Neva and I watched Spellbound last night, and it is marvelous, wonderful, stupendous and every other compliment I can’t think of with a short attention span. I guess it has an advantage because the spelling bee is something I can sort of relate to. It was a big thing for me (maybe not for everyone else) during grade school and one of my happiest memories in life is still winning it during 7th grade, my last chance at it, after only coming yea close since 3rd grade! It was funny, heart-warming, and, at times, heart-stopping. When you see some of the kids eliminated, the disappointment really shows and hits you almost as hard. Probably one of the most uplifting films, not just documentaries that I will see this year, or any year for that matter.
Also fantastically stupendous was Comedian, which follows Jerry Seinfeld post-Seinfeld. After he retired the biggest sitcom of all time, he set out to go back to the standup circuit, with the proviso that he would also retire all his previous material and start fresh, which is terrifyingly intimidating to stand-up comedians (one of the rules, apparently, is NEVER open with new material, and Seinfeld’s ENTIRE ACT was new material). It is dead fascinating. It also has an advantage in that I am a huge Seinfeld fan. Here you will get to see how a simple joke develops and grows into a 3-minute bit, over weeks of shows. One of the most jaw-dropping scenes is when Seinfeld actually fumbles onstage and gets mad (“Damn it, what was the point of this?”), and, amazingly, HECKLED. Some woman actually asks “Is this your first gig?” You’ll see Seinfeld worried, angry, depressed, nervous before a show, reverent to his idols Robert Klein and Bill Cosby, etc. It’s also fascinating in that there are all these celebrity cameos by the likes of Chris Rock (who raves about Cosby’s show like your average geek), Colin Quinn, Gary Shandling, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby, and Ray Romano, but they just behave like normal people shooting the shit (well, what did we expect? We’re brainwashed by the mediasphere), talking shop and catching up with each other. It’s juxtaposed with this other comedian, Orny Adams, who is still unknown but has been working the circuit and might get his big break. Before I watched Comedian I was listening to Jerry Seinfeld on Comedy, where he explains why he doesn't use profanity ("It's a shortcut to a laugh."), and in the documentary, when he's not onstage, it's a relief to see that he swears just like the rest of us.
It really is the year of the documentary, isn’t it? Neva and I have, in the last few weeks, been blown away by Errol Morris’s The Fog of War, Jacques Perrin’s Winged Migration, the aforementioned Comedian, Spellbound and Imelda; and still on our to-watch list is War Photographer and Lost in La Mancha. I really wish I was able to catch Bus 174 during Cinemanila. Margie, Quark, and Lia were able to see Fahrenheit 9/11, which I hope comes to our theaters and not just our pirated dvd sellers. Quark and Lia also saw Supersize Me (as did Lala), and Margie also saw The Corporation, whose trailers are very intriguing.