Saturday, July 24, 2021

29/52 - Dark Side of The Ring

 

Dark Side of the Ring (2019) - This one is a docuseries that currently has three seasons available. I am a child of the 70s which means I was at the perfect age for the WWF wrestling heydays in the mid to late 80s. The local civic center was a regular stop on the WWF circuit at the time, so we saw our fair share of live shows back in the day as well. There also may have been an action figure sized wrestling ring and a boatload of rubber wrestling figures in the house. Heck, there may be one pint sized King Kong Bundy figure standing on someone's desk downstairs at this very moment. So, yeah there is a healthy dose of nostalgia there.

I actually enjoyed this series a lot. The stories are obviously well researched and the interviews really round them out. There seems to be an unending well of stories to tell here and there was plenty I didn't know, for example the Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth were actually husband and wife. Shrug. Who knew? I mean likely every wrestling fan aside from me. There were plenty of stories from the greats, but also a lot of "smaller" stories that were equally as interesting. Of course there were plenty of heart breaking stories to go around like Owen Hart and Chris Benoit, to name just two.

If you were/are a wrestling fan, these are a great watch!

We watched this on Crave.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

28/52 - What Drives Us

 

What Drives Us (2021) - By the title I thought this was going to be a documentary about motivation/being the best version of yourself and I was way off. It's actually a fun little look back to the beginning days of being in a band and touring around the country from place to place in a fan. Directed by Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters it brings together archive footage and present day interview of some of the greats, Ringo Starr, Steven Tyler, the Edge and a pit stop with a young and currently van touring (with their dad!). 

Again, this wasn't a hard hitting expose, but a fun nostalgic look back at the good old days by some greats. I read a review online that remarked that Grohl is romanticizing his time touring in a van and that seems reasonable to me. At one point someone goes through the levels of success beginning with van touring, to a bus and then a bus for the band and a separate bus for the crew to everyone band member having their own band and along the way you lose that family dynamic of being all together. I can only imagine that once you get to a U2 level of success there is a lot of separation between band/crew/fans that wasn't present in those early hard luck days of just trying to make it. I think they've earned the right to paint it in a warm light or at least be able to chuckle at the hard bits.

And you know, sometimes hopping into a van packed with gear and your best mates was a desperately needed escape from things that were happening at home, as is discussed by more than one interviewee. I really felt like if nothing else it turned icons into humans. If you're a music fan, it's a warm easy watch, in my opinion.

I watched this on Amazon Prime Video.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

27/52 - Dads

 

Dads (2019) - I try to make sure I give all of my streaming services equal attention, otherwise why have them, and while Apple TV+ may be light on content compared to others, I feel it more than makes up for it in quality. My early Saturday morning documentary watching is often dictated by a mindless scroll through the offerings and that is how I stumbled upon this one. I will be honest, I didn't have high hopes for it necessarily. It's a documentary by Bryce Dallas Howard and featured a bunch of celebrity interviews and I think, maybe, we're all a little bit tired of hearing the opinions of celebrities. Or at least that's what the comment sections on the internet are telling me.

So while this may not have been a hard hitting expose of a documentary, it certainly was pleasantly uplifting and positive. The celebrity interviews really pushed the idea that we're all just humans at the end of the day. That you jump right into the deep end of parenthood and we're all just figuring it out as we go. They were sweet and fun. Ron Howard arriving for his interview and documenting it all with his phone was an adorable proud Dad moment and the Howard family home movies were a lovely addition. 

Even more engaging were the vignettes of every day Dads, their stories and struggles. There is the story of a same sex couple, who adopted 4 special needs kids, a work at home dad, co-parenting dad, these dads aren't celebrities, outside of their own families, but they are certainly the heart of this documentary. Their stories were all touching and interesting and they really offered a nice balance. In the end I really enjoyed this one. Sometimes you need a little light and hope to seep in and this one fit the bill. 

I watched this on Apple TV+

Saturday, July 03, 2021

26/52 - The Year Earth Changed

 

The Year Earth Changed (2021) - Early Saturday morning is typically documentary time for me. Sometimes I have one in mind that I want to watch, other times I pick a streaming service and scroll through until something hits my fancy. This was a happy scroll through find! This documentary tells the story of how animals are adapting to our new stay at home pandemic lifestyle. Spoiler alert, they're kind of thriving. Narrated by the wonderful David Attenborough, it is equal parts heart warming and hopeful.

I ended up watching this with my daughter and it was just the completely adorable and bright sort of pick me up we didn't know we were in need of. There isn't an overwhelming amount of humans in this one. There are some brief interviews with scientist explaining how the decrease in shipping traffic is good for the whales and empty beaches are good for turtles laying eggs. The focus is on the animals and guys, they are cute! Baby turtles making their way back to the sea. Penguins strolling down the sidewalk. Oh, did I hippo just wander into a gas station? 

