Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask. Code Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not a very big fan of horror, but I do enjoy a mockumentary, especially a comedic one, and horror is a genre that’s always ripe to be mocked.

I hadn’t heard of this movie before the part of the internet that works in mysterious ways (okay, the mysterious ways governed by data and math) brought it to the surface. It’s a pretty simple premise, as a serial killer to be invites a documentary team to follow him as he plans his blaze of glory, and instead of calling the police or anything, they go get their killer story.

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The Endless Summer

The Endless Summer. Bruce Brown Films 1966.

Before watching the movie:

I wouldn’t have thought that surfing would make an interesting topic for a documentary until I saw that this existed. Maybe that’s one of the functions of good documentary film, to highlight things about the world you wouldn’t have thought you’d be interested to learn about. Apparently the director made a series of several surfing docs over ten years, which seems a bit much, but this seems to be considered the best.

I’m hoping to see 95 minutes painting the picture on the poster, living in the world of the 60s surfing scene and memorializing how great it was.

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Best in Show

Best in Show. Castle Rock Entertainment 2000.
Best in Show. Castle Rock Entertainment 2000.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve probably been aware of this movie since shortly after it came out. I remember for years seeing it on the shelf at the library, picking it up, and putting it down again. It always looked like something I should be interested in, but it never grabbed me. It’s about a dog show. It’s a mockumentary. It’s by Christopher Guest. And none of that ever really put it over the edge for me, until now.

For an improvisational mockumentary with a huge cast, the only thing I know to expect is that I can’t predict anything.

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Children of the Revolution

Ah dangit, some other posters flip the R, but this one flips the N. I was hoping to avoid a bastardization of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Children of the Revolution. Miramar Films 1996.

Before watching the movie:

This just came up in my digital recommendations a few weeks ago. I thought at first it was a documentary because the promotional images really don’t do much to convey that this is a scripted comedy, instead really getting into the cold war aesthetic.

So basically an Australian woman raises Josef Stalin’s love child in the true Party way, and somehow this leads to political disaster in the modern day. My first thought is that it’s another Australian comedy inserting Australians into places in history where they were not (an interesting apparent trend that may not exist outside these two movies, and I could do with more stories of real Australian history), but I’m really looking forward to the journey getting there, especially with a cast of familiar names, some of which I can actually place.

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Lost in La Mancha

yesterdocs

Lost in La Mancha. Low Key Productions 2002.
Lost in La Mancha. Low Key Productions 2002.

Before watching the movie:

For years, Terry Gilliam has wanted to make a Don Quixote movie. And for decades, it’s been in development hell. Except once, it actually went into production. And never came out. This is the story of Terry Gilliam’s impossible dream.

I always thought Gilliam made this documentary himself when production fell apart, but it’s attributed to a couple of other directors. Makes sense, I guess. He’s too busy making weird movies (or at least trying) to make a documentary.

Apparently the title for Gilliam’s movie is The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. I always thought it was going to just be Cervantes’s story with a Gilliam bent, but that title sounds like he intended to at least tell a new frame story. I am unfortunately not familiar enough with Quixote to know how the original story ends, but I expect it’s a classical tragedy. So it might yet not be an original story on Gilliam’s part.

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Hoop Dreams

yesterdocs

Hoop Dreams. Kartemquin FIlms 1994.
Hoop Dreams. Kartemquin FIlms 1994.

Before watching the movie:

This is one of those movies I’ve heard the title bandied about and little else. Perhaps the phrase predated the movie, since I’ve always known it as an idiom rather than a title.

Unfortunately, that gives me very little to go on for comment in this section. It apparently has an incredibly positive reputation, but yet I only came across it by specifically researching documentaries to consider for this month. I know it follows two inner city kids who are trying to get basketball scholarships to lift them out of where they are. Do they compete, or simply run parallel? I couldn’t say. There must be plenty of athletic scholarships out there, but they might be both scouted by one school for one spot. I can see the potential for a powerful portrait of their lives and potential, but I couldn’t guess at much more.

Unrelatedly, anyone who wishes to can now support this blog on Patreon. I promise not to have obtrusive reminders about it, whether it works out or not.

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The Thin Blue Line

yesterdocs

The Thin Blue Line.  Third Floor Productions 1988.
The Thin Blue Line. Third Floor Productions 1988.

Before watching the movie:

I understand that this has reenactments. Originally, I was thinking of the technique of historical documentaries putting actors in appropriate dress and marching across a battlefield, sitting at a desk writing, or talking in a group, basically silent illustrations for a narration to play over. But I’m starting to wonder if it’s more like a traditional dramatization, just mixed in with the documentary.

I find the idea of the latter an interesting mix, but kind of disappointing to think that half of my doc selections are more fabricated than a documentary should be.

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Pumping Iron

yesterdocs

Pumping Iron.  White Mountain Films 1977.
Pumping Iron. White Mountain Films 1977.

Before watching the movie:

Way back in the beginning of this blog, when I was still feeling out what it was and what it covered, I reviewed one documentary. And in the years since, I have had one lonely post in the Documentary category (and one in Mockumentary, which I made a subcategory, but that’s another story).  I like documentaries. I’m just never in the mood to watch them, and I swiftly came to the idea that this blog should only cover scripted films. Maybe I’m better equipped to discuss scripted cinema, maybe it comes more easily. But lately documentaries have become a bigger part of my life, and I’ve been piling up docs in my to be watched list. I decided it was time to do something about it. So this month, not only am I reviewing four documentaries on this blog, I’m also trying to watch a total of at least 20 in the entire month, which I’m keeping track of on Tumblr.

I should probably discuss a little bit about this particular movie, even though I’ve gone on about the theme of the month for one whole Schwarzenegger. I get the sense it probably would have been forgotten if it hadn’t been the screen debut of a model about to become an actor known for being buff and not saying much. I don’t think I knew before now that it also profiles Lou Ferrigno, who also transitioned into acting in roles on his physique. It sounds like Arnold is more of the bad boy superstar of the movie, while Ferrigno has a more, perhaps sympathetic portrayal. They might be positioned as rivals in the narrative, or they might just be competitors in the same circuit, but the former seems more likely unless I’m missing an option for how the narrative may be constructed.

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This Is Spinal Tap

This is Spinal Tap. Spinal Tap Productions 1984.

Before watching the movie:

Mockumentaries tend to be great or mediocre. CSA: The Confederate States of America was disappointing, but mostly because I didn’t expect the direction it took, and it had a much stronger message than I imagined. As a comedy, especially one that is a cult favorite over 25 years later, I expect good things from This is Spinal Tap.

I’m not much into heavy metal, but the point is satire, so it should be pretty good. Also there are a lot of big names and big non-names (you may not recognize the name Harry Shearer, but he’s one of the core actors on The Simpsons), so a lot of star power and star talent.

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This Film is Not Yet Rated

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, IFC Films 2006.

Before watching:

This Film is Not Yet Rated is a documentary about how the MPAA works. I think I’d heard about it before, but what brought the movie to my attention was when Mugglecast discussed the announcement that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince received a mere PG rating. Host Andrew Simms gave a summary of how the MPAA rating board operates, citing from this film. I understand from him and from the box that it’s an exposè of MPAA corruption.

I’d also like to say hi to my parents at this point, who will probably be among the first to read me write about watching a movie that got an NC-17 before appeal. Fun fact: I spent an extra minute finding a work-safe picture.

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