Tag: Documentary

Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

(NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared here.)

½ (out of 4)

Penny Lane’s Hail, Satan? is an expository documentary about The Satanic Temple (henceforth TST), an organization that has made headlines in recent years for holding “satanic masses” and attempting to erect statues of satanic figures near state capitols. As you might imagine, these efforts haven’t exactly endeared TST to members of the Christian community. The Archdiocese of Boston claimed that TST practices “destructive works of evil,” and one Catholic theologian has even compared TST members to practitioners of child sacrifice.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals

Image courtesy of Zipporah Films.

**** (out of 4)

Depictions of rural America frequently fall prey to two sorts of caricatures. On the one hand, films like Captain Fantastic portray non-urban environments as paradisiacal, suggesting that they embody a kind of emotional purity that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Meanwhile, ever since Donald Trump became president, many commentators have instead encouraged the notion that rural America is a haven for bigots, a backward part of the country that teems with rednecks and gun nuts.

In his latest documentary, Monrovia, Indiana, Frederick Wiseman repudiates both of these conceptions. Instead, through his depiction of everyday life in the titular town, he portrays rural America as a region that suffers from three particular afflictions – none of which have anything to do with Trump.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals

Image courtesy of Focus Features.

*** (out of 4)

On the surface, Morgan Neville’s new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, might appear to be yet another misbegotten piece of well-intentioned but cloying glop. The subject of the film, after all, is Fred Rogers, the television host who won the adoration of an entire generation of Americans with his childlike smile, aw-shucks persona, and ability to sing things like “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!” The movie’s trailer, moreover, isn’t exactly an exercise in restraint. In its usage of sentimental music – plus blurbs that prominently feature words like “kindness” and “empathy” – it makes the film out to be the latest exemplar (after last May’s RBG) of nauseatingly fawning idolatry.

Fortunately, the good news is that Won’t actually turns out to be anything but schmaltzy, thanks in large part to Neville’s willingness to expose Rogers’ imperfections.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals