Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I got the opportunity to speak with Daniel Johnston at his families home in Texas about his latest comic book, his day-to-day life, and his experience during and since the filming of the 2005 film, The Devil and Daniel Johnston.


Sunday, August 26, 2012


I have a new #1 and it's about to burst out of me.  The Devil and Daniel Johnston may quite possibly be the best developed documentary in the past decade...why?  First and foremost archive.  This film may have the best list of archive of one persons life of any film that I have ever seen.  That alone makes this film number one, but it doesn't even include the story of this fascinating human's life which when told through the eyes and ears of this film, makes me want to jump right into it and be able to have lived a small portion of it myself.

Making The Devil and Daniel Johnston is assembly one of those moments when a documentary filmmaker would be brewing in glory having discovered a mine of archive gold.  The stacks and stacks of archive that surrounded making this film must have left uncountable options for story development and inevitably have given birth to a documentary that felt like a well staged film.  I imagine the other side of the exceptionally large pile of archive would have been sifting it all out and knowing what to leave in and cut.  But in the end you have yourself a great story of the life of Daniel Johnston and all the footage and audio to help take a look into just what it was like.

Raised in Pennsylvania in a conservative home with conservative values Daniel Johnston struggle to fit in but, sometime around his late-teen years he banged his way out of it all with madness and hit the road.  Gifted as an artist and struggling with reality, the relationships with family grew tense and his outlets revolve around mimicking it all through art and short films.  Obsessed with recording his life on tape he gathered great moments of personal thought, ingenious musical growth, and a massive collection of the family secrets that give life to a home we can all relate to.

Yet the story of Daniel Johnston like his mind went two ways and as it is with Daniel those ways were always strait-up and strait-down.  Breaking out of his roots he played his way to the top of the Austin music scene and made a roar in the local music that rivals any from that region since.  Raising to his self-proclaimed destiny for fame, Daniel stepped onto the stage of the early MTV and rocked the house long enough to grab the audience and the TV's eye.  Leaving a legacy of music on cassette to build from his agent worked tirelessly to get him recognized and at his peak drove Daniel into the middle of a bidding war between record labels that left treads of legend and infamy.   

However with the story of Daniel there was a deal with the Devil and the Devil never forgets his deal.  Crumbling to a halt he crashed his record deal, stopped his music, slashed his art, and brought himself and his father's plane literally to the ground.  Left with the reality of his collapsed mental health Daniel started on a road back to sanity, a road that both saved him and killed whomever he was.

Jumping forward in time to when this film was shot, we find Daniel healthy and singing one of my favorite songs, Casper the Friendly Ghost.  It is here in the film and in this song that Daniel seems at his best and most beautiful.  He is softer, bigger, and older.  He is less of a wire and more of a reflection.  And if you listen to the words of the song it seems he recognizes that he himself has become Casper and Casper was always who he was meant to be.


Since its watching, I have fallen in love with this movie and with Daniel and his music.   I have research more of his work, listened to more of his songs, and taken on an understanding that as the directors share in their commentary, that Daniel quite possibly is one of the greatest song writers and singers of our time, yet unknown.

I hope you will follow up with watching and I would welcome hearing your comments and thoughts.


CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrNT-4hXD3w

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.hihowareyou.com/ 

TWITTER: @danieljohnston  

FAN PAGE: http://www.rejectedunknown.com/

STORE: http://www.rejectedunknown.com/store/

FORUM: http://www.hihowareyou.com/messageboard/

FULL LENGTH MOVIE ON YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHsKByGW7JE


True Love" appears in new Axe hair commercial!  http://youtu.be/NvX71ZbTk-E

Friday, August 10, 2012

BROTHER'S KEEPER by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky

Brother's Keeper landed in the mail from Netflix per a recommendation of a friend of mine and within the first 20-minutes it was a top 10 on my list, by the end it was top 5.

Call me behind the times...the piece was released in 1992, but still it is as good as the day it was born.  It took me a while to put it together, but after 45-minutes or so I realized that I was watching a mix between the novels, To Kill A Mocking Bird and Grapes of Wrath in a documentary film.  Uncovering a small town, backwoods life in a social rarity of human nature and taking on a court case that flushed out the uniqueness of 4 brothers who lived together in one house since birth.  I found myself struck over and over with a mild sense of awe by this piece and I wasn't sure why.

Set on a farm in upstate New York the brothers, having lived together in a run-down ram-shackled house or a "personal sanctuary" of sorts per the directors commentary. Wake-up one morning to find one of the four of them not breathing in bed and the facial marks that pointed to death by suffocation.  Picking up on the story in a local news paper shortly after and following it from near its origin, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky worked quickly to get the rights to film the proceeding events post the brother's death and follow the events that unfolded all the way to the courtroom.  Joining in over the ensuing 1-hour and 45-minutes, the film unfolds the fascinating lives of these four brothers, the farm they grew up on, and the conflicting elements of the court case that together show just how confused the our legal system, police, and state government can get when mixing within a closed independent small town culture in the rural countrysides of a major state.

Overall the average person may put this piece aside and never stop to see why it's so remarkable.  Looking into this small sub-culture of society challenges one's mind's ability to understand the natural non-conformity of these four brothers and this small town to do as it sees fit with the problem at hand.  For the average trained mind is far easier to dismiss them all as strange and out-of-touch, but if you look closer you will see something rare and unique that exists within us all.  It's a sense of self and a sense of simplicity within a life that doesn't seek approval from a larger system of thought.  It is this independence that defines these men and this towns right to make their own choices on how to deal with life and to be damned the system that thinks 'it knows best' for telling them otherwise.  It is both a beautiful thing and a dangerous thing in an age of terrorism and fear of small independent groups of people.   It is something that is disappearing rapidly from the public eye and it is this small glimpse into a moment that makes this film a top 5 for me.  A glimpse that we may soon not be able to look into again.

TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlDSGMAyUrE

FULL LENGTH ON YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvroFeisc9k&feature=related

Sunday, June 24, 2012

MANUFACTURING CONSENT directed by Mark Achbar

Just over a year ago now I was able to interview Mark Achbar on his 'blockbuster' of a documentary, The Corporation.  Since that time I have been wanting to watch another one of his original pieces called, Manufacturing Consent and this week I was able to do it.  After reviewing the film 3 times over the period of 6 days I have fallen in love with the piece and here are some of my thoughts.

Manufacturing Consent is a blast from the past, that is if you think 1992 when it was release is "the past".  Even with its age, the 20 years since it was released hasn't taken away from its sheer brilliance.  In fact it may have made it better, something like reading Orwell's book 1984 - today.  Spot lighting Noam Chomsky as its central figure the 2 hour 47 minute piece is sliced-'n-diced in a linear and categorical fashion that lays out Noam's biography and body of work without being driven by narrative voice-overs or authored text and it is this varite editorial choice that I both love and fear.

Filled cohesively from beginning to end with great clips and sound bites from Noam's public speaking history.  I am drawn in and captivated, not only by his perspectives on society and media, which in themselves are brilliant and globally original.  But more so by his method of highlighting the premeditated and contrived influence of media that has evolved in the U.S., since its origin, and the direction those in power are using it to steer their interests.  It's a view that is rarely voiced appropriately among such great speakers and thinkers, and I found myself continually being seduced by his ability to articulate his perception in a fashion that is both enlightening to hear and yet challenging to fully comprehend.

While being a notable scholar and family man, he has audibly held true to his beliefs that marginalize who he is to society and at times have endangered his vary livelihood.  Yet in the face of this he still speaks out about his views on freedom of speech, selective media, military power, and political topics that most won't.  His choices to do so have left him off the the front lines of pop culture's news and media, and exempt from recognition for his body of work and value to society from political circles.  It is this fact however that further supports the point of the film, which aims to state that media's need for limited exposure to varied perspectives and thought assists in streamlining and 'manufacturing consent' of the masses.   

What I respect most about Noam is his uncanny ability to see outside the box in a fashion that most can't.  It is a perspective that would make most people want to scream out into society, "...your going the wrong way"!  And yet Noam with his gifted insights seems to do little more than gently invite you to try to see what he sees, for yourself.

However the film and Noam both have there weak points.   Having been edited together by a chain of near matching sound and video bites that together tell the story.  It does in this a disservice (or maybe a service) to its own message.  Artistically gifted a style that this may be.  It also limits the information you can obtain from what is being said and directs the viewer towards a desired conclusion based on what has been left-in versus what has been cut-out.  Some may say, 'it's the nature of the business', but in doing so the documentary plays out the same techniques of the media that Noam and the director spends most of this film criticizing.

In reality, limited information manipulates perspective and in some fashion manufactures consent in all forms of programming.  As the film said in so many words, when the news went into television they left the 'news business' and entered 'show business'.  It's true of it all.  And while I am a supporter of Noam's work and a lover of this film, one should watch it with a grain of salt.  And while doing so, make note of the most valuable point of this film, which seems to be that one should always be aware of the information being absorbing, the motives of those sharing it with you, and why the story's that aren't making it into the mainstream don't.


For viewers who can access Hulu you can watch this doc online here at Hulu.

Also Youtube has a full length version available here on Youtube.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


DOC THIS is seeking submissions and reviews from other members of the community who would like to share about a film they recently reviewed and would like to talk about.  Audio interviews with directors and further media is welcomed as well.  For more information contact us at: docthisreviews@gmail.com


DOC THIS is SPOT LIGHTING, The Black Power Mixtape 1967 - 1975.  It's a great montage of footage from the era in the years in its title.  Combined brilliantly with VO interviews that tell the story of the images and the experience of the black power movement and civil rights movement of that time.  Check it out, look it up and let us know your thoughts.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Just finished watching the film, If a Tree Falls by Marshall Curry and what a knock your socks off piece this was.  If you've ever wondered what inflames environmentalist to hug trees and fight against the system to create a hippy Green Peace name for themselves that leaves 'corporate couch potatos' dazed and confused, this will outline it for you.  Edited masterfully throughout with linear interviews that unfold the story of the capture and prosecution of a key 'environmental terrorist' slash arsonist  Daniel McGowan and put together with a symphony of post production effected recreations, great archive and amateur video.  The piece is heart felt and awakening, and gives a rare look into the decisions that drove a seeming down to earth well valued individual to burn millions of dollars in private property, so he could play out tangibly against his frustrations towards 'the system' and support a cause he believe was right.

From beginning to end I loved the piece.  It had a balanced and central approach to the story and allowed for both sides to be told.  In its close, I was surprise to find myself torn to see the arsonist, that would have inflame us all (Daniel McGowan), get the punishment he had earned.  And I wanted for him to just have it all go away.

You can see it on NETFLIX or ORDER A COPY ONLINE and let me know your thoughts when you do.


This was a DOC THIS report by Barry Walton