Errol Morris

I've always liked documentaries pretty well (the good ones, not the cookie cutter ones on A&E and VH1), and Errol Morris is my favorite documentary maker. The things he does moves me more than most fictional films. I absolutely love the way he makes things look and sound.

Gates of Heaven (1978) -- Maybe my least favorite of the Morris documentaries (which means it's still great), but it has that unique Morris approach that I love, and a style that was perfected in Vernon, Florida before he moved on to more ambitious ways of making documentaries. A

Vernon, Florida (1981) -- The slightly-eccentric people of this town are lovingly captured by Errol Morris in a way that is hilarious and touching. A

The Thin Blue Line (1988) -- I guess this is his most important movie, since it freed an innocent man from jail (though this same man sued Morris later for getting rich off him--"ungrateful" would be an understatement). It also seems to have influenced how mystery/crime documentaries were made from then on. Because of the subject matter, it doesn't have the same "heart" that some of his others do, but that's not really a drawback. A

A Brief History of Time (1992) -- Images floating everywhere, Philip Glass's hypnotizing music, theories of life the universe and everything, and Stephen Hawking's voice synthesizer narrating it all... a great work. Probably my favorite, certainly the thing to look at for quintessential Morris. A

The Dark Wind (1993) -- It's Morris's only non-documentary (and only movie not worth seeing). It's basically one of those TV movies that comes on on Saturday or Sunday afternoon on some local station that has cops in it. Morris has explained that he himself hates it and that he directed it in name only, but that everyone else basically made this movie, so I forgive him. I don't really count this movie as one of his. I'm interested in seeing the fictional movie that he's actually going to do soon. F

Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (1997) -- The four different stories and Morris's new accelerated documentary style takes a second to get a hold of, but then it becomes pretty great. I'd have to do some research to know for sure, but it seems like the style he uses here was original to him, and that it's become sort of a standard now in lots of filming, especially commercials and things like that. A

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999) -- This begins as a funny little documentary on a guy who wants to make the electric chair more humane. Then it shifts to Leuchter making a half-ass pseudo-scientific test on gas chambers during the Holocaust, which proves to him that the Holocaust didn't exist. The pathetic thing is that he's not a revisionist for any Nazi-based reasons (like Ernest Zundel, who got him to do it), but simply because he so fully believes his test (even though it gets him into worlds of trouble). Watch for the maniacal slow-motion shots of Leuchter's face. A

The Fog of War (2003) -- Kind of a remake of Mr. Death in a way, in that it focuses on one subject, but this time with an extremely famous (and infamous) historical figure. All of the usual Morris stuff is throw in (dramatically-falling dominoes comes to mind), which might almost make this seem like Morris doing a parody of himself (or at worst running out of new ideas), except that you're too busy being captivated by the interviews themselves to notice or care. This is one of those cases where the subject makes the movie good more than the filmmaker, but at least Morris was smart enough to realize that. Really good stuff. A

Copyright (c) Jan 2001 - Nov 2004 by Rusty Likes Movies