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Errol Morris and his ‘Tabloid’

Errol Morris and his 'Tabloid'

I had the pleasure of attending the NYC premiere of Errol Morris’ new documentary, Tabloid, earlier this week, ahead of its theatrical roll-out this summer. The film is probably the most entertaining piece of work from the legendary non-fiction filmmaker. Yes, even more entertaining than the mild diversion Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. This new film is a must-see, especially for documentary fans who have been waiting patiently for a thick slice of enjoyment (after the more serious stripes of Project Nim, Buck, or Page One). Morris establishes this tone, thanks to the subject of Tabloid, a boisterous and bizarre woman named Joyce McKinney. McKinney will go down in history as one of the great documentary characters. Not only because she’s so watchable, but because the events of her life are so crazy.

For New York Magazine, Billy Baker spends some time with Morris in his Cambridge basement, where the filmmaker keeps a treasure trove of news clippings. When you think about it, nearly all of Morris’ films are about scandalous subject matter. Some are more absurd than others, but they all take shape from the world of shock journalism. From that article:

The files almost always start when Morris reads what he calls “a tabloid story”—they can appear anywhere, he says, not just in the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News, each of which he has subscribed to for years, but as often on the front page of the Times. “Gates of Heaven, which is my first movie, is a tabloid story from the San Francisco Chronicle,” he says, reciting a headline he says he will never forget: “500 Dead Pets Go to Napa.” This past week, the Times published the belated obituary of Randall Dale Adams, the man wrongly convicted of murdering a Dallas police officer in 1977 and freed in 1989 thanks in part to evidence uncovered in Morris’s The Thin Blue Line. His newest project, Tabloid, is a kind of tribute to his obsession and opens next week. It recounts the sordid life of a former Miss Wyoming with an IQ of 168 who may have kidnapped, or perhaps honestly seduced, a Mormon missionary in England in 1977. “It’s a quintessential tabloid story,” he says. “Sex in chains.”

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