Bobby Fischer Against The World

YEAR: 2011

DIRECTOR: Liz Garbus




when i was a kid i played a little chess. i would usually play against a family friend when they came to visit. he was one of those guys that was always competitive and wouldn't even let a little kid win at anything - so, on the few occasions that i won it felt extra good. i also liked to play Battle Chess on my amiga computer - although, i think, for me, it was more about watching the chess pieces fight than actually playing the chess match. anyway, so all that to say, i am not much of a chess player. but you don't have to play chess to enjoy Bobby Fischer Against The World.

prior to watching the film i got caught up reading about chess and the history of the game and found multiple websites that listed their top 10 greatest chess players of all time. and sure enough, in either the first or second spot on every list was bobby fischer!

people that follow chess know this to be true, but i think that maybe the general public who posses only a passing knowledge of it all, and i put myself in that category, i feel like all i ever knew about fischer was that he had gone "crazy" and i never really appreciated how great of a chess player he was.

sports, is filled with those questions of "what could have been?" 

what if ted williams hadn't taken four years off at the height of his talents to go fight in WWII? (how much better would his stats have been)? what if jordan hadn't taken that year off to play baseball?(would they have won 7 in a row?) what if barry sanders hadn't retired so early?(would he have broken walter payton's record?) etc...

what if fischer hadn't virtually retired from chess after winning the 1972 world championship? he was only 29.

unlike other reports or documentary pieces i had seen about bobby fischer in the past, Bobby Fischer Against The World covers his whole life and not just the last couple decades of when he became more and more paranoid and reclusive and angry... all that is still in the film and it is covered thoroughly. but by giving us his full history and really placing his greatness in context, it makes the second half of his life that much more poignant and, for me at least, frustrating.


2011 Oscar Predictions


WILL WIN are in bold

DID WIN are  big

MY SCORE: 18/24

despite anne hathaway's efforts and enthusiasm, the 2011 academy awards will go down as one of the worst i have ever seen. not because of who won or lost, but i'm talking the show itself.

besides the funny put-the-hosts-in-the-movies opening, there was barely a laugh or moment of excitement to be found (except when i won the pool i was in of course). the remixed songs was fun and the bob hope part was nice (although, seeing billy crystal out there to introduce it just made it more obvious what a great host he was and how anne and james just couldn't match up). but other than that the show was pretty dull.

as for my predictions: i did ok this year. 18/24 isn't bad and i did get 2/3 in the shorts categories which is where many pools are often won or lost. however, there were a few categories that, looking back, i'm not sure what i was thinking. i think i got a little too into the idea that The King's Speech wave would sweep up other categories that i missed, the now-obvious, Alice In Wonderland in art direction and costume design. and those of you who listened to the prediction episode of the podcast know how close i was to going with the winners in editing, documentary feature and foreign film (but, alas i didn't). so 18/24 it is. one better than last year and my second best showing since i started doing the podcast. how did you all do?


The King's Speech
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone
The Kids Are All Right
The Fighter


Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

Amy Adams , The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Christian Bale , The Fighter
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo , The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Natalie Portman , Black Swan
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Nicole Kidman , Rabbit Hole
Michelle Williams , Blue Valentine

Javier Bardem , Biutiful
Jeff Bridges , True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth , The King's Speech
James Franco , 127 Hours

Another Year , Mike Leigh
The Fighter , Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
Inception , Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right , Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech , David Seidler

127 Hours , Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network , Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 , Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich
True Grit , Joel and Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone , Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini

In a Better World
Outside the Law

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The King's Speech
True Grit

Black Swan
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Pamela Martin, The Fighter
Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, The Social Network

Adrien Morot, Barney's Version
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, The Way Back
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey, The Wolfman

John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech
A.R. Rahman, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

“Coming Home” from Country Strong, Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from Tangled, Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours, Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2

I Think We're Alone Now/Facing The Habit

YEAR: 2008, WRITER & DIRECTOR: Sean Donnelly, BUDGET: ?, GROSS: ?

