Mini-Reviews: “Side by Side” & “2016: Obama’s America”

Greetings all,

Today, here are two quick (and SCORE-LESS*) mini-reviews for the documentaries Side by Side and 2016: Obama’s America.


Side by Side

Directed by: Christopher Kenneally

Starring: Keanu Reeves (producer), James Cameron, George Lucas and several others


Side by Side is a documentary that explores the idea that the use of film (celluloid) for making movies is a dying art as digital cinematography muscles its way into the spotlight via movie makers such as James Cameron, George Lucas, etc. There are proponents for the side of digital and proponents for the use of film. Both sides of the coin have passionate people who back it and this documentary takes a look to see if either argument is deserving of such passion and drive or, if it is a moot point and that digital is the way of the future.

Unfortunately…it doesn’t really answer that question (Which I like, allowing the viewer the opportunity to think and formulate ones own opinion). However, it doesn’t really give the audience a reason to care either way. Side by Side is a documentary that allows lots of the big name directors in Hollywood to vent out their frustrations with the thought process of the other side of the argument and share their passion for their point of view. When I say lots of the big names, I mean lots of the big names:

George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, the Wachowskis, James Cameron, Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, Joel Schumacher, Steven Soderbergh, Lars Von Trier, and others.

And when it came down to it…film vs digital. I found that I really didn’t care. (GASP!!) I, of course, have an appreciation for the argument of the look and feel of film; and I also have an appreciation for the argument of the continual advancement of digital. But ultimately, as a movie watcher…I just want the movie to look great! Filmmakers should be working together more instead of getting on each others cases for not supporting one side or the other. George Lucas is so adamant about digital and upset about other filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan not using it. They both though have highly successful films that have a fantastic following from all over the world. Film users argued that there is so much more emotion and grit available to be shown with the perfected use of film.

The entire documentary goes back and forth with some interesting cases for both sides, intriguing history, and impressive technology. The interviews were both insightful and impassioned, however the end of it all leaves a question to the movie watcher: Does the impending death of film present some tragic possibilities for the future of movies as we know? Film or Digital…does it matter?

It makes one think, but only for a little bit. As I said earlier, the majority of folks watching this educational documentary may find that ultimately, the only people who really really have an interest in film vs digital are the ones making the movies. The audiences enjoy the films almost regardless.

Side by Side (Recommended)

Do you have an opinion on digital vs. film? Do you care? Have you seen this documentary? Leave a comment.

2016: Obama’s America

Directed by: Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan

Starring: Dinesh D’Souza, Dr. Alice Dewey and Willy Kauai


I actually did not take the opportunity to see this. BUT, my friend and documentary enthusiast Matt (a manager of one of my local movie theaters) did and shared his thoughts with me in a post-watch interview. This film that attempts to paint a picture of what to expect from another term of President Obama in office tries to tie in things from his past and show what to expect from four more years of his administration? But does it really focus on politics more than the person?

Below are a few snippets from my Q&A session with Matt about this political documentary:

Q: So, you watched 2016, right? What did you think?

A: As a documentary it was horribly done. As a political tool, if it’s being used to polarize people who are already on the right, it’s going to accomplish that. It also continues to fuel the fire to keep people who are already scared about Obama’s administration. It is a poorly put together argument and won’t sway any one to one particular side of a pro- or anti-Obama debate.

Q: This movie is supposed to just be an introduction to Obama (four years later), to allow people to know a bit more about him I thought. It says on the poster “Love Him, Hate Him, You don’t KNOW Him.” Was this film about Obama the Person, or Obama the Politician?

A: It wasn’t anything that I didn’t already know about him, but a few people may learn a couple of things about his history. For about an hour and a half it is about Obama the Person, and for the last half hour it’s about Obama the Politician.

Q: Did you find that you even cared?

A: Honestly?…No. I found that the first hour and a half was all psychological conjecture and found it to be pathetic in the sense that the filmmaker tried to paint the picture of his horrible childhood and that as a result, the ramifications would lead to horrible decision-making which the country would then pay for in the future…and IS paying for now.

Q: Wow, so it really is a pretty biased documentary?

A: Yes, but whoever put it together as far as cinematography/editing really did a wonderful job. It looks nice. Is it entertaining? I didn’t think so. Is it particularly educating? Again, for myself, I didn’t think so. I love documentaries and when they are great it can be both. When they are bad, it can turn an hour and half to seem like three. This one seemed like three. I laughed at a few parts and parts were unbiased but as a whole…I understood where the guy was coming from but it still wasn’t good.

Some of it was pretty funny to see them try to use against him and other parts were surprisingly borderline racist…well, the statements could easily be construed as racist for certain.

And some of it was so off the wall. About twenty minutes of it was rambling on about how the “United States of ARABIA” was an up and coming possibility! That the United States would be taken over as a result of Obama administration’s dealings with the middle-East. I was like, seriously?? Get back to the topic!

Q: This documentary made it into the box office top ten a couple of weeks ago. Did that surprise you knowing that?

