Tag Archives: Stories We Tell

Countdown: Docs for Non-Doc Lovers

It’s Doc Week here in Columbus, that bi-annual festival that caters to the documentary lover in us all. But what of those who don’t care for docs? They’re missing so much! Well, in the interest of sharing the doc love, we’ve put together a list of documentaries bound to entertain even those folks with zero interest in the genre.


5. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

Seth Gordon’s doc on old school video game competitions managed to be the best underdog sports comedy of the year. Wisely, the film doesn’t mock its subjects, which would have created a distance between the participants and the audience. The competition is so fierce and yet disarmingly funny. Full of geekdom, mystery, humanity and the quest to maintain one’s own legend, King of Kong is a miraculous little slice of competitive life.

4. Stories We Tell (2012)

Sarah Polley uses an absolutely fascinating and intensely personal investigation to make some universal points about how we frame our own stories when sharing them with others, whether it’s the way we recount a personal tale or the way a filmmaker manipulates the audience to create the desired tone. Her points are all the more powerful because she chooses to open up such a private story to make them.

3. Man On Wire (2008)

Philippe Petit tight rope walked from one World Trade Center to the other. It became known as the artistic crime of the century, and James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary offers endlessly fascinating tidbits about how he pulled it off. The doc is maddeningly suspenseful, and the sight of this exquisite, joyous lunacy literally attached to the site of such profound tragedy somehow makes it all that much more magical.

2. Murderball (2005)

It’s full contact wheelchair rugby for quadriplegics, and you would get your ass kicked. Murderball is a film that shows no mercy because mercy wouldn’t be accepted anyway, as it follows athletes vying for a spot in Paralympic Games. The competition is intense, the action breathtaking, the story sometimes wickedly funny, and the human experience of it all serves as the doc’s escalated heartbeat. Murderball may very well be the best sports documentary ever made.

1. The Imposter (2012)

Not the best doc on the list, but without question the one that will leave you astounded. A young French drifter claims to be the missing son of a grieving Texas family. Director Bart Layton keeps his film exactly one step ahead of you, and the twists are absolutely impossible to see coming. It’s a jaw dropping true crime story that will leave you amazed.

Two Outstanding New Releases for Your Queue

We can’t bring ourselves to pair up a new release with a similarly wonderful backlist title because two awesome films are released to DVD today: The Iceman and Stories We Tell. You’ll  just have to watch two new ones.

The Iceman showcases the range of genius character actor Michael Shannon. Director Ariel Vromen makes the most of Shannon’s physical presence as well as his ability to oscillate between steely calm and touching vulnerability. It’s a tour de force from one of this generation’s most impressive performers.


Meanwhile, Sarah Polley continues to impress with her skills behind the camera with Stories We Tell. The Canadian writer/director/actor becomes her own documentarian, sharing family secrets in a poignant, fascinating and impeccably crafted look at how all families shape and reshape their own histories.

Countdown: Saving Your Summer

After Earth, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim – it’s hard not to see the summer of 2013 as a moviegoing bust. But if you think it’s been a weak season, it probably just means you missed the shiniest gems of the year.  Voila: The countdown meant to save your summer movie experience. Here are the top 5 best of the season’s movies. You may have missed these, but you might still have time to catch them.

5. Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus

A mind expanding road trip works better than expected, as does this mostly improvised, funny and insightful flick.

4. The Way, Way Back

Sam Rockwell steals this one as the Bill Murray-esque role model to an awkward teen going through a tough time. Smart, uproariously funny and brimming with excellent performances, this is a true summer movie, and one not to be missed.


3. Much Ado about Nothing

Joss Whedon gives another reason for nerds to rejoice. He mines the Bard for the humor he intended, and puts together a house party that looks like an absolute blasts.

2. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley directs a documentary that unveils a family secret, and in doing so provides fascinating insights into how families work, and how we all – including filmmakers – rework reality to suit our needs.

1. Fruitvale Station

Newcomer Ryan Coogler astonishes with his feature directorial debut, witnessing the devastating true story of Oscar Grant. We predict Oscars.


The Story of Her Life (and Ours)


by George Wolf

In Stories We Tell, director Sarah Polley lets the secrets in her own family history speak to all families, eloquently questioning truths in which we often take comfort.

She already had an extensive list of acting credits when 2006’s Away From Her established Polley’s additional skills as a writer and director. Her instincts are just as true in the documentary genre, perhaps more so, as a story that has intensely private beginnings becomes universal, entertaining and genuinely moving.

Normally, we include a film’s trailer when posting a review, but not in this case. Avoid it if you can, as knowing absolutely nothing about Polley’s family dynamics before seeing Stories We Tell adds a wonderful element of discovery.

In much the same manner Bart Layton structured his incredible documentary The Imposter last year, Polley moves the story along with the best possible pace, releasing new bits of information at the exact moment they will have the most impact. This holds true even halfway through the end credits, when she drops a bombshell that gives the entire saga a new perspective.

Though some of the family members involved are not shy about wanting the film anchored from their perspective, Polley is having none of it. Her film, personal as it may be, is crafted so well that a reexamination of your own family is almost inevitable. And yet, it unfolds in such an engrossing fashion, you may forget it’s not an adaptation of the latest best-selling novel.

It is a testament to Polley’s own storytelling skill that she can turn the focus inward, and still prompt you to look at your own world in a different way.

Stories We Tell is, so far, the best film of the year.

Weekend Countdown: Best films..so far..in 2013

The year’s half over. What were the  best films so far? Well, #1 opens this week at the Gateway. Have a look!


5. Evil Dead

Fede Alvarez remakes Sam Raimi’s beloved indie splatter fest with the right amount of respect (to the original), humor, and more than enough gore. This infectious bloodletting surprises even the most ardent fan of the original with ingenious twists, solid performances, and a script doctored brilliantly by Oscar winner Diablo  Cody.


4. This Is The End

Seth Rogan’s posse gathers for an end of the world party to lampoon their own images and spin a hilarious yarn about celebrity, the rapture, and Michael Cera’s cocaine habit. Jonah Hill’s demon possession is inspired comedy, but the film’s a clever, weirdly good-natured laugh riot from start to finish.

 3. Much Ado about Nothing

Thank God for nerds. Joss Whedon turns his considerable skill to breathing new life to Shakespeare, with the second big party on the list. Mining the Bard’s comedy for actual laughs, Whedon stacks his cast with hyper-talented buddies, and a scene-stealing Nathan Fillian alone is worth the price of admission.


2. Mud

Writer/director Jeff Nichols follows up his flawless (and criminally underseen Take Shelter) with another exquisite film. This coming of age tale about a boy, a disappearing way of life, and a fugitive named Mud charms and surprises.



1. Stories We Tell

A fascinating, thoroughly entertaining documentary from Sarah Polley.  While laying bare the secrets in her own family history, Polley expertly speaks to all families, and the questionable truths in which we often take comfort.


Runners up: Star Trek Into Darkness, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, World War Z, To the Wonder, The Bling Ring, How to Make Money Selling Drugs  and The Iceman. Happy viewing!