You guys, I'm so far behind on documentary reviews. This list comprises the last, like, six months. I'm not kidding--I've had this list going since July. Whew. Okay. Here we go.
ALSO, all of these will also soon be listed on my NEW DOCUMENTARY WEBSITE! And stay tuned for part two of this list. It was obnoxious posting all of them at once.
I watched this years and years ago, and I'm so glad I rediscovered it. I love drag. I have such a special place in my heart for drag, which is funny because I have virtually NO experience in or with it, aside from a friend in Seattle who does it (Harlotte O'Scara...is that not the most BRILLIANT drag name you've ever heard?!) and a past co-worker at Broulims who did shows. Anyway, this is an awesome story about working hard and being yourself. And it also re-awoke in me my love for musical theatre. I really really really love musical theatre. I just forget sometimes...I don't do it a whole lot. But man, it's awesome. To close, here are my two favorite quotes from this documentary:
"These eyelashes are giving me the f***ing blues."
"It's the art that's important to me. It's the makeup, the hair, it's everything that gives you va-VOOM. Va-VOOM is painted out of your mind, with your wig jacked to Jesus and loving it."
Secrets of the Dead: Blackbeard's Lost Ship
This is a laundry movie that had some cool info. Wanna know where Blackbeard worked? On the east coast of the United States! Weird, right? I always think of Blackbeard as running his ship along the Spanish Main or something. But the reality is that he basically was a naval commander of six ships that terrorized the colonies.
Shipwreck! Captain Kidd
I was on a little bit of a pirate kick apparently. This one told the story of Captain Kidd, which is actually kind of sad. He was sort of an accidental pirate, due to a bizarre misunderstanding of what he was supposed to be doing on the high seas. Apparently there's a fine line between privateering (government sponsored piracy) and just straight up piracy.
Journey to Mecca
This was a short, educational film about one of the pillars of Islam--the pilgrimage to Mecca. The cool thing about it was that it drew a lot of parallels between the oldest Muslim traditions and current practices. The rituals that take place at Mecca take place on a massive scale nowadays, but is still deeply rooted in what people were doing hundreds of years ago. Also, this DVD boasted narration by Ben Kingsley, but he doesn't seem to have narrated the whole thing.
Life In A Day
I watched this one twice--once by myself and once with Jacob. I found it deeply moving, and fell in love with the human race. Despite all of our weaknesses and shortcomings and our capacity for evil, the human experience is still beautiful. The concept behind this film was simple: it's a user-generated film, where thousands of people from all over the world recorded their experiences on one day: July 24, 2010. The submitted footage was edited to create a glimpse into daily life on earth in the 21st century. It covers everything from breakfast to breakups, childhood, cancer, storms, mobs, religion, and music. It's visually stunning, and so well-done.
Voyage of the Courtesans
Australia is awesome. And kind of weird, historically. It was famously a kind of "dumping ground" for the criminals of England back when England was like, "We're gonna take over the world!" But check this out. Back in England at the time, there was a pretty rigid social structure, and not much social mobility. But in Australia, people who would be stuck in the gutters in England could move upward, because there was no established elite to stop them.
Edward R. Murrow was awesome! This brief documentary profiled the reporter and his work, and talked about how much he changed journalism. The entire world of television journalism owes it's life to Edward R. Murrow. He was a man of integrity who valued the human experience, and I love him for it.
Secrets of Underground London
Here's something I always forget. London has ancient Roman history. Those Romans sure did build an empire, didn't they? This documentary also talked about the construction of the Tube system, which was kind of a human rights nightmare. People would work until they passed out from lack of oxygen, and then they were carried out on gurneys and replaced by someone else, until THEY passed out. So as a PR move, they held a big fancy fundraising dinner for the elite down in the tunnel, making the dinner short enough and ventilated enough that no one passed out. Of course, sitting and eating dinner is very different from digging a tunnel.
Young Dr. Freud
While Freud got a lot of things wrong when it comes to psychology, he also got a lot of things right, and he is STRAIGHT UP the founding father of modern psychology. The entire idea of a "subconscious" is still a driving factor in today's view of the mind. In a time when it was believed that childhood masturbation would cause "hysteria," this man changed everything.
I Know That Voice
I want to do voice over! This was an awesome look at the world of voice acting. Everyone in the industry has their own methods--some people need to see an illustration of the character, and others just experiment. The most valuable thing I learned from this documentary is the power of learning to do impressions. Impressions are just a gimmick, and aren't enough alone to get you into voice acting. BUT learning to do impressions is valuable because it forces you to break down a voice--to understand it's tone and rhythm and cadence and placement and sound. And those are the tools you will use in CREATING a voice.
This follows the story of one man and his journey to build his own tiny home. Jacob and I have been interested in the "Tiny House" movement for a few years now, and while we don't live "tiny" nowadays, we are inspired to live "smaller." My favorite quote from this documentary was that "small spaces force you to confront your excess." Jacob and I have moved around a lot this last year, and with every move, we take boxes of stuff to the thrift store. And we find that we don't miss any of it. I think that we only have stuff because we have room for it. So if you get rid of the room for it, you'll get rid of the stuff.
The Source Family
This was reminiscent of the documentary "Commune," which talked about several groups in the 60s who experimented with communal living. The Source Family was founded by James Edward Baker, or "YaHoWha" in California in the late 60s, and the community of 150 people he built lived off the earnings of the Source Restaurant. My favorite story from this documentary is about a man who had heard of YaHoWha and wanted to meet him. He wasn't sure how one was to act in meeting a mystic, so when he met YaHoWha, he kissed his feet. YaHoWha looked down at him and said, "Far f***king out, man."
