Friday, April 15, 2016

Netflix (and Amazon) Hits & Misses Vol 17: March/April 2016

Maybe it's because I decided to binge on Netfix's Love and watch every season of Curb Your Enthusiasm last month...or maybe it's because the pickins are getting slimmer in my unwatched docs queue, but I didn't watch as many documentaries on Netflix as usual in March...therefore my reviews definitely carried over into April. I would just say, "Screw it!" but truthfully, I need things to keep me consistent and these reviews are the things people seem to get the most excited about. I love hearing that people bookmark the posts for their next seemingly endless browse session.

How To Survive a Plague (Netflix)- B
Let's start off with discussing the most heavy thing imaginable: the AIDS crisis in the early 80s. As expected this movie, comprised mostly of actual footage from that time period, is a lot to take it.  I was turned on to its existence by one of my favorite podcasts, Throwing Shade, and I figured since I was just a toddler in that era, an educational refresher was likely in order. Sadly, to be honest, my knowledge of the fight for proper healthcare among people living with AIDS in the early years is based almost wholely on Dallas Buyers Club. The themes and content were very interesting and upsetting, but I did zone out a couple times due to the presentation. [Tangent: Similar happens to me when I watch the history channel sometimes.] Even so, I still think it is worth watching especially if you are not well versed in the early gay rights movement or about the outbreak of AIDS in the US.  It is a must watch for those that are ignorant (like me) about all that the era entailed in regards to this disease.

Brave Miss World (Netflix)- B
Now to a much lighter topic- cases of rape injustice on a worldwide level. Just kidding...not at all lighter...equally upsetting, but still eye-opening and worth exploring. The stunning subject of this film is former Miss Israel (and then Miss World) who was raped as an adult, and then went on a global crusade to whistle blow situations where accusers were being swept under the rug. Some of the stories are BRUTAL and will make you wince, but they deserve to be heard. This one had been sitting in my queue for a long time and I'm really glad I finally gave it a watch. Unfortunately, this month I also watched The Hunting Ground (see below), which featured some of the same themes and it's really hard for me not to compare the two. I watched the other first, so I think that's why I didn't give Brave Miss World a higher score.

Crafted (Amazon Prime Streaming) - B
I chose this movie for two was by Morgan Spurlock [Tangent: He made everyone scared of Big Macs in Super Size Me and created docu-series 30 Days...I also wrote about his doc Mansome in this post.] and it was about 30 minutes, which is a good length when I am feeling non-committal. Since I know a lot of crafters for hire and small business owners, I was a little more invested in this than some might be. The whole thing had a very "made for instagram" vibe as if the whole movie was shot through the crema filter,  but it seemed to make sense given the etsy-centric subject matter. It lacked a lot of the humor that you come to expect from Spurlock docs, but it also featured a profile on artisan knife-makers, so you can't have it all!

Autism in Love (Netflix)- A
April is autism awareness month, so it seems Netflix has several to choose from. [Tangent: It was a toss-up for me between this one and The United States of Autism, which I will likely get to next month. ] I really liked this doc a lot. It is sad and happy at the same time, and really gives you a glimpse inside people on the spectrum and their struggles with emotion and connection to others romantically. Because I work for a disability organization, I, of course, view it through that lens and can be a little critical in some areas. Example: Although the cover a spectrum of cases, they are all fairly high functioning and independent for the most part. They may not drive or live with a parent, but the majority hold jobs. [Tangent: In docs and reality programming, its pretty common for those profiled to be of higher ability levels. Some with autism are non-verbal or have additional behavioral issues. Dual diagnoses are very common.]  I really liked it and think if you love a disability love story like Monica and David, which I reviewed here, then you will like this. Also, you're gonna fall in love with the people in the doc. I am obsessed with Leonard's mom and couldn't stop staring at her large heat miser tattoo.

The Barkley Marathons (Netflix)- A
Oh. Dear. God. This one is a doozie. Generally a documentary about an outdoor endurance test wouldn't appeal to me at all, but it features my home state and lovable kooks, so I was on board immediately. [Tangent: Plus my friend Rae gave it her thumbs up, so I knew I was in for a good time..and not just your average sports doc.] To preface, I don't even like to go out to my car if it's raining outside, so I cannot fathom why someone would like to do a non-stop all-weather 100 mile race through rough terrain. The race itself is bananas and a complete fever dream, which is exactly what you would expect from two dudes named Lazarus Lake and Raw Dog...probably not his Christian Name.  These men, who my dad would've referred to as "characters," are the ones who conceived of the bat shit human sacrifice known as The Barkley Marathons. I think you'll like it.

Plastic Galaxy (Amazon Prime Streaming)-C
My boyfriend loves a good toy and amassed an impressive Star Wars collection as any boy would in the early 80s and I love docs about obsessive this movie, found on Amazon streaming, seemed like a safe bet for entertainment we could agree on.  On a whole, I dug it. There were parts, as a very casual Star Wars fan (as in hasn't even seen all the movies) that I didn't care about, but I enjoyed the story of how these toys were kind of the unlikely beginning to crazy movie merchandising. It was interested to see how many companies passed on the rights. Again, I think if I actually played with these toys as a kid, I might have been more into it. [Tangent: My brothers did have the death star and all its inhabitants, but I was off having my barbies and his WWF figures kissing and putting on productions of Cinderella to be bothered.]

Finding Vivian Maier (Netflix)- A+
I love this movie. I love anything that is a big of an unraveling mystery. The movie profiles a young man who bought a Storage Wars style lot at an auction, which included boxes and boxes of undeveloped film and slides from an unknown photographer, Vivian Maier. In development, he found her art to be ahead of its time, but could find nothing about the enigmatic woman behind the camera. Through this documentary, he is working to uncover who she is/was through travel, research and mostly interview. It was so perfect that I almost wondered if it was a setup, as I do with most things that are too good to be true. I now am following Vivian Maier on Facebook and want to go see her work in a gallery.

The Hunting Ground (Netflix)- A+
Like a lot of folks, I became acquainted with this doc after crying disgusting amounts of saline during Lady Gaga's performance at the 2016 Oscars of "Til It Happens to You." My major mistake was watching this movie when I was going to sleep, because it took me 6 days to watch it in segments (and likely caused me to have some awful dreams), but I stuck it out and I'm glad I did. The movie, about the rape culture on college campuses will piss you off. It definitely is well put together and hopefully will make some waves in universities so that they will be pushed for change. It was great to see many of these women (and men) find strength after being ignored by administration. The sheer volume of stories that all end in a faculty member victim blaming them was astounding!!  

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