RS Indie Awards: Richard “Rex” Thomas’s 2nd Line, Rebirth

Part 2 of a multipart series on my favorite independent films I’ve seen in 2010.

Take it or leave it. My reviews, I mean. Watch the films. And buy them, of course.

5 out of 5

Perhaps I don’t review documentaries as well as I do narrative features. I acknowledge this, but to be fair, I felt it necessary to review at least one of the numerous documentaries that I’ve watched in my travels throughout the East Coast and the internet this year. In retrospect, I could have watched more. A significant number more, in fact – there were opportunities that I more or less avoided simply because I found the subject matter uninteresting. The documentary that I probably enjoyed watching the most this year was a film actually directed by a professor of mine, a one on a topic really close to my heart – the life, death, and most recently, rebirth of Jazz radio in New York and Los Angeles. Perhaps it seems like I’m showing an unfair amount of favoritism here – but I’m not, heck, I’m not even taking any of his classes yet. He’s a moderator of my school’s film club for Pete’s sake – and yeah – I’m getting ahead of myself to show very clearly, once again, that me awarding anything to a documentary is going to be a process loaded with bias.

 I suppose this review will have to not only convince you that the film is good, but my bias is better than yours. Pretentiousness, Ahoy!

Chronicling the development of Jazz Radio from its inception in New York and California radio in the early sixties to its decline a decade or so ago, and now it’s revival on the internet airways, 2nd Line presents not only the history of Jazz and Jazz radio, but the deep aesthetics behind the movement, an aesthetic appreciation I can personally attest to – I’ve discussed various topics in Jazz with him several times, and his love for Dave Brubeck probably outmatches mine, which I’m a bit sorry to admit.

 I liked the film’s visuals immediately. I’m a sucker for documentaries that look like they were shot on 16mm, and his definitely has this look – the dynamic range, the grain – all the little things that make me appreciate his composition style even though I’m figuring most of it was done digitally. Like everything else. The motion graphics are another thing to make note of. I’m by no means a hater of motion graphics in documentaries – but I see them as a novelty in the genre. They shouldn’t dictate the pacing of the film, they should merely accentuate it. Which is why Rex’s film won out against the other film I was going to nominate, and remains my runner up for the best documentary of 2010, Gerrymandering (Jeff Reichert), whose usage of these types of infographics bordered on the oppressive. Oh, and this one’s running time is merciful as well. Did I mention I didn’t like documentaries that border on Kubrick’s ideal running times?

 I suppose there’s a certain limit to what one can speak about in terms of just liking the general feel of a particular film – sometimes it just “clicks”. With me, I can easily say 2nd Line does this to a great degree. The topic, it’s visual presentation, the pacing, it’s focus – all of these lined up in place for me while watching the piece. The only thing I can point out as a negative is the immense loading time for the film on my computer. I waited for it to completely load on my computer, and Quicktime took forever. Oh, and the fact that it’s in 640p at the moment. I should bug him about that. In any event, that’s my rant on what documentary I decided to throw the bias badge on this year, and withholding murderous clamor from the audience, I’ll close this reviewing season on a quiet note.

Merry new year, ladies, and here’s the link to the film. Watch if your taste correspond with mine, I guess:

 (I’m expecting an “A” in digital darkroom this semester.)

About Ryan Silva
An American born cinephile writing, making films, and studying in New York City. Festival addict and student Jurist at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival. Hits: moe anime and space operas. Misses: Smelly roommates and Jersey Shore

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