My Octopus Teacher (2020) Film Review

One of the big hits on Netflix mid-pandemic was My Octopus Teacher. It’s a beautiful story of the ‘friendship’ between doco filmmaker Craig Foster and an octopus. Craig dives daily as a form of therapy as he recovers from burnout, and films the beautiful wildlife he sees. And each day, he sees this octopus, and they become closer and the footage is amazing. Totally stunning.

Brazen Hussies (2020) Film Review

Interviewing those at the forefront of the movement, Brazen Hussies tells the story of the feminist movement of the sixties and seventies in Australia. It’s fascinating to hear these pioneers talk about what they wanted and how they went about it. I was glad to see that it touched on some of the negative parts of the movement, including racism (mostly by neglect – the feminist movement has largely been driven by white women and often disregards or ignores the needs of non-white women), homophobia and the divides of ideology.   This is a must see for most Australians, especially women, to see what came before. It was a flawed movement, but responsible for much change.

On the Record (2020) MIFF Review

The #metoo movement has impacted many industries, although perhaps none as publicly as the entertainment industry. However, it’s been mostly film and television which have been the focus rather that the music industry. On the Record looks at the accusations of assault which have been laid at the feet of Russell Simmons, one of the most prominent men behind Def Jam Recordings.

The film looks at the fallout from assault on the victims, which goes way beyond any phsycial or psychological harm. Drew Dixon was a producer and forging a strong career which she left behind because she could not continue to work in the field. This is a rarely talked-about aspect of assault. Countless women’s careers have halted because they need to distance themselves from the assaulter or the environment in which the assault happened.

The film also looks at the challenges that face a black woman accusing a black man in a time of extreme racial divide in the US. It can been seen by some as letting down the black community to accuse a black man – as if the needs of the many win out over the assault of an individual. This is certainly not helped by the way feminism and the #metoo movement has had a large focus on white women over BIPOC people.

It’s an important film which shows how we need to do better in many ways.

Dark City Beneath the Beat (2020) MIFF Review

TT the Artist has made a documentary about the Baltimore club scene. It’s filled with music and dance and hope in a city that is better known for it’s darker side. The music and dance is aggressive but has an uplifting quality, and the film celebrates the city’s community and love.

City So Real (2019) – MIFF Review

While the results of the Chicago mayoral election have nothing to do with me in any possible manner, I loved watching this 4-part documentary. Filmmaker Steve James takes us through many parts of Chicago, at times following the many mayoral candidates as they fulfil the bureaucratic steps to be on the ballot and through their campaigns, or going into the corners of everyday life in Chicago.

I found this utterly fascinating. A real snapshot in a time of Black Lives Matter, or governmental and police corruption, of change and history-making.

A Year Full of Drama (2019) Film Review

This Estonian documentary is based around a very unusual job opportunity – a group of film makers wanted a person who hadn’t experience much theatre to go and see every theatre production in Estonia over a year. Enter Alissija, a young woman from a small town who travels the country, watching so much theatre, being filmed and reviewing each piece.

It’s a fascinating concept, and wonderful to see so many types of theatre represented. The film itself is as much about Alissija’s journey from home as it is about her experience of theatre. It was fascinating – if a bit long. Still, a fascinating journey.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) vs Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

For so long, I’ve thought of Scientology as a joke – you know, some crazy religion made up by a sci fi writer who once said that the only way to make money was to start a religion. It just all seemed dodgy and I felt that if you got sucked in, too bad. Then I read this book and wow. It’s a pretty comprehensive history along with interviews of ex-Scientologists and it’s really a pretty horrible thing. The amount of abuse (physical, emotional), the genuinely insane things that have happened and, really, even just the horror. It’s a fascinating read, and lead to the equally fascinating documentary. For me, I read it with amazement and disgust, but also hope that perhaps it wasn’t true. Certainly, there are plenty of footnotes throughout noting that various people claimed certain things hadn’t happened, but for me this didn’t take away from it at all. It’s exhausting.

Dave Chapelle’s Block Party (2005) – Film Review

Comedian Dave Chapelle decided to throw a block party in Brooklyn, New York. This is Brooklyn pre-hipsters and he’s making it free with a whole heap of big names – Kanye West, Erykah Badu, the Fugees, the Roots, Common and so many more. He brings people from across the country including a college marching band from Ohio and they get to have a fabulous party. It’s so ace. The documentary covers the setup, Dave’s planning, meeting with the eccentric couple with the amazing house on the street, backstage, the music. It’s so fun and so ace.

Amazing Grace (2018) – MIFF Review

In 1972, Aretha Franklin recorded a live album over two nights in a church in LA. It was filmed however, due to technical difficulties, it was not released. Until now – after a series of setbacks, it has finally been cut and released. And it is wonderful. It’s fabulous to see the power and strength of Franklin singing live, and it’s fabulous to see the reactions of the choir and the audience as they witness this album being recorded. There still are some technical issues, including, it seems, perhaps a lack of good visual coverage at times, but it doesn’t detract from the wonderful film.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)– Film Review

Rodney Bingenheimer is known as the Mayor of Sunset strip. He’s a radio presenter (what appears to be both quite unsuccessful and also extremely influential, which is a mystery). He’s lived most of his life in Hollywood following celebrities. He comes across as a weirdo, but a weirdo that has spent much of his life sleeping with beautiful women and making careers. Somehow – after watching the documentary, it seems like a lot of people feel that he has a lot of power over their careers, but I can’t see how this happens. There is a lot of found footage as well as interviews with a wide range of famous people including David Bowie, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, Alice Cooper, the list goes on.

When I started watching it I thought “Wow, what an odd guy, but he’s found his place in the world. Shame he seems so lonely.” But as it went on, he seemed creepier, and there was an interview with one of his close friends who is clearly a sexual predator creep and it just turned yuk. Overall, it left a bad taste in my mouth.