There are times when certain movies get described as controversial. Those claims often feel more like cheap ploys created solely to elicit interest. Conversely, I think strong arguments can be made about the genuine controversies caused by these interesting films.
Cruising (1980) is directed by William Friedkin, and stars Al Pacino. Inspired by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker’s book of the same name, some non-fictional murder cases and the gay leather scene in New York City, Friedkin concocted Cruising. The timing was unfortunate, because of the emerging AIDS epidemic. With all of the misunderstandings and misinformation, many thought the movie only amplified negative stereotypes.
White Dog (1982) is directed by Samuel Fuller, and stars Kristy McNichol. The story is based on those who train dogs to attack specific races of people. Fuller highlighted the sickness of racism in many of his movies, even as early as the 1950s. Given the project of White Dog after the production had already begun, the director was disappointed that the dogs were literally white in color.
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987) is a short film directed by Todd Haynes. It is an unauthorized portrayal of Karen Carpenter’s adult life and her ongoing battle with anorexia. Haynes told the story utilizing Barbie dolls, and incorporated the Carpenters’ music, ultimately without permission. It proved to be very unsettling for her survivors, and can only be found in the aether for those who seek it.
How’s Your News? (1999) is a documentary directed by Arthur Bradford. The filmmakers facilitate a traveling news crew made up of mentally and physically challenged reporters. Their street approach is infectious, but multitudes are concerned with the issues of exploitation.