Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger... boy culture: DOCUMENTARIES

92 posts categorized "DOCUMENTARIES"

Nov 28 2016
Who's That Guy?: An Exclusive Q&A With Madonna-Themed EMMY AND THE BREAKFAST CLUB's Creator, Guy Guido Comments (0)

14124198_10155139785942067_1531230440_oJamie Auld taking direction from Guy Guido (Image by HeyMrJason Photography)

If you're a Madonna fan, you've probably read about the upcoming Emmy and the Breakfast Club, a documentary that promises to air unheard songs performed by Madonna 35 years ago when she was involved with Dan Gilroy and living with him in an abandoned synagogue in Queens.

15205641_10155483522632067_594456866_oIn bed with “Madonna & Dan” (Image by HeyMrJason Photography)

The movie is the second Madonna-themed effort for filmmaker Guy Guido, whose Physical Attraction followed a young man's coming-out story as he pursued some face time with a rising downtown-NYC star named ... you know her name.

15226399_10155483557102067_1034320642_nBest Madonna likeness ever? (Image courtesy of Guy Guido)

Keep reading for my full interview with Guy Guido ...

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Nov 23 2016
Free & Clear: The San Antonio Four, Lesbians Railroaded On Molestation Charges, Exonerated! Comments (0)

6a00d8341c2ca253ef01b7c8a017c4970b-800wiThe San Antonio Four (L-R) (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

A miraculous day in Texas as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled for the innocence and total exoneration of the lesbians known as the San Antonio Four.

The women, whose horrendous journey through the legal system — some will have spent nearly 15 years in prison for crimes they never committed, and that were never committed at all! — is heartbreakingly documented in Deborah S. Esquenazi's touching film Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four.

Back in 1994, the women were wrongfully convicted of aggravated sexual assault and indecency in a case involving two little girls, whose aunt was among the accused. After one of the two accusers grew up and found she had no negative memories of her aunt or of the women she'd helped send away, she questioned her father, a man with a grudge against his sister-in-law. She didn't accept his answers and publicly recanted, begging her aunt for forgiveness — which she received.

In 2012 and 2013, the remaining women were released (one had been paroled), but until today, their records were not expunged.

In its ruling, the court stated:

They are innocent. And they are exonerated. This court grants them the relief they seek.

Watch Southwest of Salem on ID Sunday, November 27, at 9 a.m. ET.

Check out my coverage of Southwest of Salem here.

 
Oct 17 2016
Until Proven Innocent: A Review Of SOUTHWEST OF SALEM Comments (0)

Unnamed(Image via SouthwestOfSalem.com)

I am sometimes embarrassed to tell a woman the name of my blog, usually resorting to, “It's Boy Culture ... but we love girls, too!”

I've never felt less attached to the name than when I was watching the new documentary Southwest of Salem, which details the heartbreaking case of four Latinas from San Antonio, Texas, whose lesbianism almost certainly led to their being imprisoned for heinous crimes they did not commit; their story was almost certainly made possible by good ol' boy culture.

DSC00728The four women with their lawyer (Image & video by Matthew Rettenmund)

The San Antonio Four—Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez—were a tight-knit group of friends who found themselves accused, in 1994, of gang-raping Ramirez's two young nieces. The girls told a wild tale of drug-fueled, Satanic-driven group sex, an expert testified that the girls' hymens were damaged and that's all their community and the local media needed to hear.

Convicted, Ramirez pulled over 37 years and her friends each received 16. Only problem is, they didn't do it, and the crime for which they were convicted almost beyond a doubt never happened in the first place.

When one of the girls accusing the women grew up and found she could not remember anything negative happening at all, she confronted her father, a man with plenty of reason to have an ax to grind when it came to his sister-in-law. He allegedly threatened her with taking her children away if she refused to stay silent. She went on the record anyway, and he did try, unsuccessfully, to meddle with her custody.

Her admission led to Vasquez's parole, and Vasquez made it her mission to help her fellow accused. Their long, torturous struggle makes up Southwest of Salem.

