Drew: The Man Behind the Poster (2013)

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

Link: Drew: The Man Behind The Poster

Summary: A documentary looking at the work of illustrator Drew Struzan and the iconic film posters he created over the decades before his retirement.

Thoughts: It’s easy to take film poster art for granted, but almost every film lover has Drew Struzan’s work permanently etched somewhere in their memories; his style of highlighted “mountain of faces” portraiture alone conjures up the magic of the movies, perhaps along with a bit of nostalgia nowadays, as illustrative poster art has been on the decline.

While the documentary provides some fascinating insights into Struzan’s work, it was light on both biographical details of the man himself (understandable if he’d rather keep his personal life personal) and on how he actually works (which may not be of interest to general audiences anyway). Instead, we’re mostly presented with the talking heads of celebrities in the industry who’ve worked with or been influenced by Struzan’s work. The film provides a sort of overview of Struzan’s most iconic work through the decades, with a bit of backstory regarding how they came about. Fascinating material, but it personally left me hungry for more. Fun movie; definitely worth checking out.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)


Link: The Internet’s Own Boy

Summary: A biographical look at the life of the young influential programmer and computer-political activist Aaron Swartz, with a focus on the court case that threatened him with prison time and led him to commit suicide at the age of 26.

Thoughts: I had never actually heard of Aaron Swartz until his death was all over the news. This documentary does a great job of showing who he was, what he did, what he believed in and fought for, and just what the infamous case against him was all about. Although I don’t quite agree with all his viewpoints or methods of activism, it’s hard not to find his death tragic and to be angry with the governmental forces that sought to persecute him. Very good documentary.

Side By Side (2012)


Link: Side by Side

Summary: This documentary explores the emergence of digital film, as opposed to celluloid film, comparing their technologies’ histories, impact on the industry, and the variety of opinions surrounding them from some of the film industry’s most successful directors and cinematographers.

Thoughts: Overall, I thought this was a very interesting exploration of the subject.  I would’ve liked to have seen more examples of the differences two technologies, more demos, more inside looks at how filmmakers use the technologies differently (or similarly), while seeing less talking heads.  Talking heads are so boring; you could at least throw something in there for audiences to watch while listening to a voice-over.  I think the documentary gives both technologies a fair assessment; it doesn’t seem to try to put one on a higher pedestal.  Both technologies seem to have their advantages and disadvantages.  Most audiences probably won’t notice or care about the differences anyway; it’s the story that matters most.  (Personally, if I were a director, the advantages of digital surpass the advantages of celluloid, so that’s the direction I’d go.)

It was strange to see so many filmmakers disparaging 3D though.  I don’t understand what they dislike so much about it, especially when they talk about wanting their films to be projected onto a big screen to be immersive.  3D only helps with that!  And now that thick-rimmed glasses are hip again, 3D glasses are the bee’s knees!

Here’s an interesting excerpt from the bonus features:

56 Up (2012)


Link: The Complete Up Series

Summary: This film catches up on the ordinary lives of some random British citizens.  Their lives have been chronicled every seven years since they were seven years old; they are now 56 years old.

Thoughts: I started watching this series with the last installment, 49 Up.  I love these films.  Even though we only see very brief glimpses into these people’s lives, as many of the subjects themselves are quick to remind us, it is fascinating to see both how they change every seven years, how they adapt to the changes that are forced upon them, and yet how they, in some ways, remain the same.  Though I’m sure different fans of these films find them fascinating for different reasons, with this latest installment I was mostly reminded that the important things in a person’s life are not his potential for fame and fortune, but his relationships both with other people and with himself, and that there is always hope; all struggles are temporary.  Yeah, that might sound like a cheesy theme to find, but that’s what I thought about as I watched how these various people progressed through their various stages of life in the span of minutes or seconds.  The worldly stuff gets left behind and forgotten; meanwhile, the self changes what it needs to, and perseveres.

I hope they will continue with another installment.  If something happens to director Michael Apted before then, I hope someone else will take it over.  It would also be fascinating to see something like this in the USA.  I know there have been attempts, but I’ve not come across them; I guess they are not nearly as popular.  In any case, this is perhaps the most fascinating documentary series of all time.

Leviathan (2012)


Link: Leviathan

Summary: A collection of random visuals from a modern fishing boat.

Thoughts: This film called itself a documentary, but there’s not much to see or to learn here.  All the filmmakers did was get on a fishing boat, put the camera here, record random stuff for a few minutes, then put it over there, record for a few minutes, etc.  Half the time it’s hard to even figure out what you’re looking at.  The best you can hope for is falling into a meditative stupor.  (Hey, look, the poster uses that font…)