The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing. It follows a few semi-retired Indonesian gangsters/mass-murderers as they make an increasingly bizarre movie about their youth. Probably the most intense documentary I’ve seen. And not at all because it’s graphic (It’s not – the most wrenching scene for me, spoiler, was when you see these guys go on a neighborhood shakedown for cash. It is completely heartbreaking.). It’s just morally rich and a really interesting text, excuse the academic-ese. All about storytelling, memory, forgetting; the influence of movies; youth vs. age. Totally worth it.

Girl Rising

Girl Rising. Got suckered into seeing this two-hour commercial. Some vignettes are better than others (depending on the spunk of the girls and the writers’ adaptation), but some seemed a dangerous mix of exploitative and/or pandering. And the didactic interludes just grate after a while. Like, say, a Michael Moore film, I’m not sure that anyone who agrees really needs to see it, no one who disagrees (and who might that be?) will be persuaded.


Pina. Visually very cool, and the talent on display is great to watch. A few troubles I had with it: it’s frustrating to see only excerpts from longer dance performances, and even those fragments are interrupted. Also, like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, there’s a ton of talking-head praise for the title heroine, but it seems you learn even less about her. It’s possible I’m missing the point, though. Great dancing, and it takes a quite a mind to dream of such spectacles and bring them to life.ume

Millsin’ About: Jiro Dreams of Errol Morris


I know too little about film or production to say much about this, either, but: the film used a lot of shot-techniques or whatever that I recognize from promos for films and reality TV shows. Here is the staff of the restaurant, arranged just so, staring into the camera; it is slightly slow-mo, the camera slightly pans to give dimensionality, but nothing is really happening. This is how you make ads and music videos, not documentaries, which ought to have something to impart beyond “tune in!” or “this! this! this!”

Yep. Jiro is fun to watch and makes you hungry and it’s also a complete letdown if you’re hoping to *learn* anything. Like Mills says furthermore:

A documentary about an artist which fails to even discuss what is unique about him or his work, how he works, what he is good an bad at, with what he struggles, what the nature of his excellence is: such a documentary must be a failure.

Millsin’ About: Jiro Dreams of Errol Morris

The Five Obstructions

The Five Obstructions. A documentary in which Lars von Trier puts his hero/mentor Jørgen Leth to the test. Leth has to recreate his own surrealist film, The Perfect Human, five times with five different sets of constraints, dreamed up off-the-cuff by Von Trier, who’s really just trying to get Leth to make something that sucks. Interesting to see the back-and-forth here. Rumor has it that Von Trier and Scorsese are going to do a similar project. My Lars Von Trier rankings:

  1. Melancholia
  2. Dancer in the Dark
  3. The Five Obstructions
  4. Antichrist

Visions of Light

Visions of Light. If you have the slightest movie nerd or photography tendency, this will be a treat. It’s a documentary about cinematography, told through interviews with cinematographers and lots and lots of clips – I wish I’d taken notes to track them down later. Favorite bits: early silent film and how way, way advanced they were when it comes to lighting and movement; how the dynamism of silent film was lost when the talkies came around (sound recording required isolating/insulating the camera, which was thus rendered largely immobile); how Hollywood starlets formed relationships with the cinematographers who lit them well; early color technique; New York style vs. Hollywood style; film noir roots, style, and influences; and so much more. Great stuff.