Director Deborah S. Esquenazi has turned in a sobering, no-frills documentary that painstakingly details the case, which has yet to fully resolve; the women are currently free, but as the film shows, they are still fighting for justice.

Esquenazi documents how the expert testimony in the original case was not only flimsy, but later disavowed by the same expert who gave it; how the police seemed all too eager to lump the crime in with the last gasp of the now totally debunked Satanic ritual abuse epidemic (the film's only arty flourish is a sequence of footage from the Silent Era that eerily communicates the accusers' over-the-top fabulism); and how the legal system is set up to keep admissions of error extremely hard to solicit, let alone receive.

Most impressively, the director accomplishes this while telling the very human stories of the women, and of the accuser who set out to make things right years later.

She also deftly touches on the role (or lack thereof) of the nascent San Antonio gay community back in the '90s when the case first achieved notoriety, and on the roles of Catholicism and family in the women's lives.

Portions of the Q&A from the screening I attended:

There are many deeply moving sequences in Southwest of Salem—which has no shortage of parallels from which to draw in comparing the Massachusetts witch hunts of the 1600s with the way POC and LGBTQ people are still routinely treated by the U.S. justice system—including scenes of despair and of joy long withheld. For me, the most compelling scene is when an elderly, white, male, Texan judge is tasked with deciding whether a case he himself presided over may have gotten it wrong. One question he asks will chill you to the bone, and should lead any right-minded citizen to ask a dozen more questions about the efficacy of our system.

Don't miss this important film—check out its official site here and donate to the women's cause here.

 
Oct 16 2016
Singin' Through The Pain: A Review Of BRIGHT LIGHTS Comments (0)

4777060_orig(Image via HBO)

You may think you learned all you needed to know about the mother/daughter relationship of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher when you saw Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep play them in the film adaptation of Fisher's roman à clef Postcards from the Edge (1990)—but that's only part of the story.

DSC00721Fisher with her dog, Gary, at the NYFF (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

That's a really juicy part of the story, but still, only part of it.

Since then, Fisher—who has gotten her bipolar disorder under control—has been a devoted caretaker, best friend and immediate neighbor to her mom, one of the last survivors from Hollywood's Golden Age, and their whacky, tempestuous, deeply loving relationship is captured in all its gory glory in Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds, which screened October 10 at the New York Film Festival in NYC.

The film, directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, bravely and honestly follows what appears to be the twilight of 84-year-old Reynolds' time as a star, as a working performer and on earth.

Though she seemed as sharp as a tack and as spunky as ever when I saw her four years ago at the Cinecon film fest, she was visibly diminished accepting her SAG Award in 2015, a process captured in heart-stopping detail in Bright Lights.

Now, Reynolds seems to be almost 100% retired, and it's certainly against her will. Fisher—who says many poignant and thought-provoking things in the documentary—sums up why her mother's journey is so interesting to us all, pointing out that, “Age is hard for all of us, but she falls from a greater height,” something that's true of any great star, great beauty, greatly physical performer.

Fisher and her brother, Todd Fisher, display complete love and clear-eyed understanding of their superstar mom, who is both genuinely sweet and genuinly smitten with stardom, battling forces that led to a successful career but family strife in the past, and above all, all three of them approach themselves and their situations with admirable and infectious humor.

What can you say about these people whose family unit was torn asunder by Elizabeth Taylor—who ran off with Reynolds's husband Eddie Fisher (who appears in the film on his deathbed)—and yet who seem to reference her on a daily basis? Reynolds owned many of La Liz's most famous movie costumes, Todd Fisher has a Cleopatra poster hanging in his house.

When Bright Lights airs on HBO later this year, you'll undoubtedly find yourself more impressed than ever by Fisher's wit and grit (and her singing voice), and by Debbie's determination to remain as optimistic as her body will allow.

Just an absolutely touching and enthralling piece of work—which could also be said of the people in it.

After the jump, Debbie filmed this year for her Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar ...

