Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Seinfeld's doc-diss

While I interpreted Jerry Seinfeld’s joke-a-thon intro to the documentary awards as play for Oscar host next year, John Sinno saw it differently. And he has a point.
Sinno, whose “Iraq in Fragments” didn’t win, has sent an open letter to the Academy (and to the press) to protest Seinfeld’s disrespect of this traditionally undervalued category. Before you say boo-hoo (as I was initially inclined, since at least Seinfeld was a respite from all the trumped-up sobriety of the slick show), consider that nearly every other awards category was treated with awe and dignity. (Except maybe those child actors being forced to make badly scripted jokes about the “shorts” categories.)
My problem isn’t with Seinfeld introducing the nominated docs as “incredibly depressing” — because that was rather funny, and rather true. It’s that somehow everything else in the show has gotten so serious and pompous that Seinfeld’s ribbing stood out in the midst of a politically correct, essentially boring evening. The other awards were positioned as momentous events worthy of suspiciously glistening eyes.
Sinno goes on to protest that there wasn’t any mention of Iraq. Here I disagree. It’s tedious when celebrities use the Oscars as a podium to go all noble over world events. So, again, it wasn’t the lack of a mention of Iraq that was the problem, it was that this year’s Oscars were an informercial for the eventual doc winner, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Now, I’m all for fighting global warming (or “global warmings” as Will Ferrell pronounces it in one of his hilarious riffs on President Bush speaking to the nation; Google it and you’ll see). But between all the Gore-boosting of the evening and the trio of Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola waiting to welcome long-overdue Martin Scorsese into the Oscar fold, it looked like the fix was in. (Can you imagine how humiliating it would have been for Marty if someone else had trotted up to accept the directing Oscar from his three amigos?)
So I’m not necessarily in favor of making Sinno et al whole by enshrining documentaries as they do other categories. I’m for taking it all down a peg, or at least getting a grip. You know more ink has been spilled about Jennifer Hudson’s silver bolero jacket than about anything else Oscar night, and that the real power of the Oscar show is in its ratings, so stop trying to overcompensate. The only part of the evening that truly merits those glistening eyes is the so-called Parade of the Dead clip reel, the only time the audience understands the true value of things.

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“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho