Friday, January 23, 2015

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Vol. 6 (January 2015)

Everybody. Yeaaaah. Watchin' Netflix. Yeaaaah. 
Everybody watch those docs tonight. Kimmie's back. ALRIGHT!

OK. That was weird and lame and inexcusable and let's never speak of it again, deal? I can only guess that delirium is setting in from binge watching too much lately. [Tangent: As if I didn't have enough entertainment to keep me satiated, I recently added Amazon Prime to my repetoire and thus have been spending each available minute watching Six Feet Under because I am always at least 10 years late to trends. Just call me your Aunt Linda, who just joined Facebook.]

So it's January and a new year brings a new crop of docs. [Tangent:..and some old ones that I have just come across because the Netflix algorythms finally deciphered that I wasn't a gay male. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. ] This month was varied to say the least and I love that several of them were recommendations from friends and family members. Appreciate cha! [Tangent: Please keep them coming. I have a document in my phone specifically for all these recommendations.] I also bit off more than I can chew and have about 4 other ones halfway done, but I will get those in February!

Andrew Jenks, Room 335- A+
I love this movie. So much so that I wanted to watch it again with someone immediately so I could share in their delight. The movie is about a young 19-year-old filmmaker who on his summer break from school moves into a nursing home to live among the population. It gave me hope to see someone so young create something that was not only watchable but not cloying and full of genuine emotion. [Tangent: See, people under 25 aren't all garbage! There are exceptions.] These men and women kind of adopted Andrew and he formed genuine friendships with people that were quadruple his age. It wasn't only well done for a pack of teens; it was well done. period. Also, if you don't want Tammy to come live in your have no soul!

Becoming Chaz- B
This sucker has been staring me in the face every time I log into Netflix. It seemed to be in every possible queue for a long time, so I finally gave in and added it to my watch list, where it has languished for about a year. It under an hour and a half!?!? Why haven't I taken the plunge? Maybe the low star rating, maybe because after seeing him in interviews, I didn't feel like I don't really find Chaz Bono that interesting/likeable. [Tangent: And not because of her gender/sexual identity, more because I just found him smug.] Well, I finally checked it out and found it to be much better than expected. I found his story pretty powerful and the support of his loved ones very refreshing. In case the name isn't top of mind familiar, Chaz Bono (formerly Chastity Bono) is the daughter of Sonny and Cher, who in the last several years has been a major spokesperson for the transgendered community. This doc chronicles her transition from Male to Female. The parts I liked most were the interviews with family who remember his childhood and early signs that he was living in the wrong body.

Playground- A
Why I chose to battle insomnia with a movie about human trafficking? This only draws attention to my poor decision making when sleep deprived. This movie goes in depth into the issue of child sex trafficking...only unlike so many news stories the investigate the issue in Asia or overseas, this story talks about it domestically. Through interviews, true profiles, statistics, investigation and weird eerie cartoons- they tackle this issue, that I naively didn't realize was so prevalent in the US. [Tangent: The investigation into the cold case of a missing girl by the documentary filmmaker, to me, had a very Serial vibe to it, if that's your sort of thing.] This is happening to teens and children from all class levels, not just runaways and despite their parents involvement, their efforts seem futile. Well, needless to say it gave me strange disturbing dreams for a few nights in a row...but gave me some perspective and things to think about.

Blackfish- A
OK. To be honest, I saw this about a year ago...but it's still one I talk about a lot and would absolutely recommend. It is basically about the dirty secrets that hide behind orcas in sea parks and their practice of sweeping under the rug the numerous attacks on trainers. True, it is completely one-sided, but it is extremely persuasive and does a good job of mixing interviews and emotion with inarguable facts. [Tangent: I am always leery of being one of those people that bases their whole ideal system on what one biased documentary tells them, because that kind of thing has reached epidemic proportions. However, this one made me never want to go to SeaWorld.] These trainers are just college kids with very little training, and you kind of feel bad for them. Fair warning, there is a sequence where they show a trainer extracting whale semen from the aggressive papa of legions of killer whales...and no matter your level of maturity,  it is something you can't unsee.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me- A-
This movie reminded me a lot of the Joan Rivers doc that I watched in October, because it featured another sassy legend in her 80s that wlll make you feel completely lazy sack of trash in comparison. She is a spitfire. AT one point a friend calls her a molatav cocktail, and I couldn't agree more. [Tangent: To be honest, I was completely ignorant of her body of work. I knew her only really as Jack's mom on 30 Rock.] She is over the top and brash and for some inexplicable reason only wears oversized white shirts and no pants, but it's all so deliciously kooky. Even though at times she coudl be a little bit harsh, you'll fall in love and maybe cry. [Tangent: I found this doc on this buzzfeed list of movies you probably missed in 2014, and am gonna try to tick off many of the others.] 

Legends of Knight- B+
As soon as this one popped up in my suggestions, I promptly saved it for future watching with Jamie, the Batman enthusiast that I call mine. The movie follows several seemingly normal people, who in some way have been inspired by the actions of Batman. [Full disclosure, I started watching this intending to laugh intermittently at weirdos, because I thought it was gonna be like other superhero wannabe docs like Confessions over a Superhero (the one about the semi-racist Superman impersonator/superfan) or The Reenactors (the doc about the Hollywood Boulevard costumed characters). Although I highly recommend both, I would call them more or less enjoyable trainwrecks.] The stories chronicled in this film ranged from a child with cancer to a cop to a teen from Petaloma, CA who roams his hometown via razor scooter, keeping vigil. All of them really touched me, and I kind of came to understand the allure of Batman. He is just a normal guy, with no supernatural intervention unless you count a bad ass vehicle, who wants justice. His kind of heroism seems attainable. Jamie still argues that he likes Batman for the not as inspiring.

Darius Goes West- A-
Being that this is about a teen with MD, I have known about it for a long time, and been itching to see it. [Tangent: Learning time- Darius has Duchenne MD, which is one of the 40 types of neuromuscular diseases that fall under the umbrella of Muscular Dystrophy. I have Congenital MD. The type Darius has affects almost exclusively boys and is the number one genetic killer of young men. I know a lot of young men with this disease, so it hit especially close to home.] Through Darius, the film draws attention is a very cruel disease that many know little about, but it also drew attention to accessibility issues in general. The movie was a little rough at times because it was a freshman effort by young men and non filmmakers, but the concept was good- Take Darius from his ome in Georgia, that he has never left, in a cross country journey to experience things in America that he has never seen and at the end, hopefully get his chair pimped by the folks at MTV's Pimp My Ride.  I loved seeing the commradery of the young men who took Darius on this trip. It takes a village and it was fun to watch. Also, extra points that Darius provided original raps along the way. They entertained me to no end.

Nursing: If Florence Could See Us Now- D-/F+
So, a while back- I was at the movies and saw a preview for a nurse documentary and cried profusely. [Tangent: I have a slight reputation for crying during trailers. Last week, we went to see Wild and although I didn't cry during the film, I cried during two seperate movie previews. This is not an isolated incident.]  I thought this was it, so I rallied my mom, a retired nurse of 30 years, to watch it with me. Turns out, it wasn't. About 10 minutes in, I realized that the one I was thinking of was this movie entitled The American Nurse, and it was likely much better.This was so boring that even mom, it's target audience asked if we could find something else to watch. Womp. Womp. I will say though that its intention was great and that nurses deserve all the respect in the world.

The Dark Matter of Love- B+
I'd had this movie in my queue for a while and had contemplated watching it several times, but feared it would A. make me sad or B. Turn me against adoption. I usually want neither of these things to happen, so I just skipped over it. I am glad I finally decided to give it a go, because it was not as upsetting as I had suspected. The doc follows a family from Florida who is adopting 3 older children from a Russian orphanage [Tangent: I say older, but the siblings that were adopted were composed of 6-year-old twin boys and a 10-year-old girl. The age is important because the older the child is, they have found it is harder for a once-institutionalized child to bond and accept love. Sadly, this results in most children over the age of 10 never getting a forever home.] The film chronicles their struggle through the first year as they try to bond and build upon their existing family. It was very interesting to see the struggles with the couple's older biological child as well as the language barriers. The only downfall is the realism, because how often do adoptive families have therapists witnessing all of their interactions and helping them bond?

Zeitgeist: The Movie - C
Over the holidays, I made a deal with my conspiracy theory loving sister...that I would watch a doc of her choice and she would have to watch one of mine [Tangent: I still haven't decided 100% what I am gonna make her and her husband sit through, but I am leaning towards something feel good with little nourishment...maybe The Final Member or Gotta Dance. ] This is the film she selected and it is basically about the many conspiracies that the government is hiding. Frankly I was hoping for more alien stuff, but the concepts they dissected were 1. that all religions were the same and a work of fiction. 2.That 9/11 was partially an inside job. 3. That the banking system is a sham. I honestly can't say how I felt about it. There was a lot of data and I seriously value an interesting theory, but sometimes the theories ran off the rails a bit and kind of made them seem a little wack jobby. The music was so distractingly dramatic that it was clearly trying a little hard. However, I definitely learned a few things, and find it funny that these docs are always telling me how brainwashed America is and then proceeds to attempt brainwash in the opposite direction. I can't decide if I would recommend it or not...I guess I would if you liek this sort of thing and won't take issue with the 5 minute (literally...I clocked it) opening sequence with no narration and just a cavalcade of weird Willy Wonka boat ride style images. [Tangent: I told Jamie that I felt like that episode of Saved By the Bell, where there were subliminal messages in the Beau Riveire tapes to make all the ladies fall in love with Zack Morris. Zeitgeist very well could be the Beau Riveire tape of Netflix docs.]

InRealLife- C+
So if movies like Andrew Jenks, Room 335 restored my faith in millennials, this movie pretty much dashed it all over again. This movie, which (be prepared) opens with a very uncomfortably graphic conversation with two teenage boys about their porn habits, shows the reality of the information age and how it is kind of shaping young people. Although I share my life online, I am generally pretty self- aware of my privacy and my sense of reality remains pretty intact. I found this movie pretty interesting, but it made me pretty sad that for many young people, they are letting the Internet and social media dictate who they are. If you doubt this, go find an instagram account of a teenager. That being said, I still love the Internet and it has allowed me to do what I want to do and given me and audience for I can't hate on it too much. I guess I am just glad I didn't have internet in my home until I was 16.  I know life can be pretty decent without it. 
It's Not Over - B
After watching the other Andrew Jenks documentary and loving it so much, I of course, was immediately on the lookout for more. Luckily Netflx offered me this one about HIV and AIDS and how its physical treatment of the disease and the societal treatment of its patients differs all over the world. Although this movie offered really interesting peeks into the life for people with AIDS in India and Africa, I found the piece about the young American girl with HIV the most interesting. [Tangent: Does that make me a xenophobe?] I think it made me realize that there are a lot of practical things I don't know about the disease and how as long as both parties in a couple are taking a new drug cocktail, they can engage in sexy time. Who knew? I seriously felt like the most ignorant person ever. I still didn't find this one as endearing as his freshman effort, but if I was judging it alone, non comparatively, I would definitely recommend it, especially to young people (Who I think is the intended target audience) as a means of educating them about AIDS.

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