Searching For Sugar Man

Film, 2012

What is the appeal of a story like this, of someone suddenly discovering they’re “bigger than Elvis” in another part of the world? Of long overdue recognition being paid? Is the thrill similar to that of a revenge story? Do we, as one interviewee in this documentary suggests, connect it to our own fantasies of having fame suddenly thrust upon us? Might we even fantasize about being the person who makes the discovery that such attention is warranted? The answers to these questions in relation to the musician Rodriguez, his work, his story, and his personality, don’t mean a fucking thing, because every dollop of absurdly grandiose praise heaped upon him in this movie is totally warranted. His music is phenomenal, rich with emotion and meaning, and fully capable of living up to its self-made claims of altering minds (a claim backed up by its role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa). You’d have to be a pretty terrible filmmaker to flub this story. And since most filmmakers are in fact terrible, we’re lucky this story ended up with ones who aren’t. The film is certainly too stylistic and emotionally manipulative, to the point of eliciting laughter from the theater audience I viewed it with during a few earnest scenes, but these popcorn qualities have brought it to a wider audience. And that audience gets to see this incredible story fairly intact. So enjoy it world. The internet has made it all but impossible for anything like this to happen by accident again.

Beautiful Losers

Film, 2008

Doc about out-of-the-box artists is presented in an annoyingly mainstream way, but the artists are such interesting personalities that it’s still worth watching. 2.5

Man on Wire

Film, 2008

Man on Wire utilities the thrilling story of Philippe Petit, a man who illegally walked a tightrope between the twin towers, along with the charismatic Petit’s own recantations and some dubiously integrated recreations to create an exciting and charming film. 3.5

Okie Noodling

Film, 2001

Okie Noodling is a movie about rednecks who catch 45 lbs catfish using their own, bare hands as bait. It doesn’t get as crazy as you want for a movie about rednecks who catch 45 lbs catfish using their own, bare hands as bait, but it is a movie about rednecks who catch 45 lbs catfish using their own, bare hands as bait, so if that sounds fun to you (and it should), you should go for it. 2.5

Dont Look Back

Film, 1967

Dont Look Back is a seemingly random assortment of moments filmed behind the scenes of Bob Dylan touring London in mid 1960’s. Want to see a bunch of shaggy haired kids wear sunglasses at night and smoke cigarettes, delightfully strung out and uttering nonsense? Then go for it, it’s pretty fun to watch, and features some lovely black and white photography. 3

Elvis: That’s the Way It Is

Film, 1970

Although his constant camera mugging makes it obvious that we’re not seeing what it was really like, it’s kind of interesting watching Elvis behind the scenes preparing for his big comeback concert. At the beginning of rehearsals Elvis seems like he’s still a cool guy, but by the time the night of the big show hits he’s in a white jumpsuit and singing terrible, terrible music. The interviews with his fans present an interesting 70s freak show- the movie probably would have been more entertaining if it had used that as it’s focus. 2

King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters

Film, 2007

King of Kong is a sports documentary that so wildly entertaining that you forget that it’s actually about video game players. The plot is so graceful and gripping that it makes you wonder whether the filmmakers were using reality or an emotional follow through when deciding how to present the story (a suspicion that a cursory glance over the film’s Wikipedia page quickly gives credence to). But in the end all that matters is that the story is in the film, and that it’s something that anyone will easily be able to watch and find meaning in. 4


Film, 2004

A little more than a documentary but not quite a narrative, Genesis isn’t really like other movies. But it’s weirdly affecting mega closeups of small animals in their natural habitat are weirdly affecting and make for a very entertaining film. The artful direction acts to further illustrate it’s subject matter rather than distract from it, and even the soundtrack is pretty spot on. 3.5

Encounters at the End of the World

This Herzog documentary (about various groups of people that work and live in Antarctica) is essentially, in content and presentation, a Discovery Channel special. The things that seperate it from this are the lower quality of the footage (although I was watching a dvd screener copy), and Herzog’s personality as a narrator and a filmmaker. As a narrator he has a few funny moments and occasionally drifts into bleak existential horror, and as a filmmaker he focuses on the weirder sights he happens upon on the frozen continent which, unsurprisingly, end up being the most entertaining parts of the film. 3/5

Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story

In the 1950’s William Castle augmented his B Movies with wacky gimmicks, like shocking his audience with gizmos attatched to theater seats, and having nursed pass out life insurance policies covering “death by fear”. If that sounds fun to you (and I feel bad for people who it doesn’t) you’ll get a kick out of Spine Tingler. The doc itself doesn’t go above or beyond the call of duty, but it’sw subject matter is fun enough to hold your interest. John Waters is, as always, a great interview subject. 3/5