Monday, December 22, 2014

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Vol 5 (December 2014 Edition)

December has been busy and I have spent way too much time actually being out among people, online shopping and fighting hellacious holiday traffic, so I haven't knocked out that many documentaries this month. [Tangent: To be quite honest, lately my insomniac habit of watching Netflix docs at 1 AM has been replaced with watching episodes of Parks and Recreation that I have seen a million times, but love ever time. For example, I have watched that damned Unity Concert ep about 10x, and I laugh and cry upon each viewing. Lil Sebastian gets me every damn time!] However, the ones I have taken in were mostly doozies! You are in for a rollercoaster of crazy, awesome and sad.

Tent City, USA- A
OK, my rating of this movie is likely completely partial, so I cannot promise that people living outside of the Nashville area will find it as riveting.  This movie, recommended by my sister, is about a group of Nashvillians who are homeless due to a variety of circumstances and who made a makeshift tent village near the Cumberland River in 2010. This doc follows them for about a year after the 2010 May flood and how their lives changed due to relocation. I loved the comraderie of the folks in Tent City, and how they established their own little government, complete with rules and practices. The greatest part is the couple featured in the film sell Contributor papers in Jamie's neighborhood, so now I feel inclined to fangirl like a tween at a 1 Direction show next time I see them! [Tangent: I mean I watched their trials and tribulations for an hour and a half, so we are practically best friends by my understanding.]

The Brandon Teena Story- B
If you have seen Boys Don't Cry or at least know what it is about, then you know the titular name. Brandon Teena was born a woman (Teena Brandon) yet lived her life as a male. I was somewhat taken aback by how many ladies Brandon attracted, who were pretty understanding of her sexual identity, especially in a small town 20 years ago. Unfortunately, when he attempted to start anew with this lifestyle in the most redneck of towns, he met terrible hate as a result and ultimately lost his life. [Tangent: It was a big news story and a major Oscar winning movie, so I don't think it's really a spoiler.] I seriously cannot imagine hating someone that much, and this movie didn't make me understand that anymore, but I still found it enlightening as I know very little about the struggles of transgendered people. The format was reenactments, interviews and archival audio intercut with REALLY distracting music video montages of farm land and small town livin' ...that went on...FOREVER.

Tabloid- A+
Oh sweet god! This might be my pick of the month.The doc lays out the story of a model/beauty queen who was arrested with the rape/kidnapping of a Mormon missionary in the 1970s. I wish I could say the plot was that simple, but 90 minutes in, it got so bizarre and took so many twists and turns to crazy town that I was completely entranced the entire time. [Tangent: So much so that I watched it halfway once and then had to save it to show Jamie...because I had to have someone to discuss it with.] The interviews with the subject of the film, Joyce McKinney, are hilarious. She has an over the top, slightly unbalanced Suzanne Sugarbaker  quality that I cannot get enough of. If she had her own docu-series, I would move my schedule to watch it. She was deliciously kookoo.

Design is One - B-
About 10 years ago, when picking career paths, I went halfway down the path to being a graphic designer before making the executive decision to minor in it, because I felt that life mixed with my personality traits would lead me to a hearty daily crying/screaming session. I love having remedial levels of the skill in my back pocket, mostly so I can appreciate movies like this. I've sat riveted through Helvetica and Art and Copy, [Tangent: If your nerdy inclinations are like mine, you can watch the docs my clicking on those links. You're welcome, design losers!] so I expected a similar feel from this movie, which profiles Italian designers an Lella and Massimo Vanelli. They make EVERYTHING- jewelry, furniture, churches, brand identities. Their style is very simple, but highly identifiable. They only use a handful of fonts and have definite color preferences, but they are so prolific. It's kind of crazy actually. I found this movie interesting, but I can't promise everyone will. This is definitely one I watched alone, because I knew it needed a certain demo.

La Bare- B/B-
This movie is about male strippers and directed/produced by that buff werewolf dude from True Blood who is dating Sophia Vergara and who everyone gets all twitterpated about. That's basically all you need to know. Dongs ahoy.   It is ridiculous, as can be expected from that premise. [Tangent: I know I wrote about it before here, but I think I was the only person in the theater when I saw Magic Mike who wasn't hooting and hollering, but was instead laughing hysterically the whole time at parts that weren't funny. At one point my friend got mad at me because I wasn't getting all hot and bothered when Channing Tatum was dancing to Pony, but guys, he was wearing sweat pants and a flat-billed cap...not my personal vision of sexy.] I did find it entertaining and learned a lot about a world I know absolutely nothing about. The different personalities were fun...the 18-year-old who goes my "Channing" (how clever!) and the man well into his 50's who goes by "Master Blaster" (eww...) and one that has chosen the monicker "Brett Michaels" (weird.). After a while you are kind of desensitized to weird gyrating bodies with any variation of tribal cross tattoo. I think I would have loved it had I watched it with someone, but I watched it alone.

