Screening Room: ‘The Inventor’

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Drew Kelly)

The latest documentary from the ever-prolific Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Going Clear) digs into the dark, weird, and ultimately all-too-familiar story of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who promised a miracle.

The Inventor premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will be broadcast this Monday on HBO.

My review is at Slant:

Elizabeth Holmes, the Steve Jobs-aping wunderkind who launched the radically innovative and radically deceptive blood-testing company Theranos when she was just 19, claimed to have a thing for Thomas Edison. Most inventors do. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This Edison quote is one that director Alex Gibney puts on the screen in his substantively hard-edged, if somewhat generically constructed, documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, to remind his audience of at least one source from which the dogged Holmes drew her inspiration…

Screening Room: ‘Fyre’

Fyre was supposed to be the great music festival of 2017. Instead it turned into a social media schadenfreude disaster. Now Chris Smith (of American Movie fame) made a documentary out of it. Sometimes we get lucky that way.

Fyre opens in limited release and will be available on Netflix this Friday.

My review is at Slant:

The video ads for the Fyre Festival looked amazing when they first rippled through the Instagram feeds of influencer models like Bela Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski in late 2016. For a certain kind of status-seeker, marooned somewhere cold and just waiting for the next warm-climate EDM gathering, the marketing for the music festival promised a bro heaven populated only by models…

Here is the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin’

My review of the new documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin was published at PopMatters:

Hard times are coming,” author Ursula K. Le Guin said in her fiery 2014 speech accepting the National Book Foundation award. Her tone was somehow somber, yet also chipper, as though she had already acknowledged the worst and now was girding for battle. She was fixing her bayonet in bright spirits and about to go over the top…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes’

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes

The scarifying new documentary Divide and Conquer tells the ugly and all-too-true story of the rapacious and predatory instinct that drove Roger Ailes from small-time TV producer to history-changing right-wing propagandist and serial predator.

My review is at Slant Magazine:

By the time Alexis Bloom’s Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes opens at the end of 2018, its subject will have been dead for over a year and a half. But the media colossus he willed into existence out of spite and rage continues to beam his message across the nation with as much dark vigor as ever. As such, Bloom’s keenly insightful and deeply depressing documentary about the mastermind behind the Fox News Channel and much of what passes for modern conservative discourse is probably best viewed not as a record of the past but a document of what’s to come…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Monrovia, Indiana’

‘Monrovia, Indiana’ (Zipporah Films)

The newest documentary from Frederick Wiseman, Monrovia, Indiana, is opening this weekend around the country.

My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

There is nothing like a Frederick Wiseman movie. With an allergic resistance to the messaging and urgency prevalent in today’s nonfiction filmmakers, he has amassed a singular body of work that has done more to illuminate the human condition than any other single American filmmaker. He could be our greatest living documentarian…

Here is the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Oslo Diaries’

The Oslo Diaries, a new Israeli documentary about the secret peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO that started in Norway in 1992 while the intifada raged back home, will be premiering on HBO September 13. It is getting a limited theatrical release as well.

My review is at Film Journal International:

The story of the Oslo Accords remains one of the great tales of modern diplomacy and statesmanship. Starting in 1992, Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres’ deputy minister of foreign affairs, opened up an incredibly risky, unsanctioned secret back channel of negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). To maximize deniability, Beilin sent no diplomats but a pair of professors to meet with three Palestinians from Tunis at a remote villa in the forests outside Oslo…

The trailer is here:

Screening Room: ‘Do You Trust This Computer?’

doyoutrust1 ‘Do You Trust This Computer?’ (Papercut Films)

The new documentary from Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?) takes on a far more mistrusting topic of technology, namely: What’s artificial intelligence going to do to us as a species?

Do You Trust This Computer? is playing now. My review is at Film Journal International:

The delicious danger of malevolent machines has been an attractive science-fiction standby ever since R.U.R., Karel Capel’s 1920 play about a robot rebellion. There are a couple of problems with that statement, both of which are obliquely referenced in Chris Paine’s stylistically monotonous but occasionally thought-provoking documentary Do You Trust This Computer?

Here’s the trailer: