Tag Archives: 2012

Top 100 Films #35 – It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

 

bzjxais8gmrbnr0hyvnecgx6pfz#35. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt
Written by: Don Hertzfeldt
Starring: Don Hertzfeldt, Sara Cushman

It’s Such a Beautiful Day is a collection of three inter-connected minimalist animated stories by American independent animator Don Hertzfeldt.  The three films are entitled Everything Will Be OK (2006), I Am So Proud of You (2007), and the titular It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2011), which capped off the story and saw Hertzfeldt combine the three into a full-length feature in 2012.  The story of It’s Such a Beautiful Day follows a man named Bill, who has been experienced memory loss and hallucinations as a result of a mysterious illness he has been stricken with.  Bill’s family history of mental illness is chronicled, as is Bill’s own daily life, and his own eventual struggle with illness and his inevitable death. Hertzfeldt’s film is the only animated movie on my list, and for good reason – it’s a soul destroying, darkly humorous, and heart wrenching piece of beautiful art that everybody should see at least once.  It’s Such a Beautiful Day features Don Hertzfeldt’s trademark absurd sense of humor, surrealism, and an incredibly poignant take on dealing with one’s own mortality – one that I can admit I wasn’t ready to see at the time.  It’s a difficult and exhausting experience, but is well worth the time and energy if only for Hertzfeldt’s unique animation styles and method of storytelling, both of which help to make this film a masterpiece.  The character of Bill is incredibly easy to sympathize with, especially since we as the audience know more about his current perilous situation.  Watching a character slowly lose their mind and everything that makes them unique is a trying experience, but one that is incredibly original, and deeply profound.  I can’t recommend It’s Such a Beautiful Day to anybody who isn’t ready for the emotional punch that it packs, but I can with all honesty say that it may change your life.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews, Top 100 Films

Top 100 Films #95 – Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

 

2#95. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong

One of just six films from the 2010’s on my list, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is a film that I didn’t immediately connect with upon seeing it.  It’s deliberate pacing and controversial political subject matter certainly isn’t for everybody, but it’s exactly what I came to love about the film.  As far as procedural films go, Zero Dark Thirty is truly one of the all-time greats.  It follows Jessica Chastain’s CIA operative Maya as she works to track down Osama Bin Laden – no matter the consequences.  Along the way she loses friends and colleagues, is forced to employ some less than ethical tactics, and rises up in the ranks of the CIA.  Maya’s mission is not an easy one, but it’s something she’s hell-bent on seeing through to the bitter end.  Kathryn Bigelow’s steady, unflinching direction works perfectly to compliments the film’s slow-burn pacing, and helps to set the tone for its many pitch black moments.  Bigelow and writer Mark Boal ask some incredibly big questions about patriotism, national security, and how far is too far – even if it means making the world a better place.  Jessica Chastain’s performance as the obsessive CIA agent Maya is incredible – she perfectly portrays Maya’s stubborn, patriotic, dedicated mindset, showing how it affects her and those around her negatively and positively.  Her internal moral struggle with doing the right thing and seeing the job through to the end alone makes the film worth a watch.  The highlight of Zero Dark Thirty comes in its climactic compound raid scene – Bigelow’s choice to employ night vision cameras makes this a sequence that must be seen to be believed.  Zero Dark Thirty is a truly modern masterpiece.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews, Top 100 Films

My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (Honorable Mentions)

Disclaimer: These are the ten films that would have absolutely made my all-time favorite list if I had expanded it to thirty films.  All of them come very highly recommended, and deserve some sort of mention or shout out, no matter how brief.  I chose to disqualify any film covered in my Doctober features this past month, otherwise many of those films would have appeared on this list without a doubt.  Without further ado, here are my ten honorable mentions in alphabetical order:


00071431-644990_500102 Minutes That Changed America (2008)

Directed by: Nicole Rittenmeyer, Seth Skundrick

Starring: n/a

This is exactly what the title implies – 102 minutes of amateur videos taken from ground zero and the surrounding areas on the morning and afternoon of September 11th, 2001.  102 Minutes That Changed America was a History Channel original that premiered in 2008, bringing with it a great deal of never-before-seen footage.  The film takes place in real-time and splices the footage together seamlessly.  The home movies shown throughout 102 Minutes are startling as they show just how terrifying and real this event was, especially in an age where not everybody had internet access.  People struggle to contact their families, flee from ground zero, while others look on helplessly from their high-rise apartment buildings as the world falls apart in front of their very eyes.  102 Minutes That Changed America is incredible in its use of amateur footage, and is incredibly difficult to watch because of the memories and emotions it evokes.  This isn’t some idiotic piece of conspiracy theorist rhetoric, but instead reality in its purest, ugliest, most tragic form.


