Screening Room: DOC NYC 2017

The eighth edition of the DOC NYC film festival starts tomorrow. Among the 250-odd movies screening over about a week and a half are movies about Dutch nationalists, the Russian athletic doping conspiracy, high school dance teams, a cult leader named Father Divine, and CIA experiments with LSD (the last is Errol Morris’ killer four-hour epic Wormwood, image at bottom).

Tomorrow’s opening night movie is The Final Year, a behind-the-scenes look at the last year in office of President Obama’s foreign policy team (that’s them, above) which plays out with unexpected drama against the darkening shroud of Trump’s rocketing rise to the presidency. It’s getting released either later this year or in January and will show up eventually on HBO.

My preview of the goodies on show at DOC NYC is at Film Journal‘s Screener blog:

Today there seems to be a film festival for almost every taste and locality. In addition to the grand dames of the festival circuit like Toronto, Venice, Cannes and Telluride, with their red-carpet premieres and B-list stars getting A-list attention, there are more tightly focused cinematic gatherings, from Los Angeles’ Screamfest to the Ottawa International Animation Festival (both just what they sound like). So it can be refreshing to find a festival that simply wants to show as many amazing movies as possible…

More to follow next week.

Reader’s Corner: What the President Read

the_power_broker_book_coverRecently, Barry told Wired about the books that have shaped him over the years. They broke down his syllabus in typical efficient-nerd fashion, by how long it would take to read. Predicting one could get through Robert Moses’s 1,300-odd page The Power Broker in 19 hours seems dubious unless you’re a speedreader.

Still, this list is nonetheless a fascinatingly mixed one, jumping from fiction (a surprising Steinbeck selection) to urban studies (Caro, the book that explains New York City) and environmentalism (Kolbert’s terrifying study of climate change and mankind-caused extinctions):

  • The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63, Taylor Branch
  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert Caro
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Andy Grove, The Life and Times of an American, Richard S. Tedlow
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kaheman
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert
  • In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo

Weekend Reading: March 11, 2016

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Department of Weekend Reading: November 14, 2014

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Department of Weekend Reading: June 27, 2014

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Readers’ Corner: The President’s Book List

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Peter Baker, one of the Times‘ more prolific and thoughtful chroniclers of goings-on in the nation’s capital, published an interesting piece earlier this week on Obama’s reading list. He keeps the psychology to a minimum, fortunately, but does find a few things to parse out here about the president’s personality and how it’s reflected in his choice of reading material:

Unlike many of his predecessors, who devoured American history and biographies, Mr. Obama’s tastes lean toward the literary, in keeping with a man whose first memoir deeply explored issues of race and self. While Mr. Obama has read his share of Abraham Lincoln, he seems more intent on breaking out, mentally at least, from what Harry S. Truman once called the crown jewel of the American penal system.

Dubya, for instance, was particularly fond of the biography, reading some 14 books on Lincoln while he was in office. But the current president has more of a literary taste, not surprising in a man who first came to national attention for his facility with the written and spoken word.

Here’s some of what Obama’s been reading of late:

New in Theaters: ‘2016: Obama’s America’

Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary makes the case that Barack Obama is a man obsessed with fulfilling the “dream” of his dead father, a staunch anti-colonialist, so much so that he is actively working to degrade America as a world power. While this goal has been camouflaged thus far, the film contends, were Obama to be reelected, his true radicalism would be unleashed. To underline this threat, near its end, the film features a picture of Founding Father Ben Franklin, set aflame…

2016: Obama’s America is playing now in limited release, but is due to expand wider in the coming weeks after a stronger-than-expected opening run. My full review is at PopMatters.

You can see the trailer here: