Free Solo


Free Solo is a documentary that follows Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to free solo climb El Capitan — in other words, climbing up the rock without a harness or anything to protect him from the deadly consequences of falling.

I’m not a huge watcher of documentaries but I’m very glad I didn’t miss this one and was able to catch it in IMAX. Not only are the climbing sequences very impressive and the visual scale is worthy of a big screen watch, but the movie is able to pull you into the story on an emotional level that not many scripted films this year have reached. Alex Honnold is displayed as an inspiration to everyone who has an insane amount of passion and those who dream to one day set the bar higher. His love of his hobby and eventual profession really connected to someone like me who would also want to one day make a profession out of my love of films, in my case. But not only does Honnold teach us to believe in the impossible, but the movie also shows us a different side of things in a very powerful way, like the emotional toll the buildup to the climb takes on his friends, crew, and girlfriend, who must prepare for the possible outcome that he may not survive the climb. Ultimately, when the movie reaches its climax, your heart will be pounding as you watch the incredible final few minutes of the film that are boasted by reactions from the crew as they watch, as well as a strong score from Marco Beltrami, and even if you know how it will end, the journey there is a damn lovely one.

Free Solo is a must-watch documentary that deserved its win at the Oscars in every sense. It’s amazingly done and inspiring on both a technical and emotional level, and had me engaged for every minute of the film. The film and its subject remind us that there will always be people passionate and daring enough willing to break barriers and set the bar higher.

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Paper Clips

My rating: ratings5

This award-winning 2004 G-rated documentary, which I saw on Netflix this week, tells about middle school students in a school in Whitwell, Tennessee, wanting to understand the enormity of the Jews who died in the Holocaust, create a monument for the Holocaust victims by deciding to collect 6 million paper clips. Paper clips were collected by the students and donated to the school as well by Holocaust survivor descendants and Holocaust survivors themselves. At the last count there were over 30 million paper clips received. The school soon put all the paper clips in a railcar.

I think the Paper Clips Project was a very big accomplishment, and I am very proud of the school, the students, and everyone who supported the project. This movie also taught me more about the Holocaust.  I think people of all ages will enjoy this wonderful movie.

Under the Sea

I saw this IMAX movie at the IMAX theater in the San Jose Tech Museum yesterday. Narrated by Jim Carrey, this 40-minute film gives you an underwater look at sea creatures such as cuddlefish, sea snakes, great white sharks and seals. This beautiful family film is now showing in IMAX theaters such as the San Jose Tech Museum IMAX theater. I think the whole family would enjoy this movie, which is rated G.

I also learned some things from this movie, like for example, I never knew sea snakes were more venomous than king cobras!

Also, here is the film’s website.

Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest

My rating:    

This is a 6-minute short film made by Perry Chen, an 11-year-old animator and movie blogger (like me), directed by Kevin Sean Michaels and produced by Bill Plympton. It is a true story about a girl named Ingoushka Petrov (later known as Ingrid Pitt), who survived the Holocaust in 1945, when she was only eight years old. She narrated the film herself and it was her last project before she passed away. Like Anne Frank, it was her childhood dream to become an actress and she eventually lived her dream and was a movie star for over 40 years before her death in late 2010.

This short film describes the Holocaust experience through Ingrid Pitt’s eyes in very simple, hand-drawn animation. I was very impressed by the movie’s ability to express Ingrid Pitt’s fear of being imprisoned in the concentration camp with her mother, constantly fearing for her life, experiencing hunger, diseases and sadness. I really liked how Perry Chen made Ingrid’s bad memories in black and white and her good memory (of the moment she learned the war was over) in color – almost like she was becoming alive again.

As a Jewish boy I was personally moved by this film. It made me feel that I can now better understand what my great grandmother’s family went through in Poland. They, too, were taken to concentration camps and killed in horrific ways (my great grandmother was the only survivor from a big family). She still lives in Israel (she’s 98 years old now) and frequently shares her family stories and pictures with us.

This film will be featured at the Transbay Festival, kicking off this Friday, October 12 in San Francisco.

Also, here is a preview video of the movie.

Born To Be Wild

My rating: 

Born To Be Wild, which I saw a few days ago, is a nice documentary about orphaned elephants and orangutans being raised by humans and being returned to the wild once they’re ready to, but I think the movie is way too short (it’s only 40 minutes long). The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman, and it features Daphne Sheldrick and Birute Galdikas, the two animal experts who raised the elephants and orangutans. In the movie, the animals act really smart, knowing that the humans are trying to help them and not harm them. I learned that although some people are really cruel to animals (hunters and poachers kill animals for no good reason but greed), if the rest of us care enough, we can help make the world a better place. This film is now on DVD and Blu-ray.

Also, here is the trailer of Born To Be Wild.