Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Netflix Documentaries: Hits and Misses

Lately I have been on a bit of a documentary kick. [Tangent: With Netflix, it's hard not to...Once you watch one, they suggest 15 more, and suddenly everything looks incredibly riveting. If you're watching a documentary about a Holocaust survivor suddenly you've spent your afternoon binging on every super depressing doc in the suggestions queue. It is not just a slippery slope...it's a mountain coated in KY Jelly.] Trust me that I am saying this with not the smallest shred of "look how smart I am" braggery, because trust me- a lot of the ones I watch are fairly non-nourishing brain-wise. [Tangent: Lest we forget the times I blogged about watching that documentary about Showbiz Pizza fanatics or that time I voluntarily watching Never Say Never: The Justin Bieber Story.] Here are some of the ones that I have gotten into lately. Some I highly recommend, but others are kind of a garbage fire.

 The Women Who Wasn't There- A
This one is about a 9/11 widow who (spoiler alert if you can't read titles) wasn't really involved in 9/11 whatsoever. I didn't expect to like this one much, but through this weird animation reenactments they did, I found it oddly compelling. It was very well done and you went from thinking she was 100% utterly and completely bat shit into feeling slightly bad for her. The film played out like a really long episode of Dateline...which I loved...because well, I love Dateline! [Tangent: I hate a shoddily produced documentary that comes off like it was produced for public access, but this definitely has some production value. When Meredith Viera is producer, quality you shall get...I guess...]

The Greatest Story Ever Rolled- A
Inside my heart, I have a very soft spot for Doug Benson, so this may be a completely partial review and I whole-heartedly admit that, but I think he is one of the most naturally funny comedians out there. On the surface, you think it is gonna be all stoner humor, but more than that it's just a story of life on the road for a comedian and how he connects with his fans.

Magic Camp- A+
This is one that I have been suggesting to everyone I come in contact with who even uses the word "movie."  True, I am completely inclined to love any movie with awkward children , but this one is a doozie folks. [Tangent: This may rival Camp  and Jesus Camp as my favorite movie about awkward children at camp. Yeah...that should be a Netflix queue!]  Something happens within the first 3 minutes of this movie that will grab you! [Tangent: In fact, my boyfriend made me rewind it so he could see it again! He was hooked.] The cast includes a renegade chubby 17-year-old who does slight of hand, a very sheltered self-labelled "Christian magician" and a hotsy totsy girl magician who likes to do risque material...that isn't really very risque.  If you aren't intrigued, what is wrong with you?

Beautiful Darling- B
This movie was about infamous transexual Candy Darling, who was part of Andy Warhol's crew and more importantly was one of the subjects in Lou Reed's Walk on The Wild Side. There was a lot of interesting things about this movie, but my favorite was reconnecting with all the people that were deep into the Andy Warhol scene and seeing what they were like now. To me it was funny to see how normal some of them look now and imagining them doing normal not avant-garde stuff like shopping at Costco.

Nightmare Factory- B-
As someone who loyally watches every season of Syfy's Face-Off, I had to watch this documentary of Hollywood visual effects masterminds in the 80's heyday of gore.  The fellas profiled were responsible for many great horror moments of that era including most Sam Raimi works, like Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. I did find it humorous that all these guys kept talking about what rock stars they were and how that is the kind of posse they roll with.   It was not the greatest, but stellar background TV, especially if 80's horror is your bread and butter and you don't squirm in the presence of vats of red corn syrup.

Doc of the Dead- C
This one is pretty much same as above, because it will only really grab you if you are into zombies. The film covered all the bases of the undead; they talked with everyone from Max Brooks, who wrote World War Z, to the OG of zombie- George Romero.  Because I am not super into the zombie phenomenon, I wasn't over the moon for this documentary, but enjoyed it on a film history level. I think my boyfriend enjoyed it way more.

65 Red Roses- A
I don't think a documentary has made me cry and feel feelings this much since I saw Dear Zachary. The story profiles a sassy brassy lass with cystic fibrosis who is on the wait list for a lung transplant. Through blogs and internet videos, she connected with other CF patients, who she was unable to meet in person due to immunity issues. I don't wait to give anything away, but by the end you will feel like you immediately need to be an organ donor.

The Source Family- B+
After watching this, I am halfway convinced that  everyone in their 20s in the late 60s/early 70s was in a cult, whether they knew it or not. In fact, my mom lived in the San Francisco area during that era, so she was heavily questioned once this movie finished. This particular cult, who deemed themselves the Aquarians,  was started by a charismatic man deemed Father Yod out of a little vegetarian/healthy eating restaurant called The Source Restaurant...seems totally legit, right? Of course like any good cult of the day, they had a psychadelic rock band and adopted names like "Isis" or "Electricity".

E-mail Order Bride- C-
I watched this because it was an hour long, and I needed to kill some time. I enjoyed the overall concept of this documentary, but was sincerely disappointed that I didn't love it more. Apparently, I'd been spoiled in the genre of "People looking for love in weird places" by When Strangers Click.

Tiny: The Story of Living Small- B-/C
For some time, people have been raving about this movie. The plot revolves around the Tiny House movement and how so many today are looking towards living more modestly for both practical and economic reasons. Again, although I find the subject matter extremely interesting, I wished that I had liked it more. Sometimes I feel documentaries are too high on themselves...and this I believed was one of them. I'm sure I am in the minority there. Feel free to disagree in the comments and tell me why I am an idiot.

Dark Girls-A
In college, I took a class in Race and Gender in the media, so I was immediately on board for this. It's interesting to learn about the shame and body issues caused that is often a part of the life of dark skinned girls, and how this insecurity manifests itself into anger and stereotypes. I ended up watching it with my mom, and it sparked a lot of conversation.

Forgiving Dr. Mengele- C-
I know it seems wrong to give a low rating to a movie about a Holocaust victim and her journey to forgive the sinister physician who experimented on twins in Auschwitz, but it definitely left me with lots of questions. The story was such a good one and the woman Eva Kor was amazing. Immediately, I wanted her as my grandma. The only downside is I felt it needed more about the history of what happened to her family there and felt that portion of the movie could have been a bit longer and her struggle to forgive could have been a little shorter. Her story definitely deserved to be told, I just wanted more.

Life 2.0- A
Maybe I liked this so much because the whole concept of second life is such a foreign one to me. Prior to this, I had heard of it, but this doc gave me a crystal clear understanding of how this online world gives people an opportunity to let their true selves shine. People are finding love and making a living on this site! My favorite subject rolls out of bed and eats, sleeps, breathes and smokes the virtual community.

Crazy Love- A+
The title of this movie perfectly summarizes what it is about. The film recounts the story of a couple who met in the 1950s and their relationship survived attempts to jealousy, adultery and an attempt to disfigure the other.....yes, you heard that right. You seriously couldn't make up this storyline. So So good.  [Tangent: I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to watch this considering this doc has been in my Netflix "to watch" list since I first started using the service. I'm 100% certain I wanted to get it in the mail in the olden days (circa 2006).]

Mortified Nation- A
If you are a fan of waxing nostalgic on your adolescence and you haven't already read the Mortified series of books , drop everything and read them now; I couldn't more highly recommend them. This documentary is by the creators of that series and follows the greatest open mic night ever, one where adults read to a crowd of strangers their old diary entries, poems...really anything that would humiliate you. My favorite was a very unassuming 30-year-old who fancied himself a budding rock star and would compose epic arena rock anthems in his five-star notebook despite having zero musical background....oh and the guy that had a rap alter ego! I was immediately jealous that they didn't host these events in my town, because I would be there in a heartbeat!

I am constantly looking for suggestions on which new ones I should watch, so let me have it...which ones are not to miss?


  1. Thanks for all of the recommendations. I feel like I've watched everything on Netflix and yet I haven't seen any of these. I've heard great things about CRAZY LOVE and FORGIVING DR. MENGELE; I can totally understand your feeling on that one (a friend recommended THE LADY IN NUMBER 6). I loved her story and her path to forgiveness but I wanted more of the history! I watched MORTIFIED NATION between my fingers...some of it was so mortifying I had to cover my eyes. I also finally watched I AM DIVINE - well done but not quite as outrageous as I thought it might be! I'm glad to have a new viewing schedule! Thanks!!!

  2. I followed Eva's blog and I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the doc yet. I'm glad it's on netflix!

  3. I wasn't familiar with her story so it was all new. I intended to put it on as background noise when I was going to sleep, but it pulled me in. Very well done in showcasing eva as a fully formed person. It was realistic without being too bleak. I recommend highly. I cried.


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