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Episode 129 - Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (w/ Brett Morgen)

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Poll: Episode 129 - Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (w/ Brett Morgen) (17 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (12 votes [70.59%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 70.59%

  2. No (5 votes [29.41%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 29.41%

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#1 Dalton Maltz


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Posted 19 November 2017 - 11:10 PM

Filmmaker Brett Morgen (Jane) joins Amy this week to discuss the 1997 documentary “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.” They touch on how the film changed the landscape of cinema, the power trifecta of director Errol Morris, cinematographer Robert Richardson, and editor Hank Corwin, and where the film’s subjects are now. Plus, Brett explains his take on how the documentary excels at externalizing the interior landscape of its characters.

#2 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 12:27 PM

FAST, CHEAP, AND OUT OF CONTROL was the first Errol Morris film I ever saw and is probably my second favorite film of his, just narrowly beat by GATES OF HEAVEN. I remember becoming aware of it after a Siskel & Ebert episode in which they hailed it as a masterpiece. Even after watching clips on the show featuring lion taming and naked mole rats, I couldn't quite wrap my head around what this strange film actually was and was determined to see it. Upon viewing it, I realized it wasn't such a bizarre head trip after all, but found deep humanity in these odd individual loners with unique passions that few other filmmakers would be curious enough to explore. I love the films of Errol Morris without exception. While I love his mission-based epics like THE THIN BLUE LINE or THE FOG OF WAR, I'm so glad that Brett Morgen picked one of Morris' more quiet, personal films, the kind of which that you wonder how he ever might have found such people or devised to tell their stories. FAST, CHEAP... doesn't take any shocking turns in it the way MR. DEATH or TABLOID do. It merely presents us these men and their professions and allows us to listen. So many documentaries seem to beg an audience to judge their subjects, for better or worse, but the subjects in this film never come off as defending their lifestyles, unconventional though they may be, and challenges us to reach some kind of understanding with them. I would probably throw my support behind any Morris film, and though the one I personally tend to show others the most often is GATES OF HEAVEN, I fully support FAST, CHEAP, AND OUT OF CONTROL with a YES vote into The Canon.

#3 rickyssofake


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Posted 21 November 2017 - 11:15 AM

Great movie I’d never seen and I’m glad this episode introduced me to it, but was Brett Morgen confused? He must have thought that Jane was the discussion topic...

#4 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 02:56 PM

View Postrickyssofake, on 21 November 2017 - 11:15 AM, said:

Great movie I’d never seen and I’m glad this episode introduced me to it, but was Brett Morgen confused? He must have thought that Jane was discussion topic...

Hah, seriously. Morgen spent a lot of time talking about his own movies on this one. I get that it can be relevant if you're discussing techniques of documentary filmmaking, but it might have been good to steer the discussion back towards Fast Cheap.

Anyway, I also enjoyed this movie, and contrary to Morgen's impressions I didn't find it a difficult watch at all. All of the subjects are interesting, and there's something about the visuals and editing in this movie, they feel like rhythms and movements in a piece of music, driving towards an emotional catharsis. A pretty rare thing when it works as well as this one does.

Given that this was also the first use of the Interrotron in a documentary, I feel comfortable giving the film a yes vote.

#5 bleary

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 03:19 PM

View Postrickyssofake, on 21 November 2017 - 11:15 AM, said:

Great movie I’d never seen and I’m glad this episode introduced me to it, but was Brett Morgen confused? He must have thought that Jane was discussion topic...

Yeah, I get the urge to promote your own film, but maybe spending 15 minutes out of a 90 minute podcast on that rather than the 50ish he spent would have made for a better episode.

But I liked the purported topic of the episode quite a bit and am happy to vote yes on it.

#6 Buffyfan1992


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Posted 21 November 2017 - 04:12 PM

I vote yes! Errol Morris is my favorite documentarian. I would truthfully vote in most of his films into the canon. My favorite is Thin Blue Line, but I really enjoy Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. I think that was the second Errol Morris documentary I saw.

#7 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 05:30 PM

Perhaps my opinion would be different if this was the first documentary I saw, but instead I just watched it after it was announced for this podcast. The obvious Errol Morris podcast for inclusion is The Thin Blue Line, with Fog of War perhaps being a runner-up. I found the topiary garden material completely uninteresting and poorly fitting with the rest of the film. The Rodney Brooks* material was quite good and he did indeed seem quite perceptive, which just made me wish he had an entire documentary dedicated to him.
*I'll dissent from Palmatto's description of him as a "loner": he seems to have a team of people he works with. It's just that the film focuses on him as an individual.

I'll concur with those complaining about Brett Morgen as a guest. He hardly talked about the film he was supposed to, only getting to the Interrotron at the very end. Irritating enough that it made me even less inclined to put his nominated film in the canon.

#8 Super Toilet Bowl®

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Posted 23 November 2017 - 07:05 PM

I liked this episode a lot, and I didn't mind hearing Brett talk about his work at all (other than one particular tangent that kind of fell off a cliff). Looking forward to Jane.

One thing that seemed amiss: Brett's failure to acknowledge Morris's "beautiful eyes" which I think are actually key to bringing out those "emotional truths" Brett mentioned. Morris's eyes convey a combination of child-like giddiness, learned wisdom and deep empathy that you rarely find outside of characters created in Jim Henson's Creature Shop. I can't imagine staring into those eyes and being able to keep a lid on any truths, emotional or otherwise--although Donald Rumsfeld somehow managed to.

And that voice.... The first time I saw this movie, and I heard that peculiar voice chime in from behind the camera, I thought the movie was about to take a sharp turn into Q&A territory. And then it doesn't, and the moment has a kind of awkward beauty to it, like a kid in a junior orchestra who suddenly starts playing his clarinet at the wrong time, but then gracefully punches out.

I've always loved this movie, and I don't have much more to say about it, especially because I think the movie works best if you don't know too much about it going in. This was true for me, and I was astonished at how these seemingly disparate stories started to intersect and connect--or maybe "converge" is a better word for it.

I can't help but unload a pet theory of mine, however, about the true spiritual predecessor to this movie. Moreso than Natural Born Killers, I would argue that D.W. Griffith's Intolerance would make an excellent pairing with this movie.

(I would highly recommend Intolerance on its own anyway, as it's one of the few movies of its era that can still hold a modern audience's attention. There are a lot of versions floating around, but try to find a restored version projected at the proper frame rate, with stabilized image.)

Both films employ crosscutting to tell four separate narratives, which gradually synch up thematically at an increasingly dizzying pace. Both films were very much "discovered" in the editing room; when Griffith's original, chronological approach wasn't working, he tore the film apart and gave us the prototype of non-linear storytelling in film. And Griffith's extensive use of closeups was, like the Interrotron, an important innovation in bringing a feeling of intimacy to the big screen.

Anyway, that's a "yes."