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May 9, 2014
[docu] Fail better … another Adam Curtis interview …

After the broadcast of Curtis’s 2007 film The Trap, which traced the influence of game theory – the idea that humans behaved as self-interested individuals – on contemporary economic thought, Prospect magazine’s Max Steuer argued that the series “greatly exaggerates the power of ideas, and at the same time almost wilfully misrepresents them”. Others made similar criticisms of All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace, which linked the anti-state philosophy of Ayn Rand with the “techno-utopians” who developed modern computing. At the very least, don’t his films encourage precisely that gloomy feeling – a sense that power is in the hands of an unaccountable elite – that so exercises him?

“Well, I am a creature of my time,” he concedes. We’ve found our way to a café in the shopping centre near Thamesmead, where we can chat at greater length. “What I’ve been trying to do is analyse why progressive ideas failed.

“Secondly, I’m interested in telling stories, because I like telling stories and I think ideas are important. I take particular influences of particular groups of people as a way of showing how that idea spread out. I never say this is where it all came from, this shadowy group of people. I’m telling you a story, like a novelist would, but as a factual story to try and bring it to life to you.”

September 24, 2013
[movies] Errol Morris on How Donald Rumsfeld Sees His Own Legacy … interesting preview of Errol Morris’ new film on Donald Rumfield. Here’s the trailer.

The most distinctive thing about Rumsfeld is his use of language. Is it Orwellian? In 1984, language is used as a means of control—but it is conscious control. With Rumsfeld, I felt I was witnessing something more complex: a man using language to obscure the world from himself as well as from others. In his Pentagon press conferences he would frequently quibble over the meaning of words: “pre-emption,” “insurgency,” “quagmire.” It was almost a way of keeping a safe distance from reality.

Most people remember that Rumsfeld’s famous comment about “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” happened at a press conference, but few remember that it was in response to a question about what evidence we had that Saddam Hussein was linked to terrorist organizations—which was the justification for the war in the first place. The more I studied this performance, the more I realized that what Rumsfeld said wasn’t really an answer. It was an attempt to change the subject, to turn reporters’ questions about intelligence into a lofty question about the nature of knowledge: “Sometimes we have evidence for things and sometimes we don’t; sometimes we know what we’re looking for and sometimes we don’t.”

January 31, 2013
[tv] Looking Beneath The Waves … another Adam Curtis interview … ‘The great wonder of our time is also a disease of our time: the desire to experience things for ourselves. It’s just the thing at the moment, what we don’t want is to be told stuff. We don’t like elites any longer because we’re all like each other. We want to know it ourselves, we want to feel it. It’s partly due to the rise of individualism. But what we get to is what I call the “duchess paradox”, where everyone is now a duchess in society. The real problem with that is that if you’re all duchesses then what’s the point of being a duchess? Everyone’s a celebrity now. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, they want to be treated like celebrities. They want to go to spas, they want to get married in big, posh houses. People will pay for VIP tickets to concerts. It’s extraordinary. Everyone is desperately searching for where it’s at. The point is there is nowhere it’s at – “it” simply just doesn’t exist. It’s the great tragedy for that generation: they just want to experience something.’
September 25, 2012
[docu] A List Of Twelve Terrific Documentaries From Louis Theroux‘A Letter to Zachary – A posthumous love letter from the filmmaker to his murdered friend, it has one of the most explosive and upsetting twists two thirds of the way through. I recently saw this was on the IMDB as one of the most popular documentaries of all time, it’s number two right after Night and Fog. So it’s not exactly obscure but it is totally riveting.’
February 21, 2012
[curtis] Interview With Adam Curtis (Part 1): ‘…my working theory is that we live in a managerial age, which doesn’t want to look to the future. It just wants to manage the present. A lot of art has become a way of looking back at the last sixty years of the modernist project, which we feel has failed. It’s almost like a lost world, and we are cataloging it, quoting it, reconfiguring it, filing it away into sliding drawers as though we were bureaucrats with no idea what any of it means. They’ve got nothing to say about it except that they know it didn’t work. It’s not moving onwards—we’re just like academic archaeologists. It’s terribly, terribly conservative and static, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe in a reactionary, conservative age, that’s what art finds itself doing. The problem is that it pretends to be experimental and forward-looking. But to be honest, in some ways I’m just as guilty. What I do is not so different—using all sorts of fragments from the past to examine the present. Maybe this is simply the iron cage of our time—we’re like archaeologists going back into the recent past, continually refiguring it, surrounding it with quotations. It’s a terrible, terrible prison, but we don’t know how to break out of it.’
July 6, 2011
[docu] 59 Minutes With Errol Morris … brief interview with the documentary director …

“Good Lord, it’s my past,” Morris says as he leafs through a box filled with folders labeled “Manson Girls” and “Lobotomy.” Many of the boxes are cardboard coffins for movies he pursued for years but couldn’t fund.

