The Trials Of Muhammad Ali

We all know the story: In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, [Muhammad] Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. The U.S. government declined to recognize him as a conscientious objector, however, because Ali declared that he wouldContinue reading “The Trials Of Muhammad Ali”

Beverly Gage Misses the Mark on Ken Burns’ ‘The War’

Ken Burns‘ The War–a seven-episode, fourteen-hour documentary on the Second World War, released in 2007–was never going to find favor with all who viewed it. Mostly because it is unabashedly sentimental, an unforgivable sin for those of ironic and skeptical persuasion. Even granted this, Beverly Gage‘s review in Slate–which I read after finishing my viewContinue reading “Beverly Gage Misses the Mark on Ken Burns’ ‘The War’”

Jehane Noujaim’s ‘The Square’: Enthralling and Frustrating

Jehane Noujaim‘s The Square is an enthralling and frustrating documentary record of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. It tells its story by holding a steady narrative focus on a small cast of central characters and tracking the revolution’s rise and fall–so to speak–from the glory of Hosni Mubarak‘s resignation to its co-optation by a variety of counterrevolutionaryContinue reading “Jehane Noujaim’s ‘The Square’: Enthralling and Frustrating”

Carl Sagan’s Glorious Dawn: The Promise of Cosmos

The YouTube video titled “A Glorious Dawn” starring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking (their voices run through Auto-Tune), and snippets from Sagan’s epic Cosmos, has now racked up almost nine million views and twenty-seven thousand comments since it was first put up sometime back in 2009. (Mysteriously, in addition to its seventy-seven thousand ‘Likes’ it hasContinue reading “Carl Sagan’s Glorious Dawn: The Promise of Cosmos”

The Nature Documentary and its Edifying Functions

In response to my post on nature documentaries, reader Noor Alam offered the following thoughtful comment: How the nature documentary is made, what types of animal behavior are depicted, and how they are then interpreted, provide early and formative impressions about the world around us. Does the documentary empasize nature as a world in whichContinue reading “The Nature Documentary and its Edifying Functions”

The Nature Documentary and the Failed Hunt

Like many middle-class children, here or elsewhere, I watched wildlife documentaries while ‘growing up.’ There was a long-running Sunday feature whose name I forget that subjected one species to its lens each week; there were the full-length movies–sometimes on the big cats (my personal favorite), sometimes on elephants, sometimes on the primates–my parents took meContinue reading “The Nature Documentary and the Failed Hunt”

56-Up: Checking In With ‘Old Friends’

Roger Ebert once referred to Michael Apted‘s Up series as the ‘noblest project in cinema history.’ In writing his review of 56-Up–the latest installment in the story of the Fab Fourteen–Ebert disowned those words as ‘hyperbole’ but its easy to see why he might have thought so. It is as straightforward–and as complicated–a film project as could be:Continue reading “56-Up: Checking In With ‘Old Friends’”

Of Mountains, “Assault” and “Conquest”

A common reaction of mine when watching mountaineering documentaries is distaste at the accompanying linguistic package: the language of “assault” and “conquer”, directed against and at the mountain. Though many mountaineers have self-consciously forsworn such language (Ed Viesturs makes a point of noting such language in his books even though at times he slips backContinue reading “Of Mountains, “Assault” and “Conquest””