Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Netflix Documentary Hits & Misses Vol. 20: August 2016 Edition

I have been incredibly busy or otherwise occupied this summer, so my Netflix has become a stranger to my aimless scrolling and viewing [Tangent: That's not entirely true. I gorged myself on Orange is The New Back and Stranger Things because I am human, after all. And when I say "busy"- I'm not off hiking to Maccu Piccu (you're shocked), it's more like I'm hindered by Bachelor in Paradise, The Olympics and Political conventions, three things that are more alike than one might think. ]. Ironically enough, I have seen two documentaries in theaters, so that sort of balances out my negligence to this self-imposed viewing challenge I remain hell-bent on adhering to since August 2014. Luckily I have an influx of  suggestions from like-minded souls to lengthen my queue and expand my mind. [Tangent:...and even made me cry and lose sleep in one particular case...but you'll read about that below.] 

 The Champions- A-
This film documents the current lives of the pit bulls rescued from Micheal Vick's dog fighting ring [Tangent: See I watch sports documentaries some times.] and it was equal parts smiles and tears. I first heard about this one on an episode of Doug Loves Movies, and all I need to hear is "dogs" and "doc" and consider it added to my watch list. My favorite aspect was learning how and why the perception of pit bulls has changed over time considering they were not so long ago considered fantastic dogs for children. I mean, Petey on The Little Rascals was a Pit mix. Considering most of the most aggressive dog breeds are under 20 pounds (or reside on a pillow at the end of my bed.), this movie is must watch for fierce Pitt bull defenders as well as those who are on the fence about the breed. Also, its happy endings abound...which let's face it- is generally not the case in documentaries.

In the Shadow of the Moon- A
Generally this would not be on my radar. On the surface it looks like History channel fodder and not offering anything additional or different to the dinner party. Luckily, my stuck up self was wrong and I surround myself with valuable and opinionated persons that steer me in the right direction....to infinity and beyond. This movie had all the things I love, archival footage, adorable older people and good stories. I guess prior to viewing this film, I had never fully wrapped my mind around the fact that only 12 men have seen the surface of the moon live in person and at close range. I probably knew that, but had not fully flipped it over and digested it in my mind. I loved the interviews with the surviving members of the Apollo missions and did not expect to be so touched by the magic of being in that situation. You just don't expect engineers to be so poetic.

Top Spin- B-
Because I have a tinge of Olympic fever, I thought it apropo that I throw in a sports doc. One would think I would use that as an excuse to finally break the seal on 30 for 30 docs. Nope, I opted to watch one about Olympic ping-pong hopefuls trying to prepare for the 2012 London games. [Tangent: I actually have a vested interest in table tennis, because growing up, it was basically the only sport I played in gym class. They let me play that while my peers were running the mile and doing their presidential fitness challenges.] Because I LOVED the aptly titled senior table tennis doc, Ping Pong, I figured I would be on board for this. Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as the geriatric edition I had previously viewed. [Tangent: In my book, sassy old folks will always win over teens...and I don't think I'm alone in that judgement.] Because I am a former ping pong athlete, one would think I understand the rigorous training, but apparently my HS gym class wasn't prepping me for gold. It was very unexpected to see all the weight and endurance training that went into this basement sport. I definitely take it more seriously...and have a favorite to watch in Rio.

TransFatty Lives- A+
Sometimes I can't sleep, and twas maybe not the most brilliant idea to begin watching this at midnight one night...because it's about a creative gent my age who gets diagnosed with ALS. I have reviewed documentaries about ALS before and have known people who lived with it live in 3D, but something about this movie hit me square in the gut [Tangent: By an abstract force wearing spiked brass knuckles who was juicing.] It's definitely a raw emotional roller coaster. You will laugh and cry and question the fairness of life. I won't promise that it won't turn you into a nihilist. The subject is "Trans Fatty", a DJ/multimedia artist/Internet sensation who turns his diagnosis into a film project. I loved the utter fearlessness and honesty behind the film. He bared his insecurities, family life, vulnerabilities and his penis for the sake of art. It wasn't inspirational for the sake of inspiration....he was honest and his attitude and humor was amazing in the face of the shitstorm that comes with ALS. Despite having to resort to a self-induced benedryl coma after the 2 AM feelings it brought to the surface, I'm so glad Rae suggested this one to me.

Ghost Heads - C+/B-
Having just seen the Paul Feig directed Ghostbusters reboot a week or two before, this doc about obsessive GhostBusters fanatics was the perfect companion piece.  I really love a spotlight on a fanatical niche group [Example: I am counting down the minutes until Mom Jovi is available for me to stream.]. They included interviews with all of the original cast as well as delved into the fanatics. Some of them were amazing...some irritated me a little. It was definitley a heaping helping of nostalgia and the fans were not mocked, but treated with respect, whcih isn't always the case with similar stories. It was short and sweet. Nothing profound or earth shattering and it probably won't be a rewatch at any point, but it did lead me to google "Nashville area ghostbusters" so there's that. 

Call Me Lucky- A
This movie made me completely intrigued with Barry Crimmins and embarrassed that I was not familiar with him prior. [Tangent: It's a similar experience to how I felt following What Happened,  Miss Simone?, which I didn't love as much as some did, but I appreciated because it fully introduced me to someone impactful that I wasn't previously acquainted with. By the end, both of these films made their subjects feel fully formed and authentic.] To put Crimmins into one category would be difficult, he goes from being a bombastic comedian to a curmudgeon to a victim advocate. You go from being not sure how to take him to wanting to give him an extended, uncomfortable bear hug.The movie is a journey where you unpeel layers of a man and hear perspectives from those he has basically saved to those he has impacted like comics Marc Maron, Patton Oswalt and David Cross. It's also refreshing to see his fearlessness and brutal honesty in comedy. He dipped his foot (or rather his entire body) into getting political to the point of marginalization. His successors in this world like John Stewart and Louis Black are merely following in his legacy. I hesitate to say too much about his personal history and upbringing, because that reveal is important and heart-wrenching.  [Tangent: I started this thing a few months ago where I put phrases I find compelling into my phones notepad. I did that thrice during this movie.]

I can't believe I have done 20 of these posts and did my first one 2 years ago. [Tangent: See mom....I can stick to things!] , but I have had a hell of a time curating them! It excites me to no end when I get a comment or a message from someone whose brain has just been busted wide open by one that I have written about and they want to have a postmortem about it. If you ever want to catch up on my docu-archives. Check out this link and go to town on non-fiction programming.  Now what should I watch next? 

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