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flick pick | Fast, Cheap & 
Out of Control
Directed by: Errol Morris
Starring: Dave Hoover, George Mendonça, Ray Mendez, Rodney Brooks
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: true?!?, whimsical
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5

Plot synopsis Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviews four eccentric men about the odd passions that rule their otherwise ordinary lives. Dave Hoover is a lion tamer in one of those old-fashioned traveling circuses that one has a tendency to think no longer exists in this modern day and age. Inspired at an early age by famous animal tamer and film star Clyde Beatty, in whose namesake troupe he performs, the now semi-retired Hoover spent decades perfecting his skills, waving chairs and brandishing whips with a flourish, all in an effort to control his wild animal co-performers. George Mendonça, like Hoover, has made a life’s work of bending nature to his will – although in his case, it’s through topiary gardening, that little-practiced art of turning shrubbery into sculpture. Under his attentive, patient, Zen-like care, a garden of tall trees and fat hedges becomes a magical fantasy zoo of amazing animals -- elephants and bears, giraffes and camels, creatures exotic and wondrous. Ray Mendez, too, finds inspiration and wonder in the animal world: a naked mole-rat zoologist, he spends his days and nights obsessing over what must surely be the most bizarre mammal known to man. These hairless, sweatless, nearly-blind little critters spend their lives digging elaborate tunnels in the underground of the African savanna, living under a complex cooperative social structure that’s more like that of ants, bees and similarly social insects than their closer mammalian kin. Mendez studies them with glee and reverence, marveling over their oddities, eager to understand what makes them tick. Robot scientist Rodney Brooks, meanwhile, designs machines that somehow, miraculously, scuttle about like insects, moving here, there and everywhere according to their own "volition," without specific directions from any human that is.

Review Hear a movie described as a documentary and you’re likely to imagine something serious, informative, objective, factual – something a little cold when it comes to emotion, a lot dry when it comes to personality, perhaps. Errol Morris’ Fast, Cheap & Out of Control may be 100% based on fact, but it’s also deeply personal, undeniably expressive, highly stylized and thoroughly subjective – a documentary that’s as much about the filmmaker’s own quirky world view and distinctly unique voice as it is about the four people whose lives comprise the subject of the film. You don’t necessarily come away from this movie feeling like you really know these four individuals, or understand their work; instead, Morris’s film has a more philosophical than an educational bent to it. In taking a peek into the lives of these four men— connected only by the fact that each has devoted his life to pursuing/examining the relationship between human and non-human animals— and choosing to intercut straight-on talking head interviews with beautiful old black-and-white film footage and gorgeously-filmed color sequences of his subjects in action, Morris’s film is a gloriously complex cinematic poem that raises more questions than it answers. Why does man feel the need to control nature? Are humans much different than other animals? What makes an animal happy? (What makes a human animal happy?) And what does the future hold for mankind? Morris’ magical film is so much more than just a string of interviews with four weird guys – it’s a meditation on humanity. In the end, its subjects aren’t so much the mole-rat guy, the topiary guy, the robot guy, and the lion-tamer guy, but you and I— and what our place is in the universe. —reviewed by Y. Sun

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