Author: Samantha Sanders

‘I Called Him Morgan’ is a Must-See for Jazz Fans

Overview: Renowned jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan’s life and death is examined through intimate interviews and gorgeous archival photography—all to the soundtrack of his music. FilmRise; 2016; Not Rated; 92 minutes. What We Know: I Called Him Morgan begins on an ominous note, as snow is falling in New York City, and unnamed people are discussing that set, that night. It’s a neat misdirection, because most watching the documentary likely know the most basic details of trumpeter Lee Morgan’s death—that his common-law wife, Helen Morgan, murdered him during a gig—but this won’t be a true crime story. Not really. Instead,...

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See the Trailer for HBO’s Latest True Crime Documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest

Your chance to get a first look at HBO’s latest true crime documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest. Today, HBO released the trailer for the Erin Lee Carr-helmed Mommy Dead and Dearest that tells the bizarre story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy Rose.  For years, Dee Dee convinced everyone that Gypsy Rose was gravely ill, wheelchair-bound, and had significant cognitive impairment. But none of that was true, as the world found out after Dee Dee’s murder. The documentary is based on journalist Michelle Dean’s 2016 Buzzfeed piece. The documentary will air on HBO May 15, 2017. Featured Image:...

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Blotter | April 13, 2017

Hey, did you see the news yesterday? Not the relentlessly bad kind, but the trailer for the upcoming Katheryn Bigelow feature, Detroit? We covered it so no need to leave AE’s warm embrace. It’s a politically charged Bigelow feature, so expect plenty of debate leading up to the film’s August release. If you’d like a background on some of the events depicted in the trailer, here’s a good place to start. How about a quick roundup of true crime-related TV and movie news to take the edge off? My young adulthood continues to be optioned for prestige dramatization. This...

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Blotter | April 11, 2017

BLOTTER | APRIL 11, 2017 Hello. Algorithms are controlling our lives. This is true both in the Kylie-Jenner-tweeting-about-contrails conspiracy sense, but in the material sense, too. The data you generate increasingly informs and shapes the reality you’re presented. So, what if all that data churn could go beyond just advertising at you, and instead be used in purposeful and innovative ways? This week, Bloomburg shared the story of Thomas Hargrove, a retired reporter who had some time on his hands and some data he wanted to crunch. When he began to notice some patterns, he sent the police department...

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The Nicole Kidman Renaissance is Happening and We’re Here for It

This morning’s Washington Post offered up what perhaps shouldn’t be a controversial headline: “Nicole Kidman belongs in our pantheon of great actresses.” Yet audiences have always seemed to have a more complicated relationship with the star than has Hollywood, and it’s time to start questioning why. She’s had misses, certainly—hello, Grace of Monaco—but look down at your fingers at start counting all her stellar roles. You’re going to need both hands—maybe a foot, too. In recent years, we’ve had the McConaissance and, while Michael Keaton’s name doesn’t lend itself to a halfway decent portmanteau, he’s deservedly gotten his time...

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Blotter | April 6, 2017

Welcome back to Blotter! Let’s get to it. First, I need to say that I hope this young man is safe. Secondly, I need to add that some people on the internet think he has been abducted by aliens. I don’t make the links. I only share them. To make good on my promise to only say positive things about podcasts this week, I’m offering up a brand-new recommendation: Billed as “a show about con artists and the lives they ruin,” The Grift might be the perfect listen for those who like their crime stories stain-free. Its description reminded...

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Blotter | April 4, 2017

It’s a busy week here at Onlooker. We’ll have two more reviews headed your way this week: The first is a look at the already controversial film Fraud, and then later, a look at one of Los Angeles’s most notorious cases—but more on that later. No, it’s not this one. Or this one. Not even that one. To quote James Ellroy (which only seems appropriate), “Dead people belong to the live people who claim them most obsessively.” Here, he was referring to his mother, though I’d bet you wouldn’t be wrong to think instead of Elizabeth Short. We all...

