Saturday, September 12, 2015

Netflix Documentary Hits and Misses Volume 12 (September 2015 Edition)

I am finally getting over the summer city-wide wanderlust and getting back to what I know best- being an indoor kid. This means slowly but ever surely and in addition to gulping down 22 minute chunks of The League one by one,  I am knocking back some documentaries. This month, I had it pretty easy because the suggestions I have been getting from from friends, blog readers and online messages boards were pretty incredible. Ya'll done good- keep em coming!

Casting By- A
Full disclosure- I am an immense movie nerd and I love watching anything that somehow denotes "making of" or "behind the scenes." This had "Kimmie's Wheelhouse" encrypted on every square inch....especially because it turns out that women casting directors have seen the hidden potential and made stars out of the hugest names of our time- Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro et al. Basically anyone that has made 100 great movies is "a thing" because of the work of amazing casting directors. This movie really made me realize that casting directors are the unsung heroes and arguably the most pivotal part of a production. By the end you will be upset that there is no Oscar given specifically for casting. It's a travesty. I loved this movie! 

Remote Area Medical- B+
Because for my day job, I work more or less in the medical field...helping people all over Tennessee get the help they need- I had a bit of a vested interest in this little doc. Also, it's set in East Tennessee very close to where my boyfriend was born and raised. [Tangent: I have been to Bristol a few times, so naturally, I queued it instantly.] Health care is something that many of us take as a given, but this little doc is about how many people, especially in Appalachia have let their doctor visits slack (for various reasons  but usually financial) and therefore have a laundry list of ailments that need monitoring. This film shares the work of the Remote Area Medical Volunteer corp and their work one weekend when they set up a makeshift clinic in Bristol Motor Speedway.

The True Cost- B+
Until recently, I have been a little blind to fast fashion, and I am most likely its biggest offender, so I really needed to see this movie. I impulse buy and hoard clothes and will purchase anything if it's a good deal.  [Tangent: I honestly didn't know that fast fashion was even a thing until I met my blogger buddy Lladybird Lauren and heard her talk about it. She touches on it in this post.] If you're a person that has a closet full of clothes they found on the H&M and Target clearance racks, then don't watch this movie unless you want to be overwhelmed with guilt. It's going to happen. It's also going to explain why if you go to Old Navy, you can buy 2 pairs of the same exact pants in the same exact size and they will fit drastically different.  Basically the way consumers shop has changed a lot in the last 50 years and stores are competing for who can crank out the most clothes for the cheapest prices. This means the clothes are mostly made under terrible conditions. This movie exposes who suffers so we can have a closet of cheap pieces. I wouldn't say I will never hit a clearance rack ever again, but I'm definitely thinking harder about acquiring pieces.

Chronic Con: Episode 420 A New Dope- B (but I'm very biased!)

This is definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but even though I'm not so much a pot head I love Doug Benson and will watch anything he dispenses. Basically Doug has made it his mission to rip off Morgan Spurlock at every turn [Tangent: Super High Me is his take on SuperSize Me and The Greatest Story Ever Rolled is his riff the life of a comic on the road the same way The Greatest Story Ever Sold, is Spurlock's take on the world of marketing and advertisng.], so this is his blatant ripoff homage to Spurlock's most recent doc on Comic Con. Having met Doug after his shows and witnessing in person the way he interacts with fans, I love that that really comes through in the doc. This doc is not where you go for scandalous Shamylan twists [Tangent: See An Honest Liar for that.] but it's fun and light and easy to digest...which is not always the case for these doc blocks. It's pretty much like getting to hang out with your stoner buddy and walk around Comic-Con for 80 Minutes. You also get to see a portions of his Doug Loves Movies Podcast! [Tangent: You can read my eyewitness reviews of those here,  here and here.]

Dogs on the Inside- A-
If you like rescue dogs and having your heart warmed, then this needs to happen in your world immediately. This movie is about how dogs in terrible situations are rescued and then used in prisons as a type of prisoner rehabilitation. I'm not saying dogs have curative powers...wait that's exactly what I am saying! I worried it would be too gritty (because let's face it- the cover photo looks a little haunting), but to be honest the movie was almost entirely positive. I am a HUGE proponent of prison reform and love when prisons implement rehab programs like this. Most of the prisoners said that being the caretaker for another being gave them purpose and broke down the caste system in the jail. So,  basically the moral is- doggies are magic. 

