upcoming film.  It should, at the very least, act as that proper fix for Kenny vs. Spenny diehards.

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All italicized statements regarding Kenny vs. Spenny: On The Road are provided from their respected crowdfunding sources.  Wylie Writes is not responsible for funds attached to these productions and we do not hold any accountability.

This project is that of the filmmaker’s.  Use your own discretion.

Bettie Page Reveals All

By: Addison WylieBPRAposter

I appreciate Academy Award nominee Mark Mori wanting to “reveal all” about pinup model Bettie Page with his new doc literally titled Bettie Page Reveals All, but I feel as if he may have gone too far right out of the gate.

The documentary gives viewers a confidential look into Page’s life whilst using vintage privy interview answers from the model herself to string along narration.

The documentary’s structure could – and sometimes does – work wonders for Mori to bring truth to his work, and to rightfully respect Page’s life and image.  My problem with his execution is his underdeveloped knowledge of how to work this filmmaking angle.

Bettie Page Reveals All begins with lots of famous faces singing praise for Page’s “naughty but nice” influence on pop culture.  Burlesque performers and fashionistas join in as well.  This is a good enough start.  These scenes are here to foreshadow how subversive Page’s playfully sexual work will become.

These clips are then followed by cutaways from Page’s funeral service, where we see close friends and family in mourning.  These scenes are only here to establish that the film’s iconic subject has passed on.  Wasn’t there an alternate way to depict this that didn’t feel so…nosy?

Already, Mori oversteps as a documentarian.  I can’t speak for everyone but personally, these segments made me feel as if I was intruding on something very personal.  I know Mori has to live up to his title’s name, but private functions like these should be off limits.  It’s an unwritten rule.

The next few scenes give movie goers an unsheltered look at Bettie Page’s life before the fame.  Hearing a deceased Page describe the abuse she was put through as a child and through her budding life in New York is supremely tough to listen to.  The audio track Mori is sampling from also sounds as if it’s eroding, which makes us have to lean in and listen more carefully to Page’s unsettling recapping.

As someone who knew very little about Bettie Page’s life and career before entering Bettie Page Reveals All, Mark Mori actually does a decent job informing.  The condition of the audio gradually cleans itself up, making Page’s narration easily attainable.  The journey is straightforward and memorable, and that feeling of being an intruder is shown the door.

What doesn’t measure up is how technically inadequate the actual doc is when placed beside its subject’s vital life.  It hurts the film’s credibility.

Mori has obviously been inspired by 2002’s film adaption of Robert Evans autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture.  He takes pictures from Page’s past, and animates them to her speech.  However, The Kid Stays in the Picture found an ebb and flow with Evans’ readings.  Mori’s doc, on the other hand, feels too much like a slideshow – a cheap one, at that.

The doc doesn’t have the appearance of a movie that’s been thoughtlessly slapped together, but the condition of Bettie Page Reveals All is in critical shape.  Different uses of footage ranging from degraded footage to cartoons don’t find an even balance with the material, and a fair amount of images don’t play well when blown up.  Graphics and subtitles look flat and unappealing as well.  This is an example of a slipshod doc that desperately needed more post-production polishing.

But, just like Mori’s boundary misstepping, the doc eventually fixes itself and turns in some strong work.  Unfortunately, the quality control shapes up just as the film is winding down.

The filmmaker’s wisest decisions are with the inclusion of outsiders lending their perspectives on Page’s sexual significance.  Most of these opinions pop up during the latter part of the film, which breaks up the doldrums and adds a refreshing change of pace to the documentary.

There’s no denying that with more time, Bettie Page Reveals All wouldn’t have looked and felt so shabby.  Luckily, there’s enough content in the doc to avoid it being a write-off altogether.  But, how much technical clumsiness will audiences endure in order to get to the centre of this craggy Tootsie Pop?

Particle Fever

By: Addison WyliePFposter

At first, Particle Fever is a tough movie to be enthusiastic about if the evolution of the LHC (the Large Hadron Collider) doesn’t already make you jazzed.