June 20, 2011
[docu] The Loving Trap … perfectly done parody/hatchet job of Adam Curtis. [via Meg]
June 2, 2011
[docu] How The ‘Ecosystem’ Myth Has Been Used For Sinister Means … Adam Curtis on the history behind self-organising systems … ‘Field Marshal Smuts was one of the most powerful men in the British empire. He ruled South Africa for the British empire and he exercised power ruthlessly. When the Hottentots refused to pay their dog licences Smuts sent in planes to bomb them. As a result the black people hated him. But Smuts also saw himself as a philosopher – and he had a habit of walking up to the tops of mountains, taking off all his clothes, and dreaming up new theories about how nature and the world worked.’
May 29, 2011
[docu] Adam Curtis: The Rise of the Machines … Andrew Orlowski interviews Adam Curtis … ‘I’ve always wanted to make a film about managerialism. It’s impossible, because with managers nothing really happens. What I’m dealing with here is the ideology behind managerialism. Behind all this, behind the flipchart, is the idea that you’re nodes in a system, and ‘our job’ is to keep things stable.’
May 24, 2011
[tv] Grace Dent On Adam Curtis’ All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace‘And look at me, I’m so happy. Twitter alone has given me retinal migraine issues, RSI and cajoled me into believing I am a free-thinking revolutionary fanning flames of liberty in Iran, Libya and Syria, when in fact I’m just a woman in pyjamas, hugging an Intel Pentium processor, waiting for Ocado to fetch more olives. Up the revolution … oooh, have these got pimentos in them? Yum, yum, slurp.’
May 11, 2011
[tv] Adam Curtis – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace … promotional trail for Adam Curtis’ latest documentary … ‘WE DREAMED THE SYSTEMS COULD STABILISE THEMSELVES THROUGH FEEDBACK.’
May 10, 2011
[docu] Have computers taken away our power? … Adam Curtis on his new documetary series “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace” …

The central idea [of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace] leads Curtis on a journey, taking in the chilling über-individualist novelist Ayn Rand, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, the “new economy”, hippy communes, Silicon Valley, ecology, Richard Dawkins, the wars in Congo, the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory, and the computer model of the eating habits of the pronghorn antelope.

You can see why Zoe Williams once wrote that, while watching one of Curtis’s programmes, “I kept thinking the dog was sitting on the remote.”

May 1, 2011
[docu] The Teaser Trailer for a documentary about Alan Turing


March 31, 2010
[morris] New Details on Errol Morris’ Next Documentary, Tabloid‘His next film, Tabloid, is a considerable departure from his previous film, Standard Operating Procedure, and centers on the fascinating figure of former Miss Wyoming, convicted rapist, and dog-cloning supporter Joyce McKinney.’
February 23, 2010
[politics] Adam Curtis On How All Of Us Have Become Richard Nixon‘Just like him we have all become paranoid weirdos.’ (more…)
December 7, 2009
[morrison] Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods Trailer … a bunch of comic-types try to sum up Grant Morrison … (more…)
August 10, 2009
[docu] Errol Morris is on Twitter … … ‘HISTORY LESSON: The camera was the first version of Photoshop.’ [link]
June 22, 2009
[curtis] Charlie Brooker on Adam Curtis’ latest projects

TV industry! Here’s a little bombshell for you. From now on, all of Curtis’s work will be produced first and foremost for the internet. It will be hosted at bbc.co.uk/adamcurtis (coming soon). Go there to find a trailer for It Felt Like A Kiss. An hour-long cut of the whole thing will be placed on the site on the last day of the Manchester International Festival (MIF). It will also host his next two projects: “A long thing about our complicated relationship to the Congo over the last 100 years and how our idea of nature as a sacred yet terrifying realm has risen up during that same time.” That will be followed by a piece about “the political and cultural ideas that underlie the internet – and the idea that we are all linked in an interconnected web – out of which can come a new form of democracy.”

