2019 Oscars: How Bohemian Rhapsody Epitomizes Hollywood in 2019

Written by Tyler Schwartz

With the Academy Awards approaching, I’ve been doing my best to catch up on the nominated movies of the year. I’ve now watched all eight films nominated for Best Picture. It’s a scattered field that provides a good litmus test for the industry at large. We have the first comic book nominee ever (Black Panther, deservedly so), the first Netflix nominee (Roma,also deserving), a definitive cinematic version of A Star is Born (starring Lady GaGa’s nose and Sam Elliott’s voice), the most nominated Spike Lee movie ever (finally the Academy Did The Right Thing), Christian Bale playing an evil Dick (and somehow becoming more likable as an actor), a race relations film directed by the man who brought us Dumb and Dumber (Green Book, destined to fade and join Crashand Driving Miss Daisyas divisive movies about the “black experience” made by “white filmmakers”), and the strangest nominee of the field, the proudly fierce and feminine The Favourite(featuring some of the best written female characters of the past decade). Yet despite the many pleasures of this lineup, the film I find myself thinking the most about is the final nominee I haven’t mentioned. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called Bohemian Rhapsody.

Let’s get this out of the way first. Bohemian Rhapsodyisn’t a badmovie. No film that features a performance on the level of Rami Malek’s as Freddie Mercury can be classified as all out garbage. Malek (like his predecessors in the music biopic genre Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles) is amazing in the film, completely absorbing himself in the role from bedazzled head to toe. But putting Malek’s performance aside, Bohemian Rhapsodyisn’t good either. It’s shot like a TV movie. It’s factually incorrect. It shys away from the more obscene aspects of Freddie’s life. If you take away Queen’s music (what monster doesn’t like “Don’t Stop Me Now”?) and Malek’s performance, this turns into a bad movie really quick. So how the hell did this movie get nominated for Best Picture? For starters, it was a BIG hit. Currently sitting at 817.6 million dollars at the worldwide box office, it’s the 7th highest grossing film of the year, earning more money than tentpole films like Mission Impossible – Fallout and Deadpool 2. To put that number in another perspective, that’s over double what Solo – A Star Wars Story made. Think about that! A Freddie Mercury biopic made doubled the money of a Han Solo biopic! That’s a testament to both the lasting impact of Queen’s music and the iconic persona of Mercury. Whether Bohemian Rhapsody is actually good or bad doesn’t matter. It’s a success story, the kind we don’t see enough in Hollywood these days. If the story ended here, everything would be fine, it’s not the first time an iconic performance combined with uplifting material has lifted an otherwise subpar movie to a Best Picture nom (I’m looking at you The Blind Side). But unfortunately that’s not where the story ends. Not even close. Because Bohemian Rhapsody was directed by an accused sexual assaulter named Bryan Singer.

 

If you haven’t heard the details of Bryan Singer’s sordid past, I’ll leave that to your own personal Google browser (start with an article in The Atlantic called “Nobody Is Going To Believe You”).What I will say is that the evidence presented clearly outlines Mr. Singer as a longtime sexual predator of underage men. And yet even with this evidence and the fact that Singer was fired off the film with three weeks left of principal photography, he still received sole directing credit. In fact, it was recently reported that with the movie’s success, Singer stands to earn nearly 40 million dollars for directing the film (with his mounting legal fees he’s gonna need it). If this bothers you (like it does me) you’re not alone. The backlash to the film has been swift and vicious. GLAAD who originally praised the film upon its release, recently failed to nominate it for a single award (not even Rami Malek) at the GLAAD Media Awards. They released a statement saying “…the legacy of Freddy Mercury deserves so much more than to be tainted in this way.” Critics who originally derided the film for not embracing Mercury’s sexuality (RogerEbert.com described the film as “phobic”) are now piling on, all decrying the film as a disgrace to both Queen, Mercury,  and the film industry as a whole. To put it in a way that Queen fans can understand, Another One Bites The Dust. Except Bryan Singer’s not going anywhere. At least not yet. He recently signed on to direct Red Sonja, a comic book adaptation about a female warrior with a backstory of brutal sexual assault. He’s reportedly being paid 10 million dollars. When will the hammer fall?

