Monday 7 April 2014

Two documentaries

I recently came across a great post on the new blog from Xander Bennett.

(Xander is in a transitional period at the moment, one which I expect will lead to a lot more interesting posts from him. Note this address for future reference:

In part, he had this to stay:

I recently watched two excellent documentaries, Free to Play and Los Angeles Plays Itself. Both are unapologetically subjective, designed to serve specific agendas, yet they also deal with universal issues. Both have unusual production histories: Free to Play is the first film by Valve, the legendary video game studio, and is available free on YouTube and Steam; Los Angeles Plays Itself was put together by film teacher Thom Andersen as an extension of his lectures, and has never been widely distributed.

Free to Play is a film about an esports game called DOTA 2. It follows three competitors in the 2011 DOTA 2 tournament which was, at that point, the largest and most lucrative esports tournament ever hold. The game just so happens to be made by Valve, who also sponsored the tournament, who also made this documentary. Ostensibly born out of Valve’s postmodern, laissez-faire, make-your-own-project workplace policy, it’s pretty clear this film has an agenda: bring validation to esports in general and DOTA 2 in particular, thereby enlarging the profile and player base of Valve’s multi-million dollar baby.

Agenda or not, it’s a great film. The editing is breathless, airtight, playing the audience’s emotions like a harp. It brings up every objection a non-gaming civilian might make to esports (it’s for nerds, it’s not a real sport, why don’t you get a real job, you’re missing out on life), quite deliberately, and throws them in the faces of its three characters, forcing them to confront their true fears and desires. It goes deep into the backstory of its characters, imbuing each match with emotional significance.

Film teacher and documentarian Thom Andersen’s masterpiece,
Los Angeles Plays Itself is the story of the city of Los Angeles on film, as told through hundreds of clips from Hollywood movies stretching all the way back to the 1920s. At nearly three hours long, it’s a monumental, almost overwhelming study of cinematic history, but I guarantee you won’t be bored at any point during those three hours. I want to tell every person making a film in Los Angeles to watch this. Hell, everyone thinking of moving to Los Angeles should watch this.
I recommend you read all of Xander's post.

Meanwhile, here is the trailer for Free To Play. If you don't like the way teenagers bury themselves in their computer games, you really really should spend two minutes watching this:

And here is the actual movie, if you have some spare time.

Here's the trailer for Los Angeles Plays Itself. Go on, you can afford to take a 90 second taste.

Here is the actual movie, if you have some spare time.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I liked that bit at the end of the LA trailer: Not coming to a city near you.

Two fascinating movies we otherwise would have missed. Thanks, Henry.