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Morgan Spurlock (#110 of 6)

Review: David Kinney’s The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob

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Review: David Kinney’s The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob
Review: David Kinney’s The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob

I never seem to tire of Bob Dylan. Not that he doesn’t frustrate, annoy, anger, or bore me at times, but his work, be it musical, Chronicles, or car commercial, is always worth investment, something to anticipate and heed and relish and dissect. Love him or hate him, there’s inarguably a lot to digest. Bob Dylan is a real meal.

Yet as much as I like Dylan, I’ve never felt the need to attend or bootleg every performance, or scrapbook every lost-and-found lyric sheet, just as, though I’m a bit of a Beatles freak, I’ve never wanted to own a piece of Ringo’s hair.

The title subjects of award-winning journalist David Kinney’s new book, The Dylanologists, are those Dylan super fans who devote time, money, energy, health, love, everything to the pursuit, acquirement, and study of all things Dylan. Kinney, himself an admitted acolyte, goes on a kind of Morgan Spurlock-like quest for others like him, “an entire underground nation of unreformed obsessives.” What he finds are some like him—that is, people with jobs and lives outside of Dylan—and others whose jobs and lives are Dylan.

In quasi-narrative fashion, Kinney begins his story in Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, then globetrots chapter by chapter through the lives and half-lives of various self-proclaimed Dylanologists. There’s a kind of gradation to the subjects: On the extreme end is a figure like the notorious A.J. Weberman, originator of the term “Dylanologist,” a hippie holdover and hard drug repository, who “’spent hours and hours listening to Dylan, taking Ritalin, LSD, mescaline, smoking joint after joint trying to figure it out,’” eventually digging through Dylan’s garbage, staging “birthday parties” outside Dylan’s apartment, and essentially stalking the artist with increasing paranoia.

Box Office Rap One Direction: This Is Us and the Box-Office Horizon

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Box Office Rap: One Direction: This Is Us and the Box-Office Horizon
Box Office Rap: One Direction: This Is Us and the Box-Office Horizon

The end of summer is officially upon us. Okay, technically that isn’t until September 21st, but as far as Hollywood is concerned, the summer box-office receipts have been tallied, with the winners and losers already determined. What have we learned? For starters, that Brian De Palma wanted to see The Lone Ranger, but it was gone from theaters before he had a chance to; that lower-budget horror films can stand their own against big-budget blockbusters, though audiences prefer their horror either slovenly supernatural (The Conjuring) or strictly high-concept (The Purge), as proved by the weak opening this past weekend of the excellent, reflexive You’re Next; and that Hollywood is still capable of producing mega-bombs, as demonstrated by the alarming disappearing acts performed by films such as White House Down, R.I.P.D., and Paranoia. Finally, we’ve learned that, all in all, not much has truly changed in the box-office landscape over the past 30 years, as summers continue to be ruled by sequels and commercially driven pap, with the occasional indie (like Fruitvale Station, The Way, Way Back, and Blue Jasmine) lucky enough to make a drop in the bucket.

Tribeca Film Festival 2012: Mansome

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Tribeca Film Festival 2012: <em>Mansome</em>
Tribeca Film Festival 2012: <em>Mansome</em>

Morgan Spurlock tries hard to keep his documentary on men’s grooming habits lively, but Mansome is only fitfully amusing and doesn’t have anything really interesting to say. Two of the movie’s executive producers, actors Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, lend their talents (and commercial appeal) by appearing in a framing story that follows the comedic duo as they offer commentary and banter with each other while receiving various treatments at a Los Angeles spa. The movie’s other talking heads include Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Kate White, director Judd Apatow, Adam Carolla, Zach Galifianakis, as the anti-groomer, and a genuinely funny Paul Rudd. A very droll John Waters, whose appearance is all too brief, promises that when he eventually shaves off his pencil-thin moustache, he’ll do it as part of a final performance on stage before retirement.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Documentary

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature

In recent years, Academy members have repeatedly favored the most high-profile, buzzed-about doc in this category, from The Cove to Man on Wire to March of the Penguins. For a break in the trend, you’d have to go back to 2005, when Born Into Brothels bested Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s suffering-for-art experiment that had people thinking twice about McDonald’s, at least for a few months. With expected hopefuls like Project Nim left out of this season’s race, 2012 could prove the bookend of the category’s seven-year populist itch, as the most-discussed nominee is probably Wim Wenders’s Pina, an offbeat film that really only looks like a winner on paper.

DOC NYC 2011: Undefeated and Kumaré

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DOC NYC 2011: <em>Undefeated</em> and <em>Kumaré</em>
DOC NYC 2011: <em>Undefeated</em> and <em>Kumaré</em>

Undefeated is yet another depiction of working-class America that posits sports—football, in this case—as a ticket out of the inner-city cycle of poverty and violence. That Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s film is set in Memphis and not in, say, Texas, as in Friday Night Lights, to which Undefeated owes a spiritual debt, barely makes a difference; this film pretty much molds the Cinderella season of the Manassas Tigers—a hapless high school football team that had not played one playoff game in its 110-year history before this 2009 season—into a standard underdog sports-movie formula, complete with the expected asides into the personal lives of its tough-minded coach, Bill Courtney, and a handful of its players, all of them seniors wondering what awaits them after high school.

As a result, the film doesn’t really contain much in the way of genuine surprises. Its only noteworthy bit of tweaking comes toward the end, in the way Lindsay and Martin subtly turn the fates of their main characters into the film’s real emotional climax, leaving the outcome of the Tigers’ championship game feeling almost like an afterthought. Undefeated ultimately isn’t so much about the championship season itself as it is about the way some of the team members change and grow as it progresses. Courtney himself voices the film’s overarching point of view when he instills in his players his philosophy that football doesn’t build character as much as it reveals character. Perhaps most dramatic in that regard is the emotional growth of Chavis, the team’s junior linebacker who returns to the team during the 2009 season after having spent 15 months in a youth penitentiary. Will his hot-headedness derail not only the team’s chances at making the playoffs, but also his own immediate and long-term futures? It’s to the filmmakers’ credit that they’re able to build as much suspense as they do out of this kind of intimate focus as they do with the larger focus on the games themselves.