Monday, March 30, 2015

Jarecki Family Values: Power and Privilege in “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst”

“But of the many expertly crafted revelations in Jarecki’s nonfiction, slow-reveal saga of psychopathy, though, the most telling occurred not during the shocking finale in which Durst may – or may not – have been unwittingly taped confessing to his crimes. No, it’s the second to last chapter of this series about a man whose proximity to wealth and privilege has most likely led him to get away with serial murder – appropriately titled “Family Values” – that steals the show. And I’m not referring to a recently discovered letter that damningly implicates Durst in Berman’s killing in episode five, but to a seemingly innocuous exchange that happens between the filmmaker and his producer Marc Smerling. To set the scene: The pair are riding in a car, on their way to confront Robert’s brother Douglas, head of The Durst Organization, who is being honored at a dinner.”

To read my take on the HBO series visit Global Comment.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Gunman Actor Peter Franzén on Being a Global Artist (and Working with Sean Penn)

“Peter Franzén – remember that name,” is what I told everyone who asked me if I’d made any big discoveries covering the Finnish Film Affair in Helsinki in September 2013 — I’d even called this talented thesp “Finland’s ridiculously charismatic answer to Guy Pearce” in my coverage. But unlike that Australian actor, Franzén also writes and directs. His woefully underexposed directorial debut Above Dark Waters is based on his semiautobiographical novel, told through the eyes of a child living with a loving police officer father who happens to be a violent alcoholic.

When I learned Franzén would be attending the closing weekend of last year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival – in addition to his own film, he was supporting two more Finnish selections in which he starred – I jumped at the chance to pick his brain while the A-list-chasing paparazzi had all returned to L.A. Who knows how long the under the radar tranquility will last? I thought. Franzén, who speaks flawless English, will next be seen onscreen in Pierre Morel’s upcoming The Gunman, starring alongside Sean Penn and Javier Bardem. Like I said, remember that name.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Former high-ranking Scientologist: “Thetans have no gender”

My Salon interview with one of my sheroes! Trans pioneer (and ex Scientologist) Kate Bornstein stars in the wonderful doc Kate Bornstein Is A Queer & Pleasant Danger.

Gender theory pioneer Kate Bornstein talks about trans visibility, LGBT activism and her history with the church.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Roger Ebert, Life Itself, and Conflict of Interest in the Digital Age

Watching Life Itself - shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature though it ultimately didn’t get a nom - I was reminded of how Roger Ebert was the ballsy pioneer of what might be called “conflict of interest criticism,” an unapologetic leader of a COI new wave. Unlike the old guard, represented by Richard Corliss in Steve James’s lovely cinematic tribute, Ebert had no qualms dispensing with the critic’s illusion of objectivity, going so far as to even review Encounters at the End of the World, a doc dedicated to him by his good friend Werner Herzog. (“I will review it because I love great films and must share my enthusiasm,” Ebert wrote in an open letter to Herzog.)

To read – and comment – on my inaugural Conversation Starter visit Hammer to Nail.

Friday, March 6, 2015

And more Amazing Randi!

And my first interview for Salon...

James "The Amazing" Randi spoke with Salon about "An Honest Liar," the new documentary about his life's work.

Directors and Producers Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein on The Amazing Randi Doc An Honest Liar

I’ve been a fan of Tyler Measom’s work ever since I wandered into a screening of his and Jennilyn Merten’s nail-biting portrait of teen exiles from the FLDS Church, Sons of Perdition, at Tribeca five years back. (The doc ultimately went on to be picked up by the Oprah Winfrey Network for broadcast the following year.) Now Measom has teamed up with producer Justin Weinstein (a scientist turned filmmaker and both executive producer of Ryan Murdoch’s Bronx Obama and writer/editor of Constance Marks’s Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey) to craft another festival success story. An Honest Liar is an up close and personal look at legendary showman James “The Amazing” Randi, who for over half a century has used his unparalleled knowledge as a professional magician and escape artist to expose professional hucksters the world over. (Most notably the spoon-bending Uri Geller, whose spectacular undoing occurred in front of millions of viewers – not to mention host and amateur magician Johnny Carson – on The Tonight Show.)

Filmmaker spoke with Measom about going the indie band route (i.e., using festivals as a means to connect with fans and sell related merchandise), gaining the trust of a renowned skeptic, and also his very personal reasons for pursuing this remarkable subject in the first place. An Honest Liar hits theaters in NYC and LA on March 6th with a national rollout to follow.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.