*** In our current hunkered-down state, a documentary about extreme sports in picturesque settings is an extremely welcome premise. Thank you, Netflix, then, for giving us the cinematic equivalent of a trip around the globe by recently adding Magnetic to your lineup. Directed by Thierry Donard, the little-seen 2018 gem opens with shots of what look like the biggest waves on the planet. In Portugal, 100-foot swells loom over silhouetted bystanders watching from a cliff, a tiny dot on a surfboard charges down the face at killer speeds. Yew! The doc then cuts back and forth between seven other extreme sports, in seven rad locations. From skiing the Alps to windsurfing in Ireland to speed flying in New Zealand, Magnetic captures some of the bravest athletes navigating captivating scenery in ways that would seem impossible were it not captured on film. Those looking to learn about the whys and hows of these sports will be disappointed—the faces of waves and mountains are more memorable than human ones. But Donard wisely centers his movie on the sensory experience of watching his characters do incredible things. The world is their playground, Donard seems to say. It could be ours too if we put down our phones, got off the couch and explored. NR. ASHER LUBERTO. Netflix.
My First and Last Film
** There's no reason you should know 60-something Milwaukeean Tracey Thomas. In fact, the everywoman hook of her video interview project is that you don't. My First and Last Film deals in snapshots of life circa age 60 as Thomas chats with her friends about late-life creativity, retirement and death. This half of the film is charmingly unpretentious, like a formless and casual imitation of Michael Apted's Up series. But fairly quickly, Thomas' world becomes more intensely self-conscious when her boyfriend-cinematographer dies. Through the film's middle, the otherwise puckish Tracey seems unsure how to finish certain sentences, much less a documentary. It's a testament to the fledgling director's desire to forge personal meaning that she did. Still, any national or international audience is left with questions about the broader value of amateur autobiography. According to Thomas' own goals, My First and Last Film was never built for scrutiny from the outside world, which makes full-on criticism tricky. In the end, it's difficult to recommend the doc in the same way it's tough to champion a random stranger's blog or Instagram account. Peeking at an unfamiliar life can be a very worthwhile empathy exercise. Anything longer than a peek, though, is why documentarians exist. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. cstpdx.com.