They say a documentary is only as powerful as the person or event it documents. I decided to take two icons of the 20th century and watch their stories and see if a documentary can do their life justice. I wanted to pick two people that I absolutely know nothing about and see if that their life story would inspire me to want to learn more about them. So, here is a review for singer Harry Belafonte and the first celebrity designer Halston.
Plot- Halston is a man who made celebrity fashion in the 70’s and became the go to person for stars like Liza Minnelli, Billy Joel and etc. This is the rise and fall of the so called emperor of the NYC nightlife. Told in interviews conducted by Whitney Smith, and always being the center of all the talk in this film. He was just as obnoxious as Halston.
Review-This review will come across mean spirited and I want to apologize up front for my upcoming words. If you guys watched the movie Bruno, you get a good idea what Halston came across like to people. He was a “I am better than you” and “you are lousy” sort of person, with that “ I am greater than thou” personality, that you really hope to see him get his. This film starts off by showing us his beginnings and trying to get some meaning on what he will become, and then we are thrusted into when he was the talk of the town. The interview subjects like Liza Minnelli and Billy Joel just come across as plain boring. Anjelica Huston is the only interview person that I felt had some depth and substance in her message. There is a interview portion with Liza, because basically she was in more of this film than she deserved to be, she talks about being his only friend when he died and going to his funeral than in mid speech corrects herself and throws in Liz Taylor name as well. And then his funeral became a interview on why she did not sing at his funeral. Then asks the interview person why didn’t he look up the event in the newspaper and why ask her these questions. And then there were the utter ridiculous aviator sunglasses the interviewer wore inside to interview Ralph Rucci.
Smith is rude and irritating to the point you want to shut this film off many times, and just realize that as he is discovering about what kind of sell out Halston was, Smith comes across just as bad. He was thrown away by his former company and Halston died all alone of aids. It is tragic and sad, and you never want to see anyone die of that fate, but you get the feeling from Smith and the way this film presents itself that Smith is uncaring and is trying to expose the man as a sellout. He paints an uglier picture than what is there for all of us to see, this is almost like a villain glorifying another villain, and wanted you guys to despise both the same. This was a waste, just utter horrible irritating babble.
1 out of 10
Plot-When you say the name Harry Belafonte you think of an actor or singer. Did you know the FBI considered him a threat at one time? They invaded his personal and professional life, and gave him a lot of trouble. Did you know he was an activist who was aligned with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with other celebrities fought for social justice, participated in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and took action to fight gang violence, prisons, and young kids going to jail. All this from the costar of Uptown Saturday Night.
Review-Amazing in parts, but in the end this is just a flat out a must watch film, as bad as Holston was, this is fascinating and had my attention from start to finish. This film is basically Belafonte replaying his life for all of us and goes every change or situation in his life with great passion and detail that you feel as if you know him personally. This film is a intimate portrayal of Harry with tons of footage from rallies, concerts, speeches and etc. The film starts off with how his career took off and how he paralleled this with the interest in racism and issues relating to race. It paints him in a very caring and well-spoken trailblazer who challenged the normal sort of way. It also talks about the Civil Rights movement and how his face and name help raised awareness and bringing his celebrity friends with him in the fight. Actions like this made him a target for the FBI and a government investigation and some scrutiny. It is also noted that he was a liaison to the Kennedy administration on the issues of that time. If I had any negative about this film, it is that the first two parts of this film are very powerful, emotional and inspirational and the final third of the film just felt to fall so short. That maybe this film was running out of gas towards the end, but make no mistake about it, this is still a must watch important film on someone who you may not know but helped to create change with both his stands on issues like freedom, race and helping each other.
This film also paints his activism in a negative way and the toll it took on his life. Broken relationships with both his wife at the time and his family, and the sad part is it just flew right thru that while not going more into detail. Which I thought could have added to the compelling story they were building, but the last third of the film just flew by with nothing really of substance, it just seemed like it was pointing things out more than explaining them. This film is a must watch for anyone who wants to know there are still good people in Hollywood and in that circle of soulless trash. Very Powerful film that should have been more powerful in the last part, but it has more than enough to recommend.
8 out of 10