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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Coming soon to the History Channel…Ok, probably not, but the people filmed in this riveting documentary from directors Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov are far more interesting to watch – and learn from – than all the talent-challenged loggers, fishermen, miners, moonshiners  and duck hunters on the cable station combined. And they’re real, too. The people in question are the indigenous people living in Bakhtia, the heart of the Siberian Taiga, a culture that hasn’t changed much in centuries and, quite frankly as the movie proves, are better off because of it. The film takes the time to unfold at the pace of the people it is portraying, no small feat given the rural locations and lack of ‘progress’ the villagers have seen, so it may take viewers a bit of  time to get used to the way the directors tell the story. Having Herzog act as narrator helps a lot.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Only the Young & Tchoupitoulas

From now on, any directors, producers, screenwriters or actors thinking about doing a movie about young people should be made to watch this delightful double feature from Oscilloscope Laboratories. The films are very different in style and tone, but they share a common thread that most teen movie makers don’t – they don’t condescend or talk down to their subjects or their audience. As a result, they create an excruciatingly honest portrait of what it’s like to be young. Only the Young tells the story of three teens living in a small California desert town and the day to day struggle they go through just to feel comfortable in their own skin living in a world that seems to want nothing to do with them. The interaction between the teens is fascinating to watch, thanks to the ‘fly on the wall’ perspective of the film which lets them be themselves without playing to the audience or to the directors’ idea of what the audience wants. In Tchoupitoulas, we follow three brothers on a very different kind of late night adventure through the French Quarter of New Orleans. The film manages to find a fresh way to look at the city by painting everything the boys see with a sense of wonder that makes even the seediest aspects of the city shine like gold.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Federal Agents Vs. Underworld, Inc

It may not have the cliff hanger endings of the real classic movie serials, but this action-packed cop drama still has enough energy to keep you hooked from episode to episode. It’s the story of a pair of true blue detectives on the trail of a femme fatale who is trying to steal a pair of ancient golden hands that are the key to unlocking a hidden treasure. The story isn’t important once the action gets started; it’s just an excuse to get the good guys and the bad guys in a room so they can start beating the heck out of each other (be sure to note that they hardly ever throw anything but roundhouse punches  to the jaw when they fight). The evil woman steps in at the last minute and either sets a bomb or tries to poison one of the cops in such a diabolic way that they’ll never get out of it alive…until the  next episode.