44 posts categorized "Documentary"

December 04, 2018

THE AMERICAN MEME

American_memeBert Marcus’s third documentary gives a brief window into the potentially self-destructive effects of social media celebrity culture as indivertibly birthed by poor little rich girl Paris Hilton. Marcus reminds audiences that Kim Kardashian started out as Hilton’s personal assistant before kicking off her own cult of celebrity with a leaked sex tape that arrived four years after Hilton’s sex tape.  

Social media is “like a drug; we don’t know what the side effects are going to be 20 years from now.” What we do know is that privacy is dead, along with every other great social institution Americans once took for granted. Millennials couldn’t care less.

What’s missing from this documentary is any historical context about how people such as Napster founders (Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker), and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, contributed to creating a bottom-of-the-barrel economy built on people willing to sell their souls for pennies on social media platforms such as Vine and YouTube.

Slavery to the corporate machine of social media platforms comes in many forms. America no longer has any legitimate media outlets because these companies all now cater to a clickbait formula that ignores editorial responsibility for their meager existence. Groupthink and popularity are all that matter. A dissection of the economics behind social media’s stranglehold on corporate media, and on the lives of thousands of YouTubers, would have been an appropriate addition to this film.  

The American Meme

Josh Ostrovsky (a.k.a. the fatjewish), Brittany Furlan, DJ Khaled, and Kirill (“Was Here”) Bichutsky are the other social media personalities that Marcus interviews and examines as examples of people who spend every waking minute seeking fame and fortune from the lowest common denominators of clickbait mentality. Creating endless scenes of topless girls receiving champagne facials at nightclubs is where it’s at for Kirill. The film’s “celebrities” share one thing in common, these are lonely people seeking approval and validation from a mob of fans who care only about themselves.

The Hilton Hotel granddaughter is arguably the least compelling of the bunch. We watch as Paris goes through her childhood doll collection with her mother Kathy, a woman whose arrested development roughly matches that of her daughter. If ever there was an example of vapid beauty, Paris Hilton is the poster-girl for it. We listen as Hilton prattles on about how her top was pulled down for “one-second” during a photo shoot for Vanity Fair that launched her famous-for-being-famous career that has led to her becoming a DJ, and launching an endless product line of merchandise. Paris Hilton overload sets in. Cute is, after all, a dime a dozen. Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame be damned.

Brittany Furlan

Brittany Furlan’s tale of Vine success exemplifies a small town comic actress who rose to fame for making humorous six-second video clips before Twitter inexplicably shut the service down. The filmmakers shed no light on the fractious relationship between content creators and the concealed corporate machinations that hold these people’s fate in their hands. As many people have discovered the hard way, you can pour your entire life into creating a brand for a platform such as Vine only to have the rug pulled out from under you without notice.

Ironically, Furlan wins her escape from the clutches of the social media rabbit hole via rock drummer Tommy Lee whose own career received a significant boost from a notorious sex tape involving Pamela Anderson. There is something tragically fitting about Furlan taking up a romantic relationship with a wealthy musician 30 years her senior.  

In a bumbling manner “The American Meme” exposes the hollowness of social media platforms that chew up people’s lives in the interest of likes and follows. We get a glimpse of the collapse of social media that will take many lives with it in one way or another. The film poses a significant if silent question, what is left after you put your entire persona on display for the internet to comment on, critique, and masturbate over?

All the money in the world won’t help you then, for you have sold your soul to capitalism’s demons; there is no way to ever get it back.  

Not rated. 90 mins. (B-)

Three Stars

THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET

World Before Your FeetMatt Green’s labor of love to walk all 8000-plus blocks (between 6000 and 8000 miles) of New York City’s streets has taken over six years to complete. Green’s insatiable curiosity about the concrete, glass, and stone fabric of “the most populous city in the United States” is contagious.

Dressed frequently in the same clothes, and shoes, the thirtysomething Green couch-surfs while frequently cat (or dog) sitting while spending around $15 a day on transportation and food. His is a monk-like existence introduces him to a range of locals who he never fails to charm with his pedestrian story of urban exploration that is nothing if not a living celebration of New York City’s five boroughs. The Queens Museum’s Panorama of New York City (built for the 1964 World’s Fair) gives a sense of scale.

Matt Green

Another aspect of Matt Green’s mission involves constant online research that he turns into articles for his website (imjustwalkin.com) after visiting specific locations. Green is a fountain of historic information. He describes former synagogues turned churches (churchagogues) that dot New York City neighborhoods. Harlem, East New York, South Bronx, and Brownsville once had significant Jewish communities that have been replaced by an ever-changing population. If you look closely at these sanctuaries you can see traces of their religious origins.   

Documentarian Jeremy Workman (son of the revered documentarian Chuck Workman) underscores the film with an array of appropriate instrumental music that lends an emotional underpinning to the seamless editing that transitions from distant neighborhoods like Flatbush, Brooklyn to Gramercy Park, Manhattan. The effect is a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart.

World Before Your Feet

Executive produced by Jesse Eisenberg and Allen Altman, here is a delightful documentary that beckons to be revisited.

“The World Before Your Feet” is an exquisitely profound cinematic historic document on New York City. That might be a mouthful, but Jeremy Workman connects Matt Green’s foot journey to the real-time scale of New York City and to the soul of its citizens. This inspired documentary is perfect. Don’t miss it.

Five Stars

Returning guest co-host documentarian Jeremy Workman discusses his new film THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET and his dad Chuck Workman's Beat Generation documentary THE SOURCE over BROOKLYN OKTOBERFEST from Brooklyn Brewery.

JEREMY WORKMAN


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September 12, 2018

FREE SOLO

Free_soloTerrifying, invigorating, and heart-pounding describe this unforgettable documentary about free climber Alex Honnold and his efforts to climb Yosemite’s daunting 3,200 foot El Capitan Wall without a rope.

Co-directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (“Meru”) delve into Alex’s guarded personality as he prepares for the treacherous climb that will define his life, whether or not he lives or dies attempting it.

We get a sense of the childhood elements that contributed to Alex’s obsession with free climbing even as he enters into a romantic relationship that threatens to derail the strict focus and discipline essential for him to accomplish his goals. Every millimeter of Honnold's mind and body must be diamond-sharp to execute the climb.

Alex-honnold-freerider

Significant is the filmmakers’ willingness to delve into Alex’s meticulous rehearsal process using ropes and the help of master climber Tommy Caldwell to prepare for the solo climb. As Caldwell puts it, “Imagine an Olympic gold medal-level achievement where if you don’t get that gold medal, you’re going to die.”

Placing cameras along various places on Alex’s path up the behemoth mountain allow him to climb without being distracted by buzzing drones or cameramen.

Alex Honnold

With his large dilated brown eyes and wiry frame, Honnold resembles a young Iggy Pop at the height of his powers circa the Bowie-produced “Lust for Life” era. Honnold’s easy charisma masks onion layers of emotional armor that his doting girlfriend Sanni McCandless pokes and prods at to varying levels of guarded verbal responses from our brave protagonist.

El Capitan

Alex Honnold carries the spirit if a samurai warrior with him. Hearing him describe the grips, holds, and complex maneuvers necessary to climb El Capitan’s sheer face, convince the viewer of his amazing climbing abilities that most of humanity hasn’t the first clue about. Here is a man who knows his limitations and how to push them right to the edge of existence.

To watch “Free Solo” is to take a journey into an incredibly dangerous if joyful world of free physical expression. Go on the adventure of a lifetime. The rewards are enormous.

Not rated. 97 mins. (A+) 

Five Stars

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