A little bit of documentary love.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Lately I've been really into watching documentaries.  I felt like I was getting into some little-known subculture and first, got scared that I was getting too hip for my own good.  But then second, the very same day that I realized I was getting into documentaries, Joanna at A Cup of Jo made a post about her favourite docs.  And I realized if one of the most popular blogs on the internet discusses docs and then garners 224 comments of documentary recommendations...I'm not suddenly privy into some super secret underground club.  In fact, I'm pretty much boarding the trendy train as it happens.

But I don't care, because holy shit this new interest has opened up so many freakin' frakkin' windows!  Or DVD boxes, in this case.  I read through most of the comments on Joanna's post so I could get some recommendations as to what to watch...let's just say, it's going to take me a little time to get through 120 documentaries.

The ones pictured at the top of the post are the ones I've watched in the past week, and I decided to do short 1-line reviews of each.  I've also linked each title to its respective trailer, if you wish to find out more.
No Impact Man: Despite the fact I am most definitely not on the forefront of green, sustained living, this one definitely made me consider my own life as I was completely entertained by this family and their dynamic.  Recommended.
Frontrunners: Following the high school student elections at the most prestigious public high school of New York City, I was surprisingly drawn into each of the featured kids and who they turned out to be--and I actually found I was eager to know who would win! (Which is strange, since I didn't even care about my own high school's student elections.)
Mad Hot Ballroom: The cutest, most adorable children ever, ballroom dancing through school programs at the ripe age of 11 and 12 working towards a trophy from the city-wide school ballroom competition; I really don't think you could find the most open, eager and honest subjects anywhere else, and I loved watching them all interact (tell me, would you have wanted to hold the waist/hand of a boy/girl when you were 11?).  Highly, highly recommended.
Radiant City: Perhaps it's because I myself currently live in the suburbs, I found this documentary about suburban life and the culture it creates to be extremely skewed and not at all fair; even the "twist" towards the end, while interesting, did not win me over in the least--in fact, it made me like it even less. (I did, however, love the boy in it.)
Spellbound: There's nothing I could really say about this film to properly express how amazing it is; highlighting seven regular kid's lives who participate in the National Spelling Bee, you would never think words and spelling could become such a lesson and moral theme to a life.  Could not recommend more.
Helvetica: Though I'm not sure people who aren't typography/graphic design nuts will enjoy this, I found it incredibly interesting and really made me want to notice the things around me more.  Recommended for the artist in all of us.

I'm looking forward to watching more, and this may become something of a recurring thing if my interest stays.  Anyone else really like documentaries?  I'm open for suggestions!

4 comments:

Melissa May 26, 2010 at 9:05 AM  

Matt watched Helvetica and LOVED it, and I wouldn't call him a typography nut. I haven't seen it yet, but he told me all about it and now I see Helvetica EVERYWHERE.

Amber May 26, 2010 at 9:31 AM  

I've seen most of these. And you're right, "Mad Hot Ballroom" is super cute.

Have you seen "The King of Kong"? It's about Donkey Kong and these two guys who are competing for the high score. Probably one of the most enjoyable docs I've ever seen.

Also "Double Dare" is pretty fantastic. It follows these two stuntwomen. One is older and did stunts back in the 70s and the other is Zoe Bell, who was Xena's (Lucy Lawless') stunt double and Uma Thurman's stunt double in "Kill Bill"...and then later was in "Death Proof." I'm totally straight, but after watching that movie, I had the biggest crush on that chick. I'm convinced that she's one of the coolest people on the planet.

By the way I really like your blog!

Vivian May 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

hahah if you are just getting on the hip train, I don't know what I am...just don't call me pretentious ;-)

Docs I recommend:
Man on Wire: About Philippe Petit, a French tightrope artist, who in 1974, decides to high-wire walk between the Twin Towers. It's set like a heist movie (will they get caught? does he accomplish it?), and shows the interaction between Petit and his family and friends. It's also poignant because as you watch it, you know those towers don't exist anymore.

Young@Heart: About a senior citizen choral group getting ready for their next concert. Average age: 80. They sing rock and pop songs (Coldplay, The Ramones, The Clash, James Brown). Super adorable, heartwarming, and sad.

The September Issue: about the making of Vogue US's biggest issue. It's a lot of eye-candy and you really fall in love with Grace Coddington, stylist supreme.

Food, Inc.: About the Food industry; the effect our industry has on our health and the environment.

Planet Earth: Each disc is about a specific natural place on earth. The shots alone are breathtakingly beautiful and you're just awed with how awesome our world really is. Not to mention, the narration for each tiny creature is fantastic.

This American Life (season 1): no need to explain. You know the radio show, now it's on t.v.

I have a few more, and if you're interested, I'll fbook them to you!

Ashley R May 27, 2010 at 3:38 PM  

@Melissa - Oh good, I'm glad he liked it! I guess I'm basing it off the fact my mom saw about 45 seconds and declared it boring. And then she fell asleep. Seriously. And same, I see Helvetica SO MANY PLACES now! I'd always half noticed it, but now I'm just like can I go anywhere without it??

@Amber - I literally just checked out King of Kong from the library today! I'm excited to watch it, I've heard good things. And I'll definitely look into Double Dare. Thanks for the suggestions!

@Vivi - oh girl you know the way to my heart; Man on Wire is perhaps my favoritest EVER. It's so fascinating and interesting and heart stopping. And I laugh, because Young@Heart and September Issue are sitting in my hold queue at the library, while This American Life is currently in my DVD player waiting for me to hit play. I've watched all the Planet Earths over and over and am convinced I could keep on watching them over and over. As for Food, Inc, I'm not sure my weak stomach can handle it, but I have heard good things! My curiosity may win over potential horror.

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