Classic Film Review: The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Full Title: The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Year: 2005
Comments:
Before I go any further, I must warn you if you are planning on watching this documentary, then you will be possessed by the Devil… Did you hear me?! I said the DEVIL. SAYTUNNN!!! Now, if you think I should be locked up in the looney bin before I harm others and myself, then you are probably right, but this is not about me (The Devil and Chris DeCarlo will hit theaters in years to come) this is about the one and only Daniel Johnston. In this gentle, affectionate, film we see how Dan is an enthusiastic, earnest, artist, in spite or because of his various mental and/or social problems. Initially, he is simply a slacker, eshewing work and school for his art, much to the chagrin of his family; his parents in particular are objects of his animostity. Alas, as he grows older his mental capacity deteriates (hence his obsession with the Devil) and he is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder causing him to be in and out of mental institutions and a serious threat to himself and those around him. I’ll stop here before I give away anything else, unless of course you know Dan’s bio… What I really like about this documentary is the fact that it stays personal via old home movies, tape recorded interviews, animation (coming straight outta Dan’s drawings, literally!), and of course interviews with his family, friends, and collaborators. The doc never strays off into a Michael Moore performance art sorta thang or a hidden agenda drenched picture. The agenda is clear: Daniel Johnston, love him or hate him, was and still is an incredible, gifted man with more passion in his art than most other artists one cares to name. Overall, this is a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from sad, humorous, fascinating, disturbing, entertaining, and ultimately touching- fans and non-fans unlike should see one of the finest documentaries of the last ten years.

P.S. excuse the “rollercoaster of emotions” cliche, but since Dan worked at an amusement park, I think it fits.

Grade: A-

Film Review: How Weed Won the West

Full Title: How Weed Won the West
Director: Kevin Booth
Year: 2010
Comments:

Kevin Booth and Sacred Cow strike back with another subversive, anti-government/anti-tyranny documentary, following up on their last, eye opening feature, American Drug War. This “No More Drug War” flick is basically in the same vain as its predescessor, but this time Booth focuses solely on Marijuana (as the title indicates), whereas before he discussed the entire Drug War and most of the various substances involved. He takes us on a journey into the lives of those who are victims of the Drug War and in many instances Political Prisoners. We see how the Federal Government uses unconstitutional (violating states’ rights, warrantless raids on Medical Marijuana Clinics) and highly unethical… Ok flat out evil, means to prevent sick and dying Americans from obtaining a natural substance, weed, to medicate themselves and ease the pain, whilst highly addictive, dangerous, and unatural pharmeceuticals are rigorously pushed on the public by savage, Big Business. Booth truly garners an up close and personal look at how the War affects these people’s lives. I like this doc very much, but it is not flawless and does not share the same appeal as the first film. Don’t get me wrong, you will hear/see some shocking and/or revealing information and images, but not nearly as astonishing as the first film. But, then again that goes with the subject matter: before it was the entire War on Drugs and therefore there was more facts and history to be displayed that most folks, like myself, were unaware of. With this topic of Medicinal Marijuana, there is far less material that makes you see just how sick and disgusting our government is; not to say there isn’t any here, there’s plenty, just not as much and not as mind blowing. Secondly, the arguments are not as concrete as they were in the previous doc; I felt like the film could use slightly more screentime for the definitive reasons why Marijuana needs to be legalized. Also, I don’t know if it is because Kevin could not find as many informative people as before or what, but the film could definitely use more sage voices like Judge Jim Gray. Perhaps he was all booked. Lastly, for me, I hate saying this, but it was too “Pro Pot.” Now, I know that sounds stupid, considering the nature of the topic, but at the same time if you look at ADW ( I know I’m comparing the two way too much!) it was far from Pro-Drug and in fact some felt like it made drugs look bad. I felt like it was a great piece to show naysayers why the Drug War was and is so horribly wrong. I feel like for a film arguing so vehemently for legalization and an end to prohibition, it should not be nearly as enthusiastic about recreational drug use as it was. Clearly, most of the film focused on medicinal use and to keep with the consistent aim of showing how important and necessary it is for Marijuana Prohibition to be curtailed, Pro Pot sentimnents should be kept for another flick. All in all, this is a solid and highly informative work from the gifted, Kevin Booth. He is the man and so is his best friend ;) So, if you liked ADW, you will probably dig this as well and if you haven’t seen it, watch it, watch this, and inform yourself. WAKE UP!

Grade: B

Classic Film Review: Small Town Ecstasy

Full Title: Small Town Ecstasy
Year: 2002
Director: Jay Blumenfield
Comments: Small Town Ecstasy is a documentary that offers us an up close and personal look at the perils of a modern suburban family: divorce and the resulting custody issues, generation gaps between kids and their parents, oh and a father that attends raves and does ecstasy with his children and other young people. Whattttttttt?! you must be thinking. But, it’s true. This man is cuckoo for E and we watch as it tears him apart from his beloved ones. His son, an experienced drug user, questions why his father is acting the way he is and why he does not feel the need to intefere with the well being of his children (i.e. them experimenting with E and other drugs). Despite what you have just read (and yes it is nauseating and uncomfortably laughable) this man in many ways is a good father and clearly loves his children, but because of his increasing drug use and resulting loss of custody, he sees them less and less. That’s one thing I dig about this doc, the fact that he has redeeming qualities; in most of such videos, the parent steals their little babies’ lemonade money and buys crack with it on their birthday or slaps them senseless in the midst of a vicious meth binge… Here, instead we see a different kind of dysfunctional family. Overall, this is a good doc, highly entertaining and fascinating, but at the same time, I always asked myself, “where is this going?” It didn’t move that much, but it was a nice slice of life, which is exactly what this kind of documentary should do. A spin on the mid-life crisis hoopla! If you want to find out what happens to the man and his family, then see the film, part one can be seen below.

P.S. All seriousness aside for a moment, wouldn’t this premise of your clean cut, forty something, dad suddenly dropping E and attending raves make for one helluva of It’s Always Sunny style sitcom?! It could be called “XTC Dad!” as Glen referred to the leading man. Producers reading, take notice, I think I have something up my sleeves!

Grade: B

Chris

Porn Study Fails

NINEMSN.COM

A study hoping to compare men who watch porn with those who haven’t encountered it has been derailed — because researchers couldn’t find any men who hadn’t indulged in X-rated material.

Scientists at the University of Montreal had to change the focus of their project after failing to find a single male aged in his 20s who hadn’t been exposed to adult videos and images.

“We started our research seeking men in their 20s who had never consumed pornography,” the Telegraph reported Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse as saying.

“[But] we couldn’t find any.”