Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Vol 2.

Last month, I spewed out my thoughts and feelings on what I had been watching on Netflix documentary-wise, so I decided to make it a monthly feature! [Tangent:  You can read the last one here.] Many people said it turned them on to some new titles, or that my blog was the tipping point that made them watch something that was collecting dust in their queue. [Tangent: Don't ever tell me you love something, because it will give me false confidence and I will keep cranking out more of an originally good concept till it is no longer good. This quickly could devolve into the Saw of blog features, but I am hoping it won't.]  I know I thrive on the power of suggestion, so here are some good ones (and some truly awful ones) that I have watched in September. [Tangent: With the constant shifting of titles that happens on the service, I was worried that some of these had gotten removed in the September 15th title purge, but rest assured, all are still available for your weekend binging.]


When I Walk - A
This documentary I had been wanting to watch for a while since a mutual friend connected me to the filmmaker (He's also behind the app and website AXS Maps). He's my facebook friend! Even so, I would tell you if the movie was horrid, thankfully it was anything but.  It follows a young man named Jason through his diagnosis and struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. [Tangent: Sometimes memoir style docs can be a little self-involved and boring, but since Jason was a practicing filmmaker prior to this life changing news, it was VERY well done.] Every pivotal moment of his journey was captured...his first fall that triggered him to know something was wrong, his first date with his future wife, and so many more tragic and wonderful insights. It was honest and lovely and this coming from someone usually very critical of how disabled people present themselves to the media. (Go figure). Go watch it.

Ping Pong- A
I love a movie about spry sassy old people and I love an inspirational sports film, and this movie had both. It follows the people competing in the world senior ping pong championships! I watched this with Jamie several weeks ago and we were giggling with delight for the entirety of the viewing! The ages of the competitors went into the 90s and they were all such characters. Spoiler alert: The American delegate is kind of a hard ass (albeit a hard ass with a splendid bouffant), so unlike World War II, you will probably be rooting for the Germans (because those ladies were the cutest!).
 
Pageant- A-
Before viewing this, I could already tell I would enjoy it. If Rupaul's Drag Race is on your DVR, you probably will too [Tangent: Considering the first contestant every kicked off, Victoria "Porkchop" Parker, is in this movie!]. I guess you can already presume, the doc is about the drag pageant, Miss Gay America 2008. Even though this kind of thing is my kind of thing, I think it would be enjoyable to most anyone. The backstory of these men is really compelling, and I live to see a gent topless in full contour makeup and a wig cap!  

Make Believe- A-
If you read my last roundup, you are fully aware of my obsession with Magic Camp. If you haven't yet watched that- make it a double feature with this little gem [Tangent: Unfortunately this one doesn't contain any weird thimble-based magic, but there is tons of talent, and a hotsy-totsy little female magician who everyone keeps uncomfortably telling to exploit her teen hotness.]. Not unlike Pageant or Ping Pong, it is a movie about a bunch of people from different backgrounds coming together to compete in a competition that is HUGE in their world, but you have never heard of.  This time it is the Teen World Championships of Magic. Not sold yet? What if I told you Ed Alonso (Max from Saved By the Bell) makes some cameos and it has an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes?

Girl Model- C+
As a gal who watched way too many seasons of America's Next Top Model and who loves a riveting expose, I thought I would LOVE this, and I did like it, but not as much as I had hoped.  The movie follows an American who works in Eastern Europe recruiting models to go to Japan. Are you following that? Basically the gist is that in Japan, they consider the ideal portrait of beauty to be white and VERY young...like they seek models who are 14. It was equal parts about the recruiter and about the young girl, who at a very young age was removed from her poor tiny village and thrust into the overwhelming Tokyo. I wish it had been more about the latter and that all the recruiting footage had been cut down because the model's story was really interesting and eye-opening. The recruiter lady I didn't care as much about. Sorry...but not really.

In a Town This Size: A Documentary About Child Sexual Abuse - D-
Sometimes I can't sleep at night, so I put on things to watch on my Netflix App, prop up my phone and hope to bridge the insomnia. This was one of these movies [Tangent: No clue why I chose to watch a movie about child molestation while I was drifting off to dreamland time. I'm not the most sound decision maker. ] Anyway, the doc had a very gripping premise- a doctor in a small town had been victimizing children for decades and it didn't come out till years later. In the right hands, I think this movie could have been great, but it was really clumsy. It was all interviews and it was so strange because the camera kept panning over to the filmmaker, who was conducting the interviews, to show him just reacting and nodding. [Tangent: It reminded me of on SNL, when Bill Hader used to play the guy from Dateline Mystery. This is all I could picture. ] To be honest, I turned it off with 20 minutes to spare because I found it so distracting.

Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World- B+
To be 100% truthful, I set out to hate watch this movie. In the Ed Hardy world, I was a little naive. I knew he was a tattoo artist, but little else. I'm so glad I took the time to watch this, because I have now so much respect for Ed Hardy [Tangent: Yes, you read that correctly!] more for bringing tattooing into the mainstream, and less for the bastardization of said art on trucker hats and bedazzled tanks. His background explained his time in art school [Tangent: He has a huge portfolio of art that in now way includes a Tiger and/or flames.] and and in other countries honing his craft. I really enjoyed it, but probably due to the fact that I didn't expect to at all.

So Much, So Fast- A
Not unlike When I Walk , this film takes a very honest and direct look at a man and his loss of abilities after a life-altering diagnosis. Only instead of MS, this one deals with ALS. It seems timely, with all the attention to the disease after the viral ice bucket-ization of our social networks. In the last month, I have recommended this movie to several people who knew nothing about ALS, other than video challenges and diseased Yankees. [Tangent: I have seriously had the "what do you think of the ice bucket challenge?" conversation more times than I can count on two hands in the last month. Much of my opinions were based on things I learned from this movie.] When I was younger, our neighbor down the street and family friend, who was in his 30s at the time, had the disease and I watched him rapidly decline. It was very sad to see, but it made me never forget how terrible and indiscriminate illness can be, something I would see over and over in my life . When I watched this movie, also following a man in his prime, I was reminded of all that, and I learned a lot about why ALS has been ignored in the past for research. It is not a happy movie, but an important one.

20 Feet From Stardom- A
[Tangent: I actually watched this one a while ago, but forgot to include it in the last post.] This movie won for the best documentary Oscar last year, so my expectations were high, and met. It mostly profiled Darlene Love, who I only knew as the lady who sings Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) as tradition every holiday season on David Letterman. [Tangent: See it here.]. Whenever she would pop up every year, I remember in my naivete saying, "Darlene who?" not knowing what a legend she was in her own right, not only performing backup vocals on TONS of classic songs, but she also ghost recorded with Phil Spector for a lot of other performers in the 60s. This movie will likely make you truly appreciate what a thankless job being a backup singer is.

Bright Leaves- C-
This movie, truthfully, would probably be completely non interesting to most individuals, and to be honest, it was my visual Ambien for about a week. [Tangent: Like In A Town This Size, I only really put it on to watch late at night and each time, it put me to sleep.] The subject matter was one I was interested in because it was about the tobacco industry in North Carolina, its history and its past. Since, my dad's side of the family were farmers in that state, and I grew up visiting, it was one I wanted to see. The narrator found out through family lore, that a movie called Bright Leaf, released in 1950 and starring Carey Grant, was based on his Great Grandfather, a tobacco farmer who had his fortunes lost when Duke came in and took over the industry. It also reinforced what I already know about the smoking rates in that region, due in part to history and their dependence on it economically. Despite the man's calmly lilting and sleep-inducing Carolina accent, I did find it valid and interesting as a premise and had some takeaways. I think it could have been shorter, and I wish it hadn't tried to veer in so many directions. It was almost two movies Frankensteined together.

The Truth About Web Cam Girls- B
We decided to watch this one because it was short and looked moderately interesting. Beware it has lots of boobies and moaning, but that is pretty much what you bargain for when you cue up something with the phrase "Web cam Girls" in the title. You can basically guess the premise, it was a profile of 3 woman who make their living, an astoundingly good living at that, being live cam models in England.[Tangent: If models is what you call them...I am really not sure.] I love a "dodgy" British accent and seeing dimensions of people who are easily pigeon-holed as one dimensional. It was also really funny to me, mostly inadvertently, because this is a world I knew very little about.

Gotta Dance- A+
Truly, I saved the best for last! This is gonna be my Magic Camp for September [Tangent: How many times can I mention that movie in this post?], the documentary that I truly can not recommend enough. I feel the premise is enough to make you put it on immediately; the movie is about a rag tag senior hip hop team. If you are still logged on after reading that, and haven't immediately put it on your device, let me entice you further. This movie truly has everything: a true underdog component, unlikely friendship, a former beauty queen, a clothes try-on montage,  an adorable 80 year-old Asian woman named Fanny and DID I MENTION SENIOR HIP HOP DANCERS!??! Seriously, I recommend watching this and Ping Pong back- to- back to give you warm fuzzies to last you till December. Also, if Betsy and her alter ego Betty don't win you over, you have no soul and I don't want you following my blog anymore.


Happy viewing, ya'll! Is there anything I am leaving off that I should absolutely add to my queue now?  I am currently accepting suggestions for October.

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