44 Pages (2017)

“44 Pages” isn’t just an important documentary, but it’s perhaps one of the most life affirming and entertaining made in a while. Centered on the “Highlights” magazine writing team as they prepare for the 70th Anniversary issue of the publication, “44 Pages” is a long overdue exploration of the classic children’s magazine. Director Tony Schaff brings us along to discover how the magazine was created, and how it’s created today. There’s also an interesting exploration in how the magazine has managed to stay alive in the age of digital media, and what it’s done to remain relevant and a key tool in educating children around the world.

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You Have to See This! NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell (2007)

“New York wasn’t burning. It was burnt!”

Director Henry Corra’s exploration of what New York was in 1977 is quite fantastic and a surprisingly rare chronicle of the political and economic turmoil that ironically bred timeless art and music. As a born and bred Bronxite, 1977 is a mythical year, and a period of the decade that I’ve heard about very often from elder family members. In particular, the night of the infamous black out of New York, my mom and uncle were stuck in the edge of downtown Manhattan and had to brave their way home during the mass looting and rioting. “NY77” garners a very unique tone that balances out the inherent importance of the year, the depressing living conditions of the city, and the obvious fun that was had by most, who managed to endure poverty with laughs and creativity.

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78/52 (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a hardcore film and horror buff and one of the first shots of a horror movie I ever recall watching was the scene in “Psycho” where Marion Crane is stalked in her shower and mercilessly stabbed to death. It’s a scene I’ve seen at least a thousand times since I was a child and its effectiveness and impact have never worn off for me. Every scene, every second, every single shot is so deliberate and meticulous that Hitchcock creates an entity on to itself in a genuinely flawless horror film. It’s not often you’ll find a full length documentary about one shot in an entire movie, but the iconic moment with Janet Leigh is a sequence that warrants so much examination and analyses. It’s every bit the symbolism and metaphor audiences of the fifties weren’t expecting.

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King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

“King Cohen” is the documentary on the life and work of filmmaker Larry Cohen, covering his entire career, from working on and directing television pilots, and blaxploitation, to horror, and studio blockbusters.

Writer/director Steve Mitchell interviews a slew of film industry people for this documentary, starting off with his subject’s early career and taking the viewer all the way until very recent work.  His interviews are varied, including the likes of Martin Scorsese, Fred Williamson, both the first and current Mrs. Cohen, etc.  The bulk of the film is spent with Mr. Cohen himself and some of his collaborators.

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She Makes Comics (2017)

Its ironic how closely “She Makes Comics” has tied in to a key event in history, as Marisa Stotter’s documentary was released almost at the same time Joan Lee, wife of Stan Lee died. Stan Lee is of course widely considered one of the godfathers of the comic book medium and superheroes. After Lee died, husband Stan was widely quoted as crediting much of his success and the success of Marvel to his wife, who acted as his muse and advisor for decades. So without Joan’s influence comic books would have looked wildly different from today and “She Makes Comics” celebrates the female influence of the medium.

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Behind the Mask: The Batman Dead End Story (2017)

Eric Dow’s “Behind the Mask” should be seen by every aspiring filmmaker out there as a course on how to navigate Hollywood and how to basically approach any kind of endeavor involving the Hollywood system. Sandy Collora is a consistently fascinating and interesting artist who has been making waves online for years thanks to his amazing special effects and consistent efforts to get a movie made. He’s also one of the forefathers of the fan film who helped make fan films not only legitimate works of cinematic art, but also a cause for Hollywood to take notice. Sandy Collora, for those unaware, is a brilliant and talented special effects artist who spent years hoping to emulate his favorite creators including Batman artist Neal Adams.

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