Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Quick and Dirties: Feel-Good Docs

It's time for another edition of The Quick and Dirties. This is where I give really quick reviews of a few movies I was too lazy to decided not go all out on with full-length reviews. I try to fit all the films around a unifying theme. Since I already did a couple of volumes of "Dirty Docs" I decided to go to the opposite end of that spectrum and go with Feel Good Docs. Enjoy...


Batkid Begins
(2015)
Little Miles Scott was diagnosed with leukemia when he was eighteen months old. He has spent much of his young life in chemotherapy. He qualified for a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and is now age five. His wish is to be Batman for a day. Patricia Wilson and her team set out to transform the city of San Francisco into Gotham and make Miles' dream come true. What happens is far beyond anyone's imagination. I could try to break this down in my normal critic way, giving pros and cons about what I saw, but I won't. I'll just say this is a fantastic and wonderful feel-good story that tugs at your heart in all the right ways.


A Ballerina's Tale
(2015)
This documentary takes a look at Misty Copeland. In 2015, she became the first African-American woman to be named the principal dancer of a major ballet company. We learn about some of the hardships she had to deal with along the way. We hear what about an early lack of work ethic, leg injuries that end the careers of most dancers, and self-doubt at least partially caused by institutionalized racism. Her impact on the industry and importance as an African-American woman are discussed. The most amazing part of her story, to me, is not that she overcame those things to rise to the very pinnacle of her profession, but that she the first black woman to do even though this happened well into the twenty-first century.  America has been more hospitable to blacks in entertainment than any other field going back to the earliest days of Reconstruction. This is especially true of dance. On the other hand, as recently as early 2008 I didn't think I would see an African-American elected President of the United States in my lifetime. I wasn't even sure my children would see it. The fact that Barack Obama took the highest office in the land before there was a black principal dancer in ballet is astounding. We're told, and I'm paraphrasing, the heads of these companies believe the more muscular and darker bodies of African-Americans would be too big a distraction for audiences. Really? That's still a thing? Knowing that, it's telling that Copeland has a very light complexion. It says that even in the aftermath of her ascent the sentiment may still hold. To be fair, it's barely been a year since her achievement, but the whole situation is still shameful. As for the doc itself, it's compelling theater that paints our heroine as a lovable underdog who overcomes long odds while also being an informative piece of film.


Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Canon Films
(2014)
This documentary examines the history and legacy of the best/worst movie company in the history of ever, Canon Films. We hear stories of the shortcuts they took, the wheeling and dealing they did, and the ineptness they often operated with. Despite this, their love of movies shines through. They just weren’t very good at making them. Or were they? What I mean by that is the majority of these movies were so bad they’re awesome. Canon’s filmography is a treasure chest of awfulness. Believe it or not, that’s how they made money. They made plenty of it, for a while. I personally owe them a debt of gratitude. They provided me with a sizable chunk of random and gratuitous ninjas, zombies, kung fu, and boobs. Occasionally, we got all those things in one movie. We certainly get them in this doc. The people that were there give us the lowdown, except for company founders Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Unsatisfied with how they're portrayed here, those two decided to make their own, no doubt kinder to themselves, documentary. I haven’t seen that one, but this one is a fun trip down memory lane informing us on how bad movies get made.


Twinsters
(2015)
Samantha is an aspiring actress who still lives with her parents in California. They adopted her from Korea when she was an infant. She’s managed to land roles in some low-budget pictures. This is the catalyst for our documentary. A young man on the other side of the globe, London, sees a trailer for one of her movies and can’t help but notice she looks exactly like his girlfriend Anaïs. He brings this to Anaïs' attention which sets in motion a chain of events where the girls try to figure out if they are indeed long lost twin sisters. Spoiler alert: they are. However, the movie realizes it can’t keep up the mystery for long and eventually focuses on their newly formed relationship and the pair’s search for their biological mother. Despite the fact the girls are adults, they are both endlessly cute in the most innocent way. Their demeanor, especially Samantha’s, permeates the doc. This is both an asset and a liability. It’s an asset because our subjects are practically impossible not to like. They are a couple of bubbly girls who were already enjoying life, but enjoy it even more now that they have found each other. On the other hand, the film never rises above that. The hard-hitting emotion needed to elevate this film is missing. Even when the girls are going through a tough time, mostly because Anaïs is not always so keen on this finding their real mom deal, there is little weight to it. The film bounces along pluckily and is very pleasant to watch. Unfortunately, it’s also very forgettable.



14 comments:

  1. Is that a "thing" in ballet. Yes. Yes it is. Both of my girls are heavily involved in ballet--the older one is a year away from her BFA in dance performance (and she's 17). The younger one is spending her summer at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

    Both have commented on the level of body issues that are imposed on them constantly. I know, for instance, that Kid #1 will have trouble entering the corps of some companies because she's 5'3" and that's a thing. She was told years ago to do certain things to adjust the shape of her legs. The ideal ballet body is 5'8" to about 5'10" and about 110 pounds. She is not that body type and is very muscular, and that's see as unattractive or distracting or difficult to work with. It is very much a thing. She's had too many friends with eating disorders for it to be some sort of coincidence.

    It doesn't surprise me at all that skin color would be an issue for some people--at least for some of the older guard. So, while there's still some racism that exists, it's actually a much broader problem of which racism is just an ugly part. Weight issues, height issues, body shape issues...it's constant, and they are frequently played against each other. I imagine it's not that different from modelling.

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    1. Adjust the shape of her legs? Not like get them in shape, but change the actual shape of them? I'm done. That's ridiculous. Forgive me for being naive, but I think the criteria should be can you do the dance or not. Obviously, I know nothing. And it sounds an awful lot like modeling.

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    2. Yes, as odd and disturbing as it sounds, the actual shape of her legs. Too muscular. It's very much a meat market, although it is changing in some ways.

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  2. So...I want to watch all of these. With my students. Very soon. Well, almost all of them.

    That said, I loves me some Q&D. Each doc seems as if it would be right up my alley. I almost saw A Ballerina's Tale theateically, but just missed out. I'd like to tell you that's where I'll start...but you know me.

    Canon Films, it is.

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    1. Canon is a fine place to start...just not with the students. The rest of the game are wonderful for that age group. You're in luck, too. They are all currently on Netflix.

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  3. I so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so want to see that doc on Canon films as I grew up on those films.

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    1. It's a blast. Netflix has it streaming right now.

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  4. Oh my goodness I really want to see Batkid Begins! That just sounds far too much for my heart to handle! I'm really interested in Twinsters, too! I'll just cry at both of them...
    - Allie

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    1. I'll go ahead and guarantee tears for you, lol. These will be the good kind of tears, though.

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  5. The Cannon doc is just wonderful.

    I love how the duo (Golan/Globus) would take a film with a great premise, and tweak it so that it's beyond insane. Witness: Death Wish III. It's like the guy on the block who decides to paint their garage some ungodly color just to be different.

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    1. That's a perfect way to describe Golan and Globus...and Death Wish III, such an outrageous movie.

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  6. Replies
    1. If nothing else, please please please watch Batkid Begins.

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