Tag Archives: documentary

Movie Review: Push Attempts to Lift the Veil on Housing Issues

Push Movie Poster

As wages are stagnating, the price of urban life continues to rise across the globe. Director Fredrik Gertten’s new documentary PUSH follows UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, as she meets with people from around the world who are struggling to afford housing.

PUSH presents interviews with disaffected tenants, city mayors, and experts in international economics, connecting the several stories to the main issue. The film does not focus on one city, but on many. We follow Farha everywhere from Harlem to Seoul. The wide variety of perspectives very effectively put us in the shoes of Farha as she tries to come to a greater understanding of why housing inequality is such a big issue in many cities today.

Since the film spends so much time with Farha, it’s a good thing that she is a very compelling subject. Her passion for the cause endears us to her and to everyone she fights for. We also see the frustrations she faces within the UN and with large companies profiting from the current system. From UN delegates ignoring her to Presidents of Real Estate companies refusing to meet with her, the struggles Farha faces help us to empathise with her and believe in her cause.

One way Gertten connects the viewer with the topic is through the cinematography. It excellently captures the details of each city Farha visits. As we see the forces that are profiting off of displacing communities, Gertten also takes time to show small moments of joy that make those communities so powerful. We see a neighbor waving goodbye to children on their way to school, two men having a cup of coffee together, and a family relaxing on their couch. Though there are some points where the film drags, the editing and pacing keep us engaged throughout while the cinematography connects us with the circumstances each subject is facing.

A larger issue with PUSH is that it does not have much focus on history. Housing inequality such as redlining and segregation in the United States and other nations is touched on, but not discussed in much detail. The majority of people Farha meets with over the course of the film are white, and little time is devoted to discussing these points with POC. Though the documentarians might have felt unqualified to discuss such topics, I believe it could have strengthened their message to point out how the housing market has always been unequal.

Considering how world events are affecting many people’s ability to pay their rent, this film has become even more pertinent to our current situation. Though the message could have been stronger if it delved more into the history of housing and included more diverse voices, I would still recommend PUSH. It makes a strong case that the housing crisis should be taken seriously.

Movie Review: Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t

Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won't

Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t celebrates McFarlane’s history breaking run on Spawn and is a look at his career. The documentary intersperses footage from conventions, testimonials, and McFarlane himself. He recounts his time in comics with a recurring theme of “drive”. The documentary is an interesting one that mostly props McFarlane up with little criticism. In that way, it feels a bit glossed over in history and is an incomplete picture of his actual career in comics, film, television, and toys. But, the documentary goes through some interesting history doing a fine job of catching up those that might not know it.

From McFarlane’s beginning to modern times, the documentary covers a career that’s been focused and full of drive. From his early comic career to his start at Marvel, we get to see how his early years was one of luck that opened opportunity. We get some strife as he admits that his time at Marvel was one of being pushed back on with his style but he also praises some people he was able to work with there and the opportunities he received. It’s a look at working within a corporate structure as an artist.

But, where things get interesting is when the documentary shifts away from Marvel. While the formation of Image goes quickly, the documentary focuses on the collapse of the comic industry and how McFarlane weathered the storm. We get to see the pillars by which he built his empire and his shift from comics to film, television, video games, and most importantly toys. Though that too is painted as nothing but success with little failure or issues.

Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t isn’t all roses. A few minutes of it towards the end are dedicated to lawsuits and bankruptcy though all of them are just touched upon with little detail. McFarlane attempts to wash over the time as if success begets lawsuits, and there’s nothing more than others seeing opportunity. It comes off as if he did nothing wrong and everyone else was the issue. The documentary though highlights the losses. The rocky history of Image isn’t mentioned and his Chapter 11 filing is briefly mentioned. Though there’s been success there were failures too that aren’t explored enough. And that makes sense based on Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t’s focus. The documentary is meant as a puff celebration of Spawn #300, not as a hard-hitting history.

The documentary is about McFarlane’s belief. It’s about the belief in himself and his vision of how things should go. And it’s clearly worked for him. Spawn is still going, well past issue #300, setting a record each month witch each new release. McFarlane Toys continues to inovate and maybe we’ll eventually see Spawn on film again some day. McFarlane has had a successful career and Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t is focused on that. It dances around his impact. It dances around the industry has changed yet he remains. There’s so much more that could have been explored and expanded upon to make this documentary interesting. But, the final product feels a bit like a late night informercial, an advertisement wrapped up as something else.

If you don’t know anything about Todd McFarlane, a super fan, or a fan of Spawn, then Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t might be interesting. It’s surface deep in details dancing around the depth and never exploring statements or giving any examples of impact. For those looking at an exploration of comic history, even McFarlane’s career, there’s so many other documentaries and books to spend your time with.

Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won’t debuts on SyFY on July 25 at 11pm ET.

Overall Rating: 6.0

DC Universe Announces Visionnaries: Featuring Jorge Jiménez

Jorge Jiménez is known by fans for his unique take on a number of DC’s biggest characters and iconic teams including Batman, The Justice League, Super Sons, and more. Debuting on Saturday, June 20 on DC Universe, the nearly hour-long Visionnaries: Featuring Jorge Jiménez will profile Jiménez and his lifelong dream to become a comic book artist.

Visionnaries: Featuring Jorge Jiménez enters the world of one of DC’s brightest talents. The documentary charts Jiménez’s journey as a young artist from a remote village in Spain to his early professional struggles to illustrate some of the most well-known DC heroes. Along the way, Jiménez details his artistic process and his desire to one day draw his childhood hero, Superman.

Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes is Free to Watch in May on World Channel

This month PBS premiered my documentary – Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes. The film has been to over 52 film festivals and has won 9 major awards. It has also screened in over 100 educational institutions, at almost all Comic Cons and numerous conferences.

Drawn Together traces the fascinating journey of three comic creators who challenge the notion of race, appearance and gender stereotypes through cartoons, comics and cosplay. The film features Keith Knight, Vishavjit Singh ( AKA Sikh Captain America ) and Eileen Alden.

For the month of May, you can watch the film for free on Youtube.

Documentary Film My Comic Shop Country is Out Now

Comic book characters are box office gold, but why do comic book stores struggle to survive?

In My Comic Shop Country, filmmaker Anthony Desiato sets out on a quest to explore the culture, business, and fandom of comic shops across America. Venturing behind the scenes in stores from coast to coast, he reveals an industry in transition as shops strive to remain relevant to the growing hordes of fans of movies, online gaming and mega-conventions. The film is a heartfelt exploration of the power of comic shops to build a community that honors the original form of the superhero: the comic book.

Get it now:
Amazon
Apple TV

My Comic Shop Country Gets a Debut Trailer

Anthony Desiato is back with a new feature-length documentary, My Comic Shop Country. In it, he explores the business, fandom, and community of comic shops across the country.

Shops featured include Acme Comics, Alternate Reality Comics, Las Vegas!, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Aw Yeah Comics- NY, Cave Comics, CHALLENGERS Comics + Conversation, The Comic Book Shop, Escape Pod Comics, Fat Moose Comics, Hi De Ho Comics, House of Secrets, It’z Vintage, Metropolis Comics & Collectibles, Parts Unknown: The Comic Book Store, The Spider’s Web, Torpedo comics, Undiscovered Realm, West Village Comics, Zapp Comics, & Alternate Realities.

My Comic Shop Country

Movie Review: Fahrenheit 11/9

Fahrenheit 11-9Michael Moore‘s latest documentary agitprop Fahrenheit 11/9 feels like a Frankenmovie. Moore, master of the genre and previous nailer of the zeitgeist in films like Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, and the classic Roger and Me seems to not have his finger on the pulse of what’s really going on in America. Or, perhaps he’s responding to a frenetic schizophrenic political landscape.

Moore’s schtick, while perfect for the Clinton/Gingrich and Bush years, really seems to be wearing thin as well. As a friend who works in liberal causes put it to me, “If a white man in his 60’s is going to tell us what’s wrong with America today, he better bring it.” And, yeah, he sorta doesn’t. While there are attempts at being intersectional and lifting up the voices of the oppressed who are not white and male, the film still takes a primarily class-and-economics based approach and doesn’t really plumb the depths of racism or sexism that also got us where we are. It’s a reductive take from the most sophomoric of your Bernie Bro friends, which is sad. Because this is Michael Moore we’re talking about, and we should expect better.

Rather than focus on one theme and do it well, it’s as if he’s tried to make three different movies with vastly different tones and purposes and then mash them together. The result is jarring and unpleasant. It doesn’t work, and I’ve never felt so much personally in agreement with the politics of a film and yet disliked it so much. Say what you will about agitators like Dinesh D’Souza, but his Death of a Nation was at least cogent even if it was insane and false.

The three movies Moore tries to make here are:
Act I: The rise of Donald Trump,
Act II: The longstanding issues that birthed Trumpism in the first place — and The Resistance and how we’re fighting back
Act III: These people are literally Nazis. . . and we’ve already lost. And it’s mostly this third act that is so jarring and doesn’t work.

