Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

You sound like a human being male!

Year Released : 201481l4EGjg4UL._SY445_ (1)
Director : David Thorpe
Cast : David Thorpe and his friends

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have a list of trailers saved on a Youtube playlist that I want to watch. There are some that I have only had on there for a few days, whereas others, such as “Do I Sound Gay?” have been on there for quite some time. So I decided that as I can’t find anything that I want to review that I would finally get around to watching this.

I am fully aware that the subject matter of this film could potentially cause offence…..not to homophobes, I couldn’t give a shit about whether they find it offensive, but rather people who are actually gay. Now before I start this review, please note that I am not homosexual, so I am looking at this from a complete outsider’s point of view.

The main reason that I am interested in this film and that it touches on and looks at vocal therapies (at least what I can gather from the trailer) and I have attempted it myself. For my first time readers, I am transgender and part of that was going through vocal therapy, but it definitely didn’t work and I still sound male, and this causes all sorts of issues given that all of my accounts, such as at my bank, are all in a female name, but they often don’t pass me on security as my voice doesn’t match my name. It’s an interesting contrast to those in the docu-film who sound feminine when some don’t appear to want to.

Plot

Following on from splitting up with his boyfriend, David Thorpe decided to film a documentary in which he explores the human voice. He interacts with homosexual friends and celebrities as he tries to establish how having a feminine voice impacts your life as a man.

David also attends vocal therapy sessions in order to try and make his voice more masculine, and delves into his earlier life in order to pinpoint the moment his voice changed.

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So, offensive or praise-worthy?

I’m going to go into a minor personal view before I go any further and it’s the issue of stereotyping. As I am currently in the process of changing from male to female, I get stereotyped a lot and it really bugs me, and the reason is that people just revert to the typical image of transgendered people that they see on TV and in movies, such as the automatic assumption that just because I want to be female, I must automatically have been homosexual when I was male. That is not the case and that stereotype always bugs me. It deeply annoys me when people expect me to act a certain way just because I am becoming female, mainly because being female doesn’t necessarily equate to being girly, and in that sense I can see why a lot of homosexual men might not like this film, and some would find it offensive.

David spends a large section of the film going through vocal therapy to try and get a more masculine sounding voice, and he talks at length with other homosexual men about the subject of gay men tending to have effeminate sounding voices, and there didn’t seem to be a balanced argument to the docu-film. Whilst there was a lot of support for the anti-feminine sounding side of the argument, there isn’t a lot to say for the other side. For example, there is a discussion in which one man says that if he is having sex, he wants his lover to sound like a man and not a woman, which whilst I can see where they are coming from, the way most of the docu-film is presented almost as if that is the preferred option for most homosexual men to sound masculine, which I’m not entirely convinced is the case.

For me the docu-film felt like it was trying to get to the bottom of a root-cause and have it not being David basically trying to find an excuse why his relationship failed. It definitely felt more like a vanity project more than anything else, and since watching this I have asked a few of my friends that are homosexual and had break ups if they ever doubted their voice, and not one of them said that they had. It’s basically just one guy’s issue with his own self-confidence.

Filmmaker David Thorpe practices vocal exercises he learned from a speech pathologist in an effort to alter the way he speaks. In Do I Sound Gay?, Thorpe searches for the origin of the "gay voice" stereotype.

That is not to say that the film isn’t entirely without it’s interesting discussion points, such as featuring several young men who were bullied during their teens for an effeminate manner, and almost forcing their voice to change so that they could camouflage themselves in public. For me this was easily the most enjoyable part of the docu-film and it’s one that I can relate to personally, not to mention when one of his friends says to him that she felt like he had been lying to her the whole time, again, something that is relatable, but whilst there are some moments that I do genuinely like, there just isn’t enough substance in the film.

Throughout the 80 minute run time, there are numerous examples of clips from TV shows, movies and various other forms of media being shown, but very rarely do they have seemingly any relevance and they feel more like they’re there simply to add to the run time, rather than actually add any substance. The docu-film already feels like it lasts too long and it’s blatant filler. Nothing more, nothing less.

At just shy of 80 minutes, “Do I Sound Gay” drags…..badly. I felt like I had been watching it for a long time and decided to see how long was left….and only 35 minutes had gone by. I think the main reason for this is that I’m not entirely convinced that David Thorpe had a real end message that he was trying to convey throughout the docu-film, and for me at least it felt a bit aimless. I made a note at around the 50 minute mark of “where is this actually going?” and half an hour later, at the film’s conclusion, I felt no different, or no more enlightened than before I had started.

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Summary

“Do I Sound Gay?” offers very little in terms of genuine substance and feels more like a vanity project, as opposed to something that actually has a message to say. David Thorpe’s approach to film-making could potentially result in a very interesting documentary one day, but he hasn’t achieved it with this as, even at just 80 minutes long, it feels at least 35 minutes past it’s welcome by the time you get to the end.

