Near the end of the documentary "Design Is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli," an expert observes that a good designer is the "intermediary between information and understanding," making the complex clear. As directors Roberto Guerra and Kathy Brew work through illustrative examples from the Vignellis' work, what that means becomes crystal clear.
Producers and directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger bring a welcome restraint to their documentary "Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Show." Anyone familiar with Downey's nationally syndicated show from early 1988 to July 1989 remembers the loud, confrontational, trash-talking host who blew smoke in guests' faces while screaming at them.
Director Molly Bernstein's "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" accurately identifies what she delivers. Dominating this documentary from the first frame of his hands shuffling his beloved cards to his concluding performance of Shel Silverstein's wonderful poem "The Game in the Windowless Room," Ricky Jay keeps his mysteries to himself while generously praising mentors.
An extraordinary and chilling documentary, "The Act of Killing" chronicles exactly that in unprecedented ways. Several Indonesian men reenact, unabashedly, even proudly, ways they brutally tortured and murdered individuals in the 1965-66 purge primarily of communists, among other targeted groups such as local Chinese workers. Some killers now hold office, with no punishment for their heinous acts.
The title of “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” reveals one shopper’s longing for eternity, but the first talking head, Joan Rivers, in a brief moment of honesty, speaks for many when she says, “People who take fashion seriously are idiots.” “Scatter My Ashes” is one of those documentaries that must be criticized as a film, not a culture.
"Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" might seem terribly exotic, even a bit off-putting in its foreignness, but it is very seductive.
Spending 24 hours in an emergency room is not anyone's idea of fun. It's a place where dignity and self-sufficiency become humiliation and dependency. That's common knowledge. What "The Waiting Room" shows is much more than that.
Forty-nine million Americans exist without enough to eat. It would be nice if it were enough for a thousand points of light to feed people one at a time. It would be nice if each food pantry fed all the hungry people so everyone else could gorge without shame. But hunger in America is not nice -- and it's not going away because these methods simply do not work. These sorry facts are highlighted in "A Place at the Table," a finely wrought documentary about what it will take to feed the hungry who live in food-rich America.
Most of us have snapshots of our lives, records of the first day of school or the prom. "56 Up" is director Michael Apted's record of the lives of 14 Britishers tells their stories, albeit in brief, through film. "56 Up" continues what he started in 1964 when he first interviewed 10 boys and four girls, each age 7. Its cutesy title was "Seven Up," which explains the current title and those of films in between, shot at seven-year intervals.
Here's a crazy idea: Film some of the world's smallest, most delicate creatures, Monarch butterflies, in one of the world's largest film formats. Then spread those tiny creatures across a giant dome of a screen and hope it works to drop a caterpillar on heads of movie-goers.