I was at an event a couple of days ago and met this woman who told me that I should see Heather Lenz’s documentary ‘Kusama Infinity’ When I asked her why, she answered “because it’s a great movie.’ Okay, sure. The film focuses on the life and art of Yayoi Kusama. Told through interviews, the film mostly focuses on the art more than the woman, although we get a glimpse of who she is via her own words. Her art is quirky and oddly mesmerizing. As my friend says, these are the perfect backdrops for the selfie generation. Of course, they are much more than that, and we get to hear her inspirations, and her processes: a polka dot is not really just a dot. Still, the subject is a little sterile, perhaps: the biggest scandal here is that Andy Warhol once stole her ideas. Kusama suffered through mental issues, but that isn’t really a stretch for any artiste.
When I saw ads for ‘Whitney,” I thought to myself: didn’t I see this film before? Well, it turns out I was kinda right – there was an earlier documentary about her life, and I remember it was on Showtime. This is a different one (there are always competing ones, I just saw today that there is another Christopher Robin film) and is directed by Kevin Anderson. I didn’t know if I wanted to see this, but there was an LA heatwave, and two hours inside the movie theater sounded good.
I am glad I did – this was a well-done take on her life. Just like the earlier documentary, it focuses on the road to her demise – how did it get there, what really happened, etc – and her life here is as sad. (An older lady sitting behind me probably uttered ‘So sad’ more than a dozen times) Houston was such a special woman, with a God-given voice that touched hearts, and to this day I can and do listen to her songs regularly. Ultimately, like all great artists, she had a troubled soul, and in the end was unable to fight her demons. And those demons would be drugs, and poor life choices – entrusting her matters to the wrong people (His father squandered her millions, for example) Add to that her inability to accept her sexual orientation (her hairdresser said she was definitely bisexual) and you have got the worst recipe for a disastrous life. The big reveal in this piece is the revelation that she and her brothers were sexually molester by her aunt, the singer Dee Dee Warwick, and unfortunately, that’s just a small footnote in a life full of triumphs and tragedy. The film doesn’t dwell much on her artistry – that’s probably a film still waiting to happen – but I can imagine it is hard not to focus on the salacious matters of her life. This film, even as it clocks at 120 minutes, is never boring because Whitney is never boring, and that is what makes her, and this film, special.
For the longest time, I have been wanting to read Scotty Bowers’ book ‘Full Service,’ which is one of those tell-all/confidential reads about the sexual escapades of Hollywood celebrities from the mid-century. But, to be honest, I am not really very familiar with the actors and actresses of that era. So when I found put that there is now a documentary about Bowers (and his stories) I thought this is probably the next best thing, and at least, the time commitment here is much shorter.
The documentary, directed by Matt Tyrnauer, is a fascinating film, even and maybe especially for me who is just a ‘casual’ observer. Bowers used to work at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard, and that is where he procured the mostly male (and some female) prostitutes that he supplied to some of the big stars of the day. He talks about how Cary Grant and Randolph Scott were lovers, and how he supplied at least 250 women for Katherine Hepburn. His critics have been vocal about how he has no proof about these claims, and that these people are not really here to defend themselves. This documentary doesn’t really take a stand either way, but you do see that Bowers is certainly eccentric – he’s a pack rat, and a spendthrift, and maybe a bit of an exaggerator. Like do I really believe Cole Porter requested fifteen guys to perform oral sex on? Yes, I do, but it’s the fifteen that makes me raise my eyebrows. Still, the movie is certainly NOT boring, and the salacious details are certainly titillating.