It is certainly encouraging to see the great progress that has been made in the last year. The air is cleaner, traffic is less and such, but it obviously isn't sustainable as the world slowly starts to open up to humans moving around with less restrictions. There were some "meet in the middle" moments that  were thought to be helpful, like restricting access to beaches where turtles lay their eggs in the evening. I hope that some of those ideas can be implemented in the future. 

With it's shorter run time (45ish minutes) and it's high cuteness factor it is the perfect pick me up viewing. I watched this on AppleTV+

Saturday, June 26, 2021

25/52 - American Factory

 

American Factory (2019) - This was another one recommended by my husband some time ago that I finally got around to seeing. In a nutshell a Chinese billionaire opens a windshield factory in a former General Motors plant in Ohio. The community, which had been hit hard by the closing of the GM plant, is extremely optimistic at the idea of new jobs and opportunities that will be brought to the area, but not surprisingly the difference between Chinese and American work culture is shocking to all involved. From the executives right on down to the floor workers. The camera bounces back and forth between top level execs and the Chairman as they discuss moving items that have already been put into place, like the fire alarm system. The Chairman doesn't like it's positioning in the room. The execs explain it is legal code for it to be there. Chairman shrugs, basically indicating it can be moved to a spot of his liking anyway. The American execs are at a loss as to how to proceed. Add in the further wrinkle of handling this conversation through an interpreter and it's a fascinating scene to see play out over and over.

At one point several members from the American factory are sent to see how things are run in at their Chinese counterpart and the differences are quite startlingly as factory workers are interviewed about their lives and relay how many hours they work in a day and how often they see their young children. In one young lady's case it was once a year. Even still they can't wrap their heads around the American's shorter work hours, weekends off and just wanting time to be with their families. The general feeling is workers should be ready to fulfill any demands the factory has. Personally, having just wrapped up health and safety certification myself, the lack of safety systems in place in China and that were attempted to be circumvented in the American plant was truly shocking. And we haven't even touched on the classes to teach the Chinese workers who had been sent to work at the American plant how to work and interact with the slow Americans with their fat fingers, was bananas. It was truly an eye opening experience all around. 

I watched this on Netflix.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

24/52 - The Last Cruise

 

The Last Cruise (2021) - This one had been on my radar since I noticed it had popped up on HBO. This documentary is about the Diamond Princess cruise ship that set sail from Japan in the very early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. It ended up being the first and largest outbreak outside of China and the passengers and crew were quarantined on board for many many days as the various governments figured out how to get their citizens off the boat and ultimately back home safely.

Given it's short, 45 minute-ish, run time, this documentary isn't a deep analysis of the situation at play here. The focus is more on the first person account from some passengers and staff. Most of the footage is from those passengers and staff themselves as they documented their own experiences of frustration, fear and anxiety. Being over a year into this pandemic, it's an interesting look back at how much we didn't know about what was happening and what was to come. 

This documentary really highlighted the difference between the passengers and the crew. While the passengers were quarantined to the their cabins the crew still worked below deck in close quarters and lived in even tighter quarters. It would be easy to measure these different situations against each other, but it's important to see each person as an individual going through their own hardship/trauma in a situation like this. I think this documentary also reinforces the idea that we need to take a good long look at what type of work is actually essential and equitable access to medicine/health care. That the medical team on board was overwhelmed and under prepared for the situation that they were in is overtly obvious. This documentary doesn't dive into even attempting to answer these bigger issues at play, but it does a good job at exposing them. 

I watched this on Crave.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

23/52 - The Barkley Marathons

 

The Barkley Marathons (2014) - A few years ago I happened to read an article about The Barkley Marathons and I was a lot of things; gob smacked, intrigued, entranced and there were feelings of disbelief and I definitely read the article twice, probably while shaking my head. All this just about an article, so imagine my excitement to find a Barkley Marathons documentary while scrolling through my options one Saturday morning. Friends, I couldn't hit play fast enough. 

If I had to describe this in a couple of words, I would say it's a fever dream. A fever dream of the highest order, but still a fever dream. This is an endurance race through the mountains in Tennessee consisting of 5 loops, each 20 miles (official length is 20 miles, but the runners will tell you it's actually more) that less than 20 people have finished in three decades. There is a ton quirks tied into this race, from the application process, which is "secret" right through to the race start time.... also secret. Much like the article I also enjoyed this one a second time. Half the family joined me half way through my viewing and one missed the thing entirely, so I happily sat down to watch it all again with them. I think it's easy to dismiss Lazarus Lake, race co-founder, as a full blown nut, but he actually had a lot of interesting thoughts on testing yourself and dabbling in failure. 

So many talking points from this one! Gosh I can't wait for parties to happen again. Or maybe I will just become one of those local bar know-it-alls. Once the bars open back up again. Much like Tread, from back at the beginning of this project, I asked myself.... what did I just see? The answer, so much... from the flannel shirts to the conch shell to the prison tunnel all the way to the finish line... what a wild ride. 

I watched this on Amazon Prime Video.