 

This unfortunately is representative of the times we are living in. People can write exposes and scathing reviews, but the man is still getting work. But, think about it, of course he is, his most recent film just made more money than Star Wars. This is the paradox of the movie industry in 2019. On the eve of their biggest night of the year, Hollywood is consumed with talking about Bohemian Rhapsody: a film about a gay icon, that’s been disavowed by gay organizations, that’s made more money than Han Solo, that’s directed by an accused rapist still working in the industry, that’s nominated for Best Picture. Read that sentence over a couple times. Welcome to Hollywood in 2019.

 

Oscar Predictions

 

Best Picture: BlacKKKlansman

Actor: Rami Malek

Actress: Glenn Close

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Elliott

Supporting Actress: Regina Hall

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Original Screenplay: The Favourite

Adapted Screenplay: BlacKKKlansman

Cinematography: Roma

Editing: Vice

BDLB Travel: AirBNB

For those of you following along on social media, you likely already know that last fall/winter was full of travel. The mountains of North Carolina, the Czech Republic, Japan, and back to the mountains. I LOVE traveling, so much so that I had to institute a travel ban for this winter to catch back up on life. Yet I still somehow found myself booking trips to Key Largo (for a retreat), Scottsdale (for a wedding) and Maine (for family)…

And after a month full of travel I looked back and realized how much of that travel was impacted by AirBNB. I’ve been a host for a little over three years now, both a room in my house here in Durham and the Cozy Cabin out west in Boone, but I also use it every time I travel. I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a proper hotel, and their recent addition of ‘Experiences‘ has certainly added some cool adventures to my last couple of trips.

So earlier this month we decided to create what we call an anthem film sharing my personal experiences with AirBNB as both a host and traveler. To be clear, we were not paid by AirBNB to do this, I just love the brand and my experiences with it so much we decided to turn it into a passion project. Hope you enjoy!

BDLB Travel: Thanksgiving in Japan

This past Thanksgiving my Dad and I got to travel back to Japan, a place we called home when I was in middle school. While my Dad has been back since we moved home, this was my first visit in 20 years. It included stops to our old house and my old school, visits with some old family and middle school friends, and a new stop in Kyoto. Here’s a collection of some of the shots I captured along the way…

TOKYO

 

While in Tokyo I got to catch up with an old friend from middle school and take some family photos with her sweet little ones at the beautiful Grand Hyatt Christmas display!

My old school!

A new friend…

Our old house! Not really a house anymore…

      

KYOTO

    

Home Videos in the Digital Age: Camera Recommendations

This year’s #kidvideocountdown to Christas featured lots of embarrassing childhood performances, fashion shows and gymnastics routines, as well as a nose kazoo and a cute hamster. And along the way, the question I got asked most often was ‘Okay, you’ve sold me on home videos. But WHAT CAMERA SHOULD I BUY?!’

So as promised, here’s a look at our Top 5 cameras for home video. Once you look at the pros and cons of each type of camera, then it’s time to look at specific recommendations for camera models. Links to those can be found below 🙂

SPECIFIC CAMERA MODELS

For each type of camera above, I’m including my recommendation below. And to be clear, this recommendation is for the purpose of HOME VIDEOS, so I’m prioritizing cost, durability, and size/weight rather than things like professional quality images.

HANDYCAM

                   

GO PRO

DSLR

                

MIRRORLESS

               

Home Videos in the Digital Age

The #kidvideocountdown to Christmas is my favorite time of the year, mostly because digging through old family videos is officially considered ‘work’. Plus, it allows me to share my funny, embarrassing and sweet moments captured on home video as a way of reminding you guys out there the value of prioritizing home video for the sake of your future selves.