I didn’t think I would love ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor,’ the documentary about Mr. Fred Rogers/ Even though everyone I know has raved about it, I never really watched the show, and the couple of times I did, I just didn’t like it – it felt too slow, like the kind of show that made kids want to take naps in the afternoon after watching. But I was at Arclight and it was the movie that perfectly matched the time I wanted to go, so…
And I was a sobbing mess by the end of the film. Truly, his life is something that should be celebrated, and I am glad this documentary is there for people to see, and I am elated that this is a hit, and everyone is watching it. Basically, the film tracks him and how he started his show from nothing but just his vision and talent. Compared to what kids are watching nowadays. the show defines ‘simple,’ but as well know, in simplicity is clearness of message – and he just wanted to spread his brand of acceptance and love. And of course, as we can see in the documentary, Republicans hated him because they didn’t like that he was giving that message that everyone should be special as they are – they were picketing his funeral, even. The one thing I got from this is his message will never go out of style and in this crazy combative divided world we live in now, we can all use a little bit of what he is preaching. I think everyone should see this film, and not just watch it, but understand and internalize his message. I bet the world will be a more peaceful place.
Did you know that more than 50 percent of Americans are single? That factoid is provided for us at the very beginning of Jonathan Cipiti’s documentary ‘The Dating Project,’ which tackles dating in this modern age of online apps and social media. I watch this with just a little bit of curiosity. Someone like me who is in my fifties surely can no longer be bothered, right? I wish I learned something more, but we just get here the depressive facts that dating is just as difficult, just as complicated. The film follows five individuals but sad to say, they aren’t really more interesting than your average contestant in reality dating shows. And the most interesting parts for me – the actual dating – did not happen until the very end of the film, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of the film.
Twenty years ago, Jon Benet Ramsey died. And even though two decades has passed, the case is still unsolved, and on its twentieth anniversary, there are a slew of ‘specials’ dedicated to the murder. I saw ‘Jon Benét – An American Murder Mystery’ from the Investigation Discover Channel, which I guess is an offshoot of the Discovery Channel. This three part series is very comprehensive, but I don’t know if I learned anything new from it. The main point of the documentary seems to be that after reviewing the facts, people tend to be polarized, and are divided into two groups – those who believe that her parents had something to do with it, and those who think otherwise.
Lump me with the first group. I don’t know why – and this is just more gut instinct – but something is off there somewhere, and apparently a grand jury had recommended that John and Patsy Ramsey be charged, but the district attorney was against it, and some key people are saying that it is because the Ramseys have gone friendly with her. Not on this special is the ‘revelation’ that when Patsy placed the 911 call, she thought she had already hung up and was asking two other people “Now what?” This bit of information seems to have come from the CBS special tackling the same subject (Actually, I thought this special had that info, and was the driving factor behind me watching this) I think it is bewildering that this case has never been solved over the years, and a lot of that stems from the fact that Boulder police made a lot of mistake when they were first conducting the investigation.
i wish I could say that this three part series was riveting, but it was not. I felt a lot of it was padded, and I almost stopped watching. Maybe I should have researched more and watched the CBS one.
Didn’t I just write about a movie about a politician with the zipper problem? I think I just saw the documentary about the guy with the biggest zipper problem of them all: Anthony D. Wiener. ‘Weiner,’ a film by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg documents Weiner’s failed 2013 mayoral run. It starts after Wiener has resigned from Congress because of a sexting scandal. He then tries a run for Mayor of New York City, and that seems to be the best idea – because he does have an overflow of charisma, and as a politician, has bright ideas. And yes, I do agree with his politics, so he is aces in my book, in that regard. But wiener s will always be wieners, and in the middle of his campaign, more of the zipper problem surfaces: photos of his member, and extraneous activities under the guise of one Carlos Danger. We have all seen it, we have all joked about it, ha ha ha. This sinks him, and his campaign, with him landing in last place. It is a fascinating watch, and this definitely makes us think. I myself have not been happy with how Bill De Blasio has performed as Mayor, and this really made me wonder – what if, what if, what if? Wiener seems to still be ticking, and is still doing the pundit circles defending the Democratic party. And we go back to the aged old question of – do the private lives of these candidates really matter? “I lied to the people,” Wiener muses toards the end of the campaign, and ultimately, that really was teh crux of his demise. But again, I still wonder what if, what if, what if.