doc talk

Her name? Hillary. His name? Donald.

Reuters / Caters News

Have there ever been two candidates for president as different as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Perhaps not, but as is suggested in Michael Kirk’s “Frontline” documentary “The Choice 2016,” perhaps they are not so different after all.

Both had domineering, distant fathers.

Both have been politically motivated to run for office in part by a need for vengeance or vindication. Hillary to recover from the humiliation of watching her husband, Bill Clinton, lose his first attempt at a second term as governor of Arkansas, for which she felt responsible; Donald as revenge for the roasting he got from President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2011, which many feel he deserved.


Both have sought to win at all costs. Both have had marital difficulties. Both, uh, have had offices in New York City.

OK, the differences are more dramatic. For example, Hillary’s greatest influence growing up was Martin Luther King Jr.. Donald’s were Hugh Hefner, Norman Vincent Peale, and former Joseph McCarthy aide Roy Cohn (Peale officiated at Trump’s 1977 wedding to Ivana, and Cohn wrote their prenuptial agreement).

Hillary has reluctantly changed her style and persona over the years to abide by gender conventions in order to further her agenda. Donald says he hasn’t changed since he was a 7-year-old “handful” who was so obstreperous that he was later sent to New York Military Academy, where he “thrived.”

In 1968 Hillary was in the streets of Chicago bandaging the heads of injured demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention. In 1973 Donald and his father battled the Justice Department over a suit alleging that their New York real estate company discriminated against African-Americans. (The Trumps settled, but Donald says they won.)

Hillary developed the habit of secretiveness back when she worked as a counsel on the House Judiciary Committee legal team investigating Watergate in 1973 and 1974, and Donald had learned the art of “truthful hyperbole” well before he somehow managed to have Trump Tower officially listed as having 68 stories when in reality it has 58.


By means of this compare-and-contrast method, the film follows its subjects’ lives in parallel narratives that are engrossing, illuminating, and probably as even-handed as any you might find. In addition to archival footage from various sources, the filmmakers interview friends and associates of both candidates, allowing each side, in theory, equal time. No doubt partisan viewers will claim bias of one kind or another, but the documentary serves as useful background for those intending to watch the two debate for the second time, on Sunday night.

“The Choice 2016” broadcasts on Sunday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 9 p.m. on PBS and will stream in full, for free, online at pbs.org/frontline. It is a rebroadcast of the program that originally aired on Sept. 27.


Might-have-been mayor

With the exception of certain current campaigns, the best textbook case of how not to run for a major political office is outlined in Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary, “Weiner.” US Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was a liberal lion, a champion of the powerless, and a bane to the greedy and powerful. Then something . . . came up.

After resigning from Congress in disgrace, he tried to redeem himself in 2013 by running for mayor of New York. Kriegman and Steinberg capture the whole sorry and instructive mess in intimate detail.


“Weiner” screens for free on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St. A discussion with Emerson College professor Miranda Banks follows.


Tough questions

Curtis Chin’s documentary “Tested” examines the issue of equal opportunity in education by following a group of diverse 8th graders as they prepare to take an exam for admittance to one of the three top high schools in New York City. Only 1 in 6 who take the test passes, and in a city where blacks and Hispanics make up 70 percent of the city’s school-aged population, fewer than 5 percent get in, as compared with as many as 73 percent of Asian-Americans.

Like “Spellbound” (2002), in which kids compete in a spelling bee, “Tested” tells a suspenseful, human-interest story with a message. But in this film the stakes are higher — someone’s future might depend on a right or wrong answer.

“Tested” screens on Oct 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Road, Belmont. The director and Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for the Boston Public Schools, will speak after the screening.


Going downhill

For ski buffs, it’s never too soon to think about hitting the slopes. Until the first flakes fall, there’s the Boston premiere of Ben Sturgulewski’s “Ruin and Rose.”

Not just an extreme-sports movie, it’s a documentary-fictional feature hybrid that relates a dystopian tale about a boy in a future snow-less, barren world who has a vision of icy peaks and is determined to find them. A kind of “Mad Max” with skis, it matches the spectacular feats of athletes with majestic and eerie apocalyptic imagery from the deserts of Namibia and the frozen landscapes of Alaska, Switzerland, and British Columbia.


“Ruin and Rose” screens Thursday at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge.


Beyond the menu

Wallpaper is not the first thing a guest notices when dining at a restaurant. But as Michael Sparaga’s documentary “The Missing Ingredient: What is the Recipe for Success?” demonstrates, décor can be a valuable asset — and a source of outrage.

Manhattan has some 24,000 restaurants, and it takes something special to stand out. Charles Devigne’s Pescatore didn’t have that something special. But a few blocks away, Gino’s did — a rather garish red wallpaper illustrated with rows of prancing golden zebras. So Devigne put up a subtler variation of Gino’s trademark wallpaper and hoped for the best.

As with many documentaries (and features) about restaurants, “The Missing Ingredient” goes beyond just the items on the menu to broader issues of taste, competition, tradition, and desperation.

“The Missing Ingredient” will be released on DVD and VOD on Oct. 10 by Virgil Films Entertainment.