Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Vol 9 (April 2015 Edition)

This month has been really busy. It has definitely been one high on entertainment consumption, but unfortunately low on documentary viewing. [Tangent: Except I did watch Going Clear, the Scientology documentary like the rest of premium cable-having Americans. That was some batshit stuff, right?] However, I have squeezed in some Netflix...because not unlike Jell-o, there's always room for Netflix.

Killer Legends- A
Jamie told me about this one about urban mythology from the makers of the film Cropsey, which I reviewed a while back[Tangent: He belongs to a Facebook group for the Last Podcast on the Left, which is a comedy podcast that deals with dark subject matter like cults and a lot of times, he gets hints on viewing material from the people on the message boards.]. Because I love Criminal Minds and this kind of stuff always intrigues me, I loved it. It tackled several familiar campfire  story tropes like killer clowns, the couple being attacked by a man with a hook on lover's lane, and the babysitter getting the call from inside the house, but possibly the most shocking to me was the poisoned Halloween candy. Being that I grew up being convinced strangers were spending all of October injecting rat poison into Kit-Kats, I was appalled to see the route of that myth. I won't spoil any of them, because if that's your cup of spooky tea, you need to check it out for yourself.

Love Me- A+
OH MY- I have so much to say about this one, and it will probably be the big winner from this batch (which is hard because this group was pretty top notch.) This film is about a group of men who have subscribed to a service to find a bride from Eastern Europe. After watching When Strangers Click and Mail Order Bride and every episode of TLC's 90 Day Fiance, one would think I had exhausted myself on the topic. [Tangent: For some odd reason, I have a lot of web traffic from that corner of the globe, so I'm glad I am finally catering to their interests.] The whole concept is extremely hard to wrap my practical mind around, mostly because I can't imagine entering quickly into a relationship with someone I only know based on appearances and that we have to communicate with through a translator. The men in the picture are characters unto themselves and you will feel bad for a couple of them who are clearly being bamboozled by women who just want money/green cards. It's not all negative, there are some success stories, but again, it is so outside my realm of imaginable scenarios, much like the Duggar family, that I tend to watch like it's a National Geographic expose. [Tangent: Also, weird feminist moment, why can't I mail order a groom from some sexy war-torn oppressed country!?! Maybe I can...perhaps I just never looked hard enough. Spoiler Alert: That is not how I met Jamie.] 

We Cause Scenes: The Rise of Improv Everywhere- B+
After watching a crap ton of documentaries, I have come to realize that I love a movie that chronicles from start to finish- the rise of a movement or a company [Tangent: Some of my favorites are Time Zero (about Polaroid) and Burt's Buzz (about Burt's Bees).] This one definitely filled that quota; it is about the man (and later group) that basically invented the flash mob concept. I feared it would be exhausting just watching pranks over again, but it was interesting to see that this whole movement was born out of boredom and a mind numbing job [Tangent: Because that's the long and the short of why I started blogging.] and in a pre-YouTube era. Everything they did was initially done without the expectations of "going viral", it was simply done as a fun story an elite group of random passersby could share at parties. I definitely enjoyed it more than I expected.

Paul Williams: Still Alive- B
One of the perks of being a documentarian is that you can base a whole film on living out a childhood dream. [Tangent: Seriously, I wish I had some film talent so I could pitch something that would give me an excuse to meet some random people like the casts of Kids Inc. or The Mickey Mouse Club circa 1990. ]  In this movie, the filmmaker remembers fondly one of his childhood heroes, songwriter and 70s TV staple, Paul Williams, and wonders what ever happened to him. He isn't even sure if he is alive. [Tangent: I was vaguely familiar with Williams because he has a definite and unrecognizable "look".  I knew he was a songwriter, but didn't know that he wrote The Rainbow Connection and Rainy Days and Mondays. I kind of thought he was more or less the Shadoe Stevens or the Paris Hilton of the 70s....famous for just kind of being around.] The film chronicles his meeting and coercing Paul Williams into letting him into his life...which isn't shocking considering his pitch was "I want to convince the world that you are still 'a thing'"  [Tangent: Can I get off topic for a minute? I am noticing a rampant epidemic among covers of Netflix documentaries- pictures that feature the subjects face  from the nose up on the bottom half of the cover. Seriously...expect an upcoming post about this!]

Unhung Hero- B+
I'm pretty sure Rae told me I needed to watch this a while back, but at the time my mind was still reeling from The Final Member and I didn't want to cram in too many penis-centric docs.  [Tangent: However, after watching this (finally!), I would almost recommend that you watch them as a double feature.] This one is slightly more graphic, but equally hilarious. I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is easily disturbed or prudish- but the long and the short (pun intended) is that the narrator and film's subject was rejected by his prospective finacee [Tangent: This is the downside of proposing on a JumboTron!], because she said he was too small downstairs. Part of me wants to doubt that the story is 100% true (because the subject is an actor and parts of it play out a little ridiculous!), but regardless I think it's an interesting take on the subject. You hear about women and their body insecurities all the times, it's about time the script gets flipped and examined through different cultural lenses. Also, you get to see an Asian man lift heavy weights with his junk...that's something right.

To Be Takei- A
This one has been on the docket since it debuted, and I'm mad that I didn't watch it sooner. [Tangent: I mumble a lot so whenever I suggested it to my boyfriend, he always thought I was saying something about "BTK."] Because I am a human on the internet, I of course am familiar with George Takei being his super funny Facebook posts, but I didn't know a lot else other than that he is gay, Asian and on Star Trek. Sometimes, I don't love when a autobiographical doc tackles too many things, but I loved that this one covered his whole life because it made me basically fall in love with George and his fascinating life in a Japanese American Internment camp and then later breaking down all sorts of barriers as both advocate for Asian Americans and gay Americans. Also, I love his relationship with his husband...they are adorable, and I want to go to NYC to see his musical based on Japanese internment. I'm sure this won't help the issue of convincing my Netflix algorhythm that I am not a middle-aged gay male, but it was TOTALLY worth it!

What They Left Behind-C-
The subject matter of this one- young people and gun violence- is definitely a heavy yet important one, and I watched it because it was 30 minutes and I needed something short. I daresay that was my biggest criticism- that it was far too short to tackle such a broad issue. It followed a handful of  people who lost loved ones due to gun violence and concluded with a family who lost a child at Sandy Hook. [Tangent: It was very upsetting and heavy, but due to it's length and amount tried to cram in reminded me of From One Second to The Next (a movie I covered in December about texting while driving). It came off a little like a film strip (using that term really dated me) or a movie you might show in a STARS program, and less like a fully formed film.] I know that makes me seem like a heartless asshole, because these children's stories NEED to be told- I just kept wanting to see more and not just 9 minutes with each family. I would probably give an A to the unabridged version.

Atari: Game Over- A
Although my family owned an Atari when I was wee and I grew up loving video games, I had never heard about the crazy mythology that surrounds the alledged "Worst Game Ever"- ET for the Atari gaming system. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy even if you, like me, had no idea about the urban legend that Atari was so ashamed of that game that they buried all copies of it in a desert landfill, and it bankrupted the company. I have a secret love for corporate histories, so I enjoyed the story about how this random ragtag group of programmers became the brains behind Atari [Tangent: Spoiler alert: They were pretty much like the rock stars of video games. Drugs and women for days!] and I won't spoil it by telling you whether or not they found anything in the desert, but the movie is extremely riveting. That really isn't easy to make watching men dig through garbage compelling...but it is. Also, for all your non-gramer nerds, you will get to see cameos by George R.R Martin and a Delorean.

Have you seen any of these? 
What should I watch in May?

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