That said, I get really nervous in the digital age we’re living in that home videos will become a thing of the past. That Instastory and it’s wonderful archive function will be the closest we come to saving cute videos of our kids, and when they’re 30 they’ll have no way to look back on them. It seems the work of importing, organizing and backing up is a thing of the past where ‘the cloud’ has become our safety net.

But this time every year I’m back reminding you daily why you should make the time to not only capture, but also store and organize those precious family films.  Last year, to help with this mission, I created my first YouTube series focused on this topic to help with the how-to. I’m putting them in one nice, neat place this year to make it easier to share with our new followers this year.

STEP 1: Capturing

The Big Takeaways

  • Using a cell phone is fine!
  • BUT, when using a cell phone, FILM HORIZONTALLY
  • Film for extended periods of time.

STEP 2: Organizing

The Big Takeaways

  • Create a system
  • Get an external hard drive
  • Know where you’re backing it up!

STEP 3: Importing

The Big Takeaways

  • Do it regularly!
  • BACK. IT. UP.

BDLB Travel: The Prague Blog

I couldn’t resist.  For those of you who haven’t been to Prague, here’s why you should go!

FAVORITE THING I ATE: While I’m vegan 99% of the time stateside, when I travel it’s a different story. I realized early on in my veganism that traveling vegan is hard for two important reasons: 1) When traveling with someone non-vegan, it means I am constantly limiting our choices to only vegan restaurants, or restaurants with vegan options. I don’t mind doing this when meeting a friend for dinner, but when it comes to an extended amount of time traveling, I’d rather not impact their experience in such a big way. 2) It limits my own ability to experience the culture of the place and people, something that is definitely a priority when I’m visiting new places and countries.

All that said… Czech duck with dumplings and cabbage (their national dish) is THE BOMB. Night #1 was my favorite.

Second favorite food of choice? Trdlo, which means ‘chimney cake’ in Czech. Best done with whipped cream, strawberries & chocolate (NOT ice cream). That said, it’s a little challenging to eat…

 

FAVORITE THING I DRANK: PIVO!!! Prague is where I learned to like beer when I was a junior in college, and still one of my favorite things in the Czech Republic. When I lived there I discovered a monastery on top of the hill (near Prague Castle) called the Strahov Monastery, and they make my favorite beer in the whole city. And the best? Blueberry. Everyone in the states makes fun of my love for blueberry beer, but if the beer experts (monks in Prague) are making it, I must be onto something…

FAVORITE THING I SAW: The view from the Strahov Monastery. Not only is their beer amazing, but THIS VIEW. Best view in the whole city.

  

FAVORITE THING I DID: I’ve been a fan of AirBNB for years now, both as a traveler and as a host. But in the past year they’ve added AirBNB experiences, and this trip was my first chance to give them a try. David, a local Czech hockey fan, took a group of us to a hockey game where we got to be Slavia Praha fans for the evening. He brought us team scarves, provided tickets and even took us there via public transport so all we had to think about was how to order beer in Czech and the rules of the game. Hands down my favorite part of the trip, and I would HIGHLY recommend checking out their experiences the next time you travel!

All the other good stuff…

                

Adventure Boudoir

 

 

 

Before Krista (the photographer behind ShutterGoesClick) talked to me about creating a brand film for her new endeavor, she first asked me to model for her as she was working on building out the concept. I love creative adventures with creative friends so my quick answer was yes. Little did I know at the time that it would involve wading neck deep into a swamp in the middle of a summer storm… if you follow us on IG you know what I’m talking about. Turns out it was 100% worth it.

I tell you this to give some additional context when I talk about Vivify, the new adventure boudoir photo session that Krista is launching for both individuals and groups of women, as I’ve now not only witnessed it from the outside but had the chance to experience it myself. Here’s what I found most notable.

It’s about US and not THEM.

Traditionally boudoir photography has often been something for engaged or married women, and something they have had done as a gift for their fiance/partner.

