Reviews by Chris MacKenzie

Dreams of a Life19. Dreams of a Life – 3 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
A documentary about a British woman who laid dead in her apartment, with the TV still on, for three years before being discovered.

Thoughts: With a slug line like that, I was very excited to see this documentary. I mean, how on earth could something like that happen? But while the movie does give you all of information it has, finding people to interview who the police were never able to locate, the end result is not really satisfying. It kind of becomes a story about how keeping people at bay, either because you are ashamed of where you come from, or because you just can’t let people in, is a recipe for being forgotten. The movie dwells on these themes, eschewing much of the CSI storyline we’re hoping to resolve. The movie relies heavily on re­enactments, which feels like filler for a story that the filmmaker must’ve realized would never have a tidy end.

The film is quick to point out the gory little details of the scene, but is then content to not explore them any further. Several items in the room at the time of her death would be interesting to know more about, but it feels like the filmmakers only had access to the stuff they dug up on their own. While it’s admirable that so many people from this woman’s uneventful past were found and interviewed, the interviews do seem to be a bit repetitive. Each one can be summed up with, “Yeah, it’s hard to really know someone, especially this woman.” While this film does a good job of fleshing out a woman who floated through life trying not to be tied to anyone, it still doesn’t connect all of the dots. With a story this intriguing, it’s a shame to not have more of a pay off. However, the final frame of the film, found footage of the woman in the crowd at a major news event is haunting. She is off to the side and hard to see, but that seems to be how this woman was.

I Like Killing Flies20. I Like Killing Flies – 3.5 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
A surprisingly candid view of a small New York City restaurant whose cook is as famous as he is grumpy.

Thoughts: Compared to the other food documentaries I’ve watched, this one has the most… flavor. It is the story of a man who, while not a gourmet chef, has a knack for cooking food that people love. His repertoire is extensive, but instead of rotating dishes on the menu, he just adds them to the menu making everything available all of the time. The kitchen in which he cooks is grease­blackened and falling apart, but it’s interesting to see that its shortcomings are what makes him such a good cook.

It’s amazing that the filmmakers were given such inside access to a guy whose greatest joy is yelling at customers and throwing them out. The tiny size of the place has created certain rules that must be followed, and its idiosyncratic owner is all too happy to enforce them. The movie takes an interesting turn when Shopsin’s (the restaurant) must move to a new location. Unfortunately, the film misses a golden opportunity to let us see if moving has changed the cook at all. He has a very fatalistic attitude, one that there is little chance of changing, but with the addition of more space, and less of a boiler room atmosphere, we don’t know what affect it had on him. I could’ve used a little more story at the end of the story.

Between the Folds21. Between the Folds – 3 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
An ancient art is given a modern analysis as Origami’s complexity and intricate mathematics are explored.

Thoughts: Another TV show turned into a stand-­alone doc, this movie shows some interesting applications, both artistic and practical, for this ancient art. The mathematics of Origami stood out to me as being the most surprising aspect of Origami. Its intricate folds and geometry are analyzed and created using computer programs, and its unique ability to maximize space has influenced several seemingly unrelated applications. The artistic side shown, while beautiful, sometimes feels more like “paper sculpting” than “paper folding.”

As this is a survey of the current state of Origami, we don’t spend too much time with any one artist (or MIT genius,) and this is a shame. The characters presented in this film are as complex as the work they create, but in the end this film is about the work those people create.

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