YEAR: 2007, WRITER & DIRECTOR: Magnolia Martin, BUDGET: $100,000 (estimated), GROSS: ?

the main characters in both these documentaries have something in their lives that they are obsessed with/addicted to. for jeff turner and kelly mccormick it is 80s pop star tiffany and for dave, it is heroine.

I Think We're Alone Now takes us into the world of jeff and kelly - both obsessed with tiffany. jeff is a 50-year-old man with asperger's syndrome who has been going to tiffany concerts since the late 80s and who feels that he and the singer are meant to be together (this seems to somewhat change during the film as he begins to call her just a friend and seems happy with her marriage to an englishman named ben). kelly is an "intersexual" who claims that tiffany came to her when she was in a coma following a bike crash - thus saving her life.

in Facing The Habit, we meet dave. he used to be a millionaire stock broker. but now he is a heroine addict who steals to pay for is addiction. he has spent years trying to get clean and has tried everything, but nothing has worked. now he is set to try an experimental treatment using ibogaine (a drug made from the west african iboga root).

i had thought there was a chance that the film would be like an episode of Intervention. but, that is not the case. although we do get to see how dave lives these days and how he feels about being an addict and what heroine has done to his life, the film doesn't do a lot of historical analysis as to why dave is in this position. rather it is just as concerned with dave as it is with ibogaine. there are also interviews with others who have used the experimental treatment.

I Think We're Alone Now spends more time with its main characters talking about their lives and what has brought them to this point. there is no analysis from experts on stalking or anything like that. rather by listening to them tell us about themselves and a little insight from their friends, we are left to our own devices in understanding who kelly and jeff are. this may be why some have called the film exploitative. but, i don't see it that way.

sure, both kelly and jeff have some mental issues, but the movie isn't laughing at them or holding them up in some kind of exploitative way. rather the film is just taking us closer to people that maybe we don't understand and any snickering or exploitative thoughts towards them are from the specific viewers themselves and how they feel about these people rather then what the film is telling us what to think.

although, a more philosophical argument could be made that the act of filming these people for the documentary is exploitation in itself. that the documentary form is exploitative by nature and that turning the cameras lens on an individual is exploiting them for the purpose/gain of the film. but i digress...

dave's attempt at recovery and the other stories of recovery and failure that make up Facing The Habit are interesting and uplifting and heartbreaking. but it was also really interesting to see ibogaine at work. the before and after is incredible. although, as great as it appears to work in curbing the addiction, the film also makes it clear that that is only the first step to full recovery.

these are both short documentaries (61 minutes and 49 minutes) so you can go ahead and do what i did and make it a double feature night.


Deliver Us From Evil

YEAR: 2006

WRITER: Amy Berg



GROSS: $196,585


over the last years a lot as come to light about the problems in the catholic church, that have been going on for decades, of priests molesting children and the church hierarchy basically covering it up. Deliver Us From Evil is an excellent documentary about exactly that.

the film's center piece is an interview with father oliver o'grady. and his story is a perfect microcosm of the huge problem that went on for so many years in the catholic church. juxtaposed with the o'grady interview and story are interviews with some of the families and children, now grown, that he betrayed.

o'grady is completely candid in the film as he talks about all the horrible things he did to the children of his various parishes. he talks frankly about how he ingratiated himself into their families and used his position of trust among faithful catholics to abuse their children. it isn't easy to listen to. but what made me just as angry watching the film, is the institutionalized protection he got from the church hierarchy as his superiors - in this case mostly cardinal mahony - did everything he could to sweep o'grady under the rug and away from view so that it wouldn't effect his chances of becoming cardinal - putting politics and power ahead of the children and justice (obviously it worked, since he did become cardinal).

the film shows how father o'grady was moved from one parish to the next (pretty much all within 50 or so miles of each other). and in one incredible move, mahony placed him in a really out of the way parish to keep him out of view of Rome. however, the parish was so out of the way that o'grady didn't have any superiors near by. he was basically running the show on his own. can you fucking believe it?!!

our hero of the story - besides the families that have spoken out - is father thomas doyle who reaches out to families and has spoken out against these horrible abuses and the way they weren't dealt with (and in so doing has been almost black listed and kept from advancing in his career).

the film is really well directed and is something that everyone should see regardless of faith. Deliver Us From Evil isn't an attack on religion or faith but on those that use the institution to do evil and those that know about it and do nothing.