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Sep 25 2016
Brookner: The Movie — A Review Of UNCLE HOWARD Comments (0)

For some odd reason, the PR for the film asked for no screengrabs from the film to be used. I've never had that request in 20+ years of reviewing films, but that's why the post is no longer very illustrated. Usually, creative screengrabs and even GIFs decorate Internet reviews of films, both supplied and created. I personally don't think screengrabs make people less likely to see this film; quite the opposite. But there you have it.—Ed.

Uncle Howard, Aaron Brookner's poetic, intimate documentary about his search for his late uncle's life's work, is coming to the New York Film Festival (Sunday, October 9, 5:30 p.m., Bruno Walter Auditorium; Monday, October 10, 9 p.m., Francesca Beale Theater) ahead of a November 18 release.

The film makes poignant use of home movies, old newspaper clippings and Aaron's interviews with various artists who worked with his uncle, who died of AIDS before the release of his first major movie, the star-studded curiosity Bloodhounds of Broadway, in 1989.

Unspecified-2(Image via Obscured Pictures)

Most effectively, he repurposes pieces of his uncle's Burroughs: The Movie (1983) and its attendant outtakes as well as behind-the-scenes footage from Bloodhounds (several lovely Madonna passages) and Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (1987) to help convey a sense of his uncle's determined brilliance and to impart that contagious feeling of excitement when things thought lost are found intact.

All the more interesting that it is found intact in Williams S. Burroughs's legendary bunker.

Howard Brookner's family is given as much screen time as his lover, the writer Brad Gooch, whose handsomeness and youth are intact decades after Brookner's was relegated to existing only on film, and this allows the film to be more personal than a simple reassessment of a budding filmmaker's prowess might have been.

Check out Brad Gooch's memoir here!

Unspecified-1Director Aaron Brookner with Brad Gooch, Howard Brookner's partner (Image via Obscured Pictures)

There is regret in Uncle Howard, but also hope, and encouragement, and love. Howard Brookner at one point mourns the loss of his elderly grandfather in a video diary, noting that the death would've been far sadder had it involved a young person. And yet when he was about to die, he had words of wisdom that inform his nephew's touching portrait: However short or long, live your life doing what you want.

 
Sep 01 2016
Jose & Slam Assert Their Legacy—And Madonna's—At TRUTH OR DARE Screening In NYC Comments (0)

IMG_9210**Jose & Slam make a Madonna sandwich. (All images by Matthew Rettenmund)

Last night capped off a week of Madonna-themed festivities. Who knew Madonna's movies would enjoy such a resurgence?

Okay, it was only for a week, only at Metrograph in NYC and some of her movies are still crappy, but it was truly fun seeing some of her better work on the big screen (Dick Tracy) and especially deciding some of her lesser work isn't really that bad after all (Who's That Girl). A technical snafu (Chinese peony powder on the reel?) led to Body of Evidence being canceled in spite of a lot of tickets being sold, and I then missed Dangerous Game, not wanting to hang out. But both have been rescheduled.

Best of all was the Truth or Dare run—or should I say is, since it has been extended for another week at Metrograph, through September 7. Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 4.04.56 PM

I saw Truth or Dare at MoMA (with Madonna in attendance and Joe Berger moderating an Alek Keshishian/Vincent Paterson/Jose Gutierez/Salim “Slam” Gauwloos Q&A), at Metrograph (with Chelsea Handler moderating an Alek Keshishian Q&A) and—last night—saw it a third time, again at Metrograph, with Dance Films Association's Galen Bremer moderating a Q&A with Gutierez and Gauwloos.

IMG_9190*Bremer with the featured guests last night: Slam & Jose!

Seeing the film over and over has beaten it into my head, and allowed me to note details I never would have seen without the repetition. (Jack Larson is is seen around the time Madonna gags over Kevin Costner?!) Best of all the Q&As have allowed some of the creatives to speak eloquently about what is probably Madonna's most important film. (Desperately Seeking Susan remains my fave.)