Beauty Day (2011)r67aNN4

Directed by: Jay Cheel

Starring: Ralph Zavadil

Film Junk Podcast co-host Jay Cheel’s directorial debut shows restraint and passion that few documentary debuts ever have.  Beauty Day tells the story of Ralph Zavadil, better known to many Canadians (especially those in the Niagara region) as Cap’n Video, the host of a Jackass-style cable network TV show during the early 1990’s.  Zavadil gained international fame after a failed stunt for his show saw him fall from a ladder head-first into his pool-side deck, a video clip that has been shown endlessly for years since.  The accident left Cap’n Video severely injured, but the show went on.  After the series was cancelled in the mid-90’s for reasons too absurd to reveal here, Zavadil quickly falls into obscurity. Beauty Day documents the odd career of a cult icon to many young Canadians, and gets into the mind of a truly unique man.  The film is hilarious and incredibly touching, and it’s one I can’t recommend enough.  Cheel’s upcoming film How to Build a Time Machine is one I’ll be keeping my eye on for sure.


1000021Bus 174 (2002)

Directed by: Jose Padilha, Felipe Lacerda

Starring: Sandro do Nascimento

Bus 174 is a film I finally caught with the intention to cover during my Doctober month, before I opted to write multiple-film feature reviews.  This is a documentary that has stuck with me since the moment I saw it, and one I wish I had watched years ago.  Bus 174 tells the incredible story of one of the most famous hostage-negotiation situations in modern history.  The story is so notorious solely due to how absurd the situation was, and how it was handled by both the police and the news media in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Bus 174 features live coverage by the news media, showing every single angle and aspect from on-the-ground of the hostage crisis.  Police officers and media officials involved in the four-hour negotiation process are interviewed, and a background of the perpetrator is given, detailing possible motives for why somebody would attempt such a desperate act.  Bus 174 has a lot to say about the relationship between law enforcement and the public, as well as the media’s obsession for a bloody lead story.  Bus 174 is a thrilling documentary that just narrowly missed my top 20 list, and I can’t recommend it enough.  It’s surprisingly relevant in its commentary, and will challenge anybody willing to be challenged.


The Invisible War (2012)The_Invisible_War_Poster

Directed by: Kirby Dick

Starring:  Kori Cioca

Kirby Dick is a filmmaker who loves to tackle incredibly difficult subjects, and his Oscar-nominated The Invisible War is absolutely no different.  His film exposes the shocking amount of sexual assault and trauma that takes place in the American military, and the disgusting lack of support given to the victims of these assaults.  The Invisible War features eye-opening interviews with veterans who have been taken advantage of by their superior officers and their colleagues, and they are guaranteed to break your heart and make you lose a lot of respect for the way the system works.  The lack of support for the survivors of these assaults is chronicled, with perpetrators being protected by the system, and victims left helpless or punished for coming clean.  The Invisible War follows Kori Cioca throughout the film as tries to earn medical benefits in order to pay for treatment after her own assault and rape.  Cioca is incredibly strong throughout the film, and does everything in her power to right the system she was once proud to be a member of.  Kirby Dick’s documentary exposes those responsible for the rape and assault of officers in the service, as well as those responsible for protecting the perpetrators.  The Invisible War is incredibly difficult to watch because of the subject matter, but is an incredibly important film in today’s social climate.