Flash Of Genius

YEAR: 2008

WRITER: Philip Railsback & John Seabrook (article)

DIRECTOR: Marc Abraham

BUDGET: $20 million (estimated)

GROSS: $3,744,790


if one of the most powerful companies in the world stole your invention, would you fight? if your own friends and lawyers were telling you that it would be too hard, would you fight? if after years of fighting the company offered you more money then you could imagine to settle the case but refused to provide any recognition of what they did, would you fight?

no matter what you might be saying to yourself right now - it isn't as easy to say yes to all those questions as you might think. but, there are people that can, and do, say yes and bob kearns was one of them. Flash Of Genius tells the true story of kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper and his long battle with Ford after they stole his invention and refused to admit it.

sure, i am a bit of a sucker for a david vs. goliath story, but aren't we all? it is at once so frustrating and makes me so angry to see david used and cheated by goliath - but that moment when justice finally wins out is truly uplifting in its ability to make you believe - if just for a moment - that truth can prevail and that right matters.

then the movie ends and once again we realize that all us davids don't really have much actual power to effect change and that our leaders, corporations and the wealthiest 5 percent (who own more wealth than the bottom 95%) are all really just working in their own interests and that even the "good" ones have a hard time because of how the system is set up (that's my apathy/cynicism fighting my want-to-believe/i can make a difference).

greg kinnear is a really under appreciated actor and this film is another good performance to add to his resume (Nurse Betty, As Good As It Gets, Auto Focus, Little Miss Sunshine...). There aren't really any surprises in Flash Of Genius. with this film you know what you are getting into and that is what you get. But you get it done well and sometimes that is exactly what you want.


Awful Normal

YEAR: 2004

DIRECTOR: Celesta Davis


GROSS: appears to have never had a theatrical run


with a tagline like "what would you say to the man who molested you?" you can't get a more direct summary of what the film, Awful Normal is about.

when celesta davis and her sister karen were children they were each molested by her dad's best friend (who was married to their mom's best friend). now, 25 years later they have decided - after many years of talking about it - to confront him.

the most important thing to remember about this film is how personal it is. the specifics of the film making really aren't that important. the film feels very real and honest and almost like you are eavesdropping on your neighbors going through a hard time - except that with the voice overs and certain acknowledgments of the cameras, you know they want you to watch. that it's okay to watch.

as for the film making itself? it's fine. there were moments where i wanted more information and there was one or two editing/directorial decisions that seemed a little disjointed from the pace and tome of the rest of the film, but, that's okay.

the film is about capturing celesta and her sister and her mother on this journey towards some possible kind of resolution. and the moments leading up to celesta's confronting of her molester as well as the conversation that follows are tense, powerful and very emotional.

this isn't a reporter talking to a child molester for some news program. this is the child he molested talking to him. its almost a little surreal at times as the conversation begins with small talk before getting to the reason why she is there.

Awful Normal isn't setting out to solve the problem or explain why things like that happen. rather, it set out to with the sole purpose of telling celesta's story and allowing her to confront the man that molested her. Unfortunately, there are so many other stories out there that need to be told.

p.s. i would also recommend a better film, Stevie, which i discussed on the podcast earlier this year.



