The Most Dangerous Man in America (2009)
In a chapter of U.S. history that came and went before most of you were born, the leaking of what became known as the “Pentagon Papers” by defense contract employee Daniel Ellsberg in the early '70s is the topic of a new Oscar-nominated documentary by co-directors Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith called The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. It's a great story, but only an average documentary. To be fair, the film actually manages to tell Ellsberg's story reasonably well. It plays a little like a dark conspiracy thriller in the History Channel mold, sticking close to the typical documentary conventions we've seen many times before. It attracted an Oscar nomination because it's the kind of film that attracts Oscar nominations. It also serves as an eye-opener for anyone who believes governments have the best interests of the people in mind when they make policy, but then again, anyone stupid enough to think that isn't likely watching a documentary anyways. What it isn't (and desperately needed to be) is an Errol Morris doc, a perfect followup to The Fog of War, but alas... that never happened.
The film employs the standard talking heads, a collection of often self-satisfied interviewees droning on about how earth-shattering Ellberg's monumental act of defiance was. One New York Times reporter goes as far as to suggest that the media's publication of the classified documents enabled press independence ever since. An activist champions the Supreme Court's decision that allowed the publication as a great victory for the First Amendment. All of which is, of course.... horseshit. The media didn't really want anything to do with the story and only published excerpts of the the documents to cover their asses.
If we move to the present, when the modern press is unwilling to confront a former vice president who openly brags on television that he endorsed what is, by all relevant legal standards, torture, one has to ask themselves “what's the point of winning your freedom if you're too cowardly to exercise it?” Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose. All I took away from this film was an added layer of callous disillusionment. The whole thing smacked of reverse déjà vu. Imagine.... getting stuck in an immoral war without end because the government lied to the people.
Graphic Sexual Horror (2009)
Speaking of Oscar-magnet documentaries and torture, a documentary that is decidedly unlikely to garner a nomination anytime soon is Barbara Bell and Anna Lorentzon's highly controversial film - Graphic Sexual Horror, (which could quite easily have used the title of the aforementioned Daniel Ellsberg film). The subject of the film is the creator of a U.S. based bondage and S&M website called insex.com. By the time the site was shut down in 2005 by the Department of Homeland Security (no, that's not a typo), it had accumulated 35,000 members who paid $60 a month for access. If you do the math, that's nearly $2M a month, "Taliban money" the goverment claimed (again...horseshit, see above). I wondered aloud whether Dick Cheney had been a member. User Name: Dick Password: Chainy.
Chortle, snort, chuckle....
GSH premiered at Slamdance in 2009 and played at a number of festivals including Hot Docs, Fantasia, and CineKink. It was released to Amazon's VOD site and then pulled due to understandable complaints about the film's content. Synapse Films releases the DVD on August 23rd but it arrived in our KRK box yesterday. Morbidly intrigued by it's serial-killer boxart, I tossed it in last night to see what all the fuss was about. I lasted about ½ an hour, not because it wasn't interesting, but due to the unbelievably graphic nature of film. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that a film called Graphic Sexual Horror contained scenes of graphic sexual horror, but I'll admit that I just didn't anticipate that it would be as explicit as it was. Nothing is left to the imagination and at the risk of succumbing to the slippery slope that is censorship, there's just no way that little Roncey hipsters could handle this film. Their tiny glasses would melt and their dogs would run away to hide under the porch and whimper.
After a couple of brief moments of contemplation, I decided that this film was going east.... to the FBE that is. Coincidentally, I'd just hijacked Joe's 17-movie Elvis mega-boxset from the same order and figure that I'll just trade him straight up for GSH. It will likely find an audience out there once/if the Pelletiers bring it back. If I could be so bold, might I suggest it for your limited-access FBE movie night at some point? Make sure Kate and Hudson are out of town and Jules is properly bound and gagged. Lurid, disturbing and extremely hard to look at,
.....and I'm not watching the Human Centipede when it comes out either. Thankfully, I've got like 35 hours of Elvis movies ahead of me ....so you guys and your "exclusive" film club can eat shit.