In recent years lots of photographers have been playing around with how to make boudoir more accessible and acceptable for all women; engaged, married and single. Not only is this a smart business move (your target market and potential client base suddenly gets a lotttt bigger), but it’s also a smart move considering the feminist climate in our country right now. The post-third wave feminist movement is all about our ability to recalibrate expectations and navigate our lives (both personal and professional) on our own terms.  Boudoir for all women is just one more way to do this.

And in my mind, perhaps the largest benefit of rethinking boudoir and who it’s for is that it now feels like you’re not producing images just for someone else to appreciate. You’re creating images that are for YOU to appreciate.

It can be done in groups.

Typically boudoir photography is just the subject and the photographer. This makes sense, especially with a more intimate kind of photography like boudoir, but perhaps is a missed opportunity.

When filming the Vivify brand film I watched what it was like for a group of women to engage in boudoir together.  I was immediately struck by how much fun everyone was having, from the beginning of the session where they were drinking wine and getting ready together, to the end of the session where they were celebrating and reflecting on the experience. Boudoir can be intimidating, and definitely a little nerve wracking, but it seemed to suddenly become a lot more approachable when combined with several other women navigating their nerves right alongside you.

I was also inspired by how instinctively supportive the women were of each other. The minute the camera came out it was all compliments and encouragement, and I can’t help but imagine this also helped them all feel both more comfortable and more confident in front of the camera.

“The session became less about taking pictures and more about loving myself and being excited to step into something new which came through in the photos tenfold. I came away wanting to do it again and again with all of the women I cherish.”

I can totally picture this being an incredible birthday gift for a girlfriend, or a unique experience for a bachelorette party that is not only fun, but also leaves you with souvenirs to remember it by.

It’s outside!

I can’t speak for everyone with this one, but for me in particular this was a huge perk. The thought of posing in lingerie in a bedroom is enough to make me crawl into a corner, cover myself in a down comforter and stay there until the camera is long gone. But put me outside in a river in the woods with a flower crown? NOW we’re talking.

There’s something about this setting that feels infinitely more empowering, and less objectifying. It doesn’t feel associated with traditional advertising or the media’s image what it means to be sexy, but instead more natural and goddess-inspired, meant to empower women.

Now, for the beautiful images Krista created from both the sessions I got to be a part of!

                      

Three Ways To Fix The Oscars

By: Tyler Schwartz

The month of September is one of beginnings, with schools, football, and fall TV, all officially starting in month nine. However, September also unofficially marks the beginning of the notorious “Oscar Season”. Prestigious film festivals such as Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (the three most predictive of Hollywood’s taste), all have hosted recent premieres for this year’s lineup of cinematic Academy catnip.

It’s always exciting to read about the new films that we’ll be following up to the big day, but it’s important to remember that currently the Academy Awards are in a dire place. Last year’s broadcast received it’s lowest Nielsen rating ever and the Academy’s recent announcement (and almost immediate retraction) of a “Most Popular Film” category received fierce backlash from both in and outside the industry. Put simply, The Oscars as we know it are dying a slow death, and the present Academy leadership has shown no signs of knowing how to stop the bleeding.

Hence, here are my three humble recommendations for fixing the Academy Awards.

1. Create an Academy Membership for the General Public

The Short of it – The Academy should create a membership for the at-large movie-going public that allows them to access screeners of potential Oscar films and the opportunity to nominate one film each year for Best Picture.

The Long of it – Being the Oscars and all you’d think the Academy would know this simple truth of storytelling: to best capture an audience’s interest, you need them to invest in your narrative. By opening their hallowed doors, The Oscars could access an entire new generation of filmmakers and moviegoers alike, all united under the larger Academy umbrella.