YEAR: 2010

DIRECTOR: Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost


GROSS: $2,236,110 (as of October 10th, 2010)

it says it right there in all capital letters (so you know it has to be important) on the film's poster, "don't let anyone tell you what it is." so i won't. but, that doesn't mean i can't tell you that Catfish is a "must see film" - i love using standard film reviewer pull quotes sometimes (now, if only this was a film that would make you "laugh and cry" or take you on a "roller coaster thrill ride").

in 2007 (don't worry, i'm not gonna "tell you what it is") photographer nev schulman received a painting in the mail. it was from an 8-year-old girl who had done a painting of one of his photographs. this was the first of many paintings to come and began a correspondence with said girl, her mom and her very hot 19-year old sister via facebook, email, phone calls, text messages, etc.... a few months in, nev's brother ariel and their friend henry joost decide to start documenting the story and so begins Catfish.

the film is very relevant in how so much of the story plays out online, with facebook kind of at the centre of it all. i really do want to tell you more, but i won't. i want you to see this film with as little knowledge about it as possible. personally, once i read the tagline on the poster (i happened by it on my way between screenings at the toronto film festival) i avoided any information about the film. i didn't even read the the small write-up on my flixster phone app when i checked into the times it was playing at my local cinema.

ok, i am maybe a little over-geeky when it comes to movies and such. but there really is something nice about seeing a film fresh and without any knowledge of what it is about (which is in complete contrast to how we usually go into a film - after having watched the give-away-too-much trailer).

now, it should be noted that there is quite a bit of controversy over the film (i just spent the last 20 minutes reading message board arguments - and surprisingly most of them were actually pretty coherent and didn't involve swearing and mother jokes). i am not going to even tell you what the arguments are about.

so watch the film and then lets make the comments section for this post a spoilers-allowed zone where you can tell me and others what you think about the film and the controversy surrounding it.

i know Social Network came out a couple weeks ago, but given all the historical inaccuracies in that story, it could be argued that Catfish (depending on where you come down on the controversy) is the "real" facebook movie out now.


No Direction Home

YEAR: 2005

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

BUDGET: $2 million (estimated)

for my birthday last year my friend chrystina (some of you might know her as my co-host on the great Watch It television podcast) gave me the No Direction Home dvd. i was very happy when i got it and i added it to my dvd collection right away. however, as anyone with a large dvd collection can tell you, it is very easy for movies to get lost in there. and that is what happened with this one. recently, however, it popped its head out from the crowded shelf and caught my eye and so it was time to finally watch it.

No Direction Home is a martin scorsese directed documentary about the life and career of bob dylan. and i can say that after having watched the film i feel like i know a whole lot more about dylan and i might know him better. but i still don't know him. and i think that is the point.

in the book The Tipping Point, author malcolm gladwell at one point talks about how we define people. how it is a common tendency for us to always define people in simple and singular ways: "jack is a liar", "jane is kind", "bill is shy", "betty is stuck-up", etc... but, jack, jane, bill, betty and all of us are more than just one simple definition/characteristic. and that is where this documentary succeeds so brilliantly.

throughout his life bob dylan has been claimed by so many. the folk music scene, the anti-war movement, they have all tried to define him as one of them (just look at how angry people got when he "went electric"). but he has never wanted to be defined or felt comfortable in that role. in one clip from a press conference he is asked the question of whether he sees himself as primarily a singer or a poet and he responds by saying that he actually sees himself "more as a song and dance man." this gets a big laugh, but it is also very indicative of his real, almost animosity, towards any kind of type-casting.

to be honest, i don't know if he could even define himself. there are many moments throughout the film where dylan seems to contradict something he had said previously about his music, his lyrics, his life, the meaning behind things he has said and done, etc... at times it felt like he was just making stuff up and being contradictory on purpose.

genius, poet, shy, singer, rebel, song writer, voice of a generation, song and dance man... bob dylan is all that and more and No Direction Home is an excellent exploration of the man that will both answer questions and bring up many more - just as it should.


Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals

YEAR: 2010

DIRECTOR: Ezra Edelman


did you know that basketball was not a very popular sport back in the late 70s going into the 80s? the tv ratings weren't great and even the championship games were broadcast on a tape delay. do you know who saved basketball? if you said michael jordan, not only would you be wrong, but you would make bryant gumble very angry. no kids, the two guys who saved basketball were larry bird and magic johnson. learn all about that - and so much more - by watching the great hbo documentary Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals.

it began in 1979 with the ncaa college basketball championship game where magic took round one by leading his michigan state team to victory over bird and indiana state. the next year they both entered the nba as rookies and the rivalry continued throughout the decade..

okay, so i'm sure some of you are thinking, "i'm sure its a good film, but i am really not a big basketball fan so it doesn't interest me." but then i say to you, "you don't have to be a basketball fan to enjoy/appreciate this film." then you say... okay that's enough of that, but the point is correct.

sure, a basketball fan, someone that remembers watching the bird/magic rivalry play out during the 80s will find the film very interesting, but even if the only basketball you know is tossing a crumpled up piece of paper into your waste basket at work so you don't have to get out of your chair, Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals is worth seeing.

the film goes beyond the basketball court and shows us who these guys really were and are. it tracks their friendship (which took a very long time to happen) and it tracks them individually over the years. and it does it in their own words. while the comments from all the sports writers and other players are great, it is the words from the two men at the center of it all that are the heart and soul of this film.

we get inside their heads and find out what they were really thinking at the time and how they really felt about everything that was going on around them at the time. Then, watching their relationship develop over the years and seeing the respect the two had, and still have, for each other is great.

you don't have to be a basketball fan to be moved when magic talks about how much it meant to him that bird was one of the first people to call him after he was diagnosed with hiv. listening to the two of them take us through their careers and relationship on and off the court reveals such human drama and emotion.

the fact that these two greats came along at the same time (just when basketball needed them) with such opposite personalities, and ended up on the two most storied teams in nba history, fighting each other for championships multiple times is really just almost impossible to believe.

basketball fans and those that remember watching the sport during the 80s have to see this documentary. but, if you aren't one of those people, but you walk into the room and your friend/spouse/lover/roommate/random dude/grandparent/sibling/etc... are watching it, then just sit down and check it out. you might be surprised.



YEAR: 2002

DIRECTOR: Steve James


GROSS: $97,044


in 1982 steve james became an "advocate big brother" to stevie fielding. in 1995, he went back to see what had happened to stevie and his family since he had left. what began as an idea for a simple film profile, became a four and a half year chronicle - as unanticipated events transpired that lead the film down a path steve probably never expected. it also served to pull him into the film more than he had probably intended as well.

one type of documentary film making involves the film makers not being a part of the film. they are to document the subject, but stay as removed as possible. Stevie is not one of those films. steve james is almost as much a part of the movie as his subject, stevie, is.

one of the reasons steve james went back to make this movie in the first place was because of the guilt he felt for having left. sure, he had to move on with his life and such, but part of him always felt like he had let stevie down when he left and didn't stay in contact like he had planned. so, you get the sense from the beginning that this project is important to james on a very personal - and of course partly selfish level. and i don't think he would deny that. but, the personal nature of the project also makes it so interesting.

and his direct involvement with the subject, stevie, is taken to a whole other level when stevie is accused and arrested for a very serious crime. james wants to help, but he is also disturbed by what stevie has been accused of doing. there are a lot of voice overs throughout the film as james tells us about what he is thinking and feeling and you can feel/hear him fighting an internal battle with when to help and when to let things play out as they are. and looking back, i wonder if he feels he did the right thing?

besides the steve and stevie relationship and the story that follows stevie's arrest, the film is also a really interesting look at how some kids just never get the help they need and deserve.

stevie had a really hard life growing up and it really seemed like no one knew how to help him or cared enough to try. the one foster family that he had and loved left him cause they had to - and after that things continued to go downhill. one of the most powerful moments in the movie is when james takes stevie to visit those initial foster parents all these years later and you can see how much they meant to him. they are really wonderful people and stevie really is a different person when he is with them. who knows what could have been....

the films look at stevie's past and all the crap that he has been through, does not come across, or at least it didn't to me, as making excuses for what he did. it would have been easy, on one side, to just blame his childhood or, on the other side, to completely villainize him. but, it didn't feel like the film did either. although, i think many people will have different opinions on that depending on where they are personally coming from as they overlay their own experiences and beliefs onto the movie.