I doubt I made it into the final cut, but these are my peo­ple.

February 22, 2014 February 22, 2014 movies by Scott No Comments

It Might Get Loud
Coolidge Cor­ner The­atre
8 Sep­tem­ber 2009

The premise: Jim­my Page, The Edge, and Jack White come togeth­er to dis­cuss gui­tars, their sig­na­ture sounds, song­writ­ing, and the cre­ative process. Will it pro­vide deep tech­ni­cal insight into the gui­tar mas­tery of these leg­ends or will it, as White glibly pre­dicts, sim­ply end in a fist­fight? Nei­ther, as Davis Guggenheim’s newest doc­u­men­tary turns out, but the film is a tru­ly enjoy­able, some­times edu­ca­tion­al, and sat­is­fy­ing­ly tune­ful jour­ney nonethe­less.

The three char­ac­ters are fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple. Page and White, in par­tic­u­lar, impress with the sur­pris­ing depth and breadth of their musi­cal tastes. Watch­ing their eyes as they lis­ten to their favorite songs is telling. White earns bonus points in the Scot­tos­phere for using equip­ment that looks like it came entire­ly from Michi­gan yard sales. Page earns smiles from the whole the­atre when he breaks out into air gui­tar in his liv­ing room. There is a love­ly coun­ter­point between the artists’ musi­cal styles: new and stock footage of Page’s fan­cy Zep­pelin fin­ger­work is cap­ti­vat­ing. But then a smil­ing Edge demon­strates how sim­ple his leg­endary gui­tar riffs are by switch­ing out his mas­sive effects sys­tem, reveal­ing just a hand­ful of repeat­ed notes. Jack White denounces over-reliance on tech­nol­o­gy by con­struct­ing and play­ing a one-string elec­tric gui­tar out of trash, wire, nails and ham­mer. Then the three learn from each oth­er and jam togeth­er.

The mediocre dig­i­tal pro­jec­tion at The Coolidge drove me crazy for the first few min­utes, but (unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly) the movie soon drew me in to the point where I for­got about it. Guggen­heim capa­bly weaves loca­tion shots, inter­views, archival footage, con­cert films, and dozens of toe-tap­ping songs into the sto­ry of the meet­ing. This movie is imper­fect, but watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to these guys is hyp­not­ic. See it!

September 9, 2009 September 9, 2009 movies by Scott 3 Comments

Objectified movie stillObjec­ti­fied
Muse­um of Fine Arts, Boston
21 May 2009

What is indus­tri­al design? How do inan­i­mate objects invoke emo­tion­al respons­es? What makes good design? Do we real­ly need more things? What about the envi­ron­ment?

In inter­views with a star-stud­ded cast of design­ers (includ­ing the leg­endary Dieter Rams and the elu­sive Jonathan Ive), this film attempts to address those ques­tions. Does it have a clear mes­sage? Not so much. In the post-screen­ing Q&A ses­sion at the Boston pre­miere, direc­tor Gary Hus­twit acknowl­edged that his goal was to raise as many ques­tions as he answers—this is a film for think­ing peo­ple. As with his pre­vi­ous doc­u­men­tary, Hel­veti­ca, the propul­sive force of Objec­ti­fied is the pas­sion of the design­ers. This ener­gy, woven togeth­er with superbly shot B-roll footage and a pleas­ant­ly unusu­al elec­tron­ic and indie rock sound­track, makes a remark­able and enjoy­able film.

Hus­twit was com­plete­ly at ease on stage. His answers to ques­tions were wit­ty and well-con­sid­ered, but I most appre­ci­at­ed learn­ing the secret of his inter­view tech­nique: his enthu­si­asm for the sub­ject close­ly match­es that of his inter­vie­wees. I can’t wait for the unveil­ing of the still-secret third film of his “design tril­o­gy.” Until then: go watch Objec­ti­fied!

May 25, 2009 May 25, 2009 movies by Scott No Comments

Philippe Petit You prob­a­bly know the tale by now: on a gray August morn­ing in 1974, a 24-year-old French street per­former non­cha­lant­ly cris-crossed the space between the twin tow­ers of New York’s World Trade Cen­ter on a high wire near­ly 1400 feet above the ground. But why? And how? Man On Wire (now play­ing at the Kendall Square Cin­e­ma) tells the rest of the sto­ry.

For this film, direc­tor James Marsh assem­bles inter­views, stock footage, recre­ations, old home movies, and still pho­tographs into a delight­ful­ly non­lin­ear nar­ra­tive. Philippe Petit’s per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tions are cap­ti­vat­ing. The music is haunt­ing and the visu­als are, at times, stun­ning. But I was com­plete­ly blown away by some­thing unex­pect­ed: that a doc­u­men­tary could stir so many emo­tions.

A mot­ley ensem­ble of char­ac­ters was nec­es­sary to obtain roof access, deliv­er the equip­ment, deploy the lines, ten­sion the cable, and rig the sta­bi­liz­ers while evad­ing detec­tion by the author­i­ties. Lis­ten­ing to their tales of inno­va­tions, suc­cess­es, and close brush­es with dis­as­ter teased so many mem­o­ries of hack­ing at MIT. But, for all the tech­ni­cal sophis­ti­ca­tion we enjoyed in school, I real­ized that our achieve­ments were so insignif­i­cant in the shad­ow of Petit’s work. He was seek­ing to do some­thing beau­ti­ful for beauty’s sake. Why walk between the tow­ers? Because they were there. The Port Author­i­ty police sergeant who arrest­ed Petit describes, in file footage of a news con­fer­ence, what hap­pened. And in the course of his expla­na­tion, he does some­thing remarkable—he steps out of the shell of his police offi­cer per­sona and tells us, with some bewil­der­ment still in his eyes, how grate­ful he was to unwit­ting­ly become a part of the sto­ry.

See this movie at once.

August 23, 2008 August 23, 2008 movies by Scott 1 Comment