 

Furthermore, this idea is a profitable one for the Academy! The proposition is this: Every year the Academy will open an online submission period for new “At-Large” members. This submission process will require a monthly subscription to the Academy’s Streaming Service (ala Netflix or Hulu) where the members from the general public will have access to that year’s crop of Oscar bait. Over the calendar year they’ll be required to watch a certain percentage of movies in order to submit a vote for the actual awards. Come nomination time, the eligible at-large members will each submit a Best Picture ballot with the final winning film automatically receiving a Best Picture nomination. If this happens, think of the millions of everyday people who would tune into watch the nominations alone, hoping to see the film they voted for announced (side note, if the NBA Lottery deserves a primetime slot so do the Oscar nominations, enough of this crack of dawn crap). This would also solve the Academy’s quest for showcasing “popular films” without appearing trite or condescending. The People’s Nominee for Best Picture each year is just as official as the other nominees and will be viewed as such by the rest of the “Selected Academy”. If the goal is to guarantee phenomenons like Black Panther and The Dark Knight are rewarded with Best Picture nominations, this is the most fun and logical way to do it.

2. Release The Final Vote Counts

The Short of it – When the winners for each category are announced, release the percentage of votes received for each respective nominee.

 

The Long of it This one’s pretty simple, wouldn’t you like to know how many votes Moonlight beat La La Land by in the most infamous Best Picture race ever? You’re telling me we publish the vote counts for every single government election and we won’t do it for what’s basically a glamorous reality television show? We’re talking about the same awards show that once featured host Seth MacFarlane singing a song called “We Saw Your Boobs”? I’m all for honoring the (sometimes) dignified history of the movie industry, but let’s not pretend the Oscars have always been a goddamn cotillion of classiness either.

 

And once again, this idea could financially benefit the Academy! Imagine the money to be made if they created a Academy-sponsored betting service (ala FanDuel or MyBookie) to wager on the Awards. Just like a horse race, you could bet on nominees in each category to Win, Place, or Show. Or like a Super Bowl prop bet, you could wager on how many 2nd place finishes a film will receive. The options are endless. Once again, it allows the general public to truly invest in the outcomes of the awards, and with the advent of releasing vote tallies, not simply on who wins them either. With it’s recent legalization, gambling has started to shed the shady and degenerate stigmas often attached to it. That’s why it’s time for the Academy to follow suit and embrace a principle that’s woven into the very fabric of the Awards, predicting the winners and losers.

3.  Let the Hosts Pick the Hosts

The Short of it – Hire two hosts. After the first year, one host will leave and choose their replacement for the following year. Rinse and Repeat.

 

The Long of it – The idea of two Oscars hosts is nothing new, with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as one recent example and James Franco sleepwalking next to Anne Hathaway for four hours as another. Despite the varying results, having co-hosts offers some real distinct advantages, giving each comedian a partner to riff with and allowing opportunities for fun celebrity pairings of Host and Presenter.

My proposition is thus, starting this year we pick two hosts, one man and one woman (since they have a new movie together, for this exercise, let’s go with Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish). Hart and Haddish (Can’t you see the Oscar Poster already?) host the 2018 Oscars. Then the following year, Kevin Hart (losing a coin flip) leaves his Host position and selects the male host for next year (since they have history together and it’s a no-brainer ratings wise, Hart chooses Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Then in 2019, Tiffany and The Rock (the poster – both of them covered in diamond studded suits – c’mon you know you see it!) host the 2019 ceremony and then Tiffany leaves and chooses her replacement (Haddish first asks Beyonce, but she’s too pregnant with her future 4th child. Kate McKinnon, Tiff’s 2nd choice, graciously accepts). The following year the process happens again. Rinse and repeat.

 

This idea promotes both familiarity and freshness. Imagine the Twitter campaigns that will be launched in attempts to sway hosts to pick their rightful heirs. Imagine the first time a new host completely BOMBS (ala Franco or MacFarlane) and we have an entire year of news and articles in anticipation of the sequel performance. Like the previously suggested ideas, this proposed co-hosting system creates buzz around the event, capturing the zeitgeist each year and sparking country-wide conversation.