Life_in_a_DayLife In a Day (2011)

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald

Starring: You

In the Summer of 2010, a call was made by Ridley Scott and director Kevin Macdonald on the still-young YouTube for the public to record videos of themselves on the day of July 24, 2010.  Those videos were edited and compiled into one incredibly unique project called Life in a Day, known to some as “the YouTube movie”.  Life in a Day is a truly special experience as it shows a completely normal and mundane day, but puts you in the shoes of hundreds of different people of all nationalities and social classes.  We get to see people commuting to work, mourning the loss of loved ones, being with their family and loved ones, having their hearts broken, and many other seemingly boring day-to-day activities.  Through the use of some incredible editing and storytelling, Life in a Day is anything but boring.  It’s an incredibly beautiful, relaxing, and compelling film that brings tears of joy to my face literally everytime I see it.  Films like these show how special life in all its mundanity, no matter how big or small these moments are, they’re nonetheless beautiful and affecting in ways most films could never achieve.  Life in a Day just narrowly missed my list in favour of Little Dieter Needs to Fly, a film I had seen more recently than this.  Do yourselves a favour and see this film immediately. It’s light and brief while at the same time being intimate and inspirational.  In short, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.


Searching for Sugar Man (2012)Searching-for-sugar-man--poster

Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul

Starring: Rodriguez, Stephen Segerman

The 2012 Academy Award-winning Searching for Sugar Man took the world by storm and quickly became one of the most popular and talked about documentary films in years.  Malik Bendjelloul’s film tells the story of a nearly-forgotten American rocker, Sixto Rodriguez.  Rodriguez was rumoured to have killed himself on stage during a live performance in the 1970’s, and wasn’t heard from until his re-discovery by two fans in the 1990’s.  Rodriguez had great critical and commercial success in South Africa, where the two fans in question were originally from.  Searching for Sugar Man’s search for the legendary musician is thrilling, and thankfully features an incredible payoff that makes the whole journey worthwhile.  The film is very touching and thankfully exposed the Western world to the music of Rodriguez, giving him belated, but deserved, fame and success in the United States.  On a much darker, more tragic note, the film’s director Malik Bendjelloul would commit suicide in 2014 (shortly after his Oscar win) after struggling with depression for years.  This is an incredibly inspirational and uplifting documentary about the search for a legend, and is bound to inspire you in some way.


The_Square_(2013_film)The Square (2014)

Directed by: Jehane Noujaime

Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Ahmed Hassan, Dina Abdullah, Magdy Ashour

The Netflix “original” documentary The Square is another film that just narrowly missed my official list, and one I struggled to remove.  Though I may have a great deal of problems with the “original” content provided by Netflix, The Square proves that the popular on-demand service definitely has an eye for acquiring worthwhile films when they’re available.  The Square puts the audience right in the middle of the Egyptian Revolution of the early 2010’s, starting with the beginnings of the movement in Tahrir Square in 2011, and chronicling the many hits and misses until the time of the films release.  The Square is incredibly compelling as it puts viewers right in the middle of the turmoil, showing some of the very harsh realities being faced by the revolutionaries in Egypt.  It’s truly thrilling to see a group of people rise up against tyranny and oppression, and never backing down until some sort of change is made.  The Square earned Netflix its very first Academy Award nomination this past year, and is a good sign of things to come as far as the service’s acquiring of documentary films goes.  I can’t recommend this film enough, whether or not you know anything about the important events happening in Egypt.  It’s powerful, sobering, and moving, and something that everybody should see at least once.


Undefeated (2011)Undefeated_FilmPoster

Directed by: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

Starring: Montrail Brown, O.C. Brown, Bill Courtney, Chavis Daniels, Jeff Germany

The Academy Award winning Undefeated is a film I went into expecting absolutely nothing, and instead left being incredibly touched.  It’s a film that on the surface appears to be just another sports documentary, but it’s so much more than that.  Undefeated tells the story of a Memphis high school football team, the Manassas Tigers, as they attempt a successful season after many years of crushing defeats on the field.  Head coach Bill Courtney helps turn the lives of his team members around, ensuring that they’re much more efficient in both the classroom and on the field.  Courtney is incredibly inspirational throughout the film, ensuring that the needs of every single player on his team is seen to and that all these young men get what they deserve.  Undefeated is both heartbreaking and inspirational in many of the same ways a film like Hoop Dreams is, and I can only hope that this film earns half that reputation.  Bill Courtney makes the world of his young players a better place in his own small ways, something that many people can learn from. Undefeated is currently available on Netflix streaming.