Advanced Style- A
You all are likely real sick of hearing me drone on about spry and sassy seniors, but I seriously can't get enough of this genre. Advanced Style is a blog that profiles women 60-90 who take fashion and style seriously. This doc profiles some of these unorthodox fashion icons.  For some, this may not be their cup of celestial seasonings, but I dug it immensely. I loved the kookier women who were pushing 90 and making eyelash extensions out of their own hair. I wanted them all to adopt me as their grandchild and hand down to me all their fantastic vintage pieces...except the woman who made bracelets out of toilet paper rolls...she can keep those. 

Cropsy- B+/A-
A couple years ago, I started this movie and never finished it for whatever reason, and then on a FB thread someone recommended it to me and I decided to start it over again.  Basically through archival news footage and interviews, the filmmakers investigate the death/disappearance of several missing persons in Staten Island and how they may be tied to a local urban legend called Cropsy. [Tangent: As if I didn't already have a weird obsession with True Crime stories, I have been listening to the Serial podcast, so that seems to be all I do lately is play armchair detective.] The whole movie was really sad, because most of the victims were young mentally challenged individuals and there was a lot of footage of the failed and terribly unscrupulous mental institutions; the film painted Staten Island to have this dark hidden Carcosa. It was very very interesting...totally recommend.

From One Second to the Next-C-
I feel very bad giving a Werner Hertzog documentary about texting while driving a bad grade, but this one just didn't wow me. I felt like it had value and would feel completely at home as a visual aid in Driver's Ed or Traffic School. It was only about an hour, but I felt, despite all the emotional stories, that it feel kind of flat with me. I realize that makes me a terrible person, but due to hand controls, I logistically cannot text while I drive so it's not like this changed my actions in any way. I definitely think it has value and contained a lot of persuasive and heartfelt stories, but it still watched like a PSA. Also, I am hyper aware how heartless this makes me sound. I'm sorry.

Hawking- A
I had been itching to see the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything, since I saw the trailer months ago, I thought this documentary would keep me placated until I could get to the theater.  It worked. [Tangent: I truly cannot be the only one pregaming for Oscar season already?] The whole film is narrated by Hawking himself via his voice synthesizer. [Tangent: In fact, I felt like a dumb ass because I am so used to hearing the synthesizer that it never even occurred to me that he was British. I know. I know. That is shameful. He works at Cambridge after all.] Anyway, the movie did a great job of normalizing a man that due to disability and superhuman abilities is over made to seem not at all normal.  It answered all the questions I had about his care, progression of disease, daily activities etc. Also, anytime there is an unexpected Benedict Cumberbatch cameo, I am a happy panda. [Note: I have seen the Theory of Everything since viewing Hawking, and I think its a great companion piece. I would recommend both wholeheartedly.]

Alive Inside- B+
A couple days ago, my internet friend Mr. Tiny asked me if I had heard of/seen/knew the skinny on Alive Inside, and his spidey senses must have been tingling because I was half way through it already. Great minds! [Again...It really was bound to happen...a movie about adorable elderly people...I swear I am predictable.  Netflix really plays into my hand time after time.] This movie is about how the power of music can unlock memory and emotion from elderly people with varying levels of dimentia in nursing homes. It was amazing and moving and I am currently trying to find my old iPods to donate to this program. I find it hard to put into words but the best comparison I can come up with isthe movie Awakenings? [Tangent: Or maybe in a non-alien way...the movie Cocoon?] This was basically a true life version of that the the transformation on these folks with Alzheimers was drastic and heartwarming. It did veer off a little into the politics behind nursing homes and the need for reform, and while I found that interesting...every time they went down that road, I saw myself wanting to get back to the patients and the families.

Wrestling for Jesus: The Tale of T-Money - C-/D
I mean...guys...that title. I never stood a chance against this one; I had to see it! I knew, reasonably and logistically he wouldn't be physically wrestling with the bearded deity [Tangent:...although how bad ass would that be?], and that in fact, it was a metaphor- but I was still interested. The whole movie takes place in South Carolina and focuses on evangelical backyard and amateur wrestling [Tangent: Yep! That's a thing.]. I wanted to like it...I really did. I imagined it would be like if two of my favorite things Jesus Camp and 80's WWF had a baby...but it wasn't. It definitely had some great moments and it allowed me to see that Jncos are still a thriving look for small town Christian goth teens, but it was still kind of 'meh'. Jamie and I both just played on our phones most of the time once the initial novelty wore off.

I Am Santa Claus- A+
After we watched the aforementioned Tale of T-Money, we decided to cleanse our palettes with this one.  Because this documentary partially profiled Mick Foley, aka the WWE wrestler Mankind, wrestling was the theme for the night. I was a little leary of this one because I was under the impression that the doc was completely about Mick's dream to be a Santa Claus, but there was so much more. There was a gay Santa (a "polar bear"), a swinger Santa and a Santa that liked to hit the egg nog extra hard (if you catch my drift.) I generally love anything with Morgan Spurlock's name attached, but this film was especially enjoyable and happy. I venture to say it will replace It's a Wonderful Life as a Christmas least in my heart. Extra points for a fantastic soundtrack!

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