 

The SUM of it – By the age of thirteen, I had memorized in order every Best Picture winner ever, like a little cinephiliac Rain Man. It feels silly to say, but I feel personally invested in the Oscars. Over the years, some of that obsession has faded as I’ve grown more cynical and jaded, less impressed with the sight of seeing movie stars dressed to the nines while trying not to sweat. However, despite its many flaws I still love every second of it. No night of the year is more likely to have me in a puddle of tears as I watch artists, both famous and unknown, reach the pinnacle of their craft and acknowledge the many other shoulders that help carry them to this moment.

 

Similar to the NFL, the Oscars will never die. There’s too much history, too much established infrastructure, and too many die-hard fans like myself for either enterprise to every truly disappear. Yet, like the NFL, if they keep going in the same direction, the Oscars can and will diminish. They could diminish to the point where a future thirteen year old never thinks to even watch them (“I mean, like, what’s the point if it’s not on Twitch?”) That to me is the real danger.  For most filmmakers, watching the Oscars as children is their first initiation point into a future of moviemaking. I fear if the Oscars diminish to the point where it’s viewership numbers are trounced by reruns of NCIS, the trickle down effect will be felt when the next generation of great filmmakers are raised on Logan Paul instead of Paul Thomas Anderson.

 

The ideas for improvement I’ve suggested are only a few of the many the Academy should consider. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, they just need new tires because the tread on their current ones is running dangerously thin. So please, Academy members, heed this advice: Open Membership, Oscar Streaming Channel, Online Betting, Rotating Co-Hosts. You know what they call that in “the biz”? That’s entertainment.

 

The Art of Going Viral

By: Tyler Schwartz

The concept of “going viral” is nothing new. Ever since Charlie bit a finger and a man saw god through Double Rainbows, the world has accepted viral celebrities into the pop culture melting pot. However, we’ve never seen a video evolve from viral to full fledged phenomenon as fast as Shiggy’s “In My Feelings” dance.

For those somehow still uninformed the story goes like this…

On June 29th, Shiggy, a mildly popular comedian/Instagram personality, posted a video of himself gleefully dancing to Drake’s new song “In My Feelings”. Up to that point the song was just a lowly B-Side on his recent overlong album Scorpion. The song was a fun jam, but one with not nearly as much publicity and success as the previous singles “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What”. The beauty of Shiggy’s Instagram video was its sheer simplicity. It’s simply him on the sidewalk, just a young man dancing in his feelings if you will.

However what started as a goofy video transformed into a worldwide sensation. Celebrities like Odell Beckham and DJ Khaled made videos of themselves mimicking Shiggy’s dance and challenged others to #DoTheShiggy. Then the rest of the world caught on, streams of people posting themselves doing the #InMyFeelingsChallenge. Drake soon had another #1 Billboard hit without ever promoting the song himself. Drake rewarded Shiggy for this unexpected success by prominently featuring him in the recently released music video for “In My Feelings”.

So once again to recap… June 29th Shiggy posted the original Instagram of him dancing and by August 2nd he had appeared in the music video for the song he was dancing to. No statement may ever more accurately describe the state of pop culture in 2018.

 

Even BDLB caught the Shiggy fever. Check out these two #InMyFeelingsChallenges produced by BDLB for local charter schools Healthy Start Academy and Maureen Joy Charter School.

 

 

Documentaries… SOOOOO Hot Right Now

Written by: Tyler Schwartz

2018 has already seen the release of three critically acclaimed documentaries in RGB, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, and Three Identical Strangers. Beyond sharing similar levels of mass critical appeal, each film has also succeeded wildly beyond expectations at the Box Office, causing many industry journalists to signal this as watershed moment for documentary filmmaking.

