2 posts categorized "Docudrama"

September 10, 2017


Colesmithey.comHowever fraught with behind-the-scenes controversy, “Rude Boy” is a priceless document of one of the greatest Punk bands in history. This music exploitation docudrama is the result of a co-directing effort by Jack Hazan and David Mingay set during 1978 and 1979 when The Clash were positioning to take over the world.

The film features recording sessions and live performance footage of songs that appeared on the first two Clash albums (“The Clash” and “Give “Em Enough Rope”). It’s obvious that the filmmakers haven't a clue about creating narrative structure, but they know they’ve got a tiger by the tail, and to their credit they don’t let it go.

Controversy arose when members of The Clash discovered a subplot woven into the storyline that denigrated young black men in London during the Thatcher era. The band distanced itself from the film, and never received any royalties from it. It doesn’t help that the filmmakers repeatedly return to “White Riot,” one of the band’s most misunderstood songs that the Nazi National Front adopted as their own.


So it is with bitter sadness that any knowing audience should come to a film that so innocently captures the charismatic personalities of the band and of their raw musicality on full display. A highlight of the film arrives when Joe Strummer bangs out a couple of blues tunes on an out of tune upright piano in a small empty music hall. This scene alone is worth the price of admission.

What storyline there is arrives via Ray Gange (playing himself) a right-wing leaning punk who inexplicably loves fiercely leftist-minded Clash, so much so that he endears himself as an unpaid roadie. Ray works at a dirty book store and collects his weekly dole amount of less than $15 when he isn’t getting drunk and going on the road with the band. Ray exposes his aspirational motivation for aligning himself with the right-wing because he wants to ride in big black cars rather than walk everywhere.


Here is a backstage and close-up proscenium look at The Clash shortly before they took America by storm with a stage act that still puts every other band to shame. Joe Strummer had the goods, and the perfect band to back him up. See the proof, and ignore the film’s spackled-on political subtext. Meet The Clash!

Songs to look out for include: “Career Opportunities,” “I’m So Bored With the USA,” “Stay Free,” and “I Fought The Law.” Wow.


Rated R. 133 mins. (B-) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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We delighted in drinking Samuel Adams REBEL JUICED IPA for our discussion of RUDE BOY, currently streaming on FILMSTRUCK. Pull up a chair to THE BIG FEAST!

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December 08, 2015


BigshortDirected by Adam McKay, “The Big Short” is the most inventive thing Hollywood has done in a long time. Presented as a comedy, albeit with enormously tragic human underpinnings, the movie is more of a highly stylized docudrama. It catches you in the mind, heart, and guts with a wealth of historical background, and facts about the cause of America’s 2008 financial meltdown. Frequent direct-to-camera speeches, from such money-hungry shakers as Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett, tell you what’s what.

Rich layers of character development, and flourishes of cinematic panache, only add to the film’s ravenously entertaining design. You get a rush from watching it.

A characteristically pithy quote from Mark Twain, gets right to the heart of America’s colossal hubris that created the phenomenally asinine bank motto, “too big to fail.”

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

One thing’s for sure; Americans don’t know shit about the hidden banking mechanisms that control their lives, much less their money. However, by the end of “The Big Short” properly caffeinated audiences should have a pretty good idea about how and why the country will fall into an even bigger financial collapse than it did in ’08. Nothing can, or will, stop it.

The film is adapted from Michael Lewis’s bestselling book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” in the event you want a more expanded print view of our intentionally obfuscated economic system, devised by banking fraudsters. The extraordinary thing about this movie lies in its plainspoken explanations of financial instruments like mortgage bonds and collateralized debt obligation (CDO). Ryan Gosling’s character turns to the camera to introduce “world famous chef Anthony Bordain” to give a food analogy that defines a CDO. Chef Bordain uses “three-day-old halibut” to convey the idea.

Steve Carell’s fictionally named Mark Baum extrapolates further.

“So mortgage bonds are dog shit. CDOs are dog shit wrapped in cat shit.” There’s a lot of cursing in the movie, and for good reason; everything about our current banking system stinks to high heaven. As he did in last year’s “Foxcatcher,” Carell creates an emotionally broken character whose brittle way of communicating works in his favor.

The movie introduces us to the handful of people who saw America’s financial house on fire, and designed ways to capitalize its eventual collapse, hence the film’s title.

Of these crystal-ball gazers, hedge fund manager Michael Burry M.D. (Christian Bale) was first to the table. Burry, a heavy metal aficionado with a glass eye puts his obsessive-compulsive disorder to good use when he does the heavy lifting of painstakingly going through the status of many thousands of individual mortgages. He discovers an utterly worthless subprime housing market buoyed by bogus “double A” and “triple A” ratings. In a masterstroke of anti-hero inspiration, Burry convinces big bands to build credit default swaps that he in turn purchases for more than a billion dollars.

Bale’s at once fragile and seamless characterization of Michael Burry is one of the film’s most understated yet effective contributions. Film acting doesn’t get any better. “The Big Short” is great movie about a difficult subject. It wants to teach you some important lessons about the world around you in the hope that your newfound knowledge might help us all. It also wants you to have some fun along the way.


Rated R. 130 mins. (B+) ( Stars - out of five/no halves)

Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.


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