[tv] Adam Curtis’ Blog … the BBC documentary maker behind The Power of Nightmares and The Way of All Flesh starts blogging … ‘This is a website expressing my personal views – through a selection of opinionated observations and arguments. I’ll be including stories I like, ideas I find fascinating, work in progress and a selection of material from the BBC archives.’
April 12, 2009
[news] Adam Curtis on the Rise of Oh Dear-ism in Television News‘It’s like living in the mind of a depressed hippy.’ (more…)
December 7, 2008
[books] Gonzo’s back! … an interview with Ralph Steadman about Hunter S. Thompson … ‘Steadman didn’t go with Thompson on the fateful trip to Vegas, but he was there in spirit. “He thought of taking me, but in the meantime he’d met this lawyer called Oscar Acosta,” he laughs. “They had a lot in common, drugs-wise. So that’s why he decided not to take me. And anyway, as he said, ‘I might need a lawyer!'”‘
July 28, 2008
[tv] Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes … Jon Ronson’s wonderful documentary about the 1000’s of archival boxes on Kubrick’s estate in Hertfordshire and what they say about the reclusive director.
July 18, 2008
[movies] Peter Bradshaw reviews Errol Morris’s documentary Standard Operating Procedure: ‘The Abu Ghraib scandal was a product of the digital age: ordinary roll-film cameras or Polaroids might have been too conspicuous, there would be no facilities for development, and any resulting prints might have been confiscated or lost. But digital images, immediately accessible and so easily transferable and reproducible, and with ineradicable date and time stamps, were the captors’ undoing. Watching this film is the grimmest experience imaginable…’
July 8, 2008
[blogs] The Documentary Blog‘Welcome to The Documentary Blog, a website created by and for documentary fans and filmmakers. Our goal is to become your quintessential source for news and reviews pertaining specifically to documentary films. Our regular ‘features’ will focus on filmmakers, style, and hopefully provide insight into the process of documentary filmmaking.’ [via Metafilter]
April 12, 2008
[movies] Standard Operating Procedure … the web site for Errol Morris’ new documentary about Abu Ghraib‘The one thing that can be said conclusively about Abu Ghraib is it was entirely a violation of the Geneva Conventions. All of it.’
March 31, 2008
[films] Recovering Reality … More from Errol Morris on Abu Ghraib … [via Kottke]

‘When Brent Pack talks about [Gilligan’s treatment] as being standard operating procedure, I find that a powerful and odd moment. He’s sincere, he’s not a bad guy, and yet he’s telling us something that is actually surreal and disturbing—even more so because he’s not a bad guy, because he’s being sincere. Or just seeing Lyndie England and how devastated she was by all of this. I’m moved by it. Call me crazy, but I am. She gives this final speech, which to me is so sad, about how maybe the whole world is just backstabbing and lying. You’ve got all of these players caught in this strange drama. The perversity of it all.’

March 23, 2008
[movies] Errol Morris talks with Werner Herzog‘If everything was planned, it would be dreadful. If everything was unplanned, it would be equally dreadful. Cinema exists because there are elements of both in everything. There are elements of both in documentary. There are elements of both in feature filmmaking. It’s what makes, I think, photography and filmmaking of interest. Despite all of our efforts to control something, the world is much, much more powerful than us, and more deranged even than us.’
March 21, 2008
[movies] Standard Operating Procedure — trailer for a new documentary from Errol Morris about the events in Abu Ghraib prison. [via Kottke]
March 7, 2008
[life] Possessed – fascinating online documentary about obsessive hoarders … ”POSSESSED’ enters the complicated worlds of four hoarders; people whose lives are dominated by their relationship to possessions. The film questions whether hoarding is a symptom of mental illness or a revolt against the material recklessness of consumerism. When does collecting become hoarding and why do possessions exert such an influence on our lives?’ [via Waxy]
February 14, 2008
[doco] True Films – 200 Documentaries You Must See Before You Die — a PDF E-Book on documentaries written by Kevin Kelly now available as a free download.
January 4, 2005
[documentaries] True Films — a list of documentaries recommended by Kevin Kelly. On The Thin Blue Line: ‘The film hypnotically plays out his alleged murder of a cop over and over, each time according to different witnesses, until the “evidence” of the crime collapses under the tainted weight of so many versions. This was a new form of nonfiction film and it helped free an innocent man from prison. How many films can claim that?’
June 23, 2004
[film] Unfairenheit 9/11 – The lies of Michael Moore — Chris Hitchens on Fahrenheit 9/11‘I have already said that Moore’s film has the staunch courage to mock Bush for his verbal infelicity. Yet it’s much, much braver than that. From Fahrenheit 9/11 you can glean even more astounding and hidden disclosures, such as the capitalist nature of American society, the existence of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex,” and the use of “spin” in the presentation of our politicians. It’s high time someone had the nerve to point this out.’
June 20, 2004
[film] ‘9/11′: Just the facts? — Roger Ebert on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11‘That’s where you’re wrong. Most documentaries, especially the best ones, have an opinion and argue for it. Even those that pretend to be objective reflect the filmmaker’s point of view. Moviegoers should observe the bias, take it into account and decide if the film supports it or not. Michael Moore is a liberal activist. He is the first to say so. He is alarmed by the prospect of a second term for George W. Bush, and made “Fahrenheit 9/11″ for the purpose of persuading people to vote against him.’ [Related: Fahrenheit 9/11 Trailer]
May 7, 2004
[film] Complex Persecution — some background details about Capturing the Friedmans‘I also told director Jarecki about the family’s home movies, some of which he ended up using in his documentary. Amazingly, the Friedmans’ shock, shame, internecine warfare, and indignation—like their childhood skits and cheerful family holidays—are captured on videotape, which David recorded for many months, up to and including his father’s and brother’s convictions.’ [via Sashinka]
April 21, 2004
[film] ‘I thought I was really watching her’ — Nick Broomfield on Aileen Wuornos and the film Monster‘At the time of her execution, Wuornos was definitely psychotic. She was convinced her mind was controlled by radio waves and believed she was going to be taken off in a space ship to join Jesus Christ. She never showed any remorse; she firmly believed she was ridding the streets of evil men. When a priest came to take her confession just before the execution she sent him packing and knelt down and prayed for her victims, believing they were evil and that God should accept them into heaven. When Jeb Bush cynically produced three psychiatrists to assess Wuornos’s mental state and then pronounced her mentally competent, there was a complete disrespect for what the law really intends, which is that people of unsound mind should not be executed.’
March 8, 2004
[film] Making History — interview with Errol Morris about his documentary The Fog of War on Robert McNamara‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I don’t believe in conspiracies. People are far too confused, too much at cross-purposes with themselves, too argumentative, too nutso ever effectively to conspire to do anything. Maybe they manage to pull it off for a limited amount of time, but not on some mass scale, like deceiving the entire world. What scares me more, and it’s at the heart of the movie, at the heart of this particular story, is not that we make this plan to lie, to deceive, but that we somehow convince ourselves of our own rectitude, our own correctness, our own rightness, no matter what the evidence to the contrary. Humans love nonsense, they lap it up. Ultimately, we’re just big baboons!’ [Related: Fog of War Trailer]
December 12, 2003
[film] Guardian Film of the Week: Touching the Void

‘Neither man waxes poetic about getting close to God or the purity of creation. Simpson says that he was brought up a Catholic, but no thought of his maker inspired him to survive; at the end there is just nothing. In fact, at the low point of his weakness and delirium and pain, Simpson hears music going round and round in his brain. Barber’s Adagio? Beethoven’s Ninth? Nope, it’s Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring, a brilliant moment in the film – exactly the sort of banal thing you might find yourself humming as you dangle over the precipice of your existence. Macdonald’s movie is thrilling not because of any divine or aesthetic rapture, but because the sheer vastness of the mountain landscape seems to go beyond beauty, exceeding the limits of the thinkable…’

May 27, 2002
[film] Biggie and Tupac — review of Nick Broomfield’s new Documentary … ‘If James Ellroy wrote a novel about gangster rap, it would be a lot like Biggie and Tupac, teeming with chancers and casualties and underpinned by the threat of death. “You knocking like you scared,” chuckles the bodyguard who opens his door to let Broomfield in. And yet his timid knocking pays dividends.’
May 20, 2002
[film] The Unlikely Pin-Up of the Cannes Festival — interview with Michael Moore‘The film includes sequences in which Moore investigates the civilian Michigan Militia, with which Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh trained, and a bank which offers free guns as an incentive to clients. He also interviews weapons-obsessed teenagers, including one who admits to manufacturing home-made napalm. Rock star Marilyn Manson, widely accused of being an influence on the Colombine killers, makes a lucid and pithy response to the charge. When asked by Moore what he would say to the Columbine Killers, he replies, “I wouldn’t say anything. I’d listen.”‘
October 22, 2001
[movies] Return of the Legend — brief interview with Nick Broomfield about the documentary he is currently working on… ‘Broomfield is an undisputed success at marketing his own image, even down to starring in self-parodic adverts for cars. And he’s loaded: an English country pile; a place in Santa Monica. What’s interesting is how he divides opinion. Depending on who you talk to among those who really know him – producers, co-producers, commissioning editors, journalists, film-makers and friends – he’s an innovator, a shark, a genius, a fraud, a legend or a has-been; people love him or hate him. The work is brilliant or boring, revealing or repetitious, always fresh or endlessly formulaic. They all have to agree, however, that a Nick Broomfield film is hard to ignore.’
April 26, 2001
[cyberpunk] The Guardian previews a new documentary about the life and work of William Gibson‘”He’ll talk until the cows come home about literature,” explains Neale. “But the stuff he hasn’t gone on the record about in the past, things like the loss of his parents, his dodging of the draft and taking drugs took a long time to get out of him. I had to go back and ask him those things several times. But drug culture was such a big part of his life. “He decided to go on the record in a way that he has very deliberately avoided for a long time. Bits and pieces of his story have come out in interviews over the years, but the full story hasn’t been told in its entirety. I suppose he has always been a bit of a recluse”.’