In the fifth part of our Hot Docs 2011 previews, Andrew Parker takes a look at Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Superheroes, Ola Svensson Superstar, Bobby Fischer Against the World, and Boy Cheerleaders. Check back over the next few days for more previews of films playing at Hot Docs 2011.
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Director: Morgan Spurlock
No matter what one thinks of Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?), he is undeniably a force to be reckoned with in the field of documentary filmmaking. In an effort to create his first box office blockbuster, Spurlock looks to finance the $1.5 million budget of his film through nothing more than integrated product placement. There is an interesting blend of give and take between Spurlock’s smarts and his naivete. His pitch meetings are equal parts jokey and bottom line oriented, showing that he knows the ropes of the advertising world he is seeking to lampoon, but he also seems genuinely taken aback by the demands placed on him by his sponsors. The film has some big laughs, but the underlying themes on screen here are things most people interested in this subject don’t already know. By that same token, however, there is more than enough new and interesting stuff to keep mostly everyone engaged. It’s oddly reminiscent of all the films and TV specials from the late 80s and early 90s that were geared towards making kids and teens better consumers, but with new references to psychoanalysis and “neuromarketing.” That’s still not a bad thing.
Rating (out of five stars): ***1/2
Thursday, April 28th at 6:30 p.m. at Winter Garden Theatre
Friday, April 29th at 4:15 p.m. at Isabel Bader Theatre
Opens in Toronto formally on Friday, May 6th
Director: Michael Barnett
A surprisingly dark look into the world of real life super heroes, Michael Barnett’s film takes a topic that has been covered before and gives things a fresh spin. Superheroes looks at several real life masked crusaders and justice leagues run by people who should really think twice about ever attempting to stop a crime. Barnett has a great visual eye and allows the people on screen to seem like more than the silly caricatures they would appear to be on first glance. Most of the heroes are good people who have been wronged to the point of causing a deep psychological trauma. At different turns, Superheroes is touching and uncomfortably funny. Sometimes it is just outwardly uncomfortable. Those looking for some serious ass kicking will probably be greatly let down. The film also has some of the best looking comic book panels on screen in recent memory.
Rating (out of five stars): ****
Monday, May 2nd at 9:00 p.m. at Bloor Cinema
Wednesday, May 4th at 4:00 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Sunday, May 8th at 7:00 p.m. at The Royal
Ola Svensson Superstar
Director: Stefan Berg
It is nearly impossible to tell if Ola Svensson Superstar is supposed to be a funny film or not. The titular focal point for Stefan Berg’s documentary and lead singer for Swedish glam punk band The Ark is such a self-important and humourless person that one can’t help buyt chuckle as he tries to reinvent himself by taking the lead in a theatrical production of Jesus Christ Superstar. In an odd way, what the film has to say about how artists seek a sort of psychological fulfillment is admirable and poignant, but everything else is just so artsy and deadpan that the film’s ultimate intentions are thoroughly obscured. It’s quite possibly an acquired taste, but there are still some (intentional) laughs for casual viewers.
Rating (out of five stars): **1/2
Thursday, May 5th at 9:45 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Friday May 6th at 7:30 p.m. as a part of Rooftop Docs on the roof of the London Tap House (19+)
Saturday, May 7th at 7:00 p.m. at Cumberland 3
Bobby Fischer Against the World
Director: Liz Garbus
Before diving headlong into just how crazed the late chess master Bobby Fischer was in the later stages of his life, Liz Garbus talks to those who knew him best to create a portrait of one of the most egotistical geniuses the world has ever known. The focus on the film is predominately Fischer’s demanding nature during his famed 1972 match against Russian world champion Boris Spassky. The recollections of Fischer are fascinating and deeply personal and they help to paint a picture of a man who went mad in the pursuit of perfection. The title is beyond apt as it seems Fischer fought everyone in the world at some point, including himself. Factually, there’s not much new here, but it is still enthralling to watch.
Rating (out of five stars): ****1/2
Sunday, May 1st at 1:30 p.m. at Isabel Bader Theatre
Tuesday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Director: James Newton
Part Billy Elliot and part Bring It On by way of a British remake of The Sandlot, Boy Cheerleaders follows the DAZL Diamonds from the meaner streets of South Leeds. The Diamonds are the first ever all male cheer squad (made of kids ages 8-14) to make it into the UK national cheerleading championships. The film focuses mostly on the coaches and 3 of the team members who are growing up with single mothers. The kids are funny and real without coming across as stereotypes or like they are being exploited for a cheap laugh. The relationships between the kids and their mothers are particularly well fleshed out and the hard work (amidst all the childish distraction) is evident. One of the boys, Harvey (who naturally likens himself to Billy Elliot) might be the most bad ass nine year old ever seen in a documentary. One of the screenings is on Mother’s Day. Take ‘yer mum and tell ‘er you love ‘er.
Rating (out of five stars): ****
Playing with the short 5 Pictures of a Father (not reviewed)
Friday, April 29th at 9:00 p.m. at Cumberland 3
Sunday, May 1st at 4:30 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Sunday, May 8th at 6:45 p.m. at Isabel Bader Theatre
Hot Docs 2011 runs from April 28 – May 8. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit hotdocs.ca.
Top image: A scene from Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Courtesy Hot Docs.