Best of 2011, number 5: Tabloid | Bleader

Best of 2011, number 5: Tabloid

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For media junkies, there's no more essential filmmaker working today than Errol Morris—his Abu Ghraib documentary Standard Operating Procedure looked past the immediate horror of the international scandal to ponder the way images become news, politics, and ultimately history; and his photography criticism for the New York Times urges readers to think about how the camera can be as subjective as the written word. In the same vein, Tabloid revisits the head-turning story of Joyce McKinney, an American beauty queen who was arrested in England in September 1977 and alleged to have kidnapped her Mormon boyfriend. McKinney, who granted Morris a six-hour interview, gives her version of the story, but it's intercut with the reminiscences of two British tabloid veterans who once covered her and have a much different take on what happened.

Tabloid is hardly the last word on the story: in fact McKinney has disputed its portrayal of her and recently filed suit against Morris, saying she was tricked into participating in the film. For a perceptive and well-argued indictment of the movie, check out Katherine Zwick's comment on my original review, which ran in July. Zwick certainly makes me reconsider how much Morris might have distorted what actually happened, but I don't think that really discredits Tabloid as a documentary or a work of art. All it means is that, like everyone else involved in the movie, Morris is both empowered and limited by his own vantage point.

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