Sunday, March 07, 2021

9/52 - Framing Britney Spears


I'm not going to lie, I picked this one simply because of the hype surrounding it. Quite frankly I felt, for a New York Times investigative piece, it was a bit on the light side. Don't get me wrong it was interesting and thought provoking, specifically around the portions that dealt with how women are treated by the media in terms of double standards. The questions that are asked of them in interviews, the stories and the speculation that are put forth in the news, I really feel like there was no way she could win. You'd have to have an incredibly strong sense of self worth and optimal mental health, coupled with a quality support team to be able to weather that storm at such a young age and I am not sure she had any of that. She may have had parts of it at different times, but not enough of any of it at the right times. Of course, that is nothing but pure speculation on my part and truly this documentary is a lot of speculation. Sure we can see all the public moves being made, but we have no way of seeing the entire picture or have anyway of knowing anyone's true motivation.

I feel there was enough presented here, that I definitely felt bad for the situation she finds herself in, it does seem quite excessive from my perch here on my couch. It's not something you see happen to a male celebrity. I truly hope she finds the peace she is looking for.

I watched this on Crave.

Monday, February 22, 2021

8/52 - LA 92


I was on my way to watch a different documentary, when I came across this one and decided to watch it instead when I noticed that it would be coming off Netflix at the end of the month. I knew it was likely to be a difficult watch and it was, for many reasons, but I figured that was exactly the point. I mean, I could spend Black History Month watching docs about pioneering sports stars, but I also didn't have to do just that. 

I'm not really sure what to say here, I am sure the internet does not need another white lady posting her thoughts about civil rights, police brutality, and systematic racism. Not to mention I do not feel intellectually qualified to wade into this discussion on a topic as layered and as large as this. If you feel this is a simple issue of obeying the law and there will be no problems, please just move along because that isn't even close to it. I mean this documentary, which is about the Rodney King trial verdict, opens with a very similar story that took place in the 60's. The simple fact they were able to layer the statements and news reports over top of each other and have the same story told and I have no doubt that if the filmmakers were to update it today, they could do the exact same thing...... well what a sad commentary that is. That we haven't learned a single thing from any of those specific examples, and that of course is barely the tip of the iceberg.

This documentary offers no interviews with historians or the people who were involved in any way at the time, it simply shares the information as it was caught on camera and reported on by the news, police audio and radio shows. And it is pretty powerful story telling. I have no doubt that many people will think many different things after viewing this, they will have ideas proved and/or disproved. This was powerful and heartbreaking.

I watched this on Netflix.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

7/52 - Jackie Robinson


I settled on this documentary after a wander through the doc section one early Saturday morning. I have seen the movie 42 and thought I knew a bit about Jackie Robinson, but this is a Ken Burn's project, so what I actually knew could fill a thimble. This documentary was split into two episodes each with a run time that approached 2 hours. If you've seen a Ken Burns documentary before you know they are packed with information. This was a dense, but interesting watch. 

The first episode primarily dealt with his childhood and his early baseball career. I appreciated the wealth of archival footage they shared and the interviews were wonderful. His wife, Rachel Robinson, was among those interviewed, as was former President Obama, friends, teammates and reporters/historians. The strength of character and spirit that had to be summoned to survive being the first black player in the major leagues is absolutely mind boggling. The second episode focused on his eventual exit from major league ball and his work in the civil rights movement. Prior to watching this I had no knowledge of his work after he left baseball. I really appreciated this documentary for showcasing what a complex human he was beyond the ball field. I truly enjoyed this history lesson.

I watched this on Amazon Prime.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

6/52 Docs - Willie


Prior to watching this I had never heard of Willie O'Ree or this documentary, but I found myself with some time to fill and a scroll through the documentary options brought me to this one, with a big selling feature of a one hour-ish runtime. And once again, I am so glad that was my criteria because I truly enjoyed this. I am not what one would call a hockey fan, but even still it was surprising to me that I had never even heard the name of the first black player in the NHL. I mean, he's even Canadian. That seems like something we, as a country, would take ownership of. Even more perplexing to me, why this isn't a big deal within the NHL, yearly, like you see in baseball with Jackie Robinson. That is a lot to unpack right there before you even watch a minute of this documentary. 

