Friday, February 5, 2016

Instant Gratificaton Theater: Documentaries Part 2

A recent Showtime preview weekend offered me the opportunity to catch up on the channel's selection of original programming, feature films, and specials.

And I didn't really take advantage. But I did watch a couple documentaries!

Listen to Me Marlon: OK, so I only watched one documentary on Showtime. I heard great things about this idiosyncratic look at the life of Marlon Brando--I think I read the word "mesmerizing" in about 4 different places--but after about 8 minutes of Brando's voice (he "narrates" the film via archival audio), I had to bail.

"You know what? I'm just not in the mood for this," I thought. Maybe some other time, perhaps, but there are days when one just can't handle 100 minutes of Marlon Brando's ponderings.

The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?: This Kickstarter-funded account of the failure of the proposed Jon Peters (Executive Producer)/Tim Burton (Director) / Nicolas Cage (Star) late-nineties Superman flick is surprisingly thorough...maybe even to a fault. It's a fascinating story of one of the biggest and most notorious blockbusters never made, but I must admit that when the documentary delves into the intricacies of the proposed costumed designs, it lost me a little.

Still, this is as definitive a record of the whole tale as you'll ever get on film, aided by archival pre-production footage of Cage and contemporary interviews with most of the other principals, most notably Burton and Peters. I get a big kick out of seeing Peters appear on camera to address some of the wild claims Kevin Smith (one of the screenwriters initially attached to the project) has made for years. Peters seems full of it, perhaps, but at least he's enough of a sport to go on the record (and apparently play some power games on camera, as  you will see). And, yes, Smith himself is one of the interviewees and delivers just as you would expect.

Director/writer Jon Schnepp does insert himself into the narrative by appearing on camera so often and serving as a visible interviewer for no apparent reason, and the documentary has some rough edges. Still, the guy made a movie about "Superman Lives," and he put in pretty much everything anyone who cares about the subject would want  to see. For that, I think he deserves a pat on the back. The film may be a bit long and unpolished for non-fans, but it's a must-see for those who followed the saga of the aborted project over the years and always wanted to get the rest of the story.

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