Here’s something a bit new for us- a fan-made music video. The catchy beat of Australian hip-hop artist DRAPHT goes perfectly with of Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s film characters as he becomes Jimmy Recard. Enjoy!
Ever wonder what it’s like to hang out in the most famous UFO city of all time? Even non-believers and hardcore-skeptics are familiar with Roswell, New Mexico and the 1947 crash. Whether a top-secret military device or a spacecraft from out of this world, SOMETHING happened out in the desert and people still want answers. The truth is out there, my friends.
As the 2014 AFIDOCS Film Festival comes to a close, An Honest Liar walks away with the Audience Award for Best Feature Film. Directed by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom, the film follows James “The Amazing” Randi as he devotes himself to exposing con artists like faith healers and psychics as complete frauds. An accomplished magician himself, The Amazing Randi is a true professional who believes the craft and art of deception should be used to entertain and never extort.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a news photographer by trade who has filmed weddings in the past and is about to get married myself (#humblebrag) so this documentary had me hooked before the opening the music. Luckily for me, it only went uphill from there as this film delivered in every category from writing, to editing to music.
112 Weddings is part doc/ marriage guide/ social experiment brought to us by Doug Block, a documentary filmmaker who moonlights as a wedding videographer. Looking back through footage from his side jobs, Block begins to ponder the true meaning of marriage. For the past 20 years he’s captured moments of love, intimacy and joy for couples celebrating one of the most important days of their lives. But when the video is edited these newlyweds leave his life. But how have they fared over the years? Is marriage everything they dreamed it would be? Having spent two decades documenting what it’s like to get married, Block now embarks on finding out what it’s like to stay married.
The film introduces us to nine couples that Block had worked with in the past and -as you may expect- their experiences vary drastically. The film is a wonderful wave of emotion that makes you smile and cry- for all the right (and wrong) reasons. The simple questions he asks elicit profound answers from the husbands and wives who took part in his retrospective study.
But Block goes beyond revisiting old clients. Perfectly structured, the doc never gets repetitive as we are introduced to a lesbian couple who have their own wedding photography business as well. While working at a same-sex marriage ceremony, Block stops to ask them why the institution of marriage is so important to them. Then we meet a heterosexual couple who, years after celebrating their partnership ceremony, finally tie the knot due to the potential legal ramifications for their child. Of course with all this 20/20 hindsight , Block balances the film out by also following the bride and groom-to-be of his 112th wedding.
Exploring romance and commitment through so many angles, 112 Weddings is a beautifully woven story of how love matures past marriage. While it sometimes ends in pain and heartache , it also endures and is a source of strength few knew they had.
Block asks just what he needs to and never says too much as the couples on camera share intimate feelings and fears with the audience. Complimented with wonderful original music by Jon Foy, this post-cana documentary shows an honest view of one of mankind’s most sacred institutions.
Whether single, engaged, married or divorced, 112 Weddings will leave a lasting impression on what we think, hope and pray love is. Grade A
EDITOR’S NOTE: 112 Weddings will premiere on HBO on Monday, June 30 at 9pm, so set your DVRs!
“If you really work hard at what you do, then things will come to you and you’ll be successful.” That is, according to Reina Ortiz, the American Dream. And who better, really, to understand the promise of the good ol’ U-S-of-A than the daughter of the the 44th President- or at least his twin brother from another mother.
Bronx Obama, directed by Ryan Murdock, follows the story of Louis Ortiz, a Puerto Rican/American living in New York trying to make ends meet for himself and his daughter. We’re introduced through home movies of the Ortiz family circa 2008 when a young, Illinois senator by the name of Barrack Obama starts making headlines.
He and his friends realize that he has an uncanny resemblance to Obama and their gears start spinning. From Times Square to low-budget Japanese movies, Ortiz does what he can to earn a few bucks portraying his “Bronx Obama.” A poignant parallel is drawn between the real Obama as he campaigns in the midst of the Great Recession and Ortiz trying to find work. Jobs and work are the priorities of both men.
After seeing Ortiz’s persona grow into an idea he can truly capitalize on, the documentary slows down to revisit his personal life in an effort to humanize our main character. It’s a necessary dimension of Ortiz so the audience feels more attached to him. But it feels as though Murdock only grazes the surface with minimal exploration into Ortiz’s actual struggles with unemployment and family tragedy. Luckily Ortiz’s daughter, Reina, is very open about her dad’s life and shares some raw truth and insight. Without her, the doc would have been emotionally flat.
Murdock really hits his stride when Ortiz decides to take his game to the next level and joins a troupe of comedic impersonators. This is the most interesting and entertaining part of the film. With his newly signed agent, Ortiz works on perfecting not just looking like President Obama but sounding like him as well. Teaming up with a faux-Romeny, faux-Trump and faux-Clinton, Bronx Obama crisscrosses around the U.S. with his political shtick. The audience clearly sees a transformation of Ortiz from a street performer to a ticket-show entertainer.
But the demands of the road can take their toll and all this time away from his daughter starts to wear on Ortiz. Overlaying Obama’s campaign rhetoric as he runs for re-election in 2012, the life lessons Ortiz is learning follow what the president is saying. Achieving the American Dream isn’t easy. The road to recovery isn’t quick. Murdock does an artful job of broadening out this one man’s unique profession into the goals of a president and his fellow citizens.
In a way, it’s a tale of two Obamas. Without getting too political, Murdock ties Ortiz’s fate to Obama’s 2012 re-election and that of the country. Ortiz needs four more years of Obama for his own career. Whereas divisive politics is often good for business, this doc pulls away from turning bright blue or red. Yet as with Ortiz’s life beyond Obama, the film doesn’t delve deep enough to a truly profound level.
Entertaining and interesting, for sure. But Bronx Obama won’t stick with you for long. Grade = B-