Exporting Raymond- A
Truth- I ave never seen a full episode of Everybody Loves Raymond [Tangent: In fact, I kinda couldn't stand Ray Romano or his voice (and this is coming from someone with an EXTREMELY grating vocal range) until he showed up on Parenthood and he gave me now choice to love him. The fact that I have never really gotten into his titular show is not a shocker.] yet as soon as this doc trespassed into my suggested viewings, I immediately jumped on it. OK- here's the premise after all that hullabaloo- The showrunner at Raymond goes over to Russia because the Ruskies are interested in making an adapted version in their country. It's the ultimate culture shock doc, and it really made me realize how terribly the minutiae of American middle class culture translates in other cultures.  Ex: the costume designers in Russia cannot comprehend why the wife character doesn't doll herself up more. Also, look out for hilariously bizarro adaptations of Married With Children and The Nanny turn up. They are jarring. 
Race to Nowhere - B-
When I see a doc has four stars on Netflix, generally I will watch it regardless of premise. This one was about how kids that are pushed to be overachievers can become severely damaged, so I thought I would be totally on board...and I was to a degree. [Tangent: I went to a high achieving high school. Everyone was smart. I realized this especially when I went to college. Suddenly I went from being the dumb honors kid to being kind of a badass collegiately. I figured this was perfectly relatable subject matter because I have known kids that were overscheduled and pushed in my youth.]  If you are a teacher or parent, I would absolutely recommend giving this a watch,  because you will see parallels in your own life. I have a sister and friends who teach so I had some basis of what kids go through now in school, but if you don't have the same basis for comparison and contrast- good luck staying interested. [Tangent: There were slow parts where I found myself playing Frozen Freefall on my phone instead of watching...which was basically my feelings when I watched Waiting For Superman (another education muckraking doc) a few years ago.] I definitely think it's got a heap of important points...just not for me. I now that's a bit selfish and shortsighted...but oh well.

Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot - B
If you are like me and like hilarity, then you probably powered through Wet, Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp on Netflix. When Jamie and I were finished, we were almost depressed about it. To fill the void we watched this doc that chronicled the making of the original 2001 feature film. I loved seeing all the stars hang out (before they were stars) and soak up the summer camp experience. It rained for 80% of the shoot and they all stayed in the cabins they used as set pieces so much of the footage is of them playing games and drinking heavily. It's basically found footage, so don't expect twists and turns and social commentary- it's more or less just allowing you to be a fly on the wall of a party where early 00's Paul Rudd is drunkenly dancing with Bradley Cooper...but that sounds like an ideal viewing scenario to me. 

An Honest Liar- A+
Dang! This was a good little doc chocked full of unexpected Shamylan twists. [Tangent: I promised my friend Beth that I would give her full credit for this pick- so THANKS BETH!]  I'll try to give my run down without spoilers, but basically this movie is about a older magician who has made it his life's journey to disprove people who use illusions and magic tricks to lie to people and swindle them out of money. Examples include: TV faith healers and new age guru types. Not only is his work interesting, but he is a intriguing elderly kook who has some secrets of his own. It has been gathering dust in my queue forever because to be quite honest- the description on Netflix doesn't do it justice. Go watch this today.

This Ain't No Mouse Music - C-/D+
How could something that seemed so on-the-nose suited to my interests leave me feeling so 'meh'? This movie promised to explore how a German count, forced out of his country during WWII is working to harness and keep alive roots music. It had five stars. Here's what I was expecting: A delightful kook who is in some kind of fish out of water situation and falls into the world of Americana music (WHICH I LOVE!) and fills the 90 minutes with fun anecdotes. I didn't get that. Perhaps it was wrong to set up expectations. Perhaps even worse that I kept comparing it to another doc currently streaming on Netflix Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, which I LOVED! Although this movie was interesting (I think Jamie liked it more than I did), I just wasn't captivated enough by Chris, the subject of the film. I felt like what I was interested in wasn't being talked about enough. I think if you are a record collector or lover of roots music, you will find it a little interesting, but I definitely think there are better music docs out there.

Also in case you are interested: Here is a backlog of the previous ten recaps! Maybe you will find some viewing options for the weekend.

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