Sunday, April 14, 2013


A note of explanation: Nigel and I thought it would be a good idea to do our reviews for the DocEdge fest over drunken GChats, as a way of not getting precious and falling behind, and also as a tribute to our origins. So, here we are. Enjoy. - Doug

me:  Alright, well, let's begin!
Shall I start?
Because I have a lot to say.
As always.
 Nigel:  Yeah, I'm eating and drinking all over my keyboard; so feel free
 me:  Okay, so: SEXY BABY.
a. You should be glad you missed it, given your aversion to surgery footage.
 Nigel:  ...all of it??
 me:  like, it's kind of the running joke that watching a lot of documentaries makes you want to just give up on life and everything
but Jesus.
all the mainstream culture, yes.
Ok, so there's 3 stories.
1. 22-year old who wants to get labia reduction so she looks like porn stars look.
 Nigel:  I'm starting to feel better about skipping it drink Guinnesses.
 me:  2. 32-year old who is/was a porn star, trying to mainstream her way into life.
(You're already dropping prepositions. This cannot end well.)
3. 12-year old.
Oh fuck.
The 12-year old.
 Nigel:  haha, almost enough said
 me:  She starts out
 Nigel:  But not QUITE; 12yo?
 me:  in a school play
decrying how Paris Hilton et al are valorized while Susan B. Anthony and other respectable female heroes are ignored.
And you think, wow: this girl has her head on her shoulders.
And then you watch culture destroy her.
And sexualize her.
I don't ...
Let's put it this way.
There is a lot of sexual imagery in the film.
I did not respond ONCE; I felt fucking guilty as a human being for being complicit in a culture that was ruining women's lives so deeply.
In a way, I suppose, that's a positive review.
Also, you get to see chunks o' labia.
(The surgery footage I mentioned.)
 Nigel:  My new favourite band is BABYMETAL; a 14yo performing J-Pop over speed metal, with two 12yo dancer sidekicks. I suddenly feel bad.
 me:  Something to disappoint/disgust everybody, really.
 Nigel:  CHUNKS?
 me:  ... perhaps we should switch the topic.
"So, Nigel, what films have you been enjoying?"
or ask me more
Yeah, just asian stuff...
I have issues...
Though, between ALL of those films, I never felt overwhelmed by labia
 me:  That's a common reaction to virtually every film that is not SEXY BABY.
 Nigel:  Haha
 me:  But, ok, to make a hamhanded segue, isn't SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE also about idealization/fetishization of females?
 Nigel:  I wonder if there are sites out there that rate the percentage of labia in a film...?
Yeah, YELLOW FEVER, as the Asian-American director/narrator calls it.
I connected with it on that level;
 me:  TMI
nah, bare all!
 Nigel:  she actually started out to make a film about that (I think it says)
and she interviews a bunch of dudes who argue it's their black hair,
the bit under their eyes,
how quiet they are,
 me:  the bit under their eyes???
I have never noticed this before
 Nigel:  all trying to put their finger on why they spot Asians in a crowds over redheads or whatever
UNTIL she finds this one dude, and scraps her plans to follow THIS fruit loop
 me:  Good thing you're talking to an American.
Did you know the Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand Football supporter's group is called Yellow Fever?
The magic of Google.
 Nigel:  But he does have his ideals; he assumes things about the Asian woman that are completely not true
I did not know that. Sports, huh
Probably the most stunning thing, was that this girl was HUGELY jealous.
You wouldn't think that of internet brides.
*sorry, I mean I wouldn't
 me:  How does that work, anyway?
Like did she put herself up?
Or does her family sell her?
Or ... wtf, really?
 Nigel:  Haha, I went in like that too, didn't really read up.