But when more is on, he is on. During Act II he delves into the water crisis in his home city of Flint, Michigan, and the politics that allowed this to happen. Moore is in his element here and this is both beautiful and inspiring as he lifts up the local voices and highlights exactly what’s going wrong and how terrible it is. It’s only here he breaks out of his mold and calls out what happened for what it was: the attempted genocidal poisoning of a majority black and poor city. He does similar work in traveling to West Virginia and talking to teachers who are striking, and traveling to Florida to speak with the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He also highlights a new breed of political activism and candidates including spending time with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before she won her primary. It’s a beautiful history-in-the-making and A-Star-is-Born moment.

If he’d only just made this film, and stuck with it, it would be among his best. It is focused and cogent the way that Sicko was and laid out a very serious case of the failings of our government that have nothing to do with Trump.

But of course he has to address the elephant in the room, and that means a less-than-stellar First Act which is a stunningly uneffective hit job on Donald Trump. At times funny when it should be serious, and at times overly serious when it should be satirical, there’s also an especially cringey several minute turn where he deconstructs Donald’s gross sexual feelings towards his daughter Ivanka. We get it, Michael. It’s gross. Most of us coming to see this have already seen these clips, this isn’t new, and it’s just plain uncomfortable. There’s no deeper truth or way forward. And when you’re going to take on someone like Trump, it’s sad to see such a failure of imagination to really make something stick.

The best parts of Act I are the skewering he does of several other sacred cows who were complicit in the rise of Trump. This includes both the Democratic National Committee, Nancy Pelosi, and the mainstream “liberal” news media. He goes after their cravenness for ratings and how they propped up Trump as a sideshow. But most interestingly he goes after the culture of sex predation that’s seems to infect far too many corners of the media landscape. He certainly makes a case that the media was always going to be unable to deal with a serial groper and sexually predatory candidate when they themselves are far too much the same way. Again, when Moore is on, he is on. But it’s sad because it never quite gels into a cohesive critique or explanation of what happened.

In Moore’s attempt to cover everything, he ends up truly covering nothing and adding no new heat nor light to the conversation. Perhaps those who aren’t generally tuned in to the news may learn something, but Moore has to understand that he’s preaching to the choir here and he’s generally not giving them anything new to sing about or any particularly good take. He also tries ham-fistedly to re-prosecute some of the elements of the 2016 election and his feelings that somehow Bernie Sanders ran in a rigged primary. At this point it’s just gross, it accomplishes nothing, and Moore should learn to move on.

Which leads to the Third Act, where Moore details the rise of the Nazis and how similar this is to what is going on now. However, one of the things Moore fails to mention in his take on this is the inability of the center-left and the far left to effectively combat the rise of fascism because they were too busy fighting each other. And here Moore is pouring more gasoline on the fire and opening up old wounds between Bernie folks and Hillary folks rather than giving a clear sense of vision to move forward.

The ending is completely frustrating because he basically makes the case that we are screwed, and nothing can fix what’s wrong. That sort of nihilism doesn’t sit well, and it also is so completely different from the realism and hope that Moore is able to tell during his second act.

I miss the optimistic Michael Moore from his previous films. While I dismissed as clever hokum the cheery optimism of Where to Invade Next, what was brilliant about that film in hindsight was its beautiful denouement where Moore and a childhood friend walked along the crumbling remains of the Berlin Wall and talked about how magical it was that that wall came down. After decades of it being the symbol of oppression and separation, finally it was all too much and within days the barriers were broken down, and people were literally coming, hammers in hand, to break down this wall to be reunited with friends and family from the other side. We could use a little bit of that optimism here, because especially in context of an election happening in only a few weeks, Moore has to understand that is ending is more likely to depress the troops that would fight the midterm battle.

This is why for the first time in several decades I have to recommend to people to please do not go see Michael Moore’s new movie, at least not yet. Know that it is out there, and know that he’s trying to go back to the well of his greatest hits. He’s critical of Trump, he shows how organized people working hard can stand up to political bullies and make real headway. . . and then he burns it all down in a little literal Reichstag fire with memories of 9/11 and fascism on the move.

In one sense, maybe he’s trying to steel audiences for if something truly terrible does happen in the next few weeks or months or years — which would be an actual moment where democracy could slip away from us long-term. But the actual effects of this are to mostly just be hella depressing. So if you insist on seeing Fahrenheit 11/9 in theaters in the next few weeks, don’t let it stop your resolve, or maybe leave about 2/3 of the way through as soon as Moore starts showing Triumph of the Will footage with Trump’s voice dubbed over Hitler. Because it’s all downhill after that.

