Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story

Release Date:  2010
Production Company:
Director: Kevin Tostado
Run time: 88 minutes
Seen on: Free Documentary DVD from Enoch Pratt Free Library, also on Netflix Watch Instantly
Tone:  Lighthearted and fun.  Appropriate for all.
Website: http://www.monopolydocumentary.com/

I picked this up at a whim at my local library.  They have a great free movie section, including a wide range of documentaries.  While I started to watch this, I almost turned it off about 15 minutes in.  (I usually give documentaries 20 minutes first.) I was not drawn into the documentary at first.  I was never a fan of Monopoly growing up.  It never seemed to have an end.  I enjoyed games with a clear end like Life or Sorry!  However, once I gave it a chance, I was drawn in.

The film has several aspects: the history of the game, talking heads of fans of the game, and footage of Monopoly competitions.  The serious players shared their techniques, game collections, and rivalries.  While most of the competitors are likeable, a few were not.  I began to root for certain competitors and look for the downfall of others.  (I was pleasantly surprised by one's loss.)

The documentary was an enjoyable look at one of America's popular pastimes.  It reminded me a little of Wordplay with its competitive aspects.  Overall, it was a closer look at a popular and common game.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Of Dolls & Murder

Release Date: 2012
Director: Susan Marks
Run time: 70 minutes
Seen on: Netflix Watch Instantly
Website: http://www.ofdollsandmurder.com/
City Paper: The Art of Murder

A small, doll-sized room.  Full of details such as window coverings, rugs, and a bloody hammer hidden near a chair.  This is the idea behind "The Nutshell Cases of Unexplained Death."  These were created by Frances Glessner Lee, an heiress to the International Harvester fortune.  Frances Glessner Lee was born in 1878 and with the time period, not allowed to attend college.  The "Nutshell" dioramas were a reaction to the constraints of her time.

I first read about Of Dolls and Murder in an article in City Paper last year (link above).  I was intrigued by the premise of the film as well as the fact that it was narrated by Baltimore icon John Waters.  It seems that anything Waters is affiliated with is dark and more than a little twisted.  I was glad to see that the film is offered on Netflix Watch Instantly.

The film shows the dioramas on permanent loan from Harvard to the Maryland Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore.  The dioramas are not open to the public, but are regularly used for their intended use of training law enforcement.

While it is a relatively short film at 70 minutes, it maintains a nice balance between the story of Frances Glessner Lee, a look at some dioramas, and their impact on pop culture.  I recommend this film, but it is not for the faint of heart.  WARNING: The dioramas themselves are not cute, cuddly dollhouses, but the film also includes footage of crime scenes as well as the Body Farm, a facility in Tennessee for the study of the decomposition of human remains.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Maryland Film Festival 2013 Update

Website: http://www.md-filmfest.com/

Maryland Film Festival has now announced 36 total films showing at the festival next month.  I am looking forward to the full schedule coming out (hopefully soon).  They have added a day to the festival this year, which may account for a schedule not being up yet.

They have announced several additional documentaries.

It looks like this is the roster of 12 documentaries announced thus far.  All information is taken from Maryland Film Festival's Blog: http://blog.md-filmfest.com/

12 O’Clock Boys (Lotfy Nathan) This gritty and exhilarating documentary follows several years in the life of Pug, a young Baltimorean who hopes to join the exclusive ranks of Baltimore’s urban dirt-bike riders.

16 Acres (Richard Hankin) From the editor and co-producer of Capturing the Friedmans comes this riveting and nuanced documentary look at the rebuilding of Ground Zero—one of the most architecturally, politically, and emotionally complex urban renewal projects in history.
Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys (Jessica Oreck) One year in the life of a family of reindeer herders in Finnish Lapland yields an immersive study of hard work, hard earned leisure, and an intricate bond between man and nature. From the director of Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo.
After Tiller (Martha Shane and Lana Wilson) A documentary look at the personal and professional lives of the only four U.S.-based doctors who continue to perform third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller.
Before You Know It (P J Raval) This observational documentary raises the curtain on a profoundly neglected segment of the LGBT community, its senior population, as three gay men residing in very different regions of the U.S. face new life challenges.
Downloaded (Alex Winter) With remarkable insight and access, this documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of Napster, taking a close look at the internet mavericks and musicians involved and the lasting global impact of peer-to-peer file sharing.
Good Ol’ Freda (Ryan White) Freda Kelly was just a shy Liverpudlian teenager when she was asked to work for a local band hoping to make it big. That band was The Beatles, and Freda was their devoted secretary and friend for 11 years; this documentary tells her story—and the story of the world’s most famous band through her eyes.
Hit & Stay (Joe Tropea and Skizz Cyzyk) This Baltimore-made documentary tells the story of the radical priests, nuns, and everyday people who comprised the Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine, risking prison to challenge U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
I Am Divine (Jeffrey Schwarz) From the director of Vito comes the definitive documentary look at actor, singer, and drag icon Harris Glenn Milstead, better known as Divine; featuring extensive interviews with John Waters and many others who knew, loved, and worked with Divine.