Since the film revolves around those physicists who were involved with the creation of the LHC, Particle Fever could’ve cashed in on the pop culture craze The Big Bang Theory has materialized.  The topic at hand would’ve been taken seriously, but the physicists would’ve been played up for humour.  A wacky instrumental score full of rattles would’ve been set to these intelligent people getting excited about blips and scatter plots.  I’m so glad filmmaker Mark Levinson didn’t go down that alley with his uniquely personable documentary.

The LHC may be the main focus to those educated theorists and experimentalists featured in the doc, but Levinson sees another focal point.  Particle Fever follows a select number of workers, sets the science slightly aside, and represents these physicists as relatable people who have a love for the game.

This directorial manoeuvre doesn’t take their prestigious titles away from them.  It simply retains a connectivity that could’ve been lost if Levinson solely stuck with the complicated facts behind the crafts.

There are bits of humour sprinkled throughout –  mostly from experimentalist Monica Dunford.  She definitely has some quirky qualities to her that can be seen on any episode of HBO’s hit Girls, but her passion for hands-on duties is understandable and the explanations she verbalizes are clear without condescension.

The same can be said about physicist David Kaplan.  At a lecture, Kaplan explains to his crowd that there are two ways of describing their mission to people: one that is broken down so it’s comprehendible to anyone, and one that explains what they’re actually doing with the LHC.  Ironically, both of his explanations are well spoken.  Levinson is then able to use these snippits and take full advantage of them to describe the motives behind the development of a major scientific breakthrough.

The largest compliment I can give the filmmaker is that he’s made an intimidating subject absolutely identifiable and open.  The data describing the LHC is inputed well in his documentary with the use of animations and fluent editing.  What’s even more accessibly grasping is the excitement behind the science.

What’s slightly disappointing, for invested movie goers, takes place within the last leg of Levinson’s doc.  The revelations in Particle Fever, justifiably, grab the attention of those involved with the experiment at hand.  This transfixion also veers the doc’s attention away from coherency and strictly on immediate intricate information.  Levinson’s film is hijacked by people only willing to ramble off procedures and conclusions.  Although we see the eager attentiveness on screen, it’s hard for the average movie goer to tap into.

Levinson’s flick may slowly deteriorate, but that shouldn’t damper the doc too much.  For a film about advanced science to sustain interest for as long as Particle Fever does, qualifies the doc as a moderate success.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2014: Saving Face

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By: Addison Wylie

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival has made me exhale an astonished “wow” twice now.  That’s a compliment I haven’t admitted to in a while.  It’s absolutely true in the case of Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s harrowing doc Saving Face.

The mighty film, which deservedly won 2012’s ‘Best Documentary Short’ Oscar, shows audiences how disturbingly frequent and heartbreakingly affective acid crimes are.  Every year, numerous Pakistani women are dosed with different forms of acidic attacks.  The victims are left wondering what they did to deserve such torture and public humiliation.

Impressively, Junge and Obaid-Chinoy interview the alleged attackers – most of which are the husbands.  They give emotionless stories claiming they had nothing to do with the burns, and that they’ve been wrongfully accused.  The shiftiness in their testimonials as well as their unsupported proof doesn’t hold water – it’s blatant to see that.  The filmmaking duo don’t have an agenda to make all Pakistani men look like monsters.  They simply ask questions and let their cameras roll.  What they capture are sit downs with these apathetic, terrible contributors to lifelong injury.

The act of acid crimes gets lots of attention from those who want to bring justice.  A Londoner plastic surgeon, Dr. Mohammad Jawad, flies to Pakistan to survey the pandemic and offer his assistance to reconstruct facial features.  We see in every instance that he’s on screen how he tries to maintain his composure while his feelings of sadness and frustration seep out.

For a film that clocks in at under an hour (Saving Face is 52 minutes), the filmmakers pack a lot of development into the film.  Junge and Obaid-Chinoy select individual subjects and open their lives up to us.  The women, who embrace the filmmakers’ affection, show us what their living conditions are, take movie goers to the original spot where they were attacked, and explain personal barrenness.  Saving Face gives audiences a very intimate and utmost honest view behind the veils and burqas without anything feeling too intrusive.

Because these victims are worried that a similar attack will happen in the near future, audiences are also shown other resources where these women can seek protection.  We get an unbarred look at ASF – the Acid Survivors Foundation – and the kind saints who seek a change regarding the consequences the initiators face post-crime.

