Capturing the energy and essence of an artist is difficult: depicting creativity and then the way ideas translate to artistic expression. Director Neil Berkeley undertakes this formidable task in his documentary “Beauty Is Embarrassing.” His subject is Wayne White, for over 30 years a puppeteer, painter, cartoonist, sculptor, musician and composer.
This list was not put together with an aesthetic in mind for what I deem best in show, but rather attempts to pool together a diverse set of documentaries about artists and their art, hoping that you'll find one worth pursuit.
The opening titles of “Django Unchained” announce: “1858. Somewhere in Texas. 2 years before the Civil War.” A chain gang of slaves struggles through the dark, interrupted by an educated, polite individual. In short order the hunt for wanted men and a beloved wife will reveal the underbelly of cinematic depictions of the old West, plantation life, and American myths.
As 2012 ends, the best films deserve acknowledgement, a tip of the hat. Here are the films I most admired in 2012, those that entertained as well as inspired, that offered insight as well as consummate cinematic experiences.
An unnerving sniper killing five people kicks off the action in “Jack Reacher,” a heartbreaking reminder of the tragic Newtown massacre. Once this difficult-to-watch scene ends, a well-written detective procedural follows, except that title character Jack Reacher isn’t a detective, which makes the plot all the more intriguing.
As John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote the story, it begins: "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." That hobbit, with his hairy bare feet is one Bilbo Baggins, a gentle soul, not made of stern stuff, a little man who likes his little life in Middle-earth.
Relying on ludicrous coincidences in a predictable, badly written story, “Deadfall” offers sociopathic criminals fleeing across snowy Michigan for the U.S.-Canadian border. A sure sign of a lack of depth, about every fifteen minutes an expendable character gets shot or a sex scene intrudes. Nothing really works; it’s lame and superficial and dull.
Director/co-writer Eric Lartigau’s film “The Big Picture” poses a knotted series of problems regarding identity, anonymity and fame. More a theoretical interrogation than a richly delivered story, the plot begins with self-satisfied Parisian lawyer Paul Exben slow to realize his wife Sarah has enjoyed an affair with long-time friend Grégoire and now wants a divorce.
After close elderly relatives die, surprising discoveries often await their families as they sort through items kept, perhaps treasured. But after the death of his 98-year-old grandmother Gerda, nothing prepared writer/director Arnon Goldfinger for the window that opened for him on a past his grandparents, Gerda and Kurt Tuchler, never talked about.