Archive for the ‘documentaries’ Tag

Feb (2016) Movies   2 comments

February saw the first really winter-like weather around here and that’s usually good for movie viewing. But, between busy times at work and starting to build up the running mileage there just wasn’t a lot of time to veg in front of the telly. When we did, it was mostly the news, Prime Minister’s Questions, fake news (John Oliver is back and Samantha Bee has a fantastic programme), or documentaries. Here are the documentaries:

dublin bottling

Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr Pepper (2014) Fuck corporate Dr Pepper (Snapple).

One of the few joys of life in Tucson was access to Coca Cola made with sugar instead of HFCS (since Mexican bottlers were not beholden to Archer Daniels Midland Corporation).  Once I discovered that the cane sugar variety was more satisfying and tasted less syrupy — and more like the original formulation — I never again drank the corn syrup format (note: in the UK they don’t use corn syrup but despite that I have only had four or five bottles of cola in the last 7+ years).

This documentary is about the original Dr Pepper bottling plant in Dublin, Texas and how they were crushed by the Corporation started there because they stuck to the original — and, widely agreed, better — formulation.  I’m a Pepper (Boycotter), Wouldn’t you like to Boycott Pepper, too?


Love Italy?  Horseracing? Corruption?  Then find a showing of Palio (2015), a documentary about the world’s oldest horse race which takes place twice each year in Siena.  Lasting about 90 seconds, the race is the sideshow in this battle between the various Contrade (essentially, districts), to which the residents of each hold fierce allegiance.

The year is spent in preparation by collecting money and currying favour amongst officials and the jockeys who are essentially mercenaries that train horses nearby (but come from across the country and beyond).  There is a Byzantine lottery to choose which horse will run for each Contrada after which the jockeys make their preference known for whom they would like to ride.  If chosen, they are squirreled away under guard for the following four days leading up to the Palio so that they can’t seek (or make) bribes; even so, at the starting lineup (also chosen by an elaborate, ornate and ancient randomisation machine) the jockeys make deals amongst themselves or, if they bear a grudge, might start flailing one another with the long whips they carry.

A winning jockey is met with the adoration of his sponsors and carried through the city and into the Duomo while losing jockeys might take the sort of ass kicking usually reserved for those that betray their comrades in battle.  Moreover, the race is run bareback at an incredible pace such that horses might slam into the walls of the Piazza and send their rider to the ground or into the crowd; a riderless horse can win this race, so those that continue on become one more strategic problem for the lead riders.  This was all gripping stuff and recommended viewing for anyone who has spent time in Siena (or plans to).

catch22 orson welles and staff award a medal

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles  (2015) was a surprising (to me) portrait of the great director or some of my favourite films (notably, The Third Man and Chimes at Midnight) largely because he always seemed to be an Establishment figure throughout my youth.  As it turns out, he was even more weird and uncompromising than you might have thought possible, an avant-garde artiste shunned by the business end of the movie business and toiling away at projects he found beautiful and interesting. And, of course, drinking, eating and whoring around too much.

Talking heads throughout include Julie Taymoor, Steven Spielberg, Peter Bogdonovich, Elvis Mitchell, Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Sydney Pollack, Buck Henry, Paul Mazursky, and Richard Benjamin. Look for the comparison of a long tracking shot in Touch of Evil to a similar one in American Graffiti (both of which we recently have been talking about re-watching, coincidentally). There’s also an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial starring Anthony Perkins which is on our to view list while the film teases with dozens of others…a trip to the British Film Institute looms.

fat guy with a gun

“The Only Thing That Will Stop A Bad Guy With A Gun Is A Fat Guy With A Gun (and a counterfeit Fender)” — Wayne LaPierre

Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA (2015), an offering from PBS Frontline , is what you might expect, but well done. My country (soon to be my former country) is mentally ill.

Then you ask why I don’t live here
Honey, how come you don’t move?




Kipling’s Indian Adventure (2016) covers young Rudyard’s short but formative stint as a newspaper editor in Lahore (now part of Pakistan) from the age of 16 to 24 years old.  Beautifully shot on location such that you can almost smell the squalor (and danger) he put himself in wandering the inner city streets unescorted (something the heavily armed police shadowing the film maker would not allow in the relatively modern-ish streets, today).  From journeyman journalist to biting social commentator and novelist in 7 years, he was eventually advised to leave.


When I was a kid, the Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) were the coolest thing, ever, not least because they scared the shit out of my gun-crazed parents.  Obviously, this wasn’t due to coloured folk carrying weapons (I come from 2nd Amendment fetishist stock), but had more to do with them uniting with other poor and downtrodden folk, feeding kids, and dressing sharp.  Put your fist in the air and repeat after me, “I am…a revolutionary…I am…a revolutionary…I am…a revolutionary.”  Now, be patient…the FBI will be with you shortly.

Non-documentary films:

Buffalo Soldiers (2001), although it purports to be based on actual events, was one of the few fiction films we tried this month.  In fact, as spectacular as it seems that stoned and drunken soldiers might accidentally wreak havoc on a host country in peacetime or that corruption and vice of such scale as portrayed herein might take place in the total-control environment of the US military, your humble reporter is one veteran who felt that most of this material seemed at least plausible (my job during my short service in the Army was then known as 71-Q, Journalist, with the primary responsibility to make stories like the ones portrayed here go away or at least get lost under reams of ‘feel-good’ press releases).


The Big Short (2015) should have taken the Oscar.  They were, ironically, robbed.

Horse_Feathers-lobby card

The only non-documentary NOT based on actual events that we saw this month was Horsefeathers (1932) starring the always sublime Marx Brothers.  Two years after the Hays Code was enacted, this was racy and rude and funny as hell (and, to paraphrase Captain Spaulding in Animal Crackers, another Marx Bros great, “that’s just the kind of film I crave”).  Briefly, Groucho is the new college president at his son’s (Zeppo’s) school and Chico and Harpo get recruited from a speakeasy (Prohibition was still in place) to play football for the school.  There’s a side bit about the “College Widow,” a contemporary term for “Cougar,” a woman who would teach the boys anatomy.  Now that I think about it, this was kind of a docu-drama, too.

Till next month, here are links to Jan 2016 Part A and Jan 2016 Part 2.