Dispatch from Durham: Full Frame Day 2


The Pleasure of Being Out of Step
(Wishing Well Productions)

The Pleasures of Being Out of Step – screener

Legendary jazz critic Nat Hentoff is the engaging subject of David L. Lewis’ The Pleasures of Being Out of Step.  The title refers to the writer’s quasi-mantra in which he takes pride in standing up for his beliefs, even if everyone else disagrees.  This commitment to himself and to First Amendment rights has led him to a varied life of journalism and activism, and it’s through this range of activities that the film becomes somewhat polarizing.  In telling Hentoff’s story, Lewis employs a jumbled timeline with numerous decade-hopping anecdotes, an approach that’s never dull but also prevents the film from establishing a strong flow.  The World Premiere is today at 4:20 in Cinema 4.

(Beachside Films)

Medora – 1:10 PM, Cinema 3

Medora isn’t your textbook uplifting sports story and that’s mostly a good thing.   Directed by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart, the film follows Medora, Indiana’s boys basketball team, whose losing streak has turned the once-dominant institution into somewhat of a laughingstock.  Off the court, the filmmakers capture the economic struggles plaguing many small towns and give the work a powerful personal angle.  On the court, however, where the film would appear to gain its edge, the project doesn’t fare as well.  Though the team’s losing streak is certainly repetitive for the fans and players, its presentation is also a bit redundant.  Clip after clip of players turning the ball over, missing shots, and generally looking dejected quickly deadens the sensation.  This vicarious feeling is doubtless intentional on some level, but relayed perhaps a bit too often, it results in somewhat of a lull.  Still, the end result is plenty successful and is sure to inspire more than a few viewers to revisit Hoosiers.

AKA Doc Pomus
(Clear Lake Productions)

AKA Doc Pomus – screener

Over two decades after his death, prolific songwriter Doc Pomus receives the…well…doc treatment thanks to directors Peter Miller and Will Hechter.  In this loving portrait, the stories behind beloved tunes such as “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager In Love,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “Viva Las Vegas” build on one another to form an intoxicating experience.  Thanks to insight from collaborators like Ben E. King, Dr. John, Dion, and Lou Reed, Doc’s influence in the music industry is elevated to royal status and remembrances from family and friends round out his passion for life.  Other than some awkward foley and the unavoidable poor video quality of the numerous interviews with Doc himself, it’s practically perfect as far as straightforward music bio-docs go.  The ticketed screening will be Saturday at 4:40 at the Durham Arts Council.

First Cousin Once Removed
(HBO Films)

First Cousin Once Removed – 7:20 PM, Cinema 4

Alan Berliner’s First Cousin Once Removed is a punch to the face that I wasn’t expecting and rarely found enjoyable, but may prove more valuable than I’m currently willing to admit.  In filming his titular relative, the poet, translator, and professor Edwin Honig, Berliner records a brilliant mind in a tragic Alzheimer’s plagued decline.  He also arguably intrudes on something extremely private, and as Honig’s memory and appearance worsens, so does the feeling that no one outside of his family should witness such images.  Berliner refuses to make any of the journey easy for viewers, frequently accenting Honig’s words with the loud click and ping of a typewriter and the sound of thunder, each of which prove immensely grating.  Throughout these trials, however, there’s the inescapable sense that we’re being granted access to something that we wouldn’t otherwise see, but which either we or someone we love may personally experience down the line.  This realization doesn’t make the film easier to digest (if anything, it makes it more difficult), but Berliner’s daring is commendable nonetheless.