During the exploration, I never once felt that it was coming to a natural end and when it did end, it didn’t really make it feel watching for 80 minutes seem worth it, and as weird as it sounds, I’m going to use a quote from American Psycho to describe it. These are the final few lines in that hit film and wouldn’t have been out of place at the end of “Do I Sound Gay?”……”there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing”

Thank You and Sorry. That’s what I want on my tombstone! It speaks to everything that I feel on a daily basis. I feel so grateful and so thankful…….and so fucking sorry.

Year Released : 201586NguYU5xhM.showposter_hq
Cast : Jack Antonoff, Olivia Wilde and the other members of Bleachers

Who’s ready for something a little bit different?

Whilst working nights at one of my previous jobs I stumbled across a band called Bleachers. I had never heard of the American indie rock band, mainly because they haven’t released a single in the UK and their debut album, the brilliant Strange Desires, wasn’t even released until nine months after I had first heard them.

After seeing them live in London in May, I soon became excited that they had made their own documentary and that is what I about to review. It’s only the second documentary-film that I have reviewed on this site following on from Blackfish, and because of this I have virtually no expectations going in so I’m actually going to leave my intro here. Before I start, I would definitely recommend listening to songs such as “I Wanna Get Better”, “Live a River Runs” and “Rollercoaster”.

Unusually for me, I’m also going to put a video here of the final show from the aforementioned concert, so if you listen to this and decide that you don’t like the music, you can leave the rest of the review at this stage….

Plot

Thank You and Sorry follows Jack and the fellow members of Bleachers as they head out on tour. Jack gives an insight into life as a touring artist via interviews and scripted calls and meetings with loved ones. Before a show in Chicago, Jack reflects that he only has a small handful of people that he still keeps in contact with, but he loves touring as waking up somewhere new virtually guarantees that there will be no emotional baggage that accompanies you near your home.

The various members of the band reflect on each other’s idiosyncratic behaviours, such as Jack’s approach to meeting fans before and after shows, and a dinner with Olivia Wilde that turns into a frenzy of OCD concerns and usage of hand-sanitiser.

As time progresses and the tour rolls through Detroit, Boston and various other cities, Jack’s relationship with his girlfriend is slowly falling apart and as he returns home to New York for the end of the tour, the two will have a discussion about their relationship that will define the both of them.

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Does scripted-reality work as a docufilm idea?

Scripted reality isn’t something that’s new to people in the UK as some of the biggest TV shows are based on the idea (please note that I said biggest, but most certainly not best). For those that are unfamiliar with the concept, an example of scripted reality would be finding a group of friends and filming their every day lives…..but give them scripts to follow to create drama. This means that the station gets pretty much exactly what they want, but that causes it’s own issues.

The problem is that you never really believe that what you’re being shown in anything that can be defined as scripted reality, but Thank You and Sorry somehow avoids falling into the trap of of shows such as The Only Way is Essex. Even though you know what you’re watching (well, the non-interview style and concert sections) is scripted and probably exaggerated, it feels genuine and in the nicest possible way, you really warm to Jack as a person.

There is a scene in Part 2 which shows him having a dinner with Olivia Wilde and they have a little battle over where a bowl of cartons of milk should go, before then getting into a full on conversation about both being OCD and uncomfortable about doing things that are likely to spread even the tiniest of germs. They lather their hands in sanitiser and the whole scene is just wonderfully put together. It doesn’t feel like either are being patronised by the filmmakers and it felt genuine.

Thank You and Sorry is full of moments that convey a variety of different emotions, and I just love the subtle humour that you wouldn’t expect about a documentary of musicians going on tour. As well as the aforementioned scene with Olivia Wilde, Jack calls someone to tell them that they shouldn’t continue their relationship. The conversation makes you think it’s his girlfriend because of the previous two minutes, whereas in reality it was a producer from earlier in the episode.

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As I always do, if I like a film, even a docufilm, I struggle to write long reviews and I find myself already coming towards a conclusion, but before I move onto my only negative I have to talk about what is arguably my favourite aspect of the film and something that I don’t regularly reference…..the sound editing. Acoustically the film is beyond exceptional. Right from the band playing live in front of the audiences, to the songs being subtly played in the background as Jack goes to cross the street, it is put together so well that you feel immersed in the environment.

Now, you may have that earlier, in the paragraph about Jack and Olivia Wilde having a dinner, that I mentioned a Part 2 and this brings me onto my only real negative about the documentary film and that is that it’s divided into six parts over six separate videos. Even though it’s presented as a docufilm, it doesn’t feel like it in some ways because of this. I don’t understand why they didn’t create it as one large film, rather than six smaller ones.