No, they're internet chat biddies
*buddies even
I think it may've STARTED through dating sites?
 me:  oh, so this isn't Russian mail order bride kinda thing
just an entirely DIFFERENT ill-advised misadventure
 Nigel:  But yeah, he's a loud 60yo American, lost in his own world ie/not too many social skills
She's a 30yo country girl, looking for somebody to appreciate her for HER, rather than tease her being the country mouse.
But I kinda works??
 me:  as a relationship or as a movie?
 Nigel:  I just felt bad, for rubber-necking at somebody's relationship
 me:  Is it a bit exploitative?
 Nigel: was entertaining!! But a lot of the time, I enjoyed it 'cause HE was so odd
Yeah, perhaps
Ok, probably the most interesting thing about it, was that the director/narrator got too involved, then got the guilts.
She started out as documentarian,
 me:  ooooh, filmmaker complicity!
 Nigel:  then became marriage counsellor (spelt?),
 me:  This can bring us to TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE (when you're ready, no rush)
 Nigel:  then confidante to the Asian girl (coz she's the only one she spoke to),
then friend, etc
But SHE (the director/narrator),
felt later on, like she had DRIVEN them together for the sake of the story.
Like, she was translator, advisor, and everything
 me:  are we giving away too much?
 Nigel:  If she hadn't've been there, what would've happned?
Anyway. I'm done.
 me:  Ah, didn't mean to cut you short. But people have to read this shit.
So probably just as well.
 Nigel:  Hah, I agree.
Time for a current drink count?
 me:  Anyway: TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE has its world premiere tomorrow; guess DocEdge is moving up in the world?
Current drink count: still working on the same bourbon I poured when I got home, but it was a GENEROUS pour.
Had - what, four drinks with you before SEXY BABY? Five?
So I'm not DRUNK, but live the dream, etc.
Which should be called TALES FROM THE KIDNEY TRADE.
 Nigel:  I'm at 3 Guinnesses, 1 Monteith's black, 5 Mac's Shady Pales and working on my first Mac's Great White. But continue
(and a Waikato. For good luck)
 me:  It's a film that was almost instantly offputting; the opening titles literally have poor Filipinos showing their scars from where their kidneys have been removed to the sounds of that Janis Joplin song "take another piece of my heart"
and that put me off the film for a good 15 minutes
since it seemed so ham handed
 Nigel:  Ooooo
I do like that song though...
 me:  and seemed like a big "organ selling is bad" movie, which = obvious.
 Nigel:  Never pictured it like THAT mind
 me:  Interestingly, though, it avoids being that very adroitly.
It seems to avoid even having a point of view, really, though the final title cards definitely tip the balance.
There's Filipinos profiled who sell their organs;
the Turkish surgeon who's done a lot (and is an internationally wanted fugitive);
a North American recipient;
two other Americans looking for kidneys,
and so on.
 Nigel:  That surgeon did seem kinda cool, from the trailer
 me:  Basically, it's a film that creates space around the issue and makes you realize it's actually really complicated, no matter what your gut feeling is.
Which is something I generally prefer in documentaries to polemics.
 Nigel:  Agreed
 me:  So many documentaries fall into that trap of "THIS IS BAD" and I'm like "YES I KNOW STOP SHOUTING PLEASE"
so it earns points there.
 Nigel:  There was a dude in the trailer for ORGAN TRADE,
 me:  Narrated by David Cronenberg.
 Nigel:  who was like "this needs to stop ASAP", and without seeing the doco,
 me:  That guy, yeah!
 Nigel:  I thought that there is probably a need for it, there is probably more than one side of the story
 me:  He's interesting too;
you never feel like any side is being vilified
he's on the hunt for justice
and when he's on the screen you totally see his point of view
but he's not living under a building with no electricity in the Philiipines.
You know?
I mentioned filmmaker complicity; I don't want to spoil it
 Nigel:  It probably seems all ery simple to him
 me:  but there's a moment an hour in
where the filmmakers have a direct effect on the course of the film
and I'm like "WHOA this just got SUPER interesting"
and they IMMEDIATELY run from it and never mention it again.
