Monday, May 14, 2012

Hot Docs -- Reviews (May 1-3, 2012)

  Shut Up And Play The Hits

We Are Legion: The Story Of The Hacktivists [Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, May 1, 6:15 pm]

"The geeks shall inherit the earth" may be a phrase you may have perhaps heard of. On one hand, Microsoft's Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs of Apple have proven this well from a corporate standpoint. But from a political standpoint it's grassroots protest groups such as Anonymous, the subject of this documentary, who've proven to be conduits for change and influence against political oppression and repressive behaviors from other groups. We Are Legion traces the evolution of a subculture of online misfits whose perceived juvenile behaviours were but a reflection of a shared mentality that information online should not be repressed nor censored by anyone. The documentary illustrates through news footage, interviews with individuals connected to Anonymous, and other figures, how through a series of key events this subculture organized into the movement we see today, most recently aligning itself with the Occupy movement that had sprouted up in many North American metropolitan cities. As a liberal-minded person myself I can sympathize with some of what Anonymous has tried to accomplish and the documentary takes a sympathetic view of the group, but I can see how this documentary might infuriate some. Like a Michael Moore documentary, We Are Legion is definitely one-sided.

The Queen of Versailles [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 2, 7 pm]

One wonders what director Lauren Greenfield 's intentions were when she picked buxom trophy wife and mother Jackie Siegel, her eight children and her real estate /time-share mogul husband David Siegel as the subject of her documentary. The beginning of the documentary shows the family, super wealthy but relatively down to earth embarking on building what would have been the largest private residence(inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France, hence the documentary's title) in the United States. I wonder how compelling a documentary this might have been just focusing on this aspect of the family and I could imagine this could have been a superficial mess. But when the economic downturn of 2008 hits, and even the Spiegels aren't immune, this is where the meat and potatoes of the documentary establishes itself. No the Spiegels aren't thrown into poverty but from their own exaggerated perspective they're having to cutback like everyone else and even their dream home remains a dream because of it. Greenfield has a sympathetic subject in Jackie, choosing to show her as an educated, and loving mother, which I have no doubt she is. She and her family were living the American dream and in these economic times will hopefully not be another victim in the pursuit of it.

An Affair of The Heart [Cumberland, May 3, 6:30 pm]

As a preteen of the early 80's who hadn't yet established his musical tastes, I vaguely recall the hysteria of pop artist Rick Springfield. I had older cousins who liked him, and thought he had a wacky stage presence. "Jessie's Girl" may have been the big hit but for some reason I gravitated towards "Don't Talk To Strangers" (I think because it sound like a Hall and Oates songs and I liked Hall and Oates.) Back then he was considered light-weight pop music, and I thought so as well, and as the mid to late eighties came my musical tastes soon gravitated towards "cool" music (eg. The Smiths, The Cure, New Order) and I soon forgot about Rick. Little did I know that his fans never really went away, and while may Rick may have been out of the musical spotlight for a time, especially in the nineties, his career and fan-dom, as this documentary shows, is perhaps stronger than ever. Director Sylvia Caminer takes a well-balanced look at the man and his fans. The documentary is not merely a comeback story of a 80's pop idol, but also one of survival of a man's ongoing bouts with depression that have plagued his life. The documentary also doesn't merely focus on the undying fandom(and the positive effect he's had on his fans) of his mostly female audience but it also chooses to question the rationality of his cult-like fan-base. The camera follows Rick on tour as he meets fans(as well as some of their jealous husbands) and performs and the documentary also splices in various interview footage with Rick as he promotes his memoir "Late, Late at Night". The cynic might take the documentary as a ingenious promotion tool for his book but taken on it's own merits I thought it was pretty decent. And I swear if you weren't a fan before, you will at the very least come out of it humming "Jessie's Girl".

Shut Up and Play The Hits [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 3, 9:30 pm]

I remember watching the webcast of LCD Soundsystem's final show at Madison Square Gardens in April 2011 and being drawn to both to the music of a band that I wasn't really that familiar with and the euphoric energy of the show itself. It's one of those times I discovered a band too late and felt more than an ounce of regret because of it. This documentary is far from just being a concert film but also shows quiet moments of personal reflection on the part of the band's leader James Murphy in the days after the show is done as he ponders what he's accomplished and what the future holds for him. Murphy's personal reflection is given further clarity with his interview session with author Chuck Klosterman which is spliced in throughout the film in between concert footage. The brief history of LCD Soundsystem is that he started the group when he was 31 years of age, made three albums and then decided to call it quits almost ten years later. There's the factor of Murphy's age which is part of the reason for quitting as he wants to pursue other things as well, especially now that he's in his 40's. And as Klosterman interviews Murphy, Klosterman says he thinks bands are remembered for their successes, but are defined mostly by their biggest failure and Murphy ultimately answers that maybe his biggest failure is “Stopping.” You get the feeling that Murphy's decision to quit was a deeply conflicted one. Such responses from Murphy are deeply insightful. A scene in which Murphy himself is in a storage locker containing all his band's gear where he breaks down in tears are just heartbreaking. The title of the film was a humourous phrase expressed by Arcade Fire's Win Butler (him and his bandmates being special guests during LCD Soundsystem's final show) and musically the song choice focuses on the band's best known ones with "Dance Yourself Clean" (from the band's debut) kicking off the musical segment, with sublime and to me extremely emotional favourites like "Something Great" and "All Your Friends" (focusing on the euphoric energy of the crowd) also being included and the the deeply poignant "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" ending off the night. The documentary takes place over the span of a few days, and is a document of a moment in time. Deeply entertaining, deeply moving, and and frankly one of the best music documentaries I've seen.

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