Because of this, I did find myself getting a little bit bored by the end and if I’m getting bored as a fan, what is someone who isn’t a fan going to think?

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Summary

Thank You and Sorry is something that any fan of the band will really appreciate, and probably fans of indie pop rock, however, I think that if you’re not into the band or that type of music then you’ll more than likely struggle to enjoy it. Even as a fan I struggled to enjoy it all of the way through, but on the whole I genuinely enjoyed it.approved

The docufilm presents the band and Jack in particular in a respectful way, whilst also trying to show the idiosyncratic nature that Antonoff is known for. The scene with Olivia Wilde in particular is delightful and even now, more than two hours later, it still has me sporting a wry smile on my face.

If you’re into music then I would recommend giving it a go, especially as it is completely free on Google Play and I even found it on Youtube earlier.

Those are not your whales. Ya know, you love them, and you think, I’m the one that touches them, feeds them, keeps them alive, gives them the care that they need. They’re NOT your whales. They own them!

Year Released : 2013blackfish poster
Director : Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Cast : Numerous former trainers at Seaworld

I like a good documentary. I own numerous documentaries about a variety of subjects, including astronomy, football (or soccer for my American readers), nature (David Attenborough in particular) and various other subjects, but I never thought I’d watch a documentary about killer whales because, for lack of words, it’s not a subject that particularly interests me.

On Saturday evening I was seeing an old friend for the first time in nearly two years and after a while talking, she asked if I wanted to watch a documentary film called “Blackfish”. I’m not going to lie, I’d never heard of it before and because of my lack of interested in the subject matter, the idea of watching it didn’t exactly thrill me. The reason I was a bit sceptical at first as I tend to only watch documentaries that I’m interested in and the run time of around 85 minutes made it seem like it was going to drag. I was not excited at all.

Despite that, I thought I’d humour my friend and watch it anyway, afterall, it’s time with someone that I don’t see often, so why not? 85 minutes later I had found myself wanting more from it. It was an exceptionally clever documentary and considering I knew nothing of SeaWorld, Tilikum or many other aspects relating to this, I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed it.

Plot

The documentary focuses on the killer whale known as Tilikum at the SeaWorld resort in Orlando. It follows his journey from being captured in the early 1980s right up until he killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010.

A group of former SeaWorld employees and experts give their thoughts on why Tilikum, a normally happy and timid killer whale, would suddenly attack Brancheau, such as the tight enclosure that he is kept in overnight, the attacks he suffers at the hands of some of the female killer whales, or simply whether it is just part of his nature.

In between switching to and from other examples of trainers being attacked and/or killed at various other parks across America,  as well as various lies told by staff at similar parks with regards to the lifespan of whales and why their dorsal fins have collapsed.

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So why are you reviewing this?

Firstly, I’m going to be open about this, it’s going to be a short review for the simple and rather obvious fact that there is no character development possible, there are no plot twists or anything else I would normally be focused on.

I feel that if you give this documentary film a chance, you will enjoy it. As I mentioned earlier I was not at all optimistic about this being enjoyable or good, and yet I found myself engrossed by it. Although I love documentaries, once you’ve seen them about a specific subject then you’ve seen the majority of them, but this feels different and has a natural progression throughout.

It doesn’t feel forced, there are no definitive answers given, it’s all speculation about why a seemingly happy whale would suddenly attack when unprovoked, but because no-one knows the answer there is still that sense of mystery left with the animals. That works incredibly well because there are so many things in life that we will never truly understand, and wild animals are one of them.

Something I also touched on earlier was that I felt educated after watching Blackfish, which again isn’t something I usually take away from documentaries. I knew very little, if anything, of killer whales before this and the workings of SeaWorld. It doesn’t even cast SeaWorld in a ridiculously bad light. Granted, it doesn’t cast them in a positive light either, but it didn’t present a true “SeaWorld are bastards” style either.

My only two concerns or criticisms with the documentary are that there are so many people being interviewed that you are left wondering struggling to remember their names and what their former role was. They knew their subject matter exceptionally well and gave a well informed and relatively unbiased opinion on things, but by the end of the documentary that I had loved, I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one of the people being interviewed.

This, combined with constantly jumping from past to present and back again, as well as jumping to stories from other parks, makes it a little confusing to keep up if you’re not paying attention. If you’re not paying attention during this documentary then it would be easy to get lost in it.

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Summary

Again, I know this is a considerably shorter review than normal but there aren’t that many places that you can go with a review of a approveddocumentary, but I had to say that I loved Blackfish. It is an exceptionally well thought out and informative documentary that leaves you feeling exactly what a documentary should leave you feeling, educated.

Whilst it has some flaws, Blackfish is an engaging film and one that I never imagined that I would watch. So if you’re into documentaries then I would seriously recommend that you give it fit into your time somewhere.