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Friday, 9 December 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Tabloid

Directed by: Errol Morris

Produced by: Julie Ahlberg
Ajae Clearway
Max Daly
Robert Fernandez
Mark Lipson

Music by: John Kusiak

Cinematography by: Robert Chappell

Editing by: Grant Surmi

Studio(s): Air Loom Enterprises
Moxie Pictures

Distributed by: Sundance Selects (United States)
Dogwoof (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): July 15, 2011 (United States)
November 11, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 88 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: (N/A)

Box office revenue (as of publication): $686, 288 (domestic gross only)

Schedule/filler paragraph coming up! Right, I've now seen Age Of Heroes, The Adjustment Bureau and (by the time of posting) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Also, there will no doubt be more on the way, it being the holidays and all. On another film-related note, on Wednesday I had the pleasure of watching (on the big screen too!) Casablanca for the first time. The film was wonderful, with top-notch performances, an excellent script and controlled direction. Here's a question to those of you who have seen the film: what do you think of Casablanca (in the film) being a sort of purgatory, with Rick's Cafe Americain being a waiting room the film's characters inhabit before either going to Heaven or Hell? Give me your thoughts, as I find it a real puzzle-box of a film. And by the way, keep your eyes posted!

Alright, the gourmet of the day is Tabloid, the new documentary film by Errol Morris. To my shame, Errol Morris has been a blip on my moviegoing radar, so this was my first experience in ever seeing one of his films. I saw Tabloid in the Queens Film Theatre with one of my three remaining free tickets which I received as a gift for my birthday, and I must note that I did appear to have missed the first few minutes, despite being on time for the screening. The subject of Morris' eleventh feature is Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming, who in 1979 became a major tabloid sensation in England after being accused of raping and kidnapping her former fiance Kirk Anderson, who had left America to become a Mormon missionary.

Well, if you are of the same opinion as me, you'll find that Morris has selected a truly astounding subject for his picture. Joyce McKinney herself (who is now currently in the process of suing Morris) is a character, telling her story with genuine wit and humour. It is obvious that she understands the absurdity of what went on, but Morris also gives her room to be serious, and one cannot help but feel for McKinney as she explains that it was love that was her driving force. Also, there are some poignant moments as Joyce tells of the media frenzy that surrounded her in the years following the scandal, and some the tragic events of her life. Importantly, I think Morris takes a well-rounded stance on his subject, and the lines between whether or not 'The Case of the Manacled Mormon' was an instance of rape and kidnapping become blurred. After all, as McKinney notes, Kirk Anderson was a large man of six-foot-four; Morris treats the 'official' tabloid headlines with a pinch of salt. Also, in depicting the media frenzy, Grant Surmi's editing is done in such a kinetic style, with layer-upon-layer of newspaper clippings being ruggedly (in a good way) pasted on top of one another and various other mediums presented, we, like Joyce, can't help but feel overwhelmed. The editing ensures that Tabloid has a pretty consistent pace throughout, and the usually dull talking heads are given life by Surmi's pasting and the fast cuts ensure that there is always a certain level of tension. The final thing I'd like to note of worth with Tabloid is the visual effects department. Eric Demeusy's 2D animation is a pleasure to behold, and gives the film a number of humorous moments, while Kurt Lawson's excellent digital composition ensures that we are always presented with a visually interesting film.

If there is one major problem that I do have with Tabloid, it's that not all sides of the story are portrayed to the same degree as Joyce McKinney's own story. For instance, despite McKinney being depicted in such a well-rounded manner you'd think she was a written character in a screenplay, the Mormons do not come off well from this film in the slightest. Although obviously there were less sources on this side of the story (Kirk Anderson refused to partake in the production), Mormonism is painted with the same, rather base brush which people seem to love using on Scientology. As far as I could tell, the Mormons who 'brainwashed' Kirk Anderson were devil-worshipping cult members preparing the poor man for sacrifice in a wicker man. Also, the structure of the film brings with it a certain repetitiousness, which unfortunately means for parts you are struggling to follow it, as it can feel numbing. As much as I like the pacing, this structure keeps the film locked airtight, without any air to breath. Finally, it makes a film, which is a good, short length of eight-eight minutes, feel at least fifteen longer.

Tabloid is an occasionally problematic work. Mormonism is presented in such a horrible manner, and there is no real middle-ground objective source to adequetly discuss their side of the story. In their case, it is borderline propagandist and unintentionally funny. Also, the film's structure can be repetitious and numbing, contributing to the film feeling longer than it really is. Despite these issues, we still have a very good film. The subject of Joyce McKinney and the various media portrayals of the 'Mormon Sex in Chains' case is genuinely fascinating stuff. I didn't have a clue about this case beforehand, and was awestruck by the topic matter. Grant Surmi's editing has a consistent pace about it, and the way he constructs the multimedia sources, mixed with the fast cuts, give the film a real kinetic feel. Finally, the visual effects animation (also by Steven Do, who I forgot to mention earlier) and digital composition, ensures that Errol Morris' film is always pretty watchable and visually interesting.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Relaxed (finished review, box of Pringles, Casablanca on the way!)

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