I have watched three docs and a narrative film in the last couple of weeks that gave under-the-skin-views of careers and callings and money and success and passion and art and creativity. I recommend them to provoke your own thinking.
Page One: Inside The New York Times
Get past Michael Kinsley’s awful review in the New York Times itself, and relish the passion and authenticity and smarts of David Carr who features largely in thisdocumentary. You’ll be all the more impressed when you hear how he pulled himself out of addiction and off the streets to become the NYTimes leading media business writer. His deep convictions and his fervently held point of view are astounding. And then there’s his angry exchange about international reporting with the Vice Magazine folk (right across the street from where I sit) – a tad over the top, but fun to see. Oh and by the way this movie is a lot about where print journalism is headed.
Bill Cunningham New York
“We all get dressed for Bill Cunningham;” says Anna Wintour, Vogue editrix. The French gave him the Legion D’Honneur. This single-minded and obsessed street fashion photographer lives only for his solitary craft. You have possibly seen him snapping the fashionable on the corner of 57th and 5th or ducking his camera through gilded lobbies at high society benefits. Every week his carefully selected photo montages give us his point of view on the latest wearable fashion. The great and the near great know what he does, but who he actually is has been a mystery. He’s made some intense life choices – all for the sake of his work. Is this really what it takes to be the best?
Herb and Dorothy
And here are Herb and Dorothy Vogel, the best-known couple on the New York art scene. By day Herb was a postal worker, Dorothy a librarian. But nights and weekends they go to artists’ studios and gallery openings. And they buy. They filled their tiny rent-controlled apartment with conceptual and minimalist art, building one of the most significant contemporary collections. 4782 pieces were under their bed, in the bathroom and covering the walls and ceilings. They’ve given much of their collection to the National Gallery – and yet more is being passed out as 50 works of art for 50 states. I loved seeing Herb’ s poppy eyes discover the work and grill the artists. Not for him the overwrought verbal constructions of the sophisticated collector or curator – just watch him lean forward and stare and stare at a piece and then simply say “It works.”
This is the odd one out in this list. First off it is narrative fiction. Second it is about the finance biz. But it’s a brilliant piece of writing, casting, directing – and so very timely – these characters packaging worthless mortgage securities and making so very much money must be the 1%. Here are engineers who used to build bridges and design rockets who forsook their calling to go work where the money was big – well actually, huge. How does this work out for them? How do they feel about making money not things? What drives them to work? How important is the money anyway? Among the moments to enjoy: Stanley Tucci’s speech about the value of his bringe, Jeremy Irons’ gleeful determination as he faces down disaster and Kevin Spacey telling his analyst underlings that he actually has no idea what they do.