¥Winnebago_poster40x27-2Winnebago Man (2009)

Directed by: Ben Steinbauer

Starring: Jack Rebney, Ben Steinbauer

“I gotta read it again because my mind is just a piece of shit this morning!” – If you’ve had access to the internet at all in the past twenty years, there’s a great chance that you’ve seen the hilarious outtakes from Jack Rebney’s winnebago sales video.  Winnebago Man chronicles the extreme popularity of Rebney’s outtakes videos, making him known universally as “the angriest man in the world”.  Nobody does swearing and outbursts quite like Jack Rebney, and it’s these moments and outbursts that make Winnebago Man a truly hilarious and feel-good documentary that has seemingly flown under the radar of too many people.  The film proves that there’s more to Mr. Rebney than swearing and angry outbursts, and provides the audience with a very humanizing look at a polarizing man. Director Ben Steinbauer finds that Rebney is now living in a remote California home away from the public, and may not be the high-strung character he thought he would be.  Winnebago Man is surprisingly touching and emotionally-engaging for a film about such a funny viral video, and is something you’ll be quoting for days on end.  “Accoutrement!?   What is that shit!?”


The Wolfpack (2015)Wolfpack_film_poster

Directed by: Crystal Moselle

Starring: The Angulo Family

The final film on my list of honorable mentions also happens to be the most recently released film.  The Wolfpack is a brand new documentary by Crystal Moselle, taking a look at the lives of six brothers who grew up in a small New York City apartment, forbidden by their father to leave the confines of the apartment – leaving them isolated from the rest of the world.  The boys learn about the ways of the world through Hollywood and foreign-language films, learning a great deal of real of both legitimate and completely false information from the many films they see throughout their lives.  The boys not only learn a great deal from the films, but recreate them on video with the use of incredible homemade costumes and props, and a hell of a lot of passion and originality.  When one of the boys leaves the apartment one afternoon to walk the streets unsupervised, their worlds are quickly turned upside down and will never be the same.  The Wolfpack is a film that hits incredibly close to home for me, especially in the passion for film and pop culture the boys have and continue to hold.  Though we led incredibly different lives growing up, I feel I understand the minds of the Angulo boys, and they are now people I very much relate to and look up to.  The Wolfpack is incredible in every single way, and is a film that I can guarantee will only grow in esteem as the years go by.


Part 1 (#20-#16) can be viewed here

Part 2 (#15-#11) can be viewed here

Part 3 (#10-#6) can be viewed here

Part 4 (#5-#1) can be viewed here

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctober, Lists

My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (#10-6)

Citizenfour_poster10. Citizenfour (2014)

Directed by: Laura Poitras

Starring: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Ewen MacAskill

The Oscar-winning documentary from just last year is the most recent film on my list, but undoubtedly one of the most important.  Citizenfour is Laura Poitras’ revealing film about American whistleblower Edward Snowden, one of the most important social figures of the modern era.  Snowden fled the country and subsequently leaked documents revealing the extent of the surveillance and wiretapping being practised by the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA).  These documents are incredibly troubling to anybody even remotely concerned about personal privacy in the internet age, and are the result of a single tragic moment in history, the attacks on American on September 11th, 2001.  Snowden secretly reached out to Laura Poitras, and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and met with the group in Hong Kong for the making of Citizenfour, one of the most frightening and groundbreaking documentaries of the decade.  The film largely takes place in a hotel room, where the four discuss the documents, the leaking and reporting of said documents, and spend a great deal of time dealing with the inevitable paranoia that comes with meeting in such secretive and important fashion. Citizenfour is meditative, intense, and terrifying all at the same time, making it an incredibly compelling watch and a film deserving of its tremendous critical reception.  This is an Academy Award winner that absolutely nobody can dispute the importance of, and one we’ll be analyzing and poring over for years to come.   


9. Trouble the Water (2008)Trouble_the_water

Directed by: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin

Starring: Kimberly Rivers Roberts, Scott Roberts

In 2005, the effects of Hurricane Katrina were felt all around the United States, but nobody got it worse than those living in Louisiana, specifically the famous city of New Orleans.  Trouble the Water is the incredible documentary that tells a story of survival, struggle, and raises major questions and concerns about the government’s handling of the Hurricane.  Trouble the Water follows Kimberly Roberts and her husband Scott, both of whom walk the devastated streets of their former hurricane, now changed forever.  Kimberly videotaped the day before the storm struck New Orleans, and the morning of the storm, capturing terrifying and thrilling footage of the events.  Kimberly’s videos are played between other home videos, news reports, and interviews taken by Deal and Lessin, the directors of Trouble the Water.  Kimberly and Scott try to find silver linings in the destruction of their great city, and struggle with starting fresh after such devastation.  They voice their frustrations with the way the American government handled the failing of the levees, the setting up of shelters for those displaced throughout Louisiana, and delivering aid to their countrymen in their time of need.  Trouble the Water raises incredibly thought-provoking arguements that American’s are still wrestling with over a decade later, and because of that is incredibly engaging, frustrating, and downright scary.  The film was deservingly nominated for an Academy Award in 2009, but lost out to the incredibly influential and entertaining Man on Wire.  This is a must-see film about one of the most tragic events of the last decade, and is an absolute eye-opener.


