Mitt -2014-

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Directed by Greg Whiteley. 92 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on Netflix)

Mitt is a must-see because is accomplishes the Herculean feat of portraying Mitt Romney as a relatable guy. Yes, the forty-seven-percent-borrow-your-parents’-money-and-start-a-business-my-friends-own-NASCAR-teams two-time presidential loser actually seems like an okay guy. I was taken aback.

The film is all the more fascinating because it’s the most genuine glimpse the general public will get of old Mittens. Neither Mitt – a conservative (at least if he thinks it will get him votes) Republican – nor liberal director Whiteley was incentivized to skew the documentary one way or another. Romney and the film’s production company partnered up in 2006 when he was first planning a bid for the 2008 presidential election. The terms of the film were renegotiated in 2011 when Romney ran again so that none of the footage would be made public until 2014, well after the 2012 election. As a result, Whiteley gets to capture the Romney clan is a relatively natural setting, since the captured footage could have no impact on his electoral prospects.

Mitt isn’t going to sway viewers on policy (I didn’t vote for him and still wouldn’t), nor is that the film’s intention. However, it shows a dramatically different Romney than the one America say in the ’08 and ’12 campaigns. This Mitt is happy to poke fun at himself and is the most-laid back adult in his family. While Romney’s opposition framed him as an out-of-touch plutocrat (not that he did much to prove them wrong), onscreen he is a humble guy who frequently acknowledges the privilege into which he was born. Mitt’s hero is his father George, a self-made businessman and statesman who Mitt readily admits was a far more determined, successful man than he could ever dream of being.

In addition to the personal angle, Mitt gives the viewer a look into the frustration and exhaustion that comes with a major political campaign. Instead of watching the latest bullshit pseudo-scientific Netflix documentary, try Mitt on for size.

(Seen and written on 2014-01-24)

Manson -1973-

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Directed by Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick. 83 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater)

 I was well aware of the Manson Family murders before seeing this documentary (being screened at the Cinefamily for its 40th anniversary), but fuckin’ Christ, man. Never before has a film made me so uncomfortable simply from listening to the people onscreen. Manson is one of the most singular film’s I’ve ever seen and has instantly landed a spot alongside my all-time favorite documentaries.

 The movie examines its subjects as closely as humanly possible, a nice departure from the “encyclopedia article on film” style of docs such as Deceptive Practice. Manson uses minimal archival images and footage – nearly all scenes were shot exclusively for the film. To my knowledge, there is no other historical source that so extensively captures the Family in their own words.

 And geez, they’re some goddamn words. I try to refrain from labeling people as crazy – it’s a concept with fuzzy boundaries, and it depends just as much on the perspective of the labeler as the behavior of the labeled.

 But the people interviewed in this movie are straight-up BANANAS.

 Yes, the film includes footage of the grisly Tate – LaBianca crime scenes, but the creepiest part is listening to the Family and learning how devoted they were to Charlie. These kids loved Manson as much as I love fresh apple fritters. Moreso, because I’ve never fucked a fresh apple fritter. I would burn myself on the piping-hot glaze.

 That’s why I recommend waiting at least thirty minutes after taking them out of the fryer, just to play it safe.

 Did I just turn my review into the set-up for a dick joke?

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-05-21)