WARNING: LANGUAGE, NUDITY
So awesome! I love the idea of embracing our embarrassments. This is a documentary about a live show in which people read out loud from their childhood journals. It is funny, heart-warming, and inspiring. The human experience is absurd and emotional and beautiful and embarrassing, and I love that. I dug out my own journals after watching this, and reveled in the awesome silliness of youth.
WARNING: LANGUAGE, SOME DISCUSSION OF SEXUALITY
Terms and Conditions May Apply
Gaaaaahhhh the government is Big Brother and they watch everything we do and I hate it! I spent a few days being pretty paranoid after watching this. I always shake my fist at the NSA when I drive past it near Thanksgiving Point. (You hear that, NSA?) This documentary covers the fact that all those "Terms and Conditions" we agree to whenever we sign up for something actually just gives governments the right to keep track of everything we do. Which is terrifying. When I bring this up, people have said, "Well, I have nothing to hide, so why should that bother me?" That's not the point. The point is that NO ONE IS WATCHING THE WATCHERS. And that's a problem. This is George Orwell 1984. This is a panopticon. I've also heard "Well, if you don't want to be watched, don't sign up for things." First of all, if I never signed up for anything, I couldn't talk about important ideas on the internet. This very blog wouldn't exist. I couldn't Skype with my family. I couldn't apply for jobs using LinkedIn. I couldn't complete online classes. I couldn't answer work emails. Etc. But even more than that, I shouldn't have to opt out. It's the principle of the thing.
Betty Page Reveals All
As an anti-pornography feminist, I've always been fascinated by Betty Page. On the one hand, pornography. On the other hand, freedom of sexual expression? And women's liberation? And not listening to someone else telling you what your sexuality should be? I don't know. Either way, I found this documentary fascinating. I'm still kind of on the fence about pin-up modeling, but this documentary helped humanize Betty Page's world for me, and for the most part, I think I dig a lot of the things she did.
WARNING: SEXUALITY AND NUDITY
Ah, Burt. This documentary chronicles the story and personality of Burt's Bees founder Burt Shavitz, and his journey from selling honey from the back of his truck to being bought out by Clorox. It's kind of a dramatic story, actually. Burt is somehow charming, though.
I loved this! All about New York City women over the age of 55, with fabulous fashion sense. This profiles several different women, and I was completely charmed by all of them. And the message is an inspiring one--that you can choose to feel glamorous and elegant no matter what stage of life you're in, and that fashion is an amazing medium of creativity and self-expression.
American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late Night
I've heard the name Johnny Carson bandied about for years and years, but didn't really know much about his legacy until now. And NOW, I feel like a fool for taking so long to learn about him. He created the entire foundation of late-night television. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson...all of these folks owe their world to Johnny Carson. The most moving bit of the documentary was watching Drew Carey tearfully and emotionally recall the time he performed on Johnny Carson's show.
Mona Lisa is Missing
I'd call this a bit of a "laundry documentary"; doesn't quite need your full attention, but is pretty interesting. This chronicles the story of Vincenzo Peruggia, the Italian immigrant who stole the Mona Lisa back in 1911. He held on to her for several years, before attempting to sell her (or "return her," as he thought) to the Uffizi in 1913. The most interesting thing I learned is that this theft is what made the Mona Lisa the icon that it is. Before that, it was just a painting, but after the theft, her image was plastered everywhere, in a "face on the milk carton" way. And that made her famous.
Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream
It's lucky that I don't live in the age of McCarthyism, because I'd be hauled away for questioning. Because I'm not a fan of capitalism sometimes. I recognize that it can create great wealth, but it also creates great disparity. Also, there should be way more regulation regarding political action committees. Because without that regulation, we don't live in a democracy. We live in an oligarchy. A corporatocracy. And that's lame.
The Loving Story
First of all, the name of this documentary is so perfect. This tells the story of an interracial couple from Virginia in the late 1950s. Interracial marriage was straight up ILLEGAL back then, and this chronicles the Lovings fight to stay together. There is a TON of footage from the couple, so this is a great glimpse into Civil Rights era America. I'm astonished (and a little ashamed) that this was so recent.
The fate of this library makes me weep. I can't even really talk about it. You'll have to google it. But one cool thing I learned about in this documentary was the female philosopher Hypatia. (What's that? A female philosopher in a time and place when women weren't in the public sphere?!) In fact, she was the HEAD of the Platonist philosophy school in Alexandria. Of course, she was eventually murdered by an angry mob, but ya win some, ya lose some. Anyway.
The Turin Shroud
I was a little wary of this one, but it was actually FASCINATING. The Turin Shroud is the cloth that supposedly covered the body of Christ in the tomb before he was resurrected. There's an imprint of a face and body in it, and no one is exactly sure how it got there or what it's from. Was it a hoax, painted by Medieval folks? Was it the first ever photograph? Was it really the result of some metaphysical forces?
My Penis and Everyone Else's
This is the sequel to a documentary I watched a while ago, called "My Penis and I." A man in England with an unusually small penis tries to get conversations going with others about penis size and what it means. His experiences point out the sex-obsessed aspects of our culture, and how much of that sex obsession is male-centered. Some men even get penis enhancement surgeries in order to prevent their girlfriends from cheating on them, not realizing that sexual fulfillment is about much much much more than the size of your equipment. And infidelity is about much more than sex.
WARNING: NUDITY, LANGUAGE, DISCUSSIONS OF SEXUALITY
I never really realized this, but the entire idea of a "teenager" is a 20th century concept. Before that, you were either a child, or an adult. The roaring twenties, two world wars, and an economic boom in the 1950s all combined to create an entire teenage culture. The world "teenager" didn't appear very often before 1945, when it was popularized by an article published in the New York Times, called "The Teenage Bill of Rights."