Stop_making_sense_poster_original8. Stop Making Sense (1984)

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Starring: The Talking Heads (David Byrne, Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, Steven Scales, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison)

The second rockumentary on my list is a much different monster than Anvil! The Story of Anvil, but succeeds in being every single bit as entertaining.  Stop Making Sense is the incredible concert film by Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme, focusing entirely on the Talking Heads, fronted by the highly-acclaimed and eccentric David Byrne.  Talking Heads were one of the most influential alt-rock bands of the 1980’s, and continue to be incredibly popular even after being broken up for as long as I’ve been alive. Byrne and company give highly energetic and entertaining performances, featuring terrific sound design and direction by the legendary Jonathan Demme.  Highlights of the concert include Byrne’s opening performance of “Psycho Killer”, featuring only himself and a boombox, the incredible performance of the band’s biggest hit “Burning Down the House”, and most notably Byrne’s iconic massive business suit, gradually growing comedically larger throughout the film.  Stop Making Sense is a hell of a lot of fun, and is the single concert movie I find myself coming back to time and time again, not only because I adore the music, but because everything about it is just so lively, so lovingly-crafted, and so damned influential in its absurdity.  Stop Making Sense is perfect in every way, and deserves a spot at the top of any concert documentary list.  I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a fan of Talking Heads, it’s a terrific time that’ll leave you smiling for hours after it’s over.


7. Stories We Tell (2012)Stories_We_Tell_poster

Directed by: Sarah Polley

Starring: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley

Blurring the lines between reality and fiction, Canadian actress Sarah Polley’s documentary is easily the best film in her already impressive directorial catalog.  Stories We Tell is an incredibly personal film about family, specifically her own family dynamic.  It examines the subjectivity sometimes found in truth and the act of storytelling, being both highly-engaging, entertaining, and very emotional.  Stories We Tell delves into Sarah Polley’s deepest family secrets, and does it in such a real, revolutionary way.  Though it’s centered around a family that the audience knows nothing about, it feels deeply personal and familiar in a way I’ve never really felt while watching a documentary.  Sarah Polley examines the relationship between her birth mother and her father, and reveals that she is the child of a different man, the result of an affair between her mother and a Montreal film and theatre producer.  The film is peppered with faked archival footage of Polley and her family, shot convincingly on super 8 film and blurring the lines between real and fake perfectly.  On top of the examination of the relationships in her own life, Stories We Tell analyses the act and art of storytelling, and how stories can be so revealing, and often twisted and shaped by memory.  Stories We Tell is a masterpiece of modern documentary filmmaking, and one I think about very often.  It’s a love letter to a family, a mystery, and an analysis of storytelling all wrapped into one complex, touching film.  It may not be as easy to digest as some of the other films on my list, but I promise you won’t be disappointed by this one.


For_all_mankind_dvd6. For All Mankind (1989)

Directed by: Al Reinhart

Starring: Jim Lovell, Russell Schweickart, Eugene Cernan, Michael Collins, Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon

For All Mankind is a unique film on my list, as it’s entirely composed of archival footage, all edited and stitched together to make up one beautiful documentary.  For All Mankind takes footage of NASA’s Apollo missions through the 1960’s and 1970’s, coupled with real mission recordings of the astronauts involved as well as narration by some of the men.  All this footage from different missions is seamlessly edited together to seem like one single epic mission to the moon.  For All Mankind focuses on the beauty of the distant planet Earth from the dark expanses of space, and features breathtaking visuals captured by incredibly brave pioneers of spaceflight.  If you know anything about me, you know that I adore all things space, so it’s no wonder this film is so high up on my list.  Throughout this wonderfully edited experimental film, viewers are treated to amazing views of small fires in the pitch-black Sahara desert, a quiet space-walk, a beautiful sunrise over the edge of the Earth, the first footsteps on the moon by Neil Armstrong, and the planting of the American flag on the moon’s desolate surface.  On top of these incredible images, we get to see astronauts in the hostile environments they thrive in, and get to take a look at the innovative technology of the time.  There’s not a single moment in For All Mankind that isn’t memorable or beautiful, especially in high-definition.  This documentary is a brilliant time-capsule, and is a must-see for anybody with an interest in space, NASA, and the moon.  For All Mankind is available on blu-ray through the Criterion Collection and comes highly recommended.


