Monthly Archives: March 2011

TRUE STORIES (1986)

Note: This was written for Mark Berretini’s Mocumentary course at Portland State University in Spring 2011.

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is

because Fiction is obliged to stick to

possibilities; Truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain

There is a question that every mockumentary unconsciously plants in the viewer’s mind: How “realistic” is this intended to be? What makes it a mockumentary? The common misconception is that the term “mockumentary” translates to a fake documentary in the comic mold, or a fake documentary that mocks its subject. In reality, the term relates to anything that presents its subject as non-fiction and then mocks the actual documentary form. Hence the term, mockumentary. Continue reading

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DOGTOOTH

Giorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is a very peculiar and disturbing piece of art from the isle of Greece. In a well-to-do household in the middle of nowhere, fenced off from the outside world, there exists a “family.” In this family, there is a Father (Christos Stergioglou), a Mother (Michele Valley), and three children: Older Daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia), Younger Daughter (Mary Tsoni) and Son (Hristos Passalis). Father and Mother run a tight ship, forcing the children to listen to homemade tapes in which various words form the “outside world” are ascribed new meanings (yellow flowers become “zombies,” vagina becomes “keyboard,” etc.). The children are forbidden to leave the well-manicured lawns of the backyard. “Cat” (simply, a local housecat) is the kind of fearsome creature they must destroy if it intrudes upon their oasis. The only outsider who is allowed into this den of insanity is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a security uniform-wearing employee of Father who, apparently, comes from the factory he manages. She will serve at first as a sex slave of some sort to be used by Son, only to then turn the tables a bit on this power struggle and enlist Older Daughter into a lesbian encounter or two. Lanthimos, who wrote and directed, utilizes Haneke-esque framing and editing to give the film an insular, sterilized look of whites and light, creamy browns, and a flat, deadpan tone utterly lacking in affect. It’s hypnotic most of the time. What this film appears to boil down to is an over-the-top yet sedated commentary on the modern family unit, and how controlling parents can be. What I believe this film can be taken as is not so much a commentary, but simply an observation of extreme cult indoctrination. You decide.

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RANGO

No animated movie this year could be more in love with the very essence of movies than Gore Verbinski’s Rango, a whip-smart film as much for adults as for kids. Johnny Depp gives voice to the title character, a lizard with an existential crisis on his hands – is he an actor or merely a lizard? Is he a hero? Arriving in the town of Dirt, our intrepid lead character will find out, facing a plot derived from Chinatown and film references to everything from Star Wars to Depp’s own Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (how many “family” films do you know that would harken back to an R-rated Hunter S. Thompson drug film?). This all just adds to the film’s grown-up charm.

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