Doc Gobbler

27 Feb

I love watching docs, and learning about their subject matter. I love how people express themselves and communicate their message through film. It is rewarding to see a narrative develop out of the chaos of the uncontrolled unscripted real world. There are so many docs out there it is hard to sift out the fun ones. Especially when the only docs that get any press are about historical, political, or foreign issues. Maybe that’s the reason so many people view docs as boring, biased, or preachy.

There were a couple last year that in my stupid poorly written opinion got overlooked by moviegoers and were just more fun than historical, political, or foreign docs.


TORNADO ALLEY: This one had a lot of things going for it. It was an IMAX release and the giant screen was perfect for showing the spread out landscapes that comprise Tornado Alley. Obviously, the appeal is seeing one of the most destructive, fascinating, and elusive natural phenomenon in a huge format, which doesn’t disappoint. It climaxes with the Stormchasers attempting to get a shot inside a tornado. What really impressed me were the epic time-lapse shots of Supercells sweeping over the great plains, crackling with lightning as the sun sets. What makes it fun is how serious these guys take themselves, playing up their contribution to science, it was unintentionally funny. In a custom-built tank car that gets the gas mileage of a freighter ship in the Sahara desert, these guys drive hundreds of miles a day “for science.” Luckily, they happen to get some amazing footage along the way.


SIDE BY SIDE: Keanu Reeves examines the progressive replacement and rapid acceptance of digitally made movies over traditional film technology. I had a bias on this subject; having invested a great deal of time, money, and education perfecting my photography and darkroom skills before the digital revolution hit. Remember that Paul Simon song that went “Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”? Well they took it away, in 2009 Kodachrome stopped being made and a little part inside me died. So I was really impressed at the unbiased stance the doc took. Instead of touting digital’s superiority it gave a history of the technological advancements in digital movie making. Not just image capturing but also editing, distribution, projection, viewing, and archiving. Leaving the debate over supremacy to be argued by Hollywood’s bigwigs. Directors, producers, editors, actors, and cinematographers all discuss their pros and cons of old school film vs new school ones and zeros. With lots of clips from your favorite flicks used as examples it is nostalgic while still looking toward the future.

SAMSARA: So I need to say that SAMSARA was my favorite movie of 2012. No contest! Trying to express the sheer magnitude of this movie is a challenge. Centuries from now there will be a school child assigned a paper on humanity at the dawn of the 21st century. But he never opened the book and the night before cheats by watching SAMSARA, he will get an A. Shooting in the highest quality format to capture images, 70mm FILM. They travel to 25 countries and show places, people, and events you’ve never seen. Without words the supreme cinematography reveals the essence of the subject matter but in a way that is non-judgmental. Gorgeously vivid and lifelike scenes delight and appall, from time lapses of desert sunrises to factory farm animal processing plants. Without any dialog it is a masterpiece of visual storytelling and evokes so many thoughts and feelings about the time we live in. The bewitching music and editing create a fluid pacing that pulls you through until the end. This movie deserved better. It got no advertising or press and in my city played on one screen for just 3 days. Worthy of Oscar wins in Best editing, Cinematography, Original Score, and Best Feature Documentary. It got zero nominations. This movie isn’t just entertaining it is important.

There is something for everyone in the non-fiction film genre it just takes a little more effort to find it.

-Carl Wells


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