Friday, January 29, 2016

Netflix (and 2 Amazon) Documentary Hits & Misses: Vol. 15 (January 2016)

I've been trying to lay low and not mention the buzzword "documentary" because then you guys might notice that I haven't done a Netflix doc roundup November. My life was wrapped up with Making The Murderer for an intense couple days and then well The Bachelor clearly my priorities for "non-fiction" were there...just maybe misplaced. [Tangent: I may or may not have needed a bit of a detox after Making the Murderer. That dragged me down a bit. Why did it have to be such an addictive wormhole!??! Why did it have to leave me feeling so angry at humanity? ]  Also, somewhere in there I gained access to a HULU account so you may never hear from me again. Luckily, when snow befell the midsouth, I got my ass in gear and cranked out some quality time with me and Netflix. I even threw in a few from Amazon Prime movies because I decided to ring in the new year getting 20 kinds of crazy. I may throw in a couple each month, we'll see. I don't like to be tied down.

The Imposter- B+ (Netflix)
This is one that had been recommended to me by several people and god knows I love a good mystery. The basis of this one is simple. A boy from Texas goes missing and years later, his family gets a call that a teen in Spain is claiming to be their son. Pretty early on you realize something is amiss...the dude has a french accent and has dark skin, so is likely not the blue eyed blonde haired Texan. But what happened? Which side is fishier?  It played out a bit like a Dateline Mystery, so it's a nice transitional doc to watch after your post Making The Murderer rage has died down.

Meet the Patels- A+ (Netflix)
Absolutely loved this doc and am very glad I got the reinforcement from Mary Evelyn to move it to the front of my queue post haste not passing go. I had heard the filmmaker,  Ravi Patel, talk about this film on a podcast that I listen to and I recall being super intrigued with the premise: an American decides to give in to his Indian parents and give arranged dating/marriage a try. Aside from Khourmas and Tika Masalas, I hate to say that I am completely ignorant to most aspects of Indian culture and I had very biased views on the topic of arranged unions. After watching this- that is completely changed. Arranged marriage is basically like online dating. It seems fairly awesome. I won't let you know how it panned out for him, but I will tell you that his parents are the cutest, and the storytelling is incredibly engaging.

Fresh Dressed- B (Netflix)
This movie dedicated to the rise of hip hop fashion in the 80s and 90s was the perfect pick for my snowbound weekend. Like Meet the Patels, it mixed in animation with interviews and I always like that juxtoposition because apparently, I am 8 and can't look away from the screen when toons are involved. I learned a lot from the doc! [Tangent: Given my baseline of hip hop fashion knowledge is what I have gleaned from Damond John's intro on Shark Tank,  it could only go up from there.] The parts that I found the most interesting (besides the fact that Mark Echo is indeed a white man) was that each of the bourroughs of NYC had a distinctive and identifiable look. It's something I had never really considered, but since then have placed it under the lens of the different styles for different Nashville neighborhoods. If you like other fashion or music documentaries, this is a good one to add to your list. 

I Am Big Bird- A (Amazon Prime Streaming)
OK, I'm halfway cheating because I saw this one in theaters, but it's on Amazon Prime free streaming now and I couldn't recommend it enough. I may have cried multiple times [Tangent: If you've even seen the footage of Big Bird singing at Jim Henson's funeral...then you feel my pain on a deep level.] and liked it as much if not more than Being Elmo [Tangent: Which is still streaming on Netflix and I would absolutely recommend as a double feature...if you ignore the fact that the Elmo puppeteer was accused of sexual abuse. That kind of put a bit of a dark cloud over the story.] I am Big Bird is the life story of Big Bird, and in turn the man inside the bird, Carol Spinney, who has been portraying him for decades. Spinney is now in his 80s and still performs inside that cumbersome unweildy bird suit, which is especially impressive once you see the puppetry logistics and how awkward the body has to sit inside it. I grew up in the 1980s, when Big Bird was at his peak, but the doc explores how his character fell out of vogue with the rise of Elmo. Muppet politics are a bitch. 

The Flat- C+ (Netflix)
I didn't love this one. Maybe it was because I was trying to multi-task and watch a documentary that is mostly subtitled. That is probably the culprit. It reminded me a lot of Finding Vivian Maier in that it is about a man unraveling the mystery of a person based on their discarded artifacts. Unlike Maier, which involved a total stranger's storage locker, this doc is about a man cleaning out the apartment of a deceased relative. At first I was riveted, mostly because of the tone being almost ominous, [Tangent: Even the cover photo looks like it could be a sequel to The Conjuring.]  but then I got a little bored halfway in (after the "big reveal"). I thought it was interesting, and I halfway blame my own mentality on that day for the C+, but it just didn't keep my attention as I had hoped.  

Tyke: The Elephant Outlaw-B (Netflix)
I can only equate this movie as the Blackfish for Elephants. If you have no existing ill-feelings towards circuses, you probably will after this movie.  The story revolve around Tyke, an elephant that basically lost his shit on performers and the crowd at a Honolulu circus. The movie shows real footage, which is both terrifying and somehow I couldn't look away, interlaced with interviews with witnesses and his trainers exploring Tyke and how it got to that point. I love the trainer in the mesh shirt!

Being Ginger- A (Netflix)
Obviously, as soon as this was added to Netflix, I was all over it like freckles on a redhead (see what I did there?). The movie mostly centers on a ginger fella's quest for love as he interviews women on their opinions of redheaded men. [Tangent: Some girls are bitches! I couldn't believe the horrible women the filmmaker came across while working on the project. One blondie told him that she found freckles gross and his eyelashes creepy. I wanted to punch her square in her perfect nose!] The protagonist, who is adorakably charming, tries redhead dating sites and Ginger festivals all to land that perfect gal who is enamored with red hair! WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE PREVIOUSLY!?!? What kept it from getting an A+? Well, at points it veered into dealing with him reflecting on his bullied childhood, which I thought was a little outside of the main thesis. I thought that could have been a whole other movie, and one that I wold probably watch. 

Finders Keepers- B+ (Amazon Paid Streaming)
Yes, I paid for this movie. I had heard and read so many positive reviews that I gave in. How could I resist a film based around a custody battle over a human leg? The movie starts off really strong with the story of a cooky Carolinian who finds a severed leg in a barbecue grill in a storage one does. I quickly fell for that dude's breed of crazy and loved his enthusiasm over finding random body parts and viewing them as buried treasure! You're also introduced to the original owner of said leg and his story is a bit sad, which I didn't see coming. It got a little slow and heavy in the middle, but definitely is a quirkfest! The end also brings it all home to crazy town. I recommend it, but maybe hold out until you can get it for free.

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