Saving Face is a powerful, well made and competently justified piece of work.  The doc may seem quick, but nothing is ever cut too short.  It has an impact in both its emotional connection and its respectful representation that beefier films would be jealous of.  Just “wow”.

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Catch Saving Face at Toronto’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival on Sunday, March 2 at 3:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Fly Colt Fly

February 21, 2014 1 comment

By: Addison WylieFCFposter

Seen as a brave folk hero to some and a menacing nuisance to others, teenager Colton Harris-Moore outran police forces, bounty hunters, and watch dogs for nearly three years.  He hitched rides, stole money, and was infamously known for stealing airplanes and crashing them on new islands to loot.

Fly Colt Fly marks the first feature-length movie from Andrew and Adam Gray and their documentary is out to chronicle Harris-Moore’s fugitive escapades through various formats.  They use animation, live-action reenactments, and actual security footage to thread this retelling of the elusive “Barefoot Bandit”.

These switches in storytelling make Fly Colt Fly consistently captivating albeit a bit long in the tooth.  The portions that have been furiously animated are appropriate since the events sound as if they’ve been lifted from a Saturday morning cartoon.

Fly Colt Fly is a docudrama geared towards a teenage crowd.  Think A&E junior.   The shape the doc takes is ultimately why it stands on its own legs, but also why it may segregate its viewers.

On one hand, Fly Colt Fly is always moving and baffling us with Colton’s anti-hero traits.  It provides interviews, but doesn’t feel like another doc featuring “talking heads”.  The filmmakers’ accessible debut is for a younger crowd who may have been having a hard time generating excitement for documentaries.  The filmmakers deliver its content with fitting zest, making this a great example for that specific crowd.  It shows clearly what the genre can provide.

On the other side of the spectrum are older movie goers, who are gong to think the story is interesting but also find a fair amount of the filmmaking to be hokey.  It doesn’t gel for more doc-savvy high school graduates.

Live-action reenactments are very hard to pull off.  In the case of Fly Colt Fly, Andrew and Adam have tried to replicate a video game feel to their shots.  The camera often establishes environments by levitating behind “Colton”.  The actor is always in a stance that suggests he’s ready to play.  Older audience members are going to understand what the duo are going for, but are going to find they overkill the concept after the first couple of shots.

The animation is slick, but there’s no way of shaking the fact that it looks like a hyper episode of Carmen Sandiego.  Perhaps that was the point, but it’s hard to build an emotional connection to these jagged, stylistic pictures.  It’s a style that’s tailor made for a certain age group, which leaves the rest of us outside.

The filmmaking duo have a small amount of material to humanize a mysterious guy like Colton, but they attempt to do so through interviews with his mother, cohorts, and victims.  The people who have a close bond with Harris-Moore hold back but offer thought-provoking suggestions about what made Colton tick.

Other friends offer insight that’s not as easy to buy; such as the explanation describing Colton’s burglaries as a troubled individual getting a feel for how a normal family lives.  There’s too much stolen merchandise to believe this claim.  Even if you remain skeptical, the brothers’ directorial open door policy to different theories is appreciative and shows they’ll look at a subject from all angles.

Adults will find most of the Gray brothers’ pizazz to be corny, but if you’re between the ages of 12 and 16, you’re going to think the Gray brothers put together a pretty cool movie.  Though the film’s presentation won’t win everyone over, the story behind Fly Colt Fly is universally fascinating.

Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve

February 20, 2014 Leave a comment

By: Addison WylieMFNposter

Personally, my knowledge of the Federal Reserve goes about as deep as a mall fountain collecting pennies and dimes.  Naturally, Jim Bruce’s documentary Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve should be the perfect vehicle to educate people like me who need a bit more information about its history and the possibly bleak future it has ahead of it.

Jim Bruce seems like the right filmmaker for the job seeing that he’s previously worked on The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a fantastic documentary that includes everyone in the audience.  Money for Nothing marks his directorial debut.

