51 Birch Street Reviews

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Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2007
[font=Century Gothic]With "51 Birch Street," filmmaker Doug Block has made a documentary about his parents, Mike and Mina, who were married for more than fifty years. After Mina's death, Doug tries to form a connection to his emotionally distant father. Three months later, to the shock of Doug and his sisters, Mike marries his former secretary and announces plans to sell the family home in Port Washington, Long Island, intending to move to Florida.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"51 Birch Street" is an extremely personal film that I think wants to have something profound to say about marriage but does not escape the pull of the central story.(Doug also talks about his own marriage but that is about it.) I would not want to know the details of my parents' marriage, much less somebody else's, even if it did make them sound more interesting. In the end, I understand even less why somebody would ever want to get married. [/font]
Super Reviewer
May 4, 2008
Interesting because it's so personal. The director obviously wanted to make a documentary about his family but found out more than he was ready for.
½ October 25, 2007
Man, I really hate falling behind on movie reviews. I actually feel pretty bad right now because I have to be at work in an hour and I know I don't have the time to review all these movies the way they should be reviewed, but here it goes.

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie Honestly, it really intrigued me. My father died when I was twelve and part of me has always been slightly concerned about tarnishing that perfect image of my father in my head. I somewhat assumed that Block had the same feelings. In a way, he did and he didn't. I can't blame the movie for not being my life. That's obviously impossible, but Block led a wonderful life a long time adult relationship with his mother. (Not like that, skeez!) So when his mother died, he investigated and discovered that his mother was a real woman with real issues. However, this concept comes and goes throughout the documentary.

Here's my thought process. The beginning of the film discusses how close Block is with his mother and how distant he is with his father. Somehow, these feelings are morphed and ignored and it is later revealed that no one was close to mother and that dad is a really relatible guy. But really, these are just statements that are made by both Doug Block and the rest of the family. It seems simply like a moody piece and that emotions are dictated by the moods the individuals are in.

Yes, it's interesting to read that that people put on two faces, but the people documented are already very honest with the camera. There is very little prying going on and no one really walks on broken glass. Perhaps we can thank Block for choosing the most honest aspects of his footage, but there really was no need for research because everyone is always saying how they really feel outright.
May 26, 2011
just finished this incredible film. riveting.
½ December 1, 2010
I feel that the underlying concept of this documentary is very dated, in addition to being banal, and underwhelming. And maybe it's a sad commentary on American society and the state of modern marriage that I am able to say this. So much of American literature and film in recent history has already been devoted to expl...oring divorce, infidelity, and incompatible marriages where the partners are afraid to leave. It just seems like a simple enough concept that an entire documentary did not need to be devoted to it.

And beyond the concept of the movie and its argument (some of my favorite documentaries I have disagreed with every word of) I felt that there was not much redeemable of the movie. It explored a mundane, unimportant, and inconsequential family who in my opinion had mundane problems. The documentary didn't even provide many facts, or appear to have done much legwork or research on the issues presented. I wasn't even impressed with the cinematography and production values. It was a generic single camera documentary, consisting mostly of interviews, and devoid of engaging visual effects and music that bring a film to life. The only interesting advanced techniques could be found when they were actually reading the diaries, which I appreciated. Overall, I found it to be little different than a reality show, only replacing people over 100 years old with orange skinned people from New Jersey.

I want to qualify my review by saying that I may have to be a baby boomer to fully appreciate it, and that maybe that's why it was loved by all of the older critics. I can understand that, so I inflated the rating that I would have given to reflect this fact. And the fact that our generation is desensitized to these issues is even more disturbing. Sadly, I feel that the film's conclusion and message will only further gratify and add fuel to the fire of those who find see marriage as something of convenience, and something that can and should be easily entered into and terminated at will.
½ June 7, 2009
Doug Block uncovers some family secrets that anyone would find juicy, and to him they are unfathomable. We watch as he tries to come to terms. There's also a memorable but subtle feminist / political angle in this film, about a woman in the 50s-60s struggling with her role in the family and society. Very cool.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2007
[font=Century Gothic]With "51 Birch Street," filmmaker Doug Block has made a documentary about his parents, Mike and Mina, who were married for more than fifty years. After Mina's death, Doug tries to form a connection to his emotionally distant father. Three months later, to the shock of Doug and his sisters, Mike marries his former secretary and announces plans to sell the family home in Port Washington, Long Island, intending to move to Florida.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"51 Birch Street" is an extremely personal film that I think wants to have something profound to say about marriage but does not escape the pull of the central story.(Doug also talks about his own marriage but that is about it.) I would not want to know the details of my parents' marriage, much less somebody else's, even if it did make them sound more interesting. In the end, I understand even less why somebody would ever want to get married. [/font]
½ January 28, 2007
Documentary filmmaker and part-time wedding photographer Doug Block set out to make a sweet little family reminiscence. However, in the wake of his mother?s sudden death and his father?s nearly-as-sudden remarriage, he found himself dragged, often less than willingly, into the complex and vacillating hearts of his parents: the two people on earth most of us least want to know about.

Block?s film, named for the address of the suburban home in which he grew up, unfolds in roughly chronological order. One moment his mother, vivid and forthright, is demanding a flattering camera angle, and his father is glancing sidelong away from the lens and evading any question having to do with the past or with emotions. Then, in a matter of a couple of months, Minna Block is dead ? swept away by pneumonia ? and Mike Block has gone to Florida, reconnected with his former secretary Kitty, married her, and put the family house up for sale.

Doug?s attempt to make some sense of this sudden and shocking reversal becomes an odyssey which constitutes the heart of 51 Birch Street. As Doug, his wife, his sisters, and his mother?s longtime best friend gather along with Mike and Kitty to disperse the contents of the family home, the obvious question looms: were Mike and Kitty lovers during the parents? marriage? Doug, unable to let the issue go and unwilling to interrogate himself about why the answer is so important to him, begins to investigate ? a journey which leads him down completely different paths than those he expected, and which profoundly changes his understanding of his remaining parent and his beliefs about love and marriage.

While 51 Birch Street is cinematically rough-hewn and unsophisticated, drawn primarily from unexceptional video footage and family photos, it gets under your skin. At one level it?s the most commonplace of stories, nothing that hasn?t happened in untold millions of American families. But Doug Block?s willingness to be uncertain, to question his own motives and beliefs and to keep these processes transparent for the camera, turn this unexceptional tale into a much deeper look at the changing realities of parents, children, families and the nature of love. -- Janet W. Hardy
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