These days, there seems to be an ongoing cultural contention that anyone, armed with a cheap little digital camcorder, can make a movie. Being filmmakers ourselves, we have received it with a healthy dose of skepticism.
But a group of Lord of The Rings fans and enthusiast filmmakers showed us that anyone can indeed make a Hollywood-like movie in their backyard.
Well, sort of.
The Hunt for Gollum is an unofficial, collaborative prequel to the Peter Jackson trilogy. Directed by Chris Bouchard, the film is completely independent — meaning it was produced solely by the fans, and no one got paid. In Bouchard’s words,
We made this purely for the enjoyment of the material and the experience of making a high quality low budget film.
And don’t let this “experiment in low-budget filmmaking” fool you, because watching the trailer makes it very, very hard to believe it isn’t an authentic Peter Jackson prequel to the trilogy.
Decheesing love, or how Michael Cera went from cameo to Romeo in a never-signed-up-for-it way.
The only thing cheesier than the subject of love itself is a film about love. Unless its about love. Which is why we love Sundance gem Paper Heart — a wonderful documentary about Charlyne Yi, a girl who neither understands love nor believes in the very possibility of it.
Cherlyne embarks on a journey to dissect the nature of love, traveling the country and interviewing people — little kids in “puppy love,” couples who grew old and grey together, Vegas-wedders — to hear their stories about the ever-elusive subject.
And then comes the wildcard — Charlyne meets actor Michael Cera (of Arrested Development and Juno fame, among others) in order to interview him.
But the two grow increasingly fascinated with one another and something begins to boil between them, something that may just be, oh, who knows, love? Suddenly, the film director realizes that Charlyne and Michael’s relationship has taken a life of its own and has now become part of the documentary, which turns into a wonderful piece of anthropological field study of love in the very moment when it crystallizes. (HD trailer here.)
What we love most about Paper Heart is that it remains exactly what it set out to be — a real documentary — yet it’s about the very subject of all the world’s sappy fiction, exposing it in a refreshing new light that strips it of all the Hollywood glam and romantic scene music scores, leaving nothing but the raw and vulnerable human emotion in the heart of this universal phenomenon.
Just how stupid we really are, or what James Earl Jones and a giant humpback whale have in common.
It’s Earth Day, and instead of engaging in questionable eco initiatives, like watching Philly’s fountains turn green, why not call a few friends over for some essential viewing that will disturb, move, outrage and inspire you in that bitter-sweet way that An Inconvenient Truth did in 2006.
Here’s some help, with our selection of 5 new must-see films that explore our environmental sensibility.
2009 Sundance Audience Award Winner The Cove is a mixture of action, adventure, mystery and, as the tagline goes, “oh, and it’s a documentary”. The movie tells the story of a group of filmmakers, activists and free-divers, led by director Louie Psihoyos, who penetrate a hidden cove in Japan uncovering a terrible secret.
No spoilers here – you’ll only know the secret after seeing the movie, but let’s just say that given the filmmakers are wanted by the Japanese authorities, it’s going to be be good.
THE AGE OF STUPID
Director Franny Armstrong takes the scare approach to instill in us some eco sensibility. Half-fiction, half-documentary, The Age of Stupid shows Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite living alone on a devastated Earth in 2055. In this barren habitat, the only type of entertainment available to the poor guy is “old” documentary footage of us trashing the planet in the present day.
Troubled by questions like why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance, Pete suggests that the answer might simply be that we were really, really stupid. And he may have a point.
Fuel is last year’s Sundance Best Documentary Award Winner, and covers a topic painfully familiar by now — America’s addiction to oil.
Director Josh Tickell drills the history behind the rising domination of the petrochemical industry — which may seem like a regurgitated discussion to some, but we believe these things simply need to be said until there is no longer a need for them to be.
Plus, there’s a cameo by one of our heroes — Sir Richard Branson — as well as other fascinating instigators like Josh Tickell himself and Robert Kennedy Jr.
Sure, it may be unoriginally titled. But earth, out in the U.S. today, is a piece of remarkable visual storytelling about three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we all call home.
The film comes from directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the acclaimed creative team behind the Emmy-Award-winning Planet Earth. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s narrated by the one and only James Earl Jones.
It’s a story told through incredible action taking place on unimaginable scale at impossible locations. Full of mystery and intimacy and magic as we glimpse inside the worlds of our planet’s most elusive creatures, the film is an epic call for appreciation of the fragile world we inhabit, a moving plea for a new self-conception as actors in an intricate and brilliantly orchestrated system beyond our own existence.
You can catch the filmmakers hosting a special episode over at Current for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at their phenomenal adventure and creative process.
By now, you know we’re big proponents of sustainable agriculture and permaculture. So it comes as no surprise that we find Robert Kenner‘s FOOD, INC. to be a compelling must-see. A merciless exposé on America’s food industry, it reveals all the hidden workings and often shocking truths of the government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA, lurking behind the consumer’s scope of vision.
The film features social entrepreneurs and sustainability visionaries like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms‘ Joel Salatin, who together paint a grim picture of what we eat and how it ended up on our plates, brimming with an urgency to change what we eat in order to change where we end up.
For 13 more Earth-conscious must-sees, we highly recommend the selections in Yale’s Environmental Film Festival, as well as the two incredible forthcoming films presented at this year’s TED Conference and TEDPrize winner Sylvia Earle’s compelling talk on why blue is the real green.
Brain Pickings has a free weekly interestingness digest. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week's best articles. Here's an example. Like? Sign up.
donating = loving
Brain Pickings remains ad-free and takes hundreds of hours a month to research and write, and thousands of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy and value in it, please consider becoming a Member and supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:
(If you don't have a PayPal account, no need to sign up for one – you can just use any credit or debit card.)
You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:
Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps supportBrain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated.