I know…I know…I have not exactly been consistent in my documentary reviews as of late. [Tangent: Gasp! It may have been a couple months.] I’ve been swamped with some fun and then some decidedly not so fun stuff…but I can’t completely blame that; my intake of media has not been null.In the last few months, I have been undertaking a mass horror movie marathon as well as trying to finish up my self-imposed resolution to read 35 books this year. So in those fringe hours, early morning and late late night, which is usually earmarked for solo doc watching- I have instead devoted to those pursuits. I am my own worst enemy.
Amanda Knox- B
This one was one that I have been hearing about since it "dropped” on Netflix. [Tangent: Can I pull off that use of the word “dropped”…did I even do it right?] I was familiar with the story because I watch a lot of 20/20, but I had forgotten a great deal about it- so I was somewhat interested getting retold the story, and hearing it from Amanda’s own mouth. The doc is told basically from Amanda’s perspective…and she came off just as one might assume…kind of disconnected and cold but somehow sympathetic. I still can’t decide if I think she did it, but I think it was an interesting watch. If you dug Making The Murderer with the fervency I did (or true crime in general)-then you’ll be into it.
Jesus Camp- A+
Just in time for Christmas, Netflix has re-added one of my all-time favorites to streaming- JESUS CAMP! Back when I got dvds in the mail through the service- this is one I watched over and over. If you asked me to recommend 10 docs,this would probably be in my top 5! Being from the South and not really being super religious, [Tangent: I'm a unicorn. I was raised Catholic…which is an altogether different animal so makes it hard for me to relate to a lot of things…like the goings on in this movie.] I find extremes in religion both foreign and familiar. The plot of this movie is pretty easy to glean from the title, it’s about a group of children attending a summer church camp…and it follows their attempts to recruit Christ followers in any way they can…even at bowling alleys. As you know if you have read any of doc blogs, then you know that I love a film about children deeply immersed in a niche group. If you like this one, then watch Magic Camp and Bible Quiz. By the end you will have a favorite kid…mine was clearly Levi with the rat tail. [Tangent: And feel free to checkout this article after you watch about what all the kids are doing 10 years later and the impact the movie had on their lives.]
Children of God- B+
Another big doc draw for me is if it is about a cult. [Tangent:You know how much I gushed about Holy Hell in one of my last posts! I guess it goes in line with being deeply intrigued by anyone that follows a belief super strictly.] All I knew about children of God prior is that the Phoenix family (as in Joaquin and River and crew) were members as children. This 1994 film, which is only an hour in length, is a very informative…in fact it has a more journalistic PBS vibe than a movie vibe, but I was on board. It is jam packed with weird music video bits produced by the cult that are equal parts terrifying and catchy. Also, a cult leader nicknamed “Daddy” who communicates through weird comic books??!? This cult, like a lot of others, made me sure that the 60’s and 70s were basically just like Hair and The Who’s Tommy. [Tangent: I also regularly ask my mother “Are you sure you weren’t in a cult?” because she had long blonde hair, wore flowy dresses and spent the 60s in Honolulu and San Francisco. Seems like the perfect storm.] At this point, you can’t change my mind to the contrary.
Queen Mimi- A
Yet another trope that draws me like a fly to cow pies is delightful and somewhat surly old people. There is honestly nothing I would rather spend 90 minutes on, and Queen Mimi is definitely one of my favorite eclectic old folks movies. Mimi is a woman in her 80s that lives and works in an LA laundry matand has over the years built a bit of a fan club. Included in her gaggle of loyal admirers are Renee Zellwegger and Zach Galifinakis, who invites her to premieres and considers her almost family. As the movie unfolds,the viewer (as well as the filmmaker) uncover some secrets about Mimi that no one, including her close friends know. It has quickly joined the ranks of Gray Gardens, Burt’s Buzz, Iris and Magical Universe as “Favorite Docs about kooky old people.”
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life- A
I didn’t expect to love this one so much, but soon I was pulled into it and even tearing up, after blindly choosing it to watch one day.The subject, Floyd, is a long time Disney employee who has worked on everything from Sleeping Beauty to some of the Pixar films. [Tangent: Stylistically, Sleeping Beauty is one of my all time faves. That color palette!!] It makes me so mad I had never heard of him before because he has literally had his hands on so many things animated in popular culture in the last 50 years. He was so passionate about his life’s work that it can’t help but make you feel like you’re not doing life right unless you’re obsessed. [Tangent: That’s a very highjacked and very mutilated John Waters quote.] I’ll try not to give too much away, but just prepare to fall headlong in love with this dude. He’s the best.
Vintage Tomorrows- C-
This is one I watched months ago, so I am having a hard time recalling much about it. That doesn’t speak of my crap memory but more that this one just wasn’t that memorable. It follows, through profiles and interviews, steam punk enthusiasts. As stated before I love watching any doc that uncovers some niche group of people that follow an unconventional interest or lifestyle. I guess it would be better if you were totally ignorant of what steam punk was, but for me it just could have been a lot better; I felt I spent most of the 90 minutes scrolling through FB. I did find it interesting to learn about the “maker” aspect and the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into it.
Ok. See, I'm back. There will be more coming soon. What should I watch next?