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Blotter | March 30, 2017

Blotter is your twice-weekly rundown on all things true crime happening in the world of movies, TV, podcasts, and beyond. I’ve got a lot of links and otherwise clicky-type suggestions to take you into the weekend. Happy reading, watching and listening: First up, I mentioned this one earlier in the week as the kind of justice-system-gone-wrong story so many true crime fans have become familiar with—though what makes this one special is its twist. In 1978 Kerry Max Cook was convicted of one of Tyler, Texas’s most disturbing homicides. He worked to clear his name for decades, but once...

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Let the Fire Burn is a Sober Look at a Nearly Forgotten Chapter

Overview:  Years of conflict between a communal Black Liberation group, its neighbors, and the city of Philadelphia came to a head with disastrous consequences in 1985. Zeitgeist Films; 2013; NR; 88 minutes. Long-Simmering Conflict: America in the 1970s was a particularly movement-driven time, with the idealism of the 60s giving way to a new righteous pragmatism. Determinism was out, and self-determination, often in the form of conscious and strategic organizing, was in. It was in this context that MOVE was was founded in 1972. Led by the charismatic leader John Africa, MOVE was a separatist collective of largely Black...

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Blotter | Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Blotter is your twice-weekly rundown on all things true crime happening in the world of movies, TV, podcasts, and beyond. Hello again. I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the kinds of crime stories I’m drawn to. Turns out putting lists of true crime stories together will do that to a person. If you’re reading this, I’d bet there’s a certain kind of narrative that most catches your attention, too. Maybe you’re the type who likes to read survivor’s stories, imagining how you’d escape harm. Maybe the criminal justice system and all its flaws fascinates you (Heads up if...

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Blotter | Thursday, March 23, 2017

Blotter is your twice-weekly rundown on all things true crime happening in the world of movies, TV, podcasts, and beyond. I’m sending you into the end of your week with a long list of things to research, watch, read, and listen to and the faster we do this, the sooner we get to the weekend, right? Let’s go: 2017 Tribeca Film Festival preview: This year’s lineup of U.S./International Narrative and Documentary programs features several films likely to be of interest to true crime fans: The Family I Had | “A mother recalls how her seemingly brilliant teenage son came...

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Blotter | Tuesday, March 21, 2017

  Can I ask you something? How often does your interest in crime result in some moral handwringing? It’s a question I’ve been wondering about in launching this project and one I suspect some of you might wonder about, too. Do you have boundaries you’ve drawn for yourself that you won’t—or can’t—cross when it comes to true crime as entertainment? If you do, I’d be interested in hearing from you (anonymously or otherwise) for a future piece in Onlooker, Audiences Everywhere’s true crime grotto (ew). They can be silly or serious, personal or objective. Just get in touch: onlooker@audienceseverywhere.net....

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Blotter | Thursday, March 16

Blotter is your twice-weekly rundown on all things true crime happening in the world of movies, TV, podcasts, and beyond. We didn’t plan it this way, but it turns out that the middle of the week, in the middle of kind of a meh month (sorry, March) is a great time to kick off a true crime feature. A lot of you are reading and sharing—even without an accompanying TinyLetter or interrupting ads for Squarespace and Casper Mattresses—and we thank you, so we’ll get right to it: Let’s kick this one off with Serial, the podcast so popular they’re...

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Blotter | Tuesday, March 14

Welcome to the first edition of Blotter, your twice-weekly clickable rundown on all things true crime happening in the world of movies, TV, podcasts, and beyond. Blotter is where I’ll aim to collect all the things you told yourself you were going to get around to checking out later, but all in one handy place. Some are timely news items, and some are recommendations for later viewing, reading or listening. As any true crime fan can attest, you might find the old buried next to the new: Louis Theroux’s 2015 documentary, My Scientology Movie finally saw a simultaneous streaming...

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My Scientology Movie Offers An Unexpected Look At A Surreal World

Overview: Filmmaker Louis Theroux sets out to make an objective documentary about Scientology, but when stonewalled by the church, he enlists the help of a former Scientologist and leaves conventional storytelling behind. BBC Films; 2015; Not Rated; 99 minutes. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”: There’s a scene near the end of Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie, where the filmmaker is seen talking with someone off camera after an emotionally grueling scene. Theroux confides that it’s becoming hard to know just how much he can responsibly reveal to the participants in his genre-bending film. Marty Rathbun,...

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