Which is partially a factor of Cronenberg being a 3rd person narrator, I suppose.
He's often like "The production team did this"; I wondered if there was a version with 1st person narration by the filmmaker, that got supplanted when they realized they could get David Cronenberg or something.
Anyway. I think it's worth seeing; it's not as graphic as you might fear.
 Nigel:  That IS good to know. You know I'm a surgery puss.
 me:  insert awkward segue to 9 MUSES OF STAR EMPIRE here
you start talking whilst I top up my bourbon
 Nigel:  Haha, DAMN, them 9 Muses...
Well, I had HUGE hope for these 9 Muses...
I don't know K-Pop AT ALL, BUT...I'm a HUGE J-Pop nerd.
What's the diff, right?
Anyway, I was SO ready for this, I wanted "a gruelling year in the life of"
Yeah. It's not.
Gruelling, I mean.
I had fun with it; you're watching beautiful Korean girls muddle their way through training to be a team of "honey-thighed" beauties.
And, I REALLY give the film big-ups for the ugly side of it;
while it wasn't as ugly as I wanted, holy shit, they don't pretty it up at all...
These girls can't sing, they're whingers, they can't commit, soft as,
it is constantly showing them crying over dopey problems, their voices cracking in the recording booth...
Like, if this was OKed by these strict management companies that look over them, as a marketing ploy...???
 me:  Wait: honey-thighed?
 Nigel:  Wow, I'd be covering this up
 me:  (I'm back)
 Nigel:  That's the quote, yeah. The CEO is looking over their costumes for their big debut,
(ridiculous slutty baseball outfits)
 me:  so THIS is the natural double feature with SEXY BABY
 Nigel:  and decides it DOESN"T look cheap; in fact, their skirts could be shorter, to ensure they're perceived as honey-thighed.
Hahah, exactly. I think that was how it was set up
 me:  Is honey-thighed a thing in Korean culture?
(I know; I'm dwelling.)
 Nigel:  I dunno; lemme Google it...
Ok; Korea honey-thighs brings up some interesting results...
 me:  oooooh, Mr. Fancypants and your "google"
yeah, that may have been ill-advised.
 Nigel:  How did you go Googling Sexy Baby?
 me:  I quite wisely avoided that.
At the moment I never want to see mainstream media sexual imagery again.
I came home, and my flatmates were just about to start watching PROPAGANDA.
I made it 30 seconds in;
shot of Britney Spears being "sexy" and I'm like, SORRY GUYS I HAVE TO LEAVE NOW.
PROPAGANDA does look fascinating, though; I'm assuming I'll be recovered by tomorrow.
So overall, do you recommend 9 MUSES?
 Nigel:  You coming along tomorrow? I'm looking forward to it.
Capping off my Korean weekend
 me:  We'll see how I go; got BROOKLYN CASTLE on tap, and maybe INOCENTE and HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
 Nigel:  All good choices.
 me:  Thank you.
 Nigel:  Um, I did enjoy 9 Muses,
but perhaps 'cause I've seen Gaia Girls and things like that,
it seemed REALLY tame and petty
I still liked watching behind the scenes of openly manufactured  girl groups, but then...that's me.
 me:  So a mild-ish recommendation.
 Nigel:  Yes. Oh another thing;
 me:  Better than THE ANGELS' SHARE?
 Nigel:  It's REALLY well put together for about 10mins. Then falls way down into adequate.
 me:  Huh, strange.
 Nigel:  Then has a really good 8-bit credit sequence come out of NOWHERE
So strange; as if they made it in order.
 me:  Did you see ONCE IN A LIFETIME, eons ago? The soccer documentary?
 Nigel:  Nope
 me:  There's all these great split screen sequences near the start; exquisite.
(I LOVE split-screen.)
And then they just disappear.
I think the director must have been here for a Q&A?
Somehow or another, I found out that the reason they didn't continue
is that they were super-time consuming to edit and they had run out of money.
So off the tails of your mild recommendation, I'll do my mild recommendation: UNRAVELED.
 Nigel:  Ah, this is the uber-rich crim?
 me:  C'est vrai. Marc Dreier.
The "if only Bernie Madoff hadn't existed, we'd have access to the most notorious white-collar crim ever!" doco.
 Nigel:  Ah, that rings a bell, I think I saw that quote
 me:  So, right before I watched this, I watched another issue documentary, which had quotes from LOTS of people.
Getting a wide spectrum on an issue.
(Being purposely vague as I'm covering it soon for Best Worst Podcast.)
Anyway: this film is the opposite.
He's basically the only interview.
You hang with him for the two months between his conviction and his sentencing
whilst he's under house arrest
in his penthouse apartment
the narrative's opened up with animation and archive
but not much
and you NEVER hear from
people he stole from
it's all verite from inside the apartment
which obviously doesn't get a lot of traffic
it's interesting, I suppose, to get that detailed and relentless focus on one guy
but I found myself crying out for somebody to yell "That sociopathic fuck ruined my life!"
 Nigel:  Does he at least have an iguana or whatever dude had in This Is Not A Film??
 me:  He has a dog.
So, I was thinking of doing a review scale for this festival
based on the number of times Doug cries.
It's telling that
near the end
he has to say goodbye to his dog
and I didn't cry.
Did well up ever so slightly.
Then got resentful.
Also, interestingly: it's basically an instruction manual, when he isn't coming up with excuses/rationalizations.
 Nigel:  Yeah, I dunno that Doug Welled Up is enough of a recommend for me...Sorry.
 me:  There's a couple GREAT verite scenes with lawyers that show just how delusional he seems.
Do you want me to tell you about the Doug Cried Nonstop For Five Minutes film, then?
Or do you want to talk DEFECTOR first?
 Nigel:  Well, I do spot a segue;
 Nigel:  I was worried through THE DEFECTOR, because there was scenes that appeared instructional
They jumped off buses and onto trains for a few stops to get around the occasional inspectors,
that made me think "Shouldn't you - as a "broker" - be keeping this to yourself??
I liked the film; quite thrilling for a lot of it.
And holy-shit-fancy-made
(great English Nige)
This thing didn't pixelate faces, didn't black things out; they just used tilt-shifts and things to subtly move off the facial features and whatnot,
 me:  Can we step back: wtf is THE DEFECTOR's story?
 Nigel:  so it was always a pretty shot, but the person's face wasn't in focus. Very nice. Again, FANCY.
Well, I was hoping it was a dude - Dragon - getting people to escape from that shithole N.Korea.
It wasn't quite that.
Basically, we join a crew of North Koreans that HATE North Korea enough
to have risked icy waters and border patrols,
to escape into China, and now live undercover there
Dragon is ex-North Korean; considers himself a Robin Hood
He helps them get right the way through China, to escape out over the Laos mountains and into Thailand,
where they can go to the cops and get sent to SOUTH Korea; the original goal
Problem with the film is, he doesn't make it too far through, before he gets sidetracked. And we don't see him anymore.
The filmmaker is kinda left floundering for a while
Still, pretty interesting,
even though NONE of it is set in the North
 me:  did you see THE RED CHAPEL?
 Nigel:  Did I mention how flash this thing is?? Ritzy doco man...
THe what?
 me:  Doco about Danish comedians (including some of North Korean ancestry) going to North Korea
well worth your time if yr curious about N. Korea (alongside A STATE OF MIND and CROSSING THE LINE)
Sounds like something I'd like. I guess I'm saving my best for last as well (perhaps being presumptuous in assuming that's yr best): I AM BREATHING.
Which I saw more or less by accident.
Basically, I saw "Motor-Neurone Disease" and got curious.
 Nigel:  Yeah, I dunno that I could stomach that one.
