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Reviews for February 20th, 2009

Eleven Minutes

Directed by Michael Selditch and Rob Tate.

This moderately fascinating documentary follows Jay McCarroll, the first winner of the first season of the “Project Runway” reality TV series, as he rigorously prepares to show his new line of clothes during New York’s Fashion Week. He assembles a small crew of assistances who work for free to make sure that everything goes smoothly until those crucial eleven minutes of the fashion show. Fashion aficionados will enjoy watching the behind-the-scenes footage as McCarroll goes through a rollercoaster ride of small problems, i.e. malfunctions, and finds solutions along the way. It’s somewhat interesting to observe the little details starting from the moment when he designs the clothes until the models show it off. McCarroll clearly has a lot of different tasks to coordinate all at once as a fashion designer and many of those tasks, such as the manufacturing and shipping of the clothes, all depend on efficiency. Anyone who wants to become a fashion designer should be able to learn from his mistakes or, at least, know to expect a lot of frustration no matter what. As one of his assistants keenly states, what you’re watching is like the Brady Bunch behind the curtain. Co-directors Michael Selditch and Rob Tate get very close access to their subject and even include some footage of cursing, fighting, yelling and someone hanging up the phone on McCarroll. Although Eleven Minutes treads the similar ground of the documentary Unzipped and has stylish cinematography and editing, it lacks enough insight into the mind of Jay McCarroll. He certainly has a charismatic and witty personality more often than not, which helps to keep you mildly engaged, but the interviews seem too brief and a bit dull. More interviews after the show itself would have added that much-needed insight, especially since most people discover much more about themselves as well as others in retrospect or hindsight. At a running time of 103 minutes, Eleven Minutes manages to be a well-edited and moderately fascinating documentary lacking in truly illuminating and profound insights.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3.
Released by Regent Releasing. Opens at the Quad Cinema.

Fired Up!

Directed by Will Gluck.

Two best friends, Shawn (Nicholas D'Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen), who love to treat girls like objects, dislike playing football despite that they’re currently the stars of their high school football team, the Tigers. Instead of going to football camp during the summer, they let their coach (Philip Baker Hall) know that they’ll be attending cheerleading camp called Fired Up! where they’re significantly outnumbered by girls and, therefore, have more chances to “score”, so-to-speak, with them. Shawn has his eye on Carly (Sarah Roemer), a sexy cheerleader at the camp who also attends his high school. Her current boyfriend, Dr. Rick (David Walton), drives an expensive car, acts like a jerk and treats her like a trophy. Meanwhile, Nick has a thing for Diora (Molly Sims), an older woman who runs the cheer camp with her husband, Coach Keith (John Michael Higgins). Shawn and Nick seem like a live action version of Beavis & Butthead mixed in with a little Wayne & Garth from Wayne’s World. They both come across as dumb, shallow and immature in an over-the-top, unrealistic way. Screenwriter Freedom Jones, fortunately, keeps the laughs coming with cheeky one-liners, sexual innuendos and visual gags. In a sort of wink to the audience, Jones actually has the characters site the sources of the references to other comedies, such as Animal House and Bring it One. Sure, the plot itself seems predictable and filled with plenty of clichés, but what’s fundamentally wrong with that? Comedies don’t have to be unpredictable, grounded in reality or have intelligent characters in order to be funny. Fortunately, director Will Glick moves the pace along briskly so that none of the scenes drag. Each of the cast members, especially Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen, has a lot of fun with their roles and their comic energy shows throughout. As long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and check your brain at the door, you’ll find Fired Up! to be a zany and mindlessly entertaining laugh riot. Please be sure to stay for an additional scene after the end credits.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1.
Released by Screen Gems.

Must Read After My Death

Directed by Morgan Dews.

This captivating documentary focuses on the troubled married life that Morgan Dews’ grandmother, Allis, had before she died at the age of 89 in 2001. She left behind two-hundred and one home movies, fifty hours of recordings on audio recordings, many diary entries as well as photographs for her remaining family members to read and to discover the intimate details of the life she had back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Socio-psychologist Erving Goffman once wrote that everyone has a life front-stage that’s different than their life backstage. Allis revealed a lot about what went on “backstage”, inside her mind, as she met her husband, Charlie, during the 1940’s and settled down with him in the suburbs of Hartford, Connecticut to raise four children: Bruce, Douglas, Chuck and Anne. She openly admitted that she feels as though she had sacrificed her passions and dreams in life for becoming a housewife instead. In a particularly revealing recording, she says that she doesn’t feel like she has had any real successes or accomplishments throughout her life. Charley worked a lot abroad in Australia and, when he came back home, he often verbally abused her. Meanwhile, there was also a lot of trouble dealing with her children, such as with Chuck’s undiagnosed dyslexia and Bruce’s mental disorder that forced him into psychiatric ward. No matter how many times the children went to sessions with Dr.Lynn, a psychiatrist, their life at home continued to spiral downward into more trouble chaos. Director Morgan Dews, in his feature film directorial debut, selectively combines the video and audio recordings in a way that provides a structure within all the chaos of Allis’ family as well as the chaos going on in her own mind. As you listen to her arguing and yelling with Charley and confessing her true emotions on the Dictaphone and, later, a tape recorder, the film becomes more than just a standard documentary. It’s filled with intensely dramatic and poignant moments that could not have been reenacted with the same spellbinding results. Must Read After My Death, at a brief running time of 73 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome and, ultimately, manages to be a riveting, emotionally searing, honest and unforgettable documentary.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0.
Released by Gigantic Releasing. Opens at the Quad Cinema and can be streamed for $2.99 at

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