2 out of 5 stars

SDCC 2018: From The Bridge Chronicles the Evolution of Sci-Fi, Horror and Comic Book Fandom

Executive Producer George Noe has announced the San Diego Comic-Con debut of the sci-fi documentary, From The BridgeIn this film, fans will be treated to a whirlwind cinematic journey chronicling the evolution of sci-fi, horror and comic book fandom as recounted by some of the biggest names in these genres. Host, George Takei guides us through never-before-seen archival footage featuring creators like George Lucas and never before aired interviews with the likes of Gene RoddenberryLeonard Nimoy and many more. This is a first look at this groundbreaking feature which will, assuredly, set the pace for the largest Comic-Con ever in the San Diego Convention Center’s 4000 seat Ballroom 20 on Thursday, July 19th beginning at 10am.

From The Bridgefeatures original interviews with Stan Lee, Nichelle Nichols, Gene Simmons, Joe Dante, Tom DeSanto, Adam Nimoy, Bryan Fuller, Neal Adams, Doug Jones, Rod Roddenberry, Howard Roffman and many more including Super Fans. This groundbreaking documentary feature is set for a theatrical run in late summer 2018 and will be released on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray in November. North American distribution will be handled by Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company.

Comic Con favorite Greg Grunberg, often nicknamed the “Mayor of Comic-Con”, will serve as moderator for the panel featuring writer-director Spencer F. Lee, Nichelle NicholsRod Roddenberry, Kerry O’QuinnTom DeSanto, uber cos-player Cecil Grimes and special guests. Following the debut clips which will screen at the start of the Thursday, July 19th 10am panel, Grunberg will lead a spirited discussion and Q&A on the evolution of science fiction, fantasy, comic book and horror fandom and the positive impact each has had on popular culture.

Watch Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts for Free

Sequart Organization and Respect Films have added the feature-length documentary Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts for free on Sequart’s YouTube channel SequartTV.

Captured Ghosts features the most extensive interview ever given by Ellis and spans his first memory watching the moon landing as a child to the success of the RED film adaptation.

Along with the man himself, the film features Academy Award-winner Dame Helen Mirren, Patton Oswalt, Joss Whedon, Darick Robertson, Ben Templesmith, Matt Fraction, Joe Quesada, Wil Wheaton, Brea Grant, Claudio Sanchez, Stoya, Andy Hurley, and a Warren Ellis Muppet.

“No Straight Linesm” the LGBTQ Comics Documentary, Gets a Crowdfunding Campaign this April

No Straight Lines cover art by Maurice Vellekoop

Filmmaker Vivian Kleiman and comics artist and advocate Justin Hall have announced that their feature-length documentary film, No Straight Lines: The Story of Queer Comics, will launch a Kickstarter fundraiser in late April. This new effort is aimed at completing filming of the project, which tells the story of how LGBTQ comics evolved from a marginalized underground scene—offering uncensored commentary on everything from coming out to the AIDS crisis to gender politics—to one with worldwide, mainstream recognition.

The fundraising campaign has set a goal of $38,000 and is scheduled to launch on April 23rd. It will offer a variety of rewards to backers from large to small, including social media shout-outs, signed graphic novels, original artwork, dinner with the film creators, invitations to private screenings of the work-in-progress, and more.

Alison Bechdel at a film shoot

In 2012, cartoonist Justin Hall put together the anthology No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, which featured milestone contributions by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender comics creators from the 1970s to the present, and shared the story of the queer comics community.

Now, Justin’s Lambda Literary Award winning and Eisner Award nominated collection is the inspiration for a new documentary film directed and produced by Peabody Award winning and Sundance and Emmy nominated filmmaker Vivian Kleiman. This film will bring the stories from the comics off the page and give viewers a personal introduction to the vibrant artists, writers, and activists who have paved the way for queer comics’ dynamic present and fabulous future.

The team has been developing the project for some time and have already received grants from the California Humanities, the San Francisco Foundation, and the Berkeley Film Foundation, along with contributions from private donors. Filming is over halfway done, including extensive shoots with Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) and her mentor Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), as well as interviews with a selection of young cartoonists at the Queers & Comics Conference in San Francisco, and more.

Alison Bechdel, Justin Hall, Vivian Kleiman

They’ve lined up financial support to complete the editing phase, but first they need to capture all the footage that will make this project shine. Cartoonists being notoriously shy, the filmmakers have to bring their crew to places like the snowy hills of Vermont and the rainy streets of Portland, Oregon, to record these important, untold stories.

Meeting their campaign goal will allow the filmmakers to complete principle filming on the project, which will include travel and accommodations; producer, director, and director of photography costs; sound and lighting equipment; insurance; bookkeeping; production assistance; and admin expenses.

Support from the community will make it possible to film with longtime LGBTQ comics legends like Rupert Kinnard (BB and the Diva), and interview pioneering web cartoonist Scout Tran (Failing Sky). The filmmakers have plans for additional shoots if they exceed their funding goals.

For those interested, you can join their mailing list to get the latest updates.

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