Episode 109: Score: A Film Music Documentary

Joining us for Episode 109 is a special first time guest – soundtrack superfan, and film music reporter and media reporter, Benson Farris. We discuss first-time director Matt Schrader’s Score: A Film Music Documentary, which was shot over a 2 1/2-year period after raising more than $160,000 through two crowd-funding campaigns. Matt has said, “I’ve always been a big fan of movie music, and as I realized a lot of people love film scores, I knew there would be an audience for this film,” and you can consider us and this episode proof that he’s correct. If you love film music already, this is an episode for you. And if you don’t, listen to this one and you might just change your mind.

Score: A Film Music Documentary Review – 0:02:17

The Connecting Point – 0:40:37


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: RBG

RBG (2018)

1 Hour and 37 Minutes (PG)

“I dissent.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG begins with a camera tour of Washington landmarks, backed by classical music and hateful comments about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is a somewhat electrifying beginning and one that implies a fast-paced, exciting documentary, setting up what is sure to be a rebuttal of those opening comments. This scene, however, is a bit of an outlier as the filmmaking style generally used is much more bland, with the exception of one section that focuses on Ginsburg’s rise to pop culture icon. That isn’t to say it’s bad, but it certainly doesn’t break any new ground in terms of how the story is being told.

Despite not being the most compelling documentary with regards to style, RBG’s story about the life of the tiny 85-year old Supreme Court Justice is fascinating. Before becoming the second-ever female justice on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked tirelessly as an attorney, making a name for herself in sex discrimination cases, famously saying “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren, is that they take their feet off our necks.” It’s only in her older age that Ginsburg reached a certain legendary status among the public, though, and it is incredibly interesting to learn how and why she became determined to fight for women’s rights as an attorney. Ultimately, Ginsburg reaches the Supreme Court and becomes known as “The Great Dissenter”. The documentary does an excellent job of showing how she maintained close friendships with conservative judges like Antonin Scalia despite vastly differing opinions and covers several of her higher profile cases, though sadly not with the level of detail most would like.

Outside of the courtroom, RBG introduces us to Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a daughter, parent, grandmother, and wife. These more intimate sections of the film are extremely straightforward and exist to establish her character, as well as tell a touching love story between she and husband Marty. One granddaughter’s insight is extremely telling and defines the Justice Ginsburg we have come to know, telling us “She taught me that the way to win an argument is not to yell because that will more often turn people away rather than bring them to your table.” In being this calm, relentless source of dissent to those who would marginalize the rights of the minority for any reason, Ginsburg became an icon to a younger generation, even garnering the nickname “Notorious R.B.G.”, a play on the name famous rapper, Biggie Smalls, The Notorious B.I.G. The most entertaining part of this portion of the film is perhaps seeing Justice Ginsburg’s reaction to her fame, giggling in delight as humbled by the support as she was fierce behind a bench.

VERDICT

RBG provides biographical insight into both the personal life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her lasting impact on the laws of this nation. Though nothing artistically interesting, the history lesson for those who know nothing (or little) of this great woman’s work is nonetheless a powerful and important one.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

FF+: The King of Kong

On this episode of FF+, Patrick and friend of the show Francisco Ruiz take a crack at walking through one of Patrick’s favorite types of storytelling: documentaries. Here they explore what makes a documentary entertaining, how real people can turn into heroes and villains, and why 80’s video games are the best ever. Hope you enjoy!

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 082: The Blair Witch Project

For our 2017 Halloween episode, we are discussing the 1999 cult classic film that launched the found footage genre. The Blair Witch Project featured an incredible viral marketing campaign on its way to becoming the 2nd highest return on investment in film history. Listen for a great conversation that covers the films history, our thoughts on how scary it is, and some intriguing theories about the ending, plus much more.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:07

(Aaron – Song to Song, Nintendo Switch)
(Patrick – Scythe by Neal Shusterman)

The Blair Witch Project Review – 0:20:19

The Connecting Point – 1:36:40

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (2017)



Going In

Documentary master Frederick Wiseman’s newest film is a 3-hour plus exploration of the expansive 92-branch New York Public Library System. Though I have no background with Wiseman’s filmography, I am aware of his observational style and his repeated focus on studying American institutions. As someone who grew up an avid reader (especially of classical literature) and spent time working in a library early in his life, I am incredibly intrigued by what this film may have to say about an establishment that must constantly change to keep up with advancements in technology and the way people seek out information. The runtime of Ex Libris: The New York Public Library is intimidating, but I’m betting on Wiseman’s reputation and checking this one out.



COMING OUT

If I asked you to tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say “library”, what would you say? It’s likely the vast majority of us would all give the same answer to that question. “Books”, of course. The word library is even synonymous with books. The Latin translation of Ex libris is simply “from the books.” In Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Wiseman shows us the evolved institution that has come “from the books” but grown into something so much more.

The public library is no longer just a place that we go to read. In this massive documentary, Wiseman intertwines a series of ongoing meetings highlighting the library’s attempts to continue adapting to the digital age with observational footage of patrons utilizing the library spaces and resources in a countless different ways. The meetings were especially intriguing to me because we learn some of the challenges that encompass the enormous task of servicing millions of citizens with an expanded online presence. But many of the snapshots of users were intriguing as well. We see interpreters teaching how tone impacts their interpretations by having attendees read from the Declaration of Independence – one angry, one pleading. We see the inner workings of this gargantuan library system by way of the factory-like environment used to ship books between its 92 branches. We see dance classes, celebrity speeches, and a fascinating project in which the library checks out wi-fi devices and provides free internet service to local community members. There is much that is intriguing in the stories seen, and Wiseman transitions between them expertly, every so often giving us a pause with an establishing shot of an outside fountain or courtyard, or of an empty hall. There is simply no questioning Wiseman’s mastery of his craft and this style of documentary filmmaking.

Where Wiseman perhaps falters, though, is in his insistence on making this film three hours long. I can’t help but feel that if it was shorter, and thus more accessible, it might have a wider impact by being seen more. It’s hard to imagine many viewers sitting down to watch this and not turning it off halfway through, because the message is clear right away – the library is more than just books. How much time each individual viewer is willing to spend in these moments is going to be a very personal thing.

Verdict

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. At times I was simultaneously captivated and exhausted. Despite the film’s length, most moments were interesting enough to hold my attention. It may have been an unintended consequence that the film was educational beyond its message of showing how vast a library’s impact can be, but I emerged more knowledgeable than before. As much a master editor as anything else, Wiseman has proven to me that the praise he receives is warranted. This is a film that epitomizes the Aristotle coined-phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and while not a must-see for everyone, for those willing to embrace and breathe in the library for a few hours it will be well worth the investment.

Rating:

 


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Festival Minisode: SIFF Coverage #2

Welcome back to another episode of Feelin’ Film Plus. Returning for another conversation about the Seattle International Film Festival is Mike Ward, a fellow Seattle film critic whose insightful reviews always break down the pros and cons to help us answer that most important of questions, SHOULD I SEE IT? In this episode we discuss a variety of films covering multiple genres such as drama, comedy, science fiction, and (as always) documentaries. 

Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF): https://www.siff.net/festival

Landline – 0:09:34

Time Trap – 0:20:25

Entanglement – 0:29:04

STEP – 0:42:20

The Work – 0:53:09

The Farthest/The Last Animals –  1:07:12

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Intro/Outro Music – “Seeing the Future” by Dexter Britain

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