Despite it's shorter run time, there is a lot of story to dive into here from his childhood experiences in New Brunswick to baseball tryouts in the segregated south to a hidden eye injury and two seasons in the NHL and over twenty seasons as a professional hockey player. Some of the documentary is focused on the successful campaign to have O'Ree inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as well as his twenty years as the NHL Diversity Ambassador. At 80+ years old, O'Ree is still lacing up the skates and taking time to encourage and teach kids about hockey. That sort of dedication to improving the world around you is simply inspiring. Guys, I fell in love with Willie O'Ree. This is exactly the kind of content/experience I was hoping to find when I began this project! Highly recommend.

I watched this on Crave.

Monday, February 08, 2021

5/52 Docs - Perfect Bid


I am a 70's kid and as such I have a great fondness for Bob Barker and The Price is Right. I'm not going to lie to you, this documentary doesn't seem to have a lot of the slick production values as some of the others I have watched so far, but the story is interesting enough to make up for it. There is a surprisingly short list of interviewees in this one, but this is overwhelmingly Theodore Slauson's story they are telling, so it makes sense to for his version of events to be the focus. The filmmaker also got Bob Barker to sit for an interview and that really adds to the story they are attempting to tell about TPIR superfan, Theodore and his interest in the game over many many years culminated in an eventual controversy. 

A very small percentage of the doc is dedicated to the scandal, most of the time is spent on Slauson's long history with the show, which, to my thinking, gave weight to his version of events in the end. Additionally, the behind the scenes footage from the show were a treat. Gosh the stage is way tinier than it appeared on TV back in the day. The interviews with Bob Barker and his long time showrunner, Roger Dobkowitz are a definite bright spot. At the end of the day, it wasn't the most dynamic documentary I have watched so far, but I did find the story interesting and the nostalgia level was high. Who amongst us hasn't spent a sick day on the couch playing a pricing game with Bob?

I watched this on Prime.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

4/52 Docs - Tread

I don't even know how to start this, because although I have seen this documentary I still can't really believe what I saw. Once I arrived at the end of it, I really appreciated the way the director, Paul Solet, laid the story out because I thought one thing in the beginning and thought something else at the end.

Initially it seems like a David vs Goliath story. New guy in small town Colorado ruffles some feathers in what some in the documentary call "The Old Boys Club". There is the purchase of some land, fights with the town council over water and sewage and, eventually, over the placement of a new concrete factory. One issue just snowballed into another with Marvin Heemeyer consistently feeling as if he was on the losing end of the fight. This narrative builds and builds in Heemeyer to levels that no one could of, and didn't, predict.

A nicely balanced cast of characters appear to tell their version of this story. Some who clearly found Heemeyer to be a dear friend and other's who found themselves on the opposite side of Heemeyer's battles. Although, even those who found themselves on the opposition side of things spoke of him with no real malice or hate. I can only imagine that time and reflection, likely, went a long way to help with that.

Another large part of the storytelling is Heemeyer's own cassette recording of the wrongs that have been done to him after he moved to this town and how God showed him he had no other choice, but to turn his bulldozer into a fortified tank and drive it through the homes and businesses of his perceived enemies. Yes. You read that correctly. 

Early on in the viewing I felt, "Oh wow, this old boys club is really giving it to him!", but as you listen to Heemeyer's rambling rant of the injustices done to him, the level of paranoia and delusion is really off the charts. Even still it is shocking to see the footage of this machine he created leveling buildings all over town as the police follow along, slowly, unable to do anything to stop it. 

I watched this on Netflix.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

3/52 Docs - The Speed Cubers



I won't lie, I was initially drawn to this because it was 40 minutes long. I had a short window of time to fill and this just fit and I am so glad that was my criteria, because this was super sweet. Speeding cubing, because I had no idea what it was either, is folks who solve Rubik's Cubes at lightening fast speeds. I'm talking single digit seconds, fast! I mean, just the fact that they are solving these cubes at all is incredibly impressive to me because the best I could ever do is one side. Slowly. These folks are solving them one-handed or blindfolded, depending on the competition.

While I always enjoy a story about people at the top of their game, whatever their game may be, the bigger part of this story was the friendship and rivalry between, Feliks Zemdegs and Max Park, the two best speed cubers in the world and how this simple cube was able to make a drastic impact on a young man with autism. The bulk of the documentary focuses on this very unlikely and yet incredibly sweet relationship between the two guys while still giving you a brief glimpse into the quirky yet, seemingly, very supportive world of speed cubing. Truth be told I wouldn't have been opposed to learning a little about the rules and structure of the competitions, but honestly I loved the story between these guys so much I can't gripe seriously about it. Kindness and empathy are the take away here, what a gift they are to the world and this documentary has it in spades. 

We watched this on Netflix.