Here are two reasons America is going through a documentary renaissance…

 

THE LAST DAYS OF MONOCULTURE*

The slow death of monoculture has been one of the most interesting societal phenomenons of the new millenium. The days of half the country watching the Mash or Seinfeld finales are long gone. The word of the hour now is “choice”, and in 2018 audiences have more options than ever before. However, despite culture critics espousing the death rattles of monoculture, once in a blue moon a subject pops up that still captures our collective imagination. FX’s American Crime Story about the OJ Simpson trial is a great example of high-level content and mass public interest colliding to create a cultural behemoth. It’s no coincidence then that all three of these documentaries tap into our national consciousness in similar ways.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor profiles the iconic Mr. Rogers, the Johnny Carson of children’s television. Everyone from ages 20-60 grew up with Mr. Rogers in their living room. Beyond being our neighbor, Mr. Rogers was also our uncle, father and grandfather, someone three entire generations of Americans have grown up with, passing on his wisdom to their own children. Put simply, you’d be hard pressed to find a celebrity personality with a higher approval rating among Americans than the venerable Fred Rogers (no disrespect to our future president Oprah… or Tom Hanks who will be playing Rogers in an upcoming movie).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg may not have the same nationwide appeal as Mr. Rogers (especially not in red states) but RGB, the documentary that profiles her life and career, is uniquely situated to tap into the current zeitgeist. In the age of Trumpified politics, Ginsburg stands out as the final bastion of liberalism. The Notorious RGB is the OG blue-blooded liberal and the OG modern feminist. In a world run by Agent Orange tweets and harrowing #MeToo accounts, the story and ongoing legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has never been more timely (Kate McKinnon’s hilarious SNL impression also helps). Hollywood seems to agree, On The Basis of Sex starring Felicity Jones as a young and pugnacious RGB, will open later this year and has already garnered significant Oscar buzz.

Unlike the previous two films, Three Identical Strangers doesn’t chronicle the life and times of well known cultural figures, however that doesn’t make its story and message any less prescient. The film tells the tale of three identical triplets who are separated at birth and later reunited as young adults. To elaborate on the many twists and turns this incredible story takes would be to spoil a worthwhile night at the movies. All I’ll say is that what begins as an uplifting yarn about long lost brothers turns into a true crime witch hunt that forces the audience to ponder a basic premise that defines all humanity: What shapes who we are, Nature or Nurture? These identical strangers may not be household names but the virtues taken from their life story are primal emotions that every human can relate to.

 

COLLECTIVE TRUTH IN THE AGE OF FAKE NEWS

As Americans we’ve grown accustomed to talking heads on cable news shouting different opinions. However, in 2018, we’re also confronted with conflicting facts. The presidency of Donald Trump has ushered in the era of “fake news”and this unfortunate phenomenon is another reason why the impact of non-fiction films is felt so strongly right now.

An oft made mistake when watching documentaries is to accept everything appearing on-screen as fundamentally true. This simply isn’t the case. If it were, we wouldn’t need more than one documentary profiling the lives of Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King as opposed to the hundreds that have already been made. Documentaries may be non-fiction but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an agenda or that they’re telling the full story. In their most basic form, documentaries are propaganda, carefully shaping the narrative of “reality” to fit whatever the filmmakers want us to see. This isn’t inherently wrong, it’s just storytelling. However as our country becomes increasingly more divided over what “Red Facts” are true and what “Blue Facts” are false, American audiences continue gravitating towards non-fiction content that forces them to choose for themselves.

A great example of this are two recent Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer and Wild Wild Country. Both of these shows do a great job of presenting the facts, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions. This makes sense when you think about it. In a society that has become increasingly filled with grey areas,  it seems fitting that audiences would want to decide the difference between black and white for themselves. Non-Fiction films aren’t constrained into the ‘Hero’s Journey’ that most narrative films are forced into. They can live inside the grey area, exposing both black and white, and encouraging the audience to relate the story to their own life without hitting them over the head with a “message”.  

Whether the recent documentary craze is a flash in the pan or dawning of a new era still remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain. As long as movies exist, documentaries will continue to shine a nonfiction light on the good and evils living inside this world.  And there will always be a line of people at the movie theater waiting to see them, eager to decide for themselves.

 

*For those of you (like Janice) who need a quick definition of monoculture, it is: a culture dominated by a single element: a prevailing culture marked by homogeneity.