Nothing about MND gets me into a theatre. What a dick.
 me:  Okay, so, yes: it is about a guy with a degenerative disease dying, and leaving behind a 3-year old kid and a wife.
Moving, yes; I spent the last five minutes in tears. But, really, a Kolobos monkey could have made a doco that made you cry with that setup.
What's special is
a) the gentle humour of it; the subject is quite funny and very willing to share it
b) thoughtfully shot; without underlining it, a lot of shots really take you into his worldview (long shots out the window that are beautiful but kind of sad)
c) the consistently underplayed nature of it; they KNOW it will make you cry, so there's not a lot of music to prompt you and nudge you (as opposed to ORGAN TRADE, which left my rib bruised from being elbowed)
 Nigel:  I'm confused; what's a Kolobos monkey?
 me:  so, yeah. I liked it a whole lot, and of the four I saw I recommend it the most
though I kind of recommend SEXY BABY equally, for outrage purposes.
You're fucking with me, aren't you?
 Nigel:  Heh, indeed
I've seen 4 too, but I don't have a rave yet
REPORTERO was very interesting and very thrilling,
but I had my issues
 me:  oh, apparently Colobus is the proper spelling; been getting that wrong for YEARS, geez.
c'mon, share yr issues.
 Nigel:  Like, WHY, for a film about a newspaper that has its journos killed on a regular basis, is it so slow and methodical?
But I have definitely enjoyed all 4 films to some extent,
 me:  because they made the mistake of following a journo who survived?
 Nigel:  PLUS, they've all made me feel bad for doing as little as I do.
Hah, perhaps
 me:  really? SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE made you feel bad for ... what, precisely?
 Nigel:  Hahaha good point. Ok, I can do this...hang on...
Because the filmmaker felt so terrible about making it. I couldn't help but feel bad, about the effect we have on others
(How's that? Did I pass??)
 me:  By we, you mean Auckland Cinephile? You personally?
I should just let you drop this, shouldn't I?
 Nigel:  Hah!
Please do...
 me:  Okay. What's yr most anticipated titles of the next couple days?
 Nigel:  I'm really looking forward to PROPAGANDA actually,
and I have this inexplicable need to see ONLY THE YOUNG,
 me:  Not inexplicable at all; it's highly lauded.
 Nigel:  even though in my one-line write-up, it sounds DREADFUL.
Is it? Good to know.
 me:  Yeah, Mike D'Angelo, Ian Barr, Hugh Lilly, and others all rate it highly.
 Nigel:  D'you think they could come up with one sentence that sums it up better than me?
Coz mine was TERRIBLE.
Yet somehow, I convinced myself I'm excited about it??
 me:  Couldn't be that terrible, then?
 Nigel:  I'll know more soon...
 me:  But yeah, I'm a guy that doesn't really care what the story is, as much as how it's told.
 Nigel:  Totally with you; but how do you get that across BEFORE you've seen it?
How do you get sold?
 me:  As I said to someone once: I'd rather read 15 pages of Tom Robbins describe some guy walking to the post office than 15 pages of Jack London telling about some guy trying to survive.
How do I get sold? Trusted voices telling me "hey, this is worth checking out".
Kind of like that RED HOUSE discussion we had earlier;
"filmmaker makes film about parents" didn't sell it, but Bill Gosden Tim Wong et al raving about it did.
But yeah, those films face the biggest struggle.
If only they had more labioplasty!
 Nigel:  Gotcha. 'Spose that makes it harder for those of us not following the word...
Oh thank God, I was trying desperately to work out a segue to labioplasty. Well done.
 me:  You don't know how many people I've helped out with that problem over the years.
Shall we bid our readership a good night?
 Nigel:  I forget exactly how it was Tetrised in, but I recall the phrase "bits of labia" entering our conversation earlier...
I mean, YES! We should.
Then End.
 me:  OK. Night, readership!

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