Live From New York! (DIR. Bao Nguyen)
By: Trevor Jeffery
How do you describe a forty-year “New York institution” in 90 minutes? Live From New York! explores both the mythos and the cultural significance of the longest running sketch comedy series, Saturday Night Live (SNL).
The documentary covers a lot of ground: the rise (and fall and rise); behind the scenes; cultural impact; and the ongoing issues with race and gender dynamics. While each topic could fill 90 minutes on its own, Live From New York! gives you the perfect amount to be satisfied while still curious for more.
The high points are in the well-chosen segments of interviews, as would be expected from SNL’s alumni – from Alec Baldwin’s usage of “piss your pants” and “just a couple of drops down there” to explain his excitement for the show, to Al Franken’s accusation of SNL being partially responsible for Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election.
Somewhere along the way, the sticky note that read “Remember: This is not a clip show!” must’ve fallen to the floor on the editing room; clips of sketches run long and back-to-back, leaving several minutes between the actual documentary content. That, along with a glaring visual editing blip, inaccurate cast information and an inappropriately used “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the intro segment leaves an otherwise clever, engaging and well-crafted documentary seem amateurish.
The Queen of Silence (DIR. Agnieszka Zwiefka)
By: Addison Wylie
Spirited Romanian dancer Denisa has a lot to express without saying anything. She’s ten-years-old, a ball of energy, and deaf since age two. She has a unique view of the world, and is unaware to how dire her community’s circumstances.
The small makeshift village is populated by gypsies who all have a free-spirited outlook, although its far less animated than Denisa’s. Their presence is compromised when nearby townsfolk are bothered, which signals the police to become more involved in their solitude.
As adults worry about future living and their children play in fields, Denisa preoccupies herself with Bollywood choreography and defines her personality. She’s a knockout as her tempo changes and her staccato mannerisms become smoother. Movie goers eagerly watch Denisa become more invested in the art of dance while specialists search for progress towards recovering her lost sense of sound.
The Queen of Silence is an extraordinary movie. Avant-garde filmmaker Agnieszka Zwiefka finds a perfect harmony to show audiences how Denisa views life compared to outsider opinions. The scenes featuring an ecstatic Denisa picking up on vibrations and sounds are heartwarming, and moments where we see how cruel her peers can be leave a significant impact.
Zwiefka brilliantly makes the world a stage for Denisa. Through musical interludes, we watch the young dancer happily interpret themes and feelings through Bollywood-inspired sequences. This makes us adore the movie that much more.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie