Monday, March 23, 2015

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Vol. 8 (March 2015 Edition)

Man, this month has been totally kicking last month's b-hole as far as great doc finds on Netflix. I seriously have so many gems that March 2015 is gonna be the month to beat as far as doc wins! [Tangent: Also, I have to admit that I cheated a bit and am gonna preempt this post to tell everyone who has HBO to watch The Jinx. It pretty well illustrates the power of an explorative documentary series. If you were riveted by the Serial podcast, get on this.  In my opinion, it's even more captivating. Even though I had been following the Robert Durst case and knew a lot of the details, I was immersed from beginning to end. 5 hours well spent!] So instead of preambling too much, I'll get right to are the ones I tried out this month.

An Affair of the Heart
If you look past the fact that this doc has perhaps the most non-descript title on the face of planet earth [Tangent: Truly, my dad used to never be good at remembering names and used to call 99% of romantic comedies "Affairs of the Heart" so yeah...not the most original or telling title.], you will find a hidden gem about the obsessive fandom that surrounds Rick Springfield. This concept was not completely shocking; I had an acquaintance once who worked at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville (a venue locally known for showcasing acts not quite in their prime.), and he told me that the most rowdy show that he ever worked was for Springfield, who the majority of us know as "That guy that sings Jesse's Girl." When I heard that I remember assuming the crowd he drew was all horny women in their 40s, but after watching this doc, I can attest his crowd was surprisingly mixed. [Tangent: Even though there are a bevy of housewives holding onto their childhood crush.] Since my other favorite fanatical docs have been taken off Netflix [Tangent: Seriously, I just got so sad when I realized For the Love of Dolly (about Dolly Parton fanatics) and I Think We're Alone Now (about two fans rabid love of pop star Tiffany) were removed from Netflix. They are both fantastic!], this will hit the spot. Also, I love an unexpected Corey Feldman interview! If any of you watch this, I wanna hear your reaction!

Rich Hill
This is one of those docs that will be slightly upsetting. The filmmakers behind the project were raised in the town of Rich Hill, Missouri and have returned to the now crumbling town to follow a handful of teenage residents in a town of under 2,000. The movie's site says, "Once a thriving mining town, shortly after World War II, the coal was gone – mined out. Stores closed, people moved away, farms were sold." It's kind of a bummer but an important one because many times you never get an inside look on what it's like to live in the lower class, where there is little hope or expectation. Although I initially saw two of the kids Harley and Appachey as asshole punks on the surface [Tangent: Seriously I wanted to smack them on a multitude of occasions in the movie's 90 minute duration], I inevitably sympathized with them and wanted them to succeed.

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Remember last month when I professed my love and wish for Bill Cunningham to adopt me as his granddaughter? Well, now I have found another delightful kook who I want to take me under his wing, Tomi Ungerer. If you are like me, that name isn't ringing a bell, but Tomi was a reknowned children's book author/illustrator in the 60s, who basically changed the strict rules of the art form. [Tangent: A lot of this reminded me very much of Beauty is Embarassing. If you haven't seen that doc, check it out! It features lots of love for the art barn at Middle Tennessee State University, where I spent a good chunk of my college years.] He then went on to dabble in controversial societal illustrations as well as pretty graphic erotic I guess you could say he has many layers! I am mad this sat in my queue for so long unwatched, because it was incredibly well done production-wise and because it was laced with his graphic illustration- it was visually gorgeous. I highly recommend this in a delightful kook marathon with Bill Cunningham's New York and Burt's Buzz. 

We Always Lie to Strangers: The Incredible True Story of Branson Missouri
Having never been to Branson, I can only claim my preconceived notion, that it is that Branson is like the knockoff version of Nashville, only with none of the progress and more glitz and ridiculosity. I wish I could say this movie made me lose this stereotype, but it just solidified it, which is OK because it made the movie very enjoyable. Parts of it were so campy that they reminded me of Waiting for Guffman. [Tangent: There is one scene in particular where the one performance troupe is practicing YMCA that I seriously said to myself, "This cannot be real. Who is going to see this?!?] Even though, I thought I lived soundly in the buckle of the Bible belt, it made me realize that Branson takes that title. SO MANY CONSERVATIVE "JOKES." You will also hear a lot of quote gems like, "Grandma and I would pray that Jesus would make me pretty so one day I could perform in Branson."

Because I am obsessed with race and identity issues and adoption, I expected to enjoy this doc, which was given 5 stars by Netflix, but never did I expect to see someone I kind of knew in it!! [Tangent: Last month, Mr Tiny at Wacky Tacky said he saw someone he recognized in the doc The Institute, and I responded of how bizarre that must be...I guess that was foreshadowing.]  Basically, the girl in this documentary, Angela, was adopted by a white family who adopted several children from different situations and of different races and disabilities. She was born with special needs, but due to intensive physical therapy, she completely rebounded and was even a high school athlete. [Tangent: Before you call me lazy, that is extremely rare.] The movie follows her journey to get to know her birth parents. SPOILER ALERT: Her dad is Sandy the flower man from downtown Chattanooga. [Tangent: Perhaps a lot of people don't know who that is, but if you spend a lot of time in Chattanooga or live there, he is somewhat famous. Sandy is a man who hands out/sells flowers outside the bars on Market street. My sister lives in Chattanooga and my best friend used to work at one of the bars he rides his bike in front of, so I am very familiar with Sandy and have spent a couple karaoke nights singing drunkenly with his flowers in my hair. He is pretty beloved in Chattanooga and even has his own Facebook fan page that has rallied around him when his bike was  stolen and when he was diagnosed with cancer.] I think even without knowing how beloved Sandy is, you will enjoy this documentary. It really was heartwarming and a sweet reminder of the many forms family can take...hokey I know.

Living on One Dollar
Remember a couple months ago when I talked about the beloved by me doc, Andrew Jenks, Room 334 [Tangent: I know...I know! Ya'll are so sick of hearing me reference it.], and I said how awesome it was to see a millenial contributing to society? Well, the same can be said for this movie, which follows a group of young men who challenge themselves by traveling to Guatemala and living at the poverty standard for many countries, which is about a dollar per day. [Tangent: You know those Save the Children commercials which urge you to spare 97 cents a day to sponsor a child and you think to yourself, NO WAY that can be feasible...well, this doc puts it into practice.]

Life Itself
OK. I cheated somewhat. I actually watched this film a couple months ago when it was airing on CNN, but I am very jazzed that it is now offered streaming on Netflix.The movie is a beautiful love letter to Roger Ebert, that covers all aspects of his life. Instead of focusing just on his movie critic career or his childhood or his struggles as a former alcoholic or is beautiful relationship with his wife or his cancer battle [Tangent: All of these aspects fascinating on their own.], it is all encompassing and very well-done. Even though I used to watch "At The Movies" with a fever that most 10 year olds don't possess for film critiques, there was so much I didn't know about Ebert. I had no idea about his screenwriting of campy films like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or the fact that he met his wife in AA, probably the least glitzy place on earth.  I remember around Oscar nom time hearing a lot of talk about it being snubbed as a pick for bet documentary, and I tend to agree.

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Warning, the first 15 seconds of this documentary features the filmmaker eviscerating a dead albatross and pulling plastic chunks from his innards; if you can stomach that then the rest is smooth sailing. [Tangent: Not sure if that aquatic pun was intended or not. I can't even tell anymore.] This movie investigates Midway island and basically how it has become the catch all for plastic waste. It was pretty eye-opening, especially the whole piece about plastic fishing nets and how much waste they produce. Although this documentary is under an hour and pretty fascinating, I made the mistake of watching it late at night, so it took me about 4 nights to finish it. It will definitely make you look at plastics in a new way and you'll realize that a Ninja Turtles action figure has an incredibly long life span, which is good and bad depending on your outlook.

SO What's next? 
What should I get on in April? 
Have you been watching The Jinx, too? 

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