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