Part 1 (#20-#16) can be viewed here

Part 2 (#15-#11) can be viewed here

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctober, Lists

My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (#15-11)

Grey_Gardens_(1975_film)_poster15. Grey Gardens (1975)

Directed by: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer, Ellen Hovde

Starring: Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale, Edith Bouvier Beale, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Brooks Hyers

The Maysles Brothers might be two of the most influential documentary filmmakers in the history of the medium, and 1975’s Grey Gardens might be one of their absolute best, most unique works.  The film takes a look at the incredibly odd and hopelessly grungy lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Little Edie, the aunt and first cousin of former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy.  The very eccentric mother-daughter pair have resided at the titular Grey Gardens estate for decades, the massive home now dirty, cluttered, and dilapidated.  Their interactions with each other and with directors Albert and David Maysles are hilarious, unique, weird, and charming in ways I can’t possibly describe in a short blurb about why I adore the film.  The Maysles Brothers step back and allow Big Edie and Little Edie to tell their own story throughout the run-time of the documentary, painting a funny and disturbing portrait of this family.  The Beale’s many cats (and raccoon’s), their gardener Brooks and other friends of the family, and the Grey Gardens estate feature heavily throughout the film, making it an incredibly memorable experience, and one I can’t possibly recommend highly enough.  Grey Gardens is available on Blu-raythrough the Criterion Collection, and I recommend it to anybody interested in the genre.


14. Deep Water (2006)Deep_water_poster

Directed by: Louise Osmond, Jerry Rothwell

Starring: Donald Crowhurst, Clare Crowhurst, Tilda Swinton

During the painstaking process of composing this list, Deep Water is one of the films I immediately thought of, despite not knowing where or if the film would end up on my list when all was said and done.  The fact that the film, which I’ve only seen one time several years ago, made the list is a testament to just how powerful Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond’s 2006 documentary is, and the emotional effect it had on me as a viewer.  Deep Water tells the story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst and his experiences in the 1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, which took a number of yachtsmen around the world for a trophy, a cash prize, and the obvious fame and notoriety that would come with it.  Not to spoil things for those who haven’t seen this thrilling doc, but things don’t exactly go entirely smoothly for the amateur seaman, and his trip around the world becomes much more about survival than it does about a measly cash prize.  Coupled with archival footage and photos of the time, we get a realistic account of Crowhurst’s time at sea through interviews with those close to him, as well as terrific narration by the incomparable Tilda Swinton.  Deep Water is a film that is criminally under-seen in the film community, and could really do with having a resurgence of sorts.  Deep Water is exciting, it’s depressing, and it’s incredibly interesting.  The film is currently available on US Netflix for those looking to see it based on my recommendation.


InsideJob2010Poster13. Inside Job (2010)

Directed by: Charles Ferguson

Starring: Matt Damon

Inside Job is the timely Oscar-winner that took the world by surprise in 2010 by being both incredibly relevant, entertaining as hell, and making more than three times its meager budget at the box office, a rare feat for a documentary.  This is especially shocking because it’s not a documentary about a famous person, an iconic or influential movement or artist, but rather about a devastating financial crisis that hit the United States just two years earlier.  Inside Job tells the story of how the financial crisis of the late-2000’s took place through five parts: “How We Got Here”, detailing the burst of the internet stock bubble in the early 2000’s, investment banks and other protected corporations and agencies that dealt in things such as unpayable subprime loans, “The Bubble”, which covers the housing boom of the 2000’s, “The Crisis”, about the market collapse of investment banks, the fall of corporations like Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and AIG, as well as the asset relief program put into effect by US President George W. Bush, “Accountability”, which targets the executives, directors, consulting firms, and others who played a part in the recession, and lastly “Where We Are Now”, about the mass layoffs of American factory workers, and the efforts by the Obama administration to combat the effects of recession.  Charles Ferguson’s pressing documentary is insightful, entertaining, and has a hell of a lot to say about those responsible for the market crash.  If you’re even the slightest bit interested in important contemporary events that have shaped the Western world, I implore you to check out Inside Job.


