Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Four Documentaries

I watched four documentary movies this week.
 1. Buck [NYT review] (dir. Cindy Meehl, 2011)

Horses are fearful animals. Having survived a cruel and violent father, horse trainer Buck Brannaman says he understands how horses feel. If you want to work with them, he says, be "gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it."

Watching Buck work with horses was mesmerizing; but I felt twitchy, like a horse's hide when a fly lands on it. 
What fear was this soothing treatment triggering?

Finally I realized that while the film never touches on politics, Buck's formula also works on people. "Gentle but firm" makes an effective leader, but is that leader right?

Horses can't ask that, but humans can, yet the movie asked no critical questions. Since this guy works with horses, I guess that's OK. . .  but this filly still feels a bit skittish.

2. Waste Land [links to preview at movie website] (dir. Lucy Walker, 2010)

Artist Vik Muniz goes to Rio de Janeiro to make art about the trash pickers in the world's largest dump. Expecting to find worthless people that he is going to elevate, instead he finds lively folks who have formed a union, read books they pick from the trash, talk about how Machiavelli's Florence reminds them of Rio, and want to pose as Marat:

I loved the first half of this movie, but I had to stop watching because the handheld camera work was nauseating me. I'm going to watch the 2nd half in sections though--it's complex and surprisingly humorous.

3. Plastic Planet  [links to whole film on Vimeo] (dir. Werner Boote, 2011)
Hm. Did Boote have to fly his film crew around the world to show how bad plastic is? 
Couldn't he have made a slide show instead, like Al Gore? 

Probably not, but why didn't he talk about his own consumption of fossil fuels, as a filmmaker? This movie was so slick and commercial, that, as with Buck, Boote's  gentle-but-firm convictions left me a little distrustful.

Nonetheless, even if this film is as much propaganda as documentary, there's no doubt Plastic Is Bad... and having started to research garbage, I'm a little surprised that the situation is even worse than I'd thought.

 4. Tabloid [clips and trailer] (dir. Errol Morris, 2011)

Ha! Joyce McKinney is so gently but firmly sure of herself, she could be a horse trainer. 

In the 70s, McKinney was accused of kidnapping and raping a Mormon missionary. She insists she was rescuing him from a cult, and that women can't rape men: that would be like "putting a marshmallow in a parking meter."

As that quote suggests, McKinney is a colorful storyteller, and Morris gives her free rein. Her absolute belief in her reality is mesmerizing, but you're pretty sure she's "barking mad," as one reporter says. 
Or is she?
(Having met the type before, I'd say she is.)


Seems I prefer tales about how things are stranger than we know, or feel comfortable with, movies you couldn't sum up on a fridge magnet.


Lady Chardonnay said...

I've seen two of these! What are the odds? Tabloid was fascinating and creepy, and Buck put me right to sleep. The horses were beautiful, though. (And, hmm, maybe I can't really count Buck as something I've *seen*, then, can I? But your point is well taken.)

Fresca said...

LADY C! Our paths cross, finally! (Outside of B-T).

Yep, "fascinating and creepy" is about all that needs to be said about Tabloid.

You raise a question that has long troubled me:
How much of a book or movie must one read or watch before one can claim to have read or seen it?

In the case of Buck, I'd say if you saw the first 10-15 minutes, you've got most of it.

Zhoen said...

Ever seen "F is for Fake" by Orson Wells?