Hudson Valley Loses at Golden Globes While HBO Documentary Paradise Lost 3 Wins Critical Acclaim
We bombed at the Golden Globes, but our HBO documentaries are going strong. Read the quick Globes recap and West Memphis 3 movie reviews
By Marisa LaScala
Photograph courtesy of HBO
I know everybody’s still buzzing about the Golden Globes, with its voluminous dresses, puppy cameo, and not-really-all-that-unleashed host. Unfortunately, our local nominees didn’t make it to the winner’s circle. Bedford’s Rooney Mara, nominated for Best Actress for her role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, lost to — of course — Meryl Streep. (Ed. note: We won’t complain too much; Streep is a Vassar grad, after all.) And Mildred Pierce, which was filmed partially in Peekskill, gave up Best Miniseries to the buttoned-up Brits in Downton Abbey. Maybe if someone from our area had made a delightful silent film with big smiles, tap-dancing, and an adorable dog, we would’ve fared a little better. Oh well — it’s onto the Oscars!
So, instead of covering the Golden Globes, I’m going to focus on its complete opposite: the Paradise Lost documentaries, by director (and Chappaque native/Northern Westchester resident) Joe Berlinger. The documentaries focus on three teenagers in West Memphis, Tennessee. (You know them as the West Memphis Three.) They were accused of murder and sentenced to death based on spotty or faulty evidence. Berlinger and his co-filmmaker, Bruce Sinofsky, documented their case, which led a groundswell of support (with a hefty defense fund). A second documentary focused on the appeals process.
This past summer, the West Memphis Three were all released from prison. They weren’t pardoned, per se. Instead, their charges were vacated, and they entered “Alford guilty pleas,” which means that they can maintain their innocence but still plead guilty if they thought it was in their best interest.
“Why does it take three well-funded HBO documentaries over 18 years and millions of dollars from a vast array of celebrities and regular people agitating to give these guys the kind of defense that they deserved back in ’93? There’s something wrong with the justice system,” Berlinger was quoted saying in The Huffington Post.
Of course, Berlinger and Sinofsky were there, with cameras rolling, through the whole process. The result became Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which aired on HBO last week. Here’s what critics are saying:
“HBO Documentaries has made a vital contribution down through the years to the continuing development and success of the documentary film. This almost pales in comparison to its contribution to the recent freeing of three undoubtedly innocent men.” — Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
“In an inescapable way, the third film ends up being about itself, about the series’ function in and around the campaign to free the WM3, alongside the marches and websites and Henry Rollins benefit concerts.” — Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
From the reviews alone, you can see Paradise Lost 3 is a fascinating story, an example of how the justice system still has flaws in this country, and an interesting example of a documentary. Check out this five-minute interview with Berlinger and Sinofsky about the movie:
Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.