Daily Archives: May 7, 2004

Seeing Other People

Two months before her wedding day, a sexually inexperienced woman (Julianne Nicholson) persuades her fiance (Jay Mohr) that they should openly sleep around before marriage, and before long they, their friends, and her sister are competing with one another in promiscuity. Filmmaker Wallace Wolodarsky, who’s written for The Simpsons and who collaborated with Maya Forbes on this script, operates on the same satirical turf as Albert Brooks. He can’t compete with the master, but he does a pretty good job unpacking his characters’ southern California neuroses (such as guilt-ridden single parenting) and self-deceiving attempts at sexual liberation. Though this is more witty than laugh-out-loud funny, the castwhich also includes Lauren Graham, Bryan Cranston, Josh Charles, and Matt Daviskeeps things lively. R, 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Super Size Me

Morgan Spurlock assigned himself a 30-day diet consisting exclusively of McDonald’s food, monitored his health with a slew of doctors, and videotaped the whole process. The results are predictably horrific, superficially entertaining, and as ugly as the obese individuals the camera can’t seem to get enough of whenever it strays from the relatively slim hero and his girlfriend (a vegetarian chef). Spurlock’s smirking heavy-handedness appears to be inspired by Michael Moore; he even accompanies a diabetic’s stomach surgery with the Blue Danube waltz. Insofar as one can distinguish the investigative research from the career move, this Sundance prizewinner is effective muckraking, but as with junk food, two hours after you’ve seen it you’re hungry again, even though your brain has gotten fatter. 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

Ford Transit

This innovative 2002 feature by Hany Abu-Assad (Rana’s Wedding), a unique mix of documentary and fiction, follows a minibus driver transporting diverse cargoes of passengers in Ramallah and Jerusalem. Sometimes the film interviews Palestinian and Israeli artist/intellectual passengers about the ongoing conflicts and sometimes it constructs mininarratives about the bus’s progress and adventures between various checkpoints. Almost everything we hear sounds intelligent and reasonable, and the presentation, which resembles at times a variety show, keeps the proceedings absorbing and unpredictable throughout. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 80 min. (JR)… Read more »

Reality Shows

From the Chicago Reader (May 7, 2004). — J.R.

Ford Transit

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad

Written by Abu-Assad and Bero Beyer.

Super Size Me

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and written by Morgan Spurlock.

What do we expect from documentaries? Do we seek to be informed by them or merely entertained? If it’s the former, do we expect some guidance about how to process the information?

The documentaries I’ve seen lately have made me ponder these questions. For example, last week at the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film I saw a fascinating Palestinian feature called Ford Transit (showing twice this week at Facets Cinematheque) that freely mixes fiction and nonfiction as if they were alternate routes to the same goal. I also attended the world premiere of a more conventional documentary, The Take, which was made for Canadian TV and may never screen here. Finally, there’s Super Size Me (which opens at the Landmark this week), a film that has been getting considerable attention since it premiered at the Sundance festival last January.

Let’s start with The Take, which was directed by Avi Lewis and written by Naomi Klein, who’s a columnist for the Nation and the Guardian and author of the international best seller No Logo, a journalistic account of the worldwide antiglobalization movement.… Read more »