Subject: John Wojtowicz Why You Should See See It: John Wojtowicz was turned into something of an iconic figure when Al Pacino played him in 1975’s “Dog Day Afternoon.” In that film, Wojtowicz took a bank hostage in the hopes of raising money for his transsexual lover’s sex change operation, hardly exaggerated the actual 1972 event, but only captured one piece of a much larger story. That’s why its so great we have “The Dog,” Alison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s documentary about Wojtowicz in the years leading up to his death from cancer in 2006. A festival circuit hit since it debuted in Toronto last year, it’s definitely one to see in theaters this month if you haven’t already.
Cast: Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Darren E. Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson Why You Should See See It: John Lithgow and Alfred Molina’s heartbreaking, complex and perhaps even career-defining performances in Ira Sachs’ “Love Is Strange” are about as good as it gets — gay or straight — this summer. As Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina), the two portray an aging gay couple who — after finally getting the chance to tie the knot after 39 years together — run into serious financial troubles when George is fired from his job at a Catholic private school when word gets out about his nuptials. This evolves into a nuanced, beautiful portrait of not only their love but the love of the many friends and family members around them, with Lithgow and Molina providing the centerpiece of an impressive ensemble (that includes Marisa Tomei and Cheyenne Jackson). Likely to remain one of our favorite films of 2014 when all is said and done.
Why You Should See It: Queer filmmaker Harris (“That’s My Face,” “12 Disciples of Nelson Mandela”) explores how African American communities have used the camera as a tool for social change — from the invention of photography to the present — in this epic film inspired by Deborah Willis’ book
“Reflections in Black.” Beginning with Harris’ own family album and moving through both historical material (slavery, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement) and contemporary images (like those made by Carrie Mae Weems and Gordon Parks), the film presents a staggering, powerful reflection on both how black photographers used the camera to define themselves and their culture, and how some white photographers used the same medium to demean through racist imagery.
Why You Should See See It: At 76 years old, George Takei has managed an impressive transition from being known best for playing Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series and movies to becoming a poster boy for LGBT rights and a considerable internet sensation (he has nearly 6 million Facebook followers) thanks to his very popular memes. And now, Takei has his very own documentary to highlight that journey (among other things) and continue to confirm how endearing a figure he really is. Jennifer Kroot’s “To Be Takei” follows Takei and his husband Brad as they navigate their lives together in Los Angeles, intermittently stepping back to discuss Takei being forced into Japanese-American internment camps as a child, his time on “Star Trek,” and how he challenged the status quo for Asian actors.
Why You Should See See It: Portuguese film industry veteran Joaquim Pinto’s 164-minute portrait of his one-year experience taking experimental medication for AIDS and Hepatitis-C is an absolutely incredible feat of first-person filmmaking. Pinto films his day-to-day life with his husband, Nuno (who you’ll fall in love with just as Pinto has) while going back into his personal history with art and cinema. It’s a tall order to pull off what Pinto does, taking his story and turning into what is truly a universal statement about love and work and life.