Friday, February 27, 2015

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Vol. 7 (February 2015 Edition)

February in a word: Unpredictable. Another word: Overwhelming.  Despite being housebound Grey Gardens style by the universe (destined to live out the winter in loungewear and slippers), I haven't been racking in as many Netflix documentaries as I could have. Therefore, as with the days on the February page of the calendar...this month is gonna be pretty skimpy. I promise, you'll survive.

And The Oscar Goes To... A
My intention for this month was to watch all the Oscar nominated documentary features, and that didn't happen...so this is your consolation prize.  [Tangent: I had only watched Finding Vivian Maier, which I loved but intend to watch CitizenFour and Virunga really soon. I just gotta prepare to be in the mood, because I have a feeling neither is as fun as a movie about Irish Dancing children.] I assume all people will love this movie, which discusses the history on a category to category basis of the Oscars,  but then again I also assume all people love awards shows. They don't...and I try to be at peace with that. However, if you are at all interested in film, then I think you will like this one..also it's under an hour and a half, which is good for those with a short attention span.

When Strangers Click- A+
Speaking of short awesome docs...I give to you one of the great movies about insane online love stories. I haven't watched this one in over a year, but I feel like I always want to discuss it with Jamie who has never seen it and never can. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally nip that in the bud. As expected he had the WTF face on for a grand majority of this movie that is basically a montage of Catfish episodes gone right. [Tangent: My brother has been in town from California all week and this morning I learned he had never seen Catfish: The Series before. Long story short, that is basically how I have spent my day...remedying that deficiency in his life, but pulling all the "greatest hits" off Amazon Prime.] My favorite vignette from this film is the man who met his future soulmate in second life. [Tangent: If you are currently scratching your head after hearing that term...do yourself a favor and watch Life 2.0. It's on Netflix and will fill in the blanks.] He is a basically a rock star in second life, but a 50 year old swedish goofball in real life. I dare you not to have his "hit song" in your head for at least 24 hours after watching this movie.

The Institute- A
For the same reason I have a lot of books on my shelf, I initially picked this one because the cover was pretty. I'm a simple kinda gal. But it was icing on the cake that this movie was about something interesting and bizarre. The Institute follows and deconstructs the  Jejune institute, which was a social experiment (and some think a culty one) that grew out of San Francisco (where many a wack job/brilliant idea is born.) The pillar of Jejune is that people randomly get called to go to an innocuous office building then sent on a wild goose chase scavenger hunt to illustrate that life is all about the journey. I love the idea of deliberate nonchalance and actually think there is a lot of merit to the principles. In discussing it with my coworkers the day after I watched it, I realized I sounded like a crazy person...so prepare for that, but watch it anyway. It's good.

Women Aren't Funny- B-
I had really really high hopes for this doc where comedianne Bonnie McFarlane approaches male and female funny people and poses the question "Are women funny?" The concept and bits of it were awesome. On one hand, I was impressed with the cross-section of comedians they talked to from Wanda Sykes to Artie Lange and I think it was an important question to ask [Tangent: I really hate that being a woman and having a sense of humor is still considered a novel concept by so many.], however it just wasn't as funny as I had hoped. Yes, I realize, it's a documentary and meant to inform and enlighten rather than entertain, but I wondered if it was funnier if it would have proved Bonnie's point a little better. 

Bill Cunningham New York A+
Not sure if it is because I am not from NYC or if it's because I'm not the biggest fashionista [Tangent: I love clothes, but designer names mean nada to me. My current outfit is The Limited via Goodwill, so there's that.] , but I had never heard of Bill Cunningham. I'm sure that's a disgrace to a certain demographic. Does it make it any better that immediately after watching the film,  I wanted him adopt me as his granddaughter and allow me to ride around in his pocket while he bikes around the big apple snapping photos of strangers? He is seriously the cutest thing on the planet. Everything about him. His "confirmed bachelor lifestyle." His zany pack of friends [Tangent: Dear god, that Dandy fella is haunting!] His love of fashion, yet his proclivity to wear only disposable suits. I promise, male and female alike, I think everyone will fall in love with this movie and this man.

To Russia with Love- B
Remember a few months ago, I vowed to throw some sports documentaries into the mix. Initially I thought that meant some of those ESPN 30 for 30 docs (because despite being about athletics, I have heard they are really interesting) but then I got distracted by something that seemed more my speed....like this movie helmed by sparkly ice wizard Johnny Weir. The movie is all about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia [Tangent: If you know me, you know that I am far from a sports fantatic, but Olympic events are my one exception.] and how it impacted several athletes who happen to be gay. Although I knew that Russia was not exactly the San Fran of Eastern Europe, I didn't know how stringent their anti gay legislation was. My favorite parts were the early scene transitions where Johnny Weir, winter angel esquire, was dramatically skating. I guess now that I have watched this and The Price of Gold, I have to officially branch into non-skating sports docs.

Jig- B(ish)- C+
If you have ever read any of these Netflix roundups, you know that I love pageantry and competitive children with unorthodox hobbies, so this movie about the inside world of the world Irish Dancing Youth championships seemed like a no brainer [Tangent: Joining the ranks of Magic Camp...] It sat in my queue for a long time because Netflix was classifying it more with twee kiddie movies than it was documentaries, and although I am not above that sort of thing (in any capacity), it gave me pause. Finally, I gave in one night. Although I was mesmerized by all the legs flailing akimbo, I was secretly hoping for more dramatics and terrible stage parents, but on the whole the children all seemed pretty well rounded and dedicated. Darn.

Craigslist Joe- A
If there is one core truth about me, it is that I love a challenge, so I am generally drawn to docs in the vein of SuperSize Me where the filmmaker gives himself a span of time to jump out of his/her comfort zone and adhere to a lifestyle change with very strict parameters. In this movie, the Joe in question gives up his home, money and belongings (except for a cell phone and laptop) for one month to live his life only by things he found on Craigslist on the free/barter section. [Tangent:  I questioned why he took on this challenge in December when it's colder than a penguin foot outside, but I guess he wanted to make it as challenging as possible.] Over the course of the movie he participated in ride shares, volunteer opportunities and day jobs that took him from one end of the country to the other. As someone that has bought and sold on Craigslist many a time, I am glad that this movie reinforced that it is not all closet rapists and murderers- Craigslist can foster a sense of community.

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