A: It’s making money. I mean, W made money, Fahrenheit 9/11 made money. It’s interesting to see who goes to watch these movies. But this one is still quite different.

Q: Yeah, I knew nothing about this until it popped up in the top ten by surprise.

A: Most young people didn’t. And the demographic for the high majority of the audience members have been older Caucasian viewers.

Q: Thanks for calling me “young”!

A: (laugh)

Q: Sounds like you’d say all in all that there have been far better political documentaries done in the past than this one.

A: Yes, absolutely. Even as propaganda, per se, this one is not very good because it moves no one in either direction. Clearly it has an agenda and the agenda is the driving force. Those who like him, will still like him regardless. Those who do not, will find more reason to allow themselves to be scared more. I saw some lady leaving the theater saying “Oh, I’m definitely voting for Mitt Romney now.” when only 20 minutes or so had anything to do with politics. I don’t know. Perhaps trying to solidify peoples ideas on their vote as opposed to swaying them to one particular side more than the other was the whole idea. I dunno. It’s just not very well done.

Q: Here’s the big question then: Will you watch a Mitt Romney 2016 documentary?

A: Of course! (laughs) I’ll watch them all. It’s not about taking a position, it’s about learning about subject/person. Unfortunately, there was just too little to learn in this one. It was more speculation. It’s just not too good of a film at all. Rather scattered.

Q: Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the film for us. Do you think it’s useful for voters to watch it?

A: Not really. No. It’s funny in that the other three people in the group that went with me all left with a different impression than I. One was even more scared, one said that regardless she was already voting for Romney, and the other didn’t care at all because “all politicians are dirtbags.” haha. The entire spectrum of reactions! So, see…it doesn’t really change anyone’s minds. It keeps the scared, scared…and the angry, angry. It’s about 10% pro-Obama and 90% anti-Obama.

Q: Wow, well, I didn’t want to see it really. So can I say thank you for taking one for the team? 😀 And thanks for taking the time to tell us all about it.

A: Anytime. No problem. Thanks for letting me share.

My thanks to my friend Matt for sharing his thoughts on 2016: Obama’s America.

2016: Obama’s America (Not Recommended)

So, did you see this film? Agree with the Q&A? Disagree? Indifferent? Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

T, The Focused Filmographer

*These documentaries remain score-less. Although I have rated documentaries in the past, I find it rather difficult to do so and leave the rating…along with the subject at hand, completely up to the viewer. Instead, I leave a “Recommended” ; “Not Recommended” ; note at the end of each.


  1. I am very interested in seeing Side by Side. Though like you, I don’t really care about the film vs. digital argument, but interested to hear what the directors say.


  2. Glad you liked Side by Side, I think it’s worth a watch for movie lovers. Digital vs film ultimately doesn’t affect me much, as in the end for me, it’s all about the story.

    Well, I have quite a different opinion about the Obama documentary. I think it’s worth a watch for people who are open-minded about both sides of the political spectrum, so I wouldn’t discourage people from seeing it. I don’t know if you care to read it T, but you are welcome to read my take on the documentary. It may not paint a positive picture about the President, but it’s not an ‘Obama bashing’ doc or done in a disrespectful manner.


    • Thanks for the comment Ruth! I will read the post u mention. I had little interest in seeing this and I am sure that everyone walks away with different opinions (politics often being the hot topic issue it is). I was glad I got to see Side by Side. And yep, I agree, its all about the story.


  3. Re: Side by Side…I think film is good for some things and digital is good for others…it depends on what kind of story the director wants to tell. If the story, etc. aren’t good, the medium doesn’t matter…the movie won’t be good. I hope both with be an option well into the future; maybe film will acquire the same hipster cred as vinyl records. Their death was reported many times but we’ve got 2 new vinyl-only stores here.


  4. Hi, Terrence and company:

    Film will always be film. Which can be stored and vaults and digitized. Technology has evolved and brought us digital. Which I’m am still not wholeheartedly a fan of.

    Yes, it’s versatile, can adapt to many things. Though not to having Special Effects take a front seat to the story, actors and actresses. I’m also solidly in the camp that does not play well with 3-D; a vastly over rated marketing tool. Nor IMAX, which gives me headaches.

    Also disagree with your interviewee regarding ‘2016’. There’s no denying that the film is popular and continues to make money for a documentary. Though I doubt very much that the film will polarize the right. If anything, it will take votes away from the incumbent. Mostly in the middle class. Professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners already stifled by a very shaky economy and ridiculous regulations.

    Securing My Soapbox.
    Carry on!


    • Kevin! Thanks for commenting from the proverbial soapbox! Love it. Haha. Yes, I truly hope and believe that film will carry on, but so many manufacturers have ceased producing the supporting equipment…

      I don’t think I will be watching 2016 anytime soon, so it is definitely fun seeing the varying opinions!


  5. Although Side by Side was interesting to watch I do agree with your feelings about it. I don’t really care much about which format a movie is shot on. It was also clear to me that the cinematographers feel very threatened by digital, especially with the ability to do so much in changing the look of a movie after it has been shot.


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