As much as Bruce has tried to make the content in Money for Nothing accessible through visual examples and interviews with financial intellectuals, he loses his audience too many times.  During the first third, the filmmaker slows down his doc so everyone can catch up.  However, he forgets who he’s pitching his film towards and gradually moves faster – leaving confused movie goers in the dust once again.

At one point, Bruce gets so far ahead of himself, that it’s almost as if he ignores the fact that his audience’s interest is dwindling.  He shrugs his shoulders and takes off full speed ahead.  Meanwhile, I’m trying to follow as best as possible, but sense a disconnect between myself and the content.

On that level, the doc fails.  The main purpose of a documentary is to educate and inform.  When the documentarian doesn’t show signs of compassion and gives up hope on rustier movie goers, the project becomes one-sided as it talks directly to those who have a clearer understanding of the topics at hand.

Even though I realized this doc may not be for me entering into Bruce’s film, I was an open book when I started watching.  I’ve gone into documentaries before knowing very little about the topic at hand, and have finished those films feeling enlightened.  With Money for Nothing, I feel embarrassed to admit I was led astray many times.  Instead of filling my mind with new thoughts and opinions, it just reminded me about how little I know about this financial world, which in turn makes me feel glum and dumb.  I can imagine other movie goers who are like me will feel the same.

What Jim Bruce’s doc has going for it though is its clean-cut presentation.  Interviews have been shot competently, animated segments and the usage of different clips to generate comparisons or allegories are much appreciated and add a fresh change of pace, and Liev Schreiber’s narration is fitting and doesn’t draw attention to the celebrity.

At the end of the day, what matters most is the information to which the doc is built on.  Bruce may have it locked down, but he unwieldy delivers it to his spectators.

For those viewers who are bonkers for dollar bills, you may find yourself enjoying what Money for Nothing has to offer – though most of this may be old news to you.  Everyone else, however, may be finding themselves drawing nothing from the money they spent on admission.

TIFF Next Wave 2014: I Learn America

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment

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By: Addison Wylie

Acting as this year’s Fame High at TIFF Next Wave, I Learn America is also about a select group of students who attend high school and face frequent obstacles.  In Fame High, those students were hampered when chasing a creative dream.  In I Learn America, these young immigrants try and understand the American dream.

New York City’s Lafayette is the home of International High School.  The school opens its doors for nearly any teen who has made their way over from their foreign homeland.  The patient teachers are careful with each student without slathering them in condescension.  International High recognizes that these are smart kids that  just need a bit of help adjusting to a new lifestyle.

Filmmakers Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng nail down a remarkable flow that allows the two documentarians to follow and switch between five diverse students.  The transitions are very smooth and the audience doesn’t feel as if we’re getting clipped backstories of the film’s main subjects.

I Learn America is an absorbing watch because of how likeable and analytical each teenager is.  What’s even more interesting is seeing how they enjoy being honest.

As one student notes, the power behind freedom of speech is not enabled to all in different parts of the world.  When these immigrants move to North America, they realize how easy it is to form and voice opinions.  It’s an attribute of curiosity they all take off with.

They confront each other about their ethnicities and why American culture is structured the way it is.  They’re blunt, but innocent.  These talks serve as informative content in the documentary about how easily teens can have rational discussions about differences no matter how divergent they are.

We also see how their practicalities make them that much more of a fish out of water.  After a fistfight, a teacher asks the victimized student why he fought back.  The teen answers, “to get my revenge.”  That’s, of course, the only time where things get physical in I Learn America.

The doc covers a year at International High, and it flies by in a flash.  The audience is allowed to develop a connection to the five students, and we feel as much compassion towards them as the teachers apply.

It’s a film that packs a decent amount of heft to its messages about adapting and feeling like an outcast, however it dodges being a heavy-handed vehicle.  It even finds time to be cute during an amusing documentation of the year-end prom.

I Learn America deserves a hearty recommendation.  It’s a bona fide doc with flawless charm and genuineness.

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Catch I Learn America at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sunday, February 16 at 2:00 pm. The filmmakers will be in attendance.

More TIFF Next Wave coverage at Wylie Writes:

Read my review of For No Eyes Only (screening Sunday, February 16 at 1:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Read my review of G.B.F. (screening Sunday, February 16 at 6:15 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox)