Paragraph Reviews 2/18/11 – Film By Faye – Guest Post from Emily Williams

This go-around is a very special Paragraph Reviews from my dear Hollywood-intern sister Emily, who exclusively screened and reviewed three documentaries for Culture Greyhound.

Burning Down The House: The Story of CBGB

A documentary on the life of CBGB, this film speaks also of the culture at the time and the passion people have for music of their generation. Like most musical documentaries, the impact is not as strong unless you are familiar with the music. However, everyone can relate to what a father figure the club owner, Hilly Krystal, was, and how he impacted the lives of teens in New York for over thirty years. The film itself is well organized, with plenty of footage. Band performances, interviews with New York citizens, and band interviews all help piece together the history of the club. Interviews with the employees and Hilly himself tell the story of exactly what the club was about and what it went through to try and stay open. By the end, I had goose bumps watching Patti Smith start crying at the end of her set the last night CBGB was open. It is a real-life underdog story, and it represents one of the most important times in music history.

Grade: A-

Transcendent Man
A film about the life and ideas of Ray Kurweil.

Motivated by the death of his father and his desire to bring him back to life, Ray Kurweil promotes singularity.  Kurweil believes that one day humans will join with technology to improve our lifestyles and maybe even give us immortality. With a clear structure and plenty of appropriate B-roll, this film states Kurweil’s belief and the opinions of others who agree or disagree with it. Directed by Barry Ptolemy, Transcendent Man was inspired by Ray Kurweil’s book Singularity is Near. Many say Kurweil’s views are optimistic yet improbable. Having met the man, I agree he is a very optimistic, idealistic person, but I wouldn’t discount his theories on that basis alone. I still can’t say I am a big believer in the idea of singularity, but I can say this film has made it more prevalent in my mind.  No matter what you believe or how you feel about the thought of death, this film will have you thinking about the future and where technology is taking the human race.

Grade: A


Knuckle is a documentary (screened at Sundance this year) following Irish clans in a feud they believe can only be settled by bare-knuckle boxing; it’s powerful and upsetting at times. Cousins who grew up together train for months to fight each other over a dispute that began in 1992 with a murder. The camera follows James Quinn McDonaugh and his brother Michael who fight for their family and for pride. Narrated by Ian Palmer, we learn how fighting truly never solves anything, but also how it affects people. The women are afraid for the men and the children, the children grow up believing that fighting is the only way to solve anything, and the men play hooky from work to train. Families have to move and constantly be on guard. It affects their entire way of life and the consequences are captured well in this film. With plenty of footage, Palmer takes us through over a decade of fighting between these families. This film is strong in its message, and by the end don’t be surprised if you find yourself cheering for the McDonaughs.

Grade: B

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