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Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation

For more than forty years, these two giants of American literature goaded and supported one another in the agonizing quest to turn life into art.”

A new documentary profiles two literary giants and their lifelong friendship. Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is comprised of archival footage and photographs and personal letters and writings by the two authors about themselves and each other. Jim Parsons narrates as Truman Capote and Zachary Quinto as Tennessee Williams. The biggest takeaways were how these two gay icons saw themselves in relation to their sexuality, how they handled their celebrity and the adaptations of their stories to film. It’s a straight-forward documentary, simply told, and an interesting watch for anyone who enjoys learning about literary world.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is distributed by Kino Lorber. It’s available on DVD and to rent on demand, including Kino Now.

Fantasia Festival: Feels Good, Man

When cartoonist Matt Furie created Pepe the Frog, he had no clue that his seemingly benign humanoid frog character would take over the internet and evolve into a symbol of hate speech. Directed by Arthur Jones, the documentary Feels Good, Man chronicles the long journey that Furie’s creation took over the years and it offers revelations about fringe internet culture that are eye-opening and alarming.

Furie’s story is an extraordinary one. This mild-mannered artist is the opposite of who you might think would be behind an internet hate meme. He draws images of toys, creates children’s books which he reads to his daughter and drew Pepe the Frog as a vessel through which to make jokes about bodily functions. The problem with the image of Pepe is that it could easily be co-opted; anyone could draw him, his identity could easily be adapted to trending memes and Furie did not and could not take ownership of Pepe in a significant way in order to control how his creation was used online.

I won’t go into  all the specifics of how Pepe morphed from hand drawn comic book character to a symbol of radicalization. The documentary does such a good job revealing each and every stage of Pepe’s evolution that it’s what makes this film so engrossing. Pepe went from a “Feels Good, Man” meme, to a mascot for outsiders, to a trolling personality then is now a symbol for dangerous radicals, white supremacists and the alt-right. Jones’s film does an exemplary job demonstrating how Pepe became a key element in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. We also see Furie fighting back and disconnecting from the creation that became bigger than himself. The documentary features interviews with Furie, his family and friends, fellow cartoonists, psychologists and other experts.

Feels Good, Man is a riveting documentary that offers many insights into the dangers of internet culture. 

Feels Good, Man is part of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Festival.

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