313 posts categorized "Documentary"

February 04, 2021


Screen Shot 2021-02-04 at 1.07.47 AMEquality. Recognition. Artistic and personal truth. I’ve watched all of Agnès Varda films while discovering Criterion’s lush celebration of the French New Wave’s progenitor. If you could only have one filmmaker’s oeuvre on your private desert island, Agnès Varda’s films are the right choice to last you the rest of your life.

In Varda-approved random fashion I begin my slight review of Varda’s supremely personal, transgressive, and satisfying films with Daguerréotypes, a documentary film that fully expresses Agnès Varda’s confidence and openness to the world around her. In this case that meant the 90 meter distance of cable that her camera could reach from her floor-level apartment to the shops and locations in the Rue Daguerre district of Paris. Varda was raising her two-year-old son at the time, so she needed to stay close to home. Varda's catlike curiosity pours through every second of this truly delightful movie.


The magician who appears at the film’s opening credits returns during a public performance in front of an audience of (Parisian) neighborhood regulars. Everything from the magician’s formal approach to his audience and their delightful reactions to his Grand Guignol-inspired tricks, Varda captures a dynamic personal immediacy to time and place. Think Les Blank. There's boldness in Varda's subtle simplicity. Agnès Varda retained this transparency throughout her spectacular career as a filmmaker of the first water.     


The film's title comes from Rue Daguerre, the street that Varda lived on. The street was named after Louis Daguerre, "inventor of the Daguerreotypes of photographic printing."


Naturally this movie is a time capsule of French life, by virtue of Agnès Varda's generous and willing ability to reach out to her neighbors in a cinematic way. There is much to enjoy, relish, and learn from the elderly subjects in this treasured movie. Taken with the joy that Varda captures and inspires, "Daguerréotypes" is a social study for all time. What love. What magic. What a celebration of life.


Five Stars

January 08, 2021


Social_dilemmaPotentially life altering. If after watching this mind-opening documentary you don’t break up with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., you will probably still take a much harder view of technologies that are ruining society on a global scale.

If you’re not paying for the app you’re using, then you are the product. So goes the logic that rules the greedy CEOs running big tech. Truth be told, you can pay all you want for YouTubeTV, you’re still the product being raped and pillaged by invisible third parties stealing your data to control you for every minute of your waking life. Fuck with that.


1cIt has taken 10 years of bullshit monetization schemes for many individuals and companies to realize a fraction of the dangers that come with “social media” (sic). There is nothing social about spending your precious life energy staring into a screen rather than interacting with people in your community. Likewise, there is no responsible “media” editorial oversight that comes with the unwritten social media contract. It’s all about twisting expectation.

Just as “content” has taken over as an over-generalization of what constitutes editorially organized and carefully edited ideas, social media has coopted what used to present as "work," something that used to mean a gainfully employed occupation, you know, work.


Spend all day making videos for YouTube, posting your every fart on Twitter, and jousting with mean-spirited assholes on Facebook, and you still won’t make a dime. Every second you spend on social media is a form of working for prison wardens in an abstract area that has little to nothing to do with the real world or who you are in that world.


“The Social Dilemma” is the most important documentary of 2020 if you’re smart and free enough to take its dire message that social media is a Frankenstein monster killing us like insects drawn to it’s grotesque fascination.      

Rated PG-13. 94 mins. 

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December 18, 2020


Dawson CityUnburied (previously lost) nitrate films prints from late 19th and early 20th centuries make up this documentary feast from documentarian Bill Morrison. Settled in 1896, Dawson City (located near the Arctic Circle) is a Canadian Gold Rush town that provide this doc with a treasure trove of historical truth, culled from 533 films. Astonishing.

Time travel is real. History comes to life. Go back in time. This is a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience worth repeating.


Not Rated. 120 mins. (A+) 5 s!

COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!  Thanks a lot pal!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.


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