It's a fine line that the new historical documentary "Final Account" tries to walk: Is examining the Holocaust from the perspective of Germans too dangerous a venture? How does one do so without appearing sympathetic to such unthinkable evil?
As those who survived and/or lived during the time of The Holocaust become fewer and fewer as the years go by, it becomes more important than ever to archive first-hand accounts of what occurred, for history's sake but also for the sake of future generations, so that they can contextualize, if not ever truly understand, this unimaginable human catastrophe. But until now, we've rarely heard from Germans who actually were involved in Hitler's Third Reich...the thought of even doing so seems blasphemous, at best.
"Final Account" is a legacy project in more ways than one...it is also the final film from documentarian Luke Holland, who passed away in 2020 after a long battle with cancer. In this, his final film, Holland assembles interviews from nearly 300 elderly Nazi perpetrators, recorded over the last decade, and the results are stunning.
Stunning, mostly because of how relevant it feels to today - where men and women alike can find themselves pledging blind faith to a horrific man, and a horrific cause - and how absolutely mind-boggling it is to think that something like what happened in the 1930s and 1940s is still entirely possible...and how little we've learned.
"The Truffle Hunters," as the title suggests, features men - mostly over the age of 80 - who have made a living throughout the countryside of Italy hunting truffles...delicious and incredibly rare fungi that grow below the surface of the Earth and that have incredible value to high-end food connoisseurs.
What the title doesn't tell you, is that it is a movie for dog-lovers, and beneath its surface - just like truffles themselves - there is rich complexity. Also like truffles, this small documentary film is worth the search for what you'll gain in the act of the discovery.
Documentarian Alex Gibney has got his finger on the pulse of current issues facing Americans...and he also is clearly one of the fastest-moving filmmakers on the planet. It took him no time last year to kick out the pandemic-related "Totally Under Control" and his previous HBO documentary mini-series, "Agents of Chaos," took a deep-dive into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
His latest two-part effort - with Part One airing tonight on HBO with Part Two following on Tuesday, 5/11 - is called "The Crime of the Century" and is a stunning exploration of the Opioid Epidemic...and how it isn't just some accidental phenomenon, but yet another man-made disaster.
A scholarly documentary, "The Human Factor" walks us through the Middle East Peace Process, as told from the perspective of United States mediators under George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and beyond.
The only negative thing I could say about the new documentary, "Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street," is that i didn't like the end...in that I wish it could have gone on forever.
That's how I felt watching it. This incredibly insightful, hilarious and heart-warming documentary is one part origin story, describing how a group of tremendously talented and motivated people all got together at just the right time and place in history to create something timeless. It's also a celebration of what was created, and what was achieved, in a television landscape that was like the Wild West, unexplored and primed for pioneering. Then it's an inspirational trip down memory lane...nostalgia served up in delicious spoonfuls...that made me long for simpler times.
Watching "Street Gang," I was a kid again, and was made to feel thankful that I - like millions of other children - grew up on "Sesame Street." But as an adult looking back, the love and appreciation is deeper by a hundredfold, especially when you realize just how daring, bold and innovative "Sesame Street" really was.
"Sesame Street," as one person puts it in the film, "is Television if Television loved the audience, instead of just trying to sell to it." This love permeates through "Street Gang" and makes it one of the most effective, insightful and yes even important documentaries of our time.
Although this new HBO Max Documentary (coming Thursday, April 29th to the platform) is called "Lucy the Human Chimp," a more appropriate title might have been "Janis the Chimp Human." That's because its story really isn't about Lucy, a chimpanzee that was raised as a human for the first years of her life as part of a scientific study in mid 60s. It's more about Janis Carter, a caretaker who became so attached to Lucy, that she dedicated the rest of her life to helping Lucy and chimps like her acclimate themselves back into their natural habitats.
It's a truly fascinating story, but relying heavily on dramatizations and the same few photos, it doesn't lend itself well as a full-length documentary film.
While it's a fairly straight-forward, academic documentary, "Make|SHIFT" shows the amazing evolution and transformation of advertising, from its earliest incarnations of the 20th Century, to the hyper-focused targeted ads of today. It even hints at what is to come.
And while its an interesting journey to see how far we've come, the documentary is also about the "ad men" - and women - who have influenced their industry, and in turn American culture, over the decades. It's the subjects that add to the worthwhile nature of this indie doc, and what makes "Make|SHIFT" effective.
Near the end of the documentary, "Tina," the legendary, raspy-voiced superstar singer is escorted into a Broadway play based on her life, "Tina: The Tina Turner Story," with screaming, adoring fans mobbed all over the scene and surrounding her as she makes her way inside. On one arm is Tina's husband since 2013, Erwin Bach, and on her other arm is none other than her close friend, Oprah Winfrey.
It took me a few seconds to even realize that Oprah was there, and the fervorous fan-base chanting Tina's name also couldn't care less. Tina still has it...and is still such a force to be reckoned with that you don't even notice when she's standing next to Oprah Winfrey. Tina is larger than life, larger than Oprah...an icon and an inspiration to many. But arriving at that precise moment outside the theater, happy, content and in love, is really a tremendous testament to the endurance of Tina Turner. I'd say her rise was impossible, if only Tina hadn't in fact made it possible.
The tumultuous, incredible life of Tina Turner is on full display in the new HBO Max documentary film, simply titled "Tina." It takes what you may know about her and goes deeper than ever before, and is an emotional swan song for the now 81-year-old legend, who is deciding to slowly bow out of the limelight after all these years.
NETFLIX Review: 'Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal,' privilege with and for a price
In 2019, an investigation that was dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues" uncovered a scandalous scheme involving super-wealthy parents who were caught buying access for their children to attend prestigious colleges and universities across America.
To the majority of the public, the "faces" of this scandal were actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin - who were perhaps the two most famous individuals involved - but there were allegedly over 700 families caught up in it (though over 50 formally charged). All of whom had two things in common: They had committed a felony, and they had dealt directly with Rick Singer, a "coach" and consultant to the super-rich, who was the man who cooked the whole thing up.
Billie Eilish is about the biggest star on the planet at the moment, the singer/songwriter sensation who at age 15, uploaded a song to SoundCloud ("Ocean Eyes") and went on to become one of the most iconic and beloved stars of her generation. Her second album, 2019's "When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" was one of the best-selling album of 2019, with her number-one hit "Bad Guy" going platinum ten-times-over.
She's won two American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and five Grammys...becoming the youngest and only the second-ever to sweep the four major Grammy categories - Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year - in a single year (if you're wondering who the first person to do this was, it was Christopher Cross in 1980).
Eilish did all this before turning 19...and the most fascinating part of her deeply-compelling, revealing new documentary, "Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry" (debuting on Apple TV+ on Feb. 26th), is just how glaringly adolescent Eilish still is. Despite being responsible for lyrics and vocals far beyond her years, we see Billie having boy trouble, getting her driver's license, handling the tremendous physical and emotional pressures that come with fame and fortune, and obsessing about Justin Bieber.
In other words, she's just your average teenager, other than the fact that Billie Eilish's talents as an artist are anything but average.
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