12. The Central Park Five (2012)The_Central_Park_Five_poster

Directed by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon

Starring: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise

Ken Burns is perhaps one of the most famous names in documentaries because of his epic-length films covering major historical events, wars, and movements.  His filmography includes The Civil War, The Dust Bowl, The War, Prohibition, and Jazz.  Burns’ 2012 film The Central Park Five is a different monster, quite different from many of his epic historical documentaries.  The film covers the famous Central Park jogger case, which saw five young minorities falsely accused and imprisoned for the brutal rape of a female jogger late one Spring night.  The assault left the young woman in a coma for nearly two weeks, and resulted in one of America’s most famous cases of false imprisonment.  The case was immediately jumped on by news media of the time and involved a great deal of racist implications, finger-pointing, and false accusations being leveled at the five young men.  Ken Burns lays all the facts out on the table in the two-hour run-time of The Central Park Five, shocking the audience with accounts of how the defendants ended up in such a dire situation, including stories and evidence of intimidation, lying, and coercement by police officers.  Ken Burns’ daughter Sarah joined her father in writing and directing the film, and helped inspire the documentary with her thesis on the cases media coverage.  The Central Park Five will move you to tears, infuriate and frustrate you, and make you feel both hopeless and hopeful about the change in direction of news media and law enforcement as a whole.  The film is available on Netflix Instant for those interested.


Bowling_for_columbine11. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

Directed by: Michael Moore

Starring: Michael Moore

Not only did Michael Moore win an Academy Award for his social-political documentary Bowling for Columbine, but he also made himself an icon in the process; setting the bar for future generations of documentary filmmakers – especially those who wish to eclipse the popularity of their film with their own popularity.  Bowling for Columbine is Moore’s heartbreaking, entertaining, and thought and discussion-provoking 2002 documentary that took the world by storm.  It was one of the first major pieces of pop-culture to openly criticize the new Bush administration, and started a brand new conversation about gun control and America’s obsession with violence, both in the media, entertainment, and in their political affairs, that is still raging to this very day.  The film covers the tragedy that took place at Columbine High School in 2000 in-depth, interviewing some of the survivors of the shooting, features the now famous bank-opening scene, as well as multiple montages and humorous segments covering America’s foreign policy history – installing and overthrowing dictators for fifty years, violent moments in recent American history that the media heavily focused on, and a brief animated piece on the history of the United States and the creation of suburban communities and racism.  Though Bowling for Columbine never features a dull moment, the film isn’t all jokes and lightheartedness, it features incredibly eye-opening pieces on the National Rifle Association, the domestic creation of weapons of mass destruction, and the country’s constant obsession with fear-mongering.  In short, Bowling for Columbine is a documentary masterpiece in every way, bringing important, valid information to viewers while also being highly entertaining and digestible.  Seek it out immediately if you haven’t already seen it.


Part 1 (#20-#16) can be viewed here

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctober, Lists

My 20 Favorite Documentaries of All-Time (#20-16)

Disclaimer: Having always admired and appreciated the art behind documentary films, I felt it would be appropriate to dedicate an entire month to the subject of documentaries and the filmmakers behind them.  I haven’t seen every revered, influential, and critically-acclaimed film in existence, but my knowledge of documentary films is more than enough to create an all-time favorite list.  Since I see so many brand new and classic documentaries every year, I hope to be able to revise the list every year for Doctober.  Enjoy the list, let me know if I’m missing out on anything special or memorable, and let me know what your favorites are!


