Monday, February 16, 2015

Best Documentaries Viewed in 2014

I like good documentaries that expand my worldview or explain the worldviews of others to me. With a voraciousor, as Jeffrey Round would put it, infinitecuriosity, I want to learn all I can about all that I can. All of these docs expanded my perspective in 2014. 

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown
Wyrd Studios, 2008
For a long view on H. P. Lovecraft’s writing and life, this informative Wyrd Studio production delivers. Talking heads abound, as prominent horror creators Caitlin R. Kiernan, John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo Del Toro and Stuart Gordon (among others) expound on Lovecraft’s ascending genius, as well as his foibles. Gordon is the director who has been arguably the most successful at adapting Lovecraft’s works (Take his unnerving dark film, Dagon, for example). The interviews are interspersed with archival footage and beautiful, often stunning, renderings by a variety of artists, including paintings, comic book imagery, and sometimes depictions of Lovecraft himself. Fear of the Unknown is enlightening and honest, acknowledging and contextualizing Lovecraft’s xenophobia. They raise the question of whether Lovecraft intended to construct a Cthulu mythos from the start of his career or whether this was a delightful accident. However, the luminaries don't have an answer. This is an understandable quandary since this debate about Lovecraft's intentions still persists among his aficionados. However, Lovecraft’s resultant admirable body of work and genius is undeniable—as well as his pervasive influence on modern horror.
 
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
Directed by Morgan Spurlock, 2012
Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock does it again, explaining why aspiring comic book artists, costume designers and fans flock to San Diego’s Comic-Con. Many celebrities have their say in this feature, some of dubious importance. However, it is always fun to hear Stan Lee reminisce or, better yet, to hear Seth Green describe meeting his future wife at a convention. Spurlock also mixes in many transitional scenes featuring cosplayers (costume players) and fans flocking to the convention. The documentary’s “characters” are among them, such as one hopeful fan planning to propose to his fiancée during a talk by Kevin Smith. By the end, Spurlock pulls of a neat trick. You care for these convention-goers’ dreams and hopes.
 
Small Town Gay Bar
Directed by Malcolm Ingram
View Askew Productions, 2006
How did two gay bars in the middle of Deep South, Texas, give people of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) community somewhere to be themselves and galvanize some of them in the face of homophobia? Watch this documentary, in awe, and find out. Director Malcolm Ingram examines two small-town gay bars in Mississippi. Ingram also looks at the lives of the locals who come out to drink and play. And they're only human. Patrons want a watering hole and simply want to be themselves—openly gay or trans—without fearing mockery or reprisals. Ironically, the owner of one of the establishments, although quite out of the closet at work, is not out to his parents for fear of their negative reaction. Ingram documents how one bar went through a death and rebirth like that of a Phoenix. The film also looks at the hate murder of gay 18-year-old Scotty Weaver, adding a layer of tragic immediacy to the work. The human interest element in this feature is utterly compelling. Impressively, director Kevin Smith served as executive producer for this affecting documentary.

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