IMG_9205*Winner of the best T-shirt of the night ...

Jose and Slam were wonderfully warm in their chat after the film, with Slam making sure Jose got credit for some of the choreography in “Like a Virgin” and “Vogue” on Blond Ambition and each o them responding candidly to a question about millennials who don't think Madonna did anything. (Don't miss that one!)

They also plugged the outstanding doc they're in that's been a film-fest fave, Strike a Pose; seek that out whenever and wherever you can.

Keep reading for all of the Q&A with Jose and Slam, minus only about 30 seconds of one of Jose's answers in the middle ...

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Aug 28 2016
Chelsea Handler Finally Cuts Madonna Some Slack, Lola Reacts To Mom's On-Screen B.J. Demo Comments (0)

IMG_9161***(All images by Matthew Rettenmund)

Friday the 26th was the long-awaited 25th-anniversary screening of a pristine, restored print of Truth or Dare at Metrograph in NYC, featuring commentary by director Alek Keshishian (who also co-wrote W.E. with Madonna 20 years after they first met) and moderated by noted Madonna-basher Chelsea Handler.

IMG_9169*** copyBlack-and-white ... and would Madonna get read all over?!

I hardly knew what to expect, considering the week's other Truth or Dare screening—at MoMA on Wednesday—had attracted Madonna herself.

[If you live in NYC and haven't been to Metrograph, do go. It's a lovely, chic theater that offers eclectic movies, including classics, midnight movies, cult hits, first-run arthouse fare and, well, Space Jam. (Look who's snarking—I'm paying $15 to watch Body of Evidence there next week!)]

IMG_9155***Team Quantico

Before Truth or Dare started, my friend Raj noticed in the lobby two of the female stars of Quantico (Yasmine Al Massri IMG_9248***and Johanna Braddy) with their dates, so I was able to get some quick pics of them. Braddy was turning 4 years old when Truth or Dare was released, BTW.

The guy who came out to intro the movie had the hipster vibe down pat, shrugging his way through a few lines about how the movie was part of a series of Madonna's masterpieces, then telling us the place has a restaurant upstairs if we ... whatever. It was actually very funny, and not the typical anal-retentive speech given at fledgling moviehouses about upcoming events.

Watching the movie for the second time in 48 hours was odd because ... it totally didn't bore me. I found new things to focus on, and even spotted the late Jack Larson in/near the infamous Kevin Costner scene.

IMG_9174***

IMG_9184***

IMG_9176***My T-shirt went over big.

As the movie wore on, though, I was nervous because I'd been hoping to get some shots of Chelsea and Alek before or after. Luckily, one of my companions, Anthony (who designed my book) was monitoring Facebook and noted that fellow fanboy Michael Da Rocha had posted a pic with Chelsea from outside. That was my cue to hit the lobby, where I found Chelsea and Alek holding court at the bar with a gaggle of familiar fan faces.

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Aug 25 2016
There's Nothing To Say Off-Camera: Madonna Shocks Fans With Surprise Appearance At TRUTH OR DARE Screening Comments (0)

IMG_8942*Host with the most, Joe Berger (All images by Matthew Rettenmund except for Instagram embed)

Joe Berger has been working his heart out to get Madonna's glory years on film properly acknowledged, first with an invite-only MoMA screening of the 1991 gem Madonna: Truth or Dare (at the time the most successful documentary ever), then with a special evening devoted to choreographer-director Vincent Paterson, then with a Madonna film series at Metrograph that embraces the best (Dangerous Game) and worst (Body of Evidence) she had to offer.

IMG_8976*Madonna posed by these Warholian images in the lobby

IMG_8935*Famous, front-row fans!

IMG_8938*Jose & Slam! Forgot to dare them to kiss...

So think of it as Kabbalistic karma that tonight, at his Truth or Dare event, Madonna herself shocked the entire room by showing up totally unannounced (her publicists knew, the MoMA curator knew—that was it) to sit in the middle of the audience and watch every frame of the film.

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