Dieterpstr20. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Starring: Werner Herzog, Dieter Dengler

Werner Herzog is a filmmaker who has always fascinated me, whether he’s making documentary or narrative films, he almost always has an incredible story to tell, featuring incredibly unique personalities.  Little Dieter Needs to Fly is the perfect example of this, chronicling Navy Lieutenant Dieter Dengler and his struggle to survive in the jungles of Laos as a prisoner of war by the occupying North Vietnamese.  Dieter recounts his plane being shot down by anti-aircraft fire, days of torture, starvation, escape from the North Vietnamese soldiers, and survival in the jungle.  Werner Herzog, being the eccentric madman that he is, goes as far as bringing Dengler back to Laos in order to relive and recreate his journey for the documentary.  This is an incredible story of survival that needs to be seen by all.  Herzog went on to tell the story of Dieter Dengler in 2007’s narrative film Rescue Dawn.  For more on the films of Werner Herzog, check out my Doctober Triple Feature.


19. Nanook of the North (1922)800px-Nanook_of_the_north

Directed by: Robert J. Flaherty

Starring: Allakariallak, Nyla, Allee, Cunayou, Allegoo, Camock

Though many of the scenes in Robert J. Flaherty’s classic documentary Nanook of the North are up for debate as far as validity goes, the film is nonetheless breathtaking in its technique and scope.  Nanook of the North is often considered the first feature-length documentary, and easily one of the most memorable of all-time despite claims of many of the film’s best scenes being scripted or staged.  The film follows young Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic, showing the Inuk family constructing an igloo, trading good with white men after the year’s hunt, and an exciting full-length walrus hunt.  Though Nanook of the North is dated by today’s documentary standards, the film manages to thrill the audience, and have them care for Nanook and his young “family”.  Staged or not, the documentary is undeniably impressive and remains a celebrated classic for a reason.


5_Broken_Cameras18. Five Broken Cameras (2012)

Directed by: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Starring: Emad Burnat

Five Broken Cameras is a gripping documentary directed by Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli, and follows the journey and stories of each of Burnat’s five doomed video cameras.  Five Broken Cameras begins in 2005 as young Palestinian Burnat decides to record his fourth son’s childhood, but ends up capturing much more than the innocence of childhood.  The documentary shows Emad Burnat’s small village and olive groves begin to be absorbed into Israel, and the reactions and resistance by the Palestinian villagers of the area.  Each of the filmmakers cameras tells its own story through the film, capturing friendships, arrests and beatings by the police, the rebel resistance by the villagers and activists in the country, and the murder and detention of those close to Emad Burnat and the Palestinian villagers.  Every time one of the film’s titular cameras are smashed or shot through the film is both thrilling and terrifying, but helps to create a very unique and innovative narrative.  Five Broken Cameras was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award in 2012, and remains one of the best slice-of-life documentaries about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


17.The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)Poster_of_the_movie_The_Kid_Stays_in_the_Picture

Directed by: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen

Starring: Robert Evans

Famed and acclaimed film producer Robert Evans recounts his life and career in The Kid Stays in the Picture, one of the most interesting and entertainment industry documentaries ever made. Evans had a hand in the making of such hits films in the 1960’s and 1970’s as Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, The Odd Couple, Love Story, and Chinatown, and tells the story of how many of the films came into being, as well as chronicles his rise to the top of Hollywood.  Evans narrates his own story in the film, using his famed “been there, done that” voice to recount incredible meetings, productions, and his own nightmare encounter with drugs, crime, and depression.  The Kid Stays in the Picture tells the almost unbelievable story of a young, hopeless actor who makes it to the very top of the industry, and doesn’t hesitate to get down and dirty about its subject. If you’re the least bit interested in Hollywood and one of its most famed bad boys, don’t hesitate to seek this film out immediately.


Anvil_ver216. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi

Starring: Steve Kudlow, Robb Reiner, Gary Greenblatt

The first of two rockumentary films to make my list, Anvil! The Story of Anvil tells the story of a highly-influential rock band that you’ve probably never heard of.  Anvil started their career by headlining tours with bands such as Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, and Whitenake in the 1980’s, but went on to see nowhere near the fame those groups did.  After fading into relative obscurity and not going as far as their skill and potential should have allowed them, the film sees the now-aged metal band reunite for a doomed European tour, turmoil between the members of the band, the recording of their thirteenth album, and a surprising performance in Japan.  Avil! The Story of Anvil is peppered with heartfelt moments, memorable interviews with rock stars influenced by the band, tremendously funny quips by the band members, and drama as the band fights, breaks up, and gets back together numerous times throughout.  The film’s success went on to propel Anvil into being re-discovered by the metal and rock scenes, and the band remains together even after all their ups and downs.  

1 Comment

Filed under Doctober, Lists