Movie review: Objectified

I was hesitant to comment about Objectified, until I realized the people reading this blog are potentially interested in this documentary film about industrial design, directed by Gary Hustwit, who made the Helvetica.

Sadly, the film is simply not worth seeing. I say “sadly,” because I think there’s demand for a smart film on this subject. In fact, there’s demand for smart films on a range of design issues. Objectified, though, is a surprisingly disappointing collection of talking heads. It’s a bloodless film that communicates little passion for design. Hustwit has no discernible point of view, and simply presents a bunch of voices that add up to nothing. And the most compelling voice (and the only one truly critical of the role of industrial design), Rob Walker, gets perhaps the least amount of screen time.

I identified two primary flaws with the film.

1. The subjects were boring to watch
Unlike Helvetica, which had some quirky personalities and energy, the talking heads in this film were even-keeled energy sucks. The most obvious attempt at quirk, Karim Rashid, was simply insufferable.

2. Trying to do too much
It turns out “industrial design” covers so many potential topics, and Hustwit cruises over too many too fast. Whereas Helvetica had a remarkably narrow focus, Objectified touches on mass production, mass consumption, sustainability, interaction design, design processes, design as identity, and much much more.

Pretty much the only coherent thing about the film is that male industrial designers have an… interesting… relationship to facial hair, and closely-cropped head hair. There’s something going on there, but I can’t quite figure out what.

Movie review: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Maybe it was because I was travel-tired when I saw it on the Virgin Atlantic flight to London, but the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil actually made me well up with tears. Most commentary on the film refers to it as “the real Spinal Tap,” and while there are similar moments of absurdity and tragedy (shouting matches with booking agents; way-undersold shows; Anvil’s drummer actually named Robb Reiner), there are also remarkably touching moments, largely centered around a couple of guys who simply won’t let go of a dream, no matter what shit life throws at them. Other themes include the importance of familial love and care; best friends who love each other no matter what; and the Jewish immigrant experience. Definitely worth seeing.