Documentaries That Are Better Than Summer Blockbusters
I prefer a documentary over any summer blockbuster. It’s true. My Netflix queue is rife with them. I get so engrossed with the subjects of the documentary because, well, they’re real people. Sometimes documentaries can be just as entertaining as a comedy, or just as heartbreaking as a drama. The best part of watching a documentary is when you think to yourself, “Man, I can’t believe that really happened.” Here is the first installment of documentaries to check out when you’re up for something other than an hour and a half of Hollywood fluff:
Beyond the Mat (2000)
Admittedly, I am not a wrestling fan. I’ve always seen wrestling just a fake sport where guys dress up, pretend to get angry and then pretend to kick the living tar out of each other. The only reason why I watched this doc is because the guy I was seeing at the time made me watch it. For the sake of our relationship, I watched it. Surprisingly it held my attention from beginning to end. It focuses on wrestlers such as Jake “the Snake” Roberts, Terry Funk, and Mike “Mankind” Foley. We see how wrestling has drastically damaged them physically and emotionally; not only damaging them, but their families as well. By the end, I wasn’t ready to start watching wrestling on Monday nights, but I did start to see the wrestlers as human beings instead of just fighting puppets in a ring.
In this social media society we currently live in, it’s no wonder that most people are connecting and communicating with people via sites like Facebook and Twitter. In Catfish, one man chronicles his brother’s online relationship with a family he met on Facebook. The family consists of a mother, a singing/dancing/songwriting older daughter, and a young daughter who seems to be a child prodigy. Her artwork is amazingly mature and gifted, considering she is only eight years old. The brother soon begins a romantic relationship of sorts with the older sister through texts, emails, talking on the phone and, of course, Facebook. A surprise road trip to meet this too good to be true family brings surprising twists and turns.
Crazy Love (2007)
Burt Pugach and Linda Riss fell in love in the late 1950s. She was a terribly attractive 21 year old from East Bronx; he was a terribly rich lawyer who liked to have a good time. Everything seemed picture perfect until Riss discovered that Pugach had a wife and child. From here the story begins to resemble a story concocted by some a soap opera writer. Lies are told, threats are made, and eventually a crime is committed. The less you more about this “love story,” the better. You are in for several shocks up until the very end.
Grey Gardens (1976)
What’s fascinating about this particular documentary is that this mother and daughter duo once had it all. Edith Bouvier Beale (often referred to as Big Edie) and her daughter with the same name (but referred to as Little Edie) had plenty of money and lived comfortably in the East Hamptons. Their home, known as Grey Gardens, was a vacation spot for young Jackie O (she was Big Edie’s niece and Little Edie’s cousin). But when hard times hit the two Edies and the money ran out, they were left in their Grey Gardens mansion with nothing more than memories and a lot of cats running around. The home began to deteriorate because they didn’t know how to take care of it themselves. It was a huge scandal back in the mid-1970s when it was revealed that Jackie O’s relatives were poverty-stricken and barely surviving. This documentary is more than just an examination of the filth they were living in; It’s more about the relationship between mother and daughter and how these two women were able to survive their hardships by leaning on one another.
King of Kong (2008)
Billy Mitchell. You turd. You can walk around wearing your American flag tie with your long, dark brown hair flowing in the wind all you want. You’re still a walking turd in my eyes. For those who have seen King of Kong, hopefully you feel my hatred. For those who haven’t, you should see it as soon as possible. This strangely captivating tale revolves around the old Donkey Kong arcade machine and the battle between two men who want to hold the world record. One is Billy Mitchell. He’s the reigning champion. He also sells hot sauce and owns a chain of hot wings restaurants. He’s a real weenie. The man most people root for, though, is the underdog Steve Wiebe. He is an all-around good and decent person. He has never been the best at anything despite being fairly good at a lot of things like baseball, the drums, etc. After buying a Donkey Kong arcade, he realizes he has a knack for the game. He strives to beat Billy for the Guinness World Record. Even if you aren’t a fan of video games, you’ll be moved by King of Kong.
Writer/Director Troy Duffy was an enigma when he arrived on the Hollywood scene after penning the cult classic The Boondock Saints. Duffy was bartending when he wrote a screenplay that opened doors for him. Even Harvey Weinstein over at Miramax Pictures took interest. Weinstein wanted to finance the film and help Duffy become the biggest writer/director since Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith. Weinstein bought Duffy’s screenplay for $300,000, gave him a $15 million budget for the film, and allowed Duffy to have final cut. This is practically unheard of in Hollywood. Duffy’s ego, however, got in the way of everything. Overnight captures how he managed to alienate everyone around him because of his behavior and, ultimately, damaged his reputation in Tinseltown.
Paradise Lost: The Chlid Murders at Robin Hill Woods (1996)/Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2001)
In 1993, three young boys were murdered and mutilated in West Memphis, Arkansas creek. Three local teen outcasts were fingered for the crime and supposedly killed the three boys in some sort of satanic ritual. The interviews with the family’s of the victims are painful, but equally painful are the interviews with the accused and their families. The three teenagers (dubbed the West Memphis Three) say that they are innocent and are an easy target because they wear dark clothing, aren’t religious and listen to bands like Metallica. The first documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Woods follows the trial while interviewing those whose lives have been altered due to these murders. The sequel, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations plays catch-up with everyone four years after the trial. Whether you think the West Memphis Three are guilty or innocent, you will walk away from these documentaries both enraged and saddened by the collective loss felt by everyone.
Super Size Me (2004)
Sure, documentarian Morgan Spurlock makes some valid points in this documentary where he only eats McDonald’s for 30 days. If you eat fast food everyday, you’re probably going to get fat and die a lot sooner than you should. Portion sizes have gotten way out of control. Exercise is equally as important when trying to keep a fit body. Advertisers are brainwashing our children by using child-friendly mascots to sell greasy fast food. This is all true. But you know what else is true? Every time I watch Super Size Me, I get hungry for some McDonald’s. And maybe once I paused the doc to go get some McDonald’s. Only once, though. Don’t judge!
Star Trek fans are examined in this highly entertaining documentary. Some only dress up during conventions, while others carry their love for the show into their everyday lives or even their professions. They display their love for everything Star Trek-related for all the world to see and they are a proud people. Admittedly, I laughed throughout the entire documentary, but most everyone who is interviewed seems genuinely happy. Are they just a bunch of loners who have deluded themselves into a happy existence via Star Trek? Or are they onto something that the rest of us haven’t grasped yet? Only time (and maybe space) will tell. If you happen to watch Trekkies, there is a sequel called Trekkies 2. Although not as good as the first, some of the original Trekkies are revisited and talk about how their lives have changed since the first film.