Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Directed By – Alex Gibney

Screenplay By – Alex Gibney

Cinematography By – Sam Painter

119 min.

Going Clear is a horror film. Not in the Stephen King sense of the word but in the real life reality that people have been subjected to the horrors that come with Scientology and how terrifying those realities are.

Going Clear is a very thorough look at the man who started the “religion” and how this “religion” is run and how it has effected it’s members throughout the decades.

Going Clear is a terrible mix of fascination and disgust.

Going Clear is also about twenty minutes too long.

Going Clear is something that every American should probably watch and be aware of but isn’t necessarily the best documentary ever.

God Bless America

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Directed By – Brett Morgan

Screenplay By – Brett Morgan

Cinematography By – Eric Edwards, James Whitaker & Nicole Hirsch Whitaker

Starring Kurt Cobain

145 min.

As someone who wasn’t old enough to experience the world craze that was Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, Nirvana (and Cobain) have been something (and someone) I’ve had to find on my own. Nirvana was never a band I ever embraced as a teenager but as I get older their music becomes more interesting to me and equally so Cobain a more interesting figure. With things like youtube I have been able to explore Cobain through various interviews and performances but never got the true feeling I understood the man, and like much of the world, have been left wanting something more.

Montage of Heck gives you as much more as there can possibly be. That doesn’t mean it fills that want for more than comes with Cobain, but it does give you more. Even though it still includes plenty of the images and videos that one can find online, MOH excels through access to personal journals and videos that have never been released publicly. The aspect in which one can grasp the most new information and a little more of inside the brain of Cobain is in the journals, filled with lyrics and sketches that Morgan animates and brings to life beautifully.

Personally I think Cobain led such a short life that there is only so much that there is to know about him, Morgan has made something that gives us as much a we probably can ever know about him.

A viewer doesn’t need to know anything about Nirvana or Cobain going into the film and will come out knowing as much as an outsider can about Kurt and as always still left wanting more. But they will have an urge to explore the music and when it is all said and done is all we really have left of him.

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Life Itself (2014)

Directed By – Steve James

Cinematography By – Dana Kupper

Starring Roger Ebert 

120 min.

Life Itself is worth watching for anyone who loves movies. It’s also worth watching for anyone interested in American popular culture or Chicago. But mostly Life Itself is a wonderful tribute to what appears to have been a wonderful man.

Growing in the late nineties and early 2000s, past the height of Ebert’s fame, I was enthralled to learn about the movie critics past, his rise to criticism fame, and most appreciative of his pure and endless love of film.

Life Itself is not the easiest of movies to watch. In fact it is incredibly cringe worthy. The movie capture Ebert in his final stage of life with most of his mouth and jaw missing. While it is a disturbing sight it will bring forth in you feelings of extreme sympathy for someone like this and gratitude for one’s own health and intact facial features.

I’m not sure this movie needed to be two hours long and maybe it would be more entertaining if it was shorter with a quicker pace, but it’s a tribute to man whom who ever he knew loved him and watching the extra twenty to thirty minutes won’t do you any harm.

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Harmontown (2014)

Directed By – Neil Berkeley

Screenplay By – Neil Berkeley

Cinematography By – Ryan Carmody

Starring Dan Harmon, Jeff Bryan Davis & Spencer Crittenden

101 min.

Never having listened to the Harmontown podcast, Harmontown the documentary caught me off guard. Thinking this film was going to be more an in depth exploration of Dan Harmon’s life in the entertainment industry, I was surprised to find that this movie is really a ride along of Harmontown the podcast’s national tour, in which Dan Harmon reveals who he is as a human being as a consequence.

My problem with Harmontown (the documentary) is that it is mostly surface. While we do get a glimpse of the deep down and dark Dan Harmon and how this tour effected the Dungeon Master Spencer, really Harmontown (the documentary) is a visual scrap book of the podcast’s tour. While I’m sure it is a great memento of the tour for all those involved, someone going into the movie not being a listener of the podcast, I’m not sure I got that much out of it.

However, I have started listening to the podcast since my viewing of this movie, so that may be a better review of the documentary than anything I could write.

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Waking Life (2001)

Directed By – Richard Linklater

Screenplay By – Richard Linklater

Cinematography By – Richard Linklater & Tommy Pallotta

Starring Wiley Wiggins

99 min.

I don’t know what to do with Waking Life. On one hand it’s jammed packed with different philosophies of life, inspiring its audience to be alive and aware in the moment. And, on the other hand Waking Life has no plot, yet doesn’t let any one or two or even five philosophies settle or be explained enough for its audience to really get a firm grip on any theory. I assume Linklater’s rationale for this is like instead of feeding us spaghetti, he’s throwing the entire pot of spaghetti at us in expectation that a few noodles will land in our mouths.

Stylistically this movie is perfect for its subject matter, however, I didn’t really love the style of animation. I loved that this movie was animated, a choice that is just as important as its decision to be a movie about life, dreams and their philosophies, but for the most part I thought the styles of animation used weren’t all that interesting.

That being said, I see myself revising Waking Life as I grow older and my life experiences change.

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Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Directed By – Frank Pavich

Cinematography By – David Cavallo

Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky

88 min.

Jodorowsky’s Dune tells the story of “the greatest movie never made”. And while this is a bold statement, the 88 minute documentary presents substantial evidence to support the claim. Of course all we have are pre-production feats; inspired storyboards, a magnificent art department, an all-star cast (Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, David Carradine, Mick Jagger, etc.), a son who spent 2 years of intensive physical training for his role, and Pink Floyd doing some of the score.

But what filmmaking comes down to is actually making the film and who knows the obstacles that would have come into play during the production of this movie.

Ultimately, I like to think Jodorowsky’s Dune (the hypothetical movie, not this documentary) is indeed “the greatest movie never made” but unfortunately for us all, it’s a statement that will never be proven.

God Bless America