If We Shout Loud Enough (Gabriel DeLoach and Zach Keifer) An inside look at the Baltimore underground music scene through one of its most pivotal bands, Double Dagger, as they embark on their final tour.
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel) Functioning as both an immersive experiential documentary about modern commercial fishing and a feature-length experimental film, Leviathan offers an explosive and chaotic sensory experience like no other.
We Always Lie to Strangers (AJ Schnack and David Wilson) A documentary story of family, community, music and tradition, built over five years and set against the backdrop of Branson, Missouri, one of the biggest tourist destinations in America.
My hope is to see I Am Divine, 12 O'Clock Boys, Hit & Stay, and 16 Acres.  I would also like to see Aatsinki or Leviathan.  They seem to be a different type of documentary than I have seen thus far.  I am planning to prep a little for the festival this year.  I plan to watch a previous film from the director(s).  Hopefully this will give me a better insight to the new films this year.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Release Date: 2012
Production Company: Dumbdumb Entertainment, Electus, Warrior Poets
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Run time: 84 minutes
Seen on: Netflix Watch Instantly
Website: http://mansomethemovie.com/             
Mansome is a 2012 film by director Morgan Spurlock, perhaps best known for Academy Award nominated Super Size Me.  This film takes a humorous look at men's grooming in today's society.  The film is not ground-breaking: it covers trends such as beard competitions and the personal grooming habits of a professional wrestler.  It includes interviews with John Waters, Paul Rudd, and Zach Galifianakis.  The film is forgettable, but not necessarily one to skip.  It's a film where you don't necessarily have to give all of your attention 100% of the time.

However, I think it could have been improved.  There is a schtick between Will Arnett and Jason Bateman at a spa that runs throughout the film.  I would have been interested in more content from the "talking heads," such as the cultural anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher.  But maybe that's just me.  This is a film that doesn't seem to take itself overly seriously.  That's good, because a pious film about beard grooming and eyebrow threading might just be too much for me.

Overall, a watchable film, but not groundbreaking or revolutionary.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Maryland Film Festival 2013


I am looking forward once again to the Maryland Film Festival.  Last year was my first time attending and volunteering.  I helped set up tents and usher in the Charles Theater.  My volunteering allowed me to see 4 documentaries and one feature for FREE last year.  Since I worked on the set-up day, I earned more vouchers than I would have otherwise.

Last year I saw:
Love Free or Die
The Source Family
Save the Date

Before going to MFF last year, watching documentaries was an individual activity.  It was refreshing and stimulating to become immersed in a true story with a theater sometimes packed with people.  This fleeting community springs up to work and watch great films.  The bonus of the festival was the Q&A session after the film.  The person(s) are often a director of the film.  However, the most interesting Q&A was after Love Free or Die last year.  The session was hosted by the director, Macky Alston, and the subject of the film, The Right Reverend Gene Robinson.  This was a surreal experience, watching someone's personal story unfold on the screen and then having them in the room answering questions.

I am volunteering again at MFF.  While the full roster and schedule of films is not out yet, there are a few documentaries I am looking forward to and hope to have a chance to see.

I am Divine by Jeffrey Schwarz.  Described as "The True Story of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World."
Hit & Stay by Joe Tropea and Skizz Cyzyk.  About the Baltimore Four and Catonsville Nine, anti-war protesters during the Vietnam era.
12 O'Clock Boys by Lotfy Nathan.  About a young boy striving to become part of an urban dirt-bike gang in Baltimore.  "The film presents the pivotal years of change in a boy's life growing up in one of the most dangerous an economically depressed cities in the United States."

There are 24 films already announced.  John Waters hosts a screening of a selected film every year.  This once always sells out.  I am interested to see what he chooses this year.