Screening Room: ‘Aum: The Cult at the End of the World’

One of the new documentaries premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is AUM: The Cult at the End of the World.

My review is at The Playlist:

The last few years have been great times for documentaries about cults. That does not mean it is a time of introspection about the questing impulses driving people into cults.  The appeal of content—generally of the limited streaming series variety—about cults has more to do with the queasy fright provided by seeing roomfuls of people prostrate themselves before a bored-looking bearded guy on a dais. The current vogue for such work may also be a condition of late-period “look at the freaks” reality TV programming. Ben Braun and Chiaki Yanagimoto’s ‘Aum: The Cult at the End of the World’ largely avoids such tactics…

Screening Room: ‘A Glitch in the Matrix’

The new documentary by Rodney Ascher (Room 237) takes a simple idea and runs with it: What if The Matrix was real and we were all living in a computer simulation?

My review of the Sundance premiere of A Glitch in the Matrix ran at The Playlist:

Viewers looking for a hair-splitting Talmudic dissection of “The Matrix” akin to Ascher’s weird and weirdly great “Room 237”—which studied the … interesting individuals who found symbolic importance in every nuance of Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining”—will be disappointed. Keanu Reeves’ 1999 karate-hacker flick remains, of course, as timeless as ever, and certainly receives a close examination here. But Ascher is looking more at the broader phenomenon of people who have literally taken the movie’s proposition that reality is nothing more than a computer simulation. However, they are not unified around thinking that evil A.I. overlords have enslaved humanity…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets’

My review of the Ross brothers’ awesome new quasi-documentary (docufiction?) Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, which just screened at the Sundance Film Festival, ran at The Playlist:

An improvised Eugene O’Neill ensemble barfly riff wrapped in the construct of a seemingly fly-on-the-wall documentary about the last day at an off-Strip Las Vegas bar, “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” pushes the envelope of nonfiction filmmaking in an exciting, immersive, and transporting way…