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Errol Morris (#110 of 21)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Documentary Short

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Documentary Short
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Documentary Short

[Editor’s Note: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014, presented by ShortsHD, will open in theaters nationwide on January 31. For locations, click here.]

This may not come as a surprise to regular Slant Magazine readers familiar with our contempt for both Dallas Buyers Club and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love,” that remedial spoken-word anthem that only deserves to be exalted on the stage of the GLAAD Media Awards, but we were unimpressed by this category’s contribution to the Save a Homophobe Foundation. Facing Fear’s gripping subject matter, about a gay man who meets one of the neo-Nazis who savagely beat him 25 years earlier while he was living on the streets of West Hollywood, is made maudlin by director Jason Cohen’s needlessly brooding Errol Morris drag act. Less inquiry into one man’s shedding of his homophobia and violent past than it is an advert for the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, the short left our predominantly queer-eyed staff of Oscar prognosticators and sideline consultants unmoved by its banal artistry.

The Nature of Truth: Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line

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The Nature of Truth: Errol Morris’s <em>The Thin Blue Line</em>
The Nature of Truth: Errol Morris’s <em>The Thin Blue Line</em>

The most crucial and persistent message in Errol Morris’s body of work is his belief that human fallibility is the main obstacle in occluding the truth. Sometimes that fallibility is harmless, even amusing to watch (the occasionally radical theories espoused by subjects in First Show are testament to that), and yet just as frequently human error is disastrous. It allows atrocities to happen, people to be tortured and scapegoated, innocents to be sentenced to death row.

Morris’s films are more interested in revealing the frequently flawed interior workings of his subjects than in revealing any kind of objective truths themselves. That many of his works do end up revealing holistically a factual argument almost feels like an indirect byproduct of the sometimes dubious testimony he’s able to coax from his subjects. Morris has been called the “anti-postmodernism postmodernist” because his films don’t guarantee that truths are contingent on or irretrievably lost in the past, but that it can sometimes boil down to human judgment, error, and bias covering them up.

Telluride Film Festival 2013: The Unknown Known, Death Row, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Tracks, & Before the Winter Chill

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Telluride Film Festival 2013: <em>The Unknown Known</em>, <em>Death Row</em>, <em>Blue Is the Warmest Color</em>, <em>Jodorowsky’s Dune</em>, <em>Tracks</em>, & <em>Before the Winter Chill</em>
Telluride Film Festival 2013: <em>The Unknown Known</em>, <em>Death Row</em>, <em>Blue Is the Warmest Color</em>, <em>Jodorowsky’s Dune</em>, <em>Tracks</em>, & <em>Before the Winter Chill</em>

Founded in 1974 by Bill and Stella Pence, Tom Luddy, and James Card in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, 9,000 feet above sea level, the Telluride Film Festival recently celebrated its 40th anniversary of world premiere screenings and revitalized classics. Expanded to five days, from a typical four, and including the debut of the brand new Werner Herzog Theater, a gorgeous 650-seat state-of-the-art theater retro-fitted inside the town’s otherwise year-round hockey arena, not to mention the outrageous number of new and returning special guests in attendance, the festival went far beyond the extra mile to make this year’s edition one of the richest to date. Whether showcasing a new release or a forgotten cult classic, the Telluride Film Festival is the home away from home for cinephiles the world over.

Upon the release of the festival schedule, notoriously kept secret until the day before the festival’s premiere, it was clear that this year’s edition would be among its most diverse. Sneak previews of major new releases such as Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Alfonso Cuáron’s Gravity, and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave appeared alongside repertory titles such as Mike Hodges’s The Terminal Man (in a pristine 35mm director’s cut presented by Buck Henry) and Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme’s Le Joli Mai and curious but memorable events such as author Don DeLillo reading selections from his novel Underworld over the haunting footage of Abraham Zapruder’s infamous recording of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.