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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Art > Gay > Politics > History > Family > Judaism > Crime > Drugs > Native Americans > Hockney (2014)/Papirosen (2011)/The Seventh Fire (2015/all Film Movement DVDs)/The Silence Of Mark Rothko (2014/Icarus DVD)/VAXXED: From Cover Up To Catastrophe (2016/Cinema Libre DVD)

Hockney (2014)/Papirosen (2011)/The Seventh Fire (2015/all Film Movement DVDs)/The Silence Of Mark Rothko (2014/Icarus DVD)/VAXXED: From Cover Up To Catastrophe (2016/Cinema Libre DVD)

Picture: C+/C+/C/C+/C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C+/D/C/D/B Documentaries: B-/B-/C+/C+/B+

Here's some new documentaries on the arts and sciences you definitely need to know about...

Randall Wright's Hockney (2014) is the first look in a while at the life and work of the famous painter, following a very famous film and its sequel that we covered at these links...

A Bigger Splash (1975)


David Hockney: A Bigger Picture (2009)


So here we are five years later, Hockney work is as valued artistically and financially as ever, so we get some overlap with the previous releases. It is as good as the 1974 film, but maybe not as well-rounded as the 2009 release. Still, Mr. Hockney is still (even as of this posting) alive and producing works pretty much every day, which is amazing and his artwork (especially the use of color) continues to make it as compelling as ever; especially as we get more and more generic, boring HD images literally every day. A survivor and painter, he's never sold out and the work remains personal.

We get some biography (including so many of his friends lost to AIDS when it first arrived among other sad turns for him) and we do also get enough updates here to justify this being produced. If you are interested in his work and have never seen any of these programs, get all three and watch them in chronological order back to back.

A feature-length audio commentary track by the director is the only extra.

Gaston Solnicki's Papirosen (2011) took a long time for the director to make, which is a culmination of years of research and editing together film and video footage of four generations of his family, whom are Jewish and becomes a very personal work. However, the release text says he had over 200 hours to go through, so why is this running only 74 minutes? Did the living relatives reject way too much of the footage? Was some of it way too personal? DID some just not survive well enough to be featured?

It is odd and so with that hype and the lack of length, I was disappointed. Still, this is not badly done for what we get and is definitely worth a look for what is here. However, I'd be curious of the backstory of how this was made and that in itself could have expanded this nicely.

There are no extras.

Jack Pettibone Riccobono's The Seventh Fire (2015) is a really good documentary about crime and youth in Native American communities and focuses on a gang leader named Rob Brown and the how violence and drug use has infiltrated his community (his fault in part, but he is hardly the only reason why) also involves jail, run-ins with the police, competition with other gang members and an increasingly bad criminal record that only expands the hopelessness and decreases his chances to escape it all.

Terence Malick and Natalie Portman are among the co-producers of this powerful production, but at 76 minutes, his needed to be longer, there needed to be more analysis and though no one release is going to do justice to this subject (and this one does), much more needs to be shown and said. Still, painful and it reminded me of some interesting aspects of Michael Cimino's underrated The Sunchaser (1996, his last film, reviewed elsewhere on this site). Definitely worth a look.

Deleted Scenes, and two short films (Killer and The Sacred Food) are the extras.

Marjoleine Boonstra's The Silence Of Mark Rothko (2014) takes us overseas and has us look at another true painter like Hockney, painting giant canvases that speak for themselves without pretense, narration, dumbing-down or spoon-feeding the content to an audience. Mr. Rothko is inspired by art of the past and we see his art, that art, his life and his world throughout this too-short 52 minutes, meaning I was a bit disappointed and yet again, thought this one too should be longer.

Icarus has issued this on DVD with no extras, but I would like to see more about Rothko. Still, this is a good place to start.

You might think the most censored documentary of the last few years might be political or political extreme, but I have rarely see the outright censorship and attacks on such a work more than on Andrew Wakefield's VAXXED: From Cover Up To Catastrophe (2016), considered more dangerous than a Michael Moore work. The film asks why there has been a sudden jump in children developing autism, if it is linked to vaccinations and if so, how. In its extremely intelligent, involving and engrossing 91 minutes, it is extremely thorough not to be a work of Agit-prop, takes its time to talk to its audience all the time, never condescends and lays out any possibilities or arguments with crystal clarity.

The film beings with various name people, from politicians to performers to press people, speaking very over-generally that vaccines do not cause autism. That is a valid enough statement, yet also a big overgeneralization. They say and do this as if there is zero room for discussion or debate, which is highly suspect and dangerous in a free society, especially in the United States, the greatest country ever. So why is this happening? Is something being covered up?

The film should speak for itself, but it tries to logically show that at certain too-young ages and in certain unwise combinations (specifically three vaccines in one instead of separately as they used to be given) and with a mercury-based preservative (!!!), too many children are becoming sick and permanently damaged and perhaps, the U.S. Government's Centers for Disease Control in conjunction with the vaccine manufacturers are more interested in mega-profits than the health of children. Like it or not, it makes a great argument that something is going on and it is not empty conspiracy or a political scheme. But the biggest proof comes from all the too-similar stories and the many families interviewed telling of the horrors that have been visited upon them.

They are told otherwise and that they are somehow 100% wrong (the best story is an African American woman who has a SWAT team called on her because she feared the one drug was killing her daughter, so her daughter was hospitalized and forced to take that and three more (!!!) damaging drugs and has never recovered) and racism is even playing a role in all this reminding me too uncomfortably of the leaded water nightmare in Flint, Michigan.

Also, these are not new stories or revelations. If the makers here are so wrong, why can't any of the so-called scholars, medical experts or other persons we are supposed to trust arguing logically and calmly with real evidence that they are wrong? Certainly the way this was censored shows they are on to something. Temple Grandin's story is not rare by any means and was even interviewed in Too Sane For This World, a documentary on the epidemic we reviewed at this link:


There is also the very disturbing Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?, which shows the worst of this situation which 'experts' are NOT helping with and worse, which we reviewed at this link...


This is an undeniable crisis and whomever is responsible better start taking responsibility for it now before it becomes a nightmare with a point of no return. VAXXED is therefore not the first work to deal with this subject, but its hit a nerve and we need to know the truth no matter what.

The program (which the makers later said a bunch of critics bashed as awful WITHOUT EVER SEEING IT, proving once again how bad film critics (read quote whores and worse) have become, pushovers, liars, cinematic illiterates and phonies who are more interested in hearing themselves talk than giving a mature, adult, honest review of anything. They are an embarrassment to the film business and especially to real journalism and this film is one of the lowest points since Cimino's Heaven's Gate in this respect. How lame!!!

I strongly commend Cinema Libre for being bold enough to pick this up and believe it really ought to be a very, very strong frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Whatever the answers are, they need to be asked and that it has faced this much unreal and odd opposition tells us something is very wrong here.

Extras include Extended Interviews, vital Deleted Scenes, Trailers and three excellent extended pieces in Best of Filmmakers Q&A, Andrew Wakefield deals with Allegations and Heading Them Off At The Pass.

Because these are all recent HD productions, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all five releases are about even, using analog videotape and low def digital video in some cases, so you get flaws that run from slight to gleaming including video noise, video banding, cross color, staircasing and a little digititis depending on the source, but Fire is a little more inconsistent and problematic with the existing footage simply being rougher though no less interesting than the others.

All titles feature lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but Hockney, Fire and VAXXED offer lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 versions that sound better, yet the films (with some mono audio and location audio flaws) are on par with each other, so no standouts here.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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