Short Cuts: The forces behind ‘Wild Things’ and Vogue revealed“Short Cuts” are expedient, pretension-free movie reviews. This installment tackles two fascinating documentaries: “Tell Them Anything You Want,” about celebrated illustrator and author Maurice Sendak (of “Where the Wild Things Are” fame), and Lionsgate's “The September Issue,” which goes behind the scenes with Anna Wintour at Vogue HQ.
“Tell Them Anything You Want”
WHAT IT IS: An intimate portrait of the life of celebrated illustrator and author Maurice Sendak (“Where the Wild Things Are,” “In the Night Kitchen”) from equally esteemed filmmakers Lance Bangs (“Let America Laugh,” numerous music videos) and Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich,” the “Wild Things” film adaptation). A bulk of the HBO documentary consists of casual conversations between Sendak, the filmmakers and “Wild Things” cast member Catherine Keener.
WHAT ONE JERK THINKS ABOUT IT: Undeniably heartwarming … in fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so moved by a conversation-based documentary before. Jonze’s love for who Sendak is and what his wildly imaginative creations have meant to generations is heartfelt — so much so, in fact, that it nearly emanates from your television screen. While Sendak isn’t always the most reliable source (something he does on purpose, I’m pretty sure), at least he’s always entertaining. How else could you explain the scene in which he follows up a story about his father’s attempts to force a miscarriage (when his mother was pregnant with him) with a joke that actually works?
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT: Buy it. You’ll want to return to this oh-so-rewarding documentary time and again. While Sendak’s humor is a little crude at times — the miscarriage “joke,” among others — he’s a one-of-a-kind personality. More than that, he’s a living legend and a towering figure in the arena of letting people’s imaginations run wild. Needless to say, there’s a lot to learn from ol’ “Maury.”
*Of course, “Wild Things” was the book I requested my parents to read me most, so I am probably more than a little biased when it comes to my adoration of Sendak. (It’s hard to feel bad about this, however, as it’s clear than Jonze is in exactly the same boat.)
Learn more about “Tell Them Anything You Want” at http://www.oscilloscope.net/shop/view_film.php?ID=21&r=gallery.
“The September Issue”
WHAT IT IS: A behind-the-scenes look at Vogue’s fashion empire, with more than a fair share of its running time dedicated to the magazine’s legendary editor in chief/chief tastemaker Anna Wintour, whom at least one person in the film calls “the most powerful woman in America.”
WHAT ONE JERK THINKS ABOUT IT: Go back to what I just said: At least one person in “The September Issue” was quoted as saying that Anna Wintour is the most powerful woman in our entire nation. Now, if one person says this in a documentary, there’s probably a good chance that they’re not alone when it comes to harboring such mind-boggling sentiments. Am I afraid? Honestly, yes. That’s just fascinating to me; if someone thinks the editor of a fashion magazine is more important than, say, a Supreme Court justice, our world is in grave danger. On the other hand, that’s what is so utterly enthralling about this film: It’s like stepping into an alternate universe where labels trump all. Even if all you know of the fashion industry is “Zoolander,” you’ll walk away from “The September Issue” with a good understanding of the powers that be — and why a healthy slice of self-delusion is a prerequisite for any job in the field. There’s a reason this film has been dubbed the real “Devil Wears Prada.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT: Rent it. While Wintour is an alluring and respectable figure (nay, goddess) in her field, the way everyone around her treats her like she’s a perfectly molded gift from above gets increasingly frustrating with each passing minute. One can only suffer through so much embarrassment for another human being for so long.
Learn more about “The September Issue” at www.theseptemberissue.com.
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