Screening Room: ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’

Daniel Striped Tiger and his handler, Fred Rogers (Focus Features)

The truly heartwarming new documentary from Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) explores the unlikely phenomenon that was Fred Rogers.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? opens this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

It says something about the oddball uniqueness of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” that almost nowhere in Morgan Neville’s magnetic, soulful documentary about Fred Rogers does anyone talk about what great television he made. In fact, one of his collaborators sardonically notes that the show was almost like a compilation of every element good television was not supposed to have…

Screening Room: ‘RBG’

(Courtesy of CNN Films)

For anybody who hasn’t read The Notorious RBG or hasn’t been keeping up on their social media updates for the past couple years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the most buzzy octogenarian Supreme Court justice in the land. The new documentary RBG helps explains why. It opens this week.

My review is at PopMatters:

Here’s a fun fact to be gleaned from Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s breathlessly laudatory documentary RBG: According to her children, Ginsburg doesn’t know how to turn on her TV. This is a lifelong overachiever, a woman who made Law Review at Harvard in the ’50s when the number of the school’s female law students could be counted on two hands. Ginsburg is busy working out, attending the opera, and staying up until four in the morning working on cases and writing opinions. This is not a woman given to flipping channels looking for a Friends rerun…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: Tribeca Film Festival 2018

The Feeling of Being Watched

The 2018 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival just wrapped up over the weekend. I covered some of the fest’s varied documentary offerings for The Playlist, reviews here:

Screening Room: ‘The China Hustle’

My review of  the new documentary The China Hustle, playing now in limited release, is at Film Journal International:

Threaded with booming music, slashing scare-cuts, and talking heads throwing around phrases like “financial tsunami,” Jed Rothstein’s documentary The China Hustle is stylistically easy to dismiss as just another scare story for nonfiction junkies always on the lookout for the next catastrophe. It may read at times like an overcaffeinated Alex Gibney attack piece—and Gibney is in fact one of the executive producers here. But by the time Rothstein is done, many viewers will be yanking any money they might have in Chinese stocks out as fast as they can get to their phones…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Opera House’

 The Opera House is a curiously fascinating documentary about the Metropolitan Opera’s highly fraught move in the 1960s from their old house on Broadway to the brand-new Lincoln Center after an entire immigrant neighborhood was bulldozed to make room.

My review is at Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer.

Screening Room: ‘The Final Year’

The Final Year, which tracks Barack Obama’s foreign policy team in his presidency’s pell-mell final year as the shadow of the Trump victory looms darkly, is opening in wider release this week.

My review is at Film Journal International:

…[Director Greg Barker] highlights three key players: chief speechwriter Ben Rhodes, United Nations ambassador Samantha Powers and Secretary of State John Kerry. Although Obama offers a few to-the-camera remarks, for the most part he remains in the background as the leader whose policies these three power players need to mesh with their own beliefs and wrestle into some coherent and actionable policy. Powers and Kerry perform their jobs with such a sense of can-do urgency that even when the frequently hubristic Rhodes says that they “felt like a pickup team…to change the world,” one’s eyes don’t even necessarily roll…

Here’s the trailer:

 

Screening Room: ‘What Lies Upstream’

The bracing new documentary What Lies Upstream is a scarifying investigation that starts with a chemical leak into a West Virginia river and expands into an indictment of a nationwide regulatory system riddled with lax oversight and dangerous levels of compromise.

What Lies Upstream is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer.