Saturday, April 17, 2021

15/52 - The Last Blockbuster


I had high hopes for this documentary going in. Hitting up Blockbuster to rent some movies and grabbing a pizza was an absolute weekend staple, not all that long ago. I mean it doesn't seem like that long ago, but it was long enough ago that my practically adult children couldn't begin to wrap their heads around the process. In that vein it is totally shocking to me that one remained open. Who's still renting movies in those kinds of numbers? I mean, we don't even own a DVD player anymore. While this was entertaining, it wasn't overly informative. Sidenote, if you'd like a more in depth lesson on the demise of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix, I will point you in the direction of the documentary Netflix vs The World over on Amazon Prime. 

The documentary, by and large, focuses on manager Sandi Harding and her dedication to keeping this location open and stocked with new releases with her weekly Target runs. She seems like a sweet lady, well liked in her community, who plans to go down with the ship, no doubt about it. This documentary also features a large number of interviews from minor celebrities that reads as a love letter to a bygone era. Some of those are more entertaining than others. I always love to hear from Kevin Smith and Jamie Kennedy reminiscing about being on the Blockbuster Entertainment Team marketing campaign with Jim Gaffigan was a highlight. All in all it was a nice little nostalgia trip.

We watched this on Netflix.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

14/52 - Seaspiracy

 This documentary is getting a lot of buzz these days. It begins as a "simple" tale about sea garbage and quickly morphs into a project that takes him around the world looking at fishing practices and how harmful they are to other marine species and the planet as a whole. To that end, for me, I thought it got too big. There was almost too much information to absorb. That being said, there was lots to be shocked about, but at the end I was kind of left with the feeling of, well, what now? How to we even begin to fix this?

Coincidentally, the day after I watched this I caught up with a friend, who is ready to embark on a research project focused on fish and fishing, who had also watched it recently. He told me there was lots of talk about what was presented in the documentary within the science community on twitter and how it was flawed. Which I found interesting and yet, not surprising to hear. I haven't delved into any of that conversation, but it was an interesting side note if you're keen to look it up. 

The part I found the most interesting, was the interview regarding the dolphin safe tuna label, which despite being a guarantee, if you believe the can, is in no way a guarantee. There is almost no people verifying this information and the few that are, well they could be partial to a bribe to look the other way. Wild stuff, to say on camera in an interview. Also you license the use of this label, so it's really nothing more than a cash grab. Who knew? I mean, most cynics I would imagine, but this girl was genuinely shocked.

It is a difficult documentary to watch, the footage is quite graphic at times. If you are sensitive to that, I would advise caution.

I watched this on Netflix.

13/52 - Diana: In Her Own Words


This one was a request from my daughter. We'd watched the Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex interview with Oprah Winfrey and that sparked an interest in learning more about the late Princess Diana. I was quite an engaged Royal follower back in the day and Princess Diana was a draw. Lots has been said about the parallels in experiences between both Diana and Meghan and that must be disheartening for the people who are going through this for the second time. This documentary also continues this unplanned theme of managing fame and stardom that has been running through my last few selections. Yes, it is clear to see that Princess Diana had a complicated relationship with the press, but at what point does a human being get to say, okay enough and have the cameras just turn away? Seems once it gets to that point, the cameras just focus harder on you to not miss the potential break down that follows. And this situation, just took it as far as one could, inevitably. The whole thing is just a tragic, terrible loss.  

Watching these documentaries, has certainly made me more conscious of what type of media and what type of story I am consuming. Being more mindful of the links I click on. Of course, that is a side note to watching this, being a Diana fan, I was already well versed in her version of events and we'd recently wrapped up the latest (Diana heavy) season of The Crown. If you are a fan of the Crown, this may be an interesting watch if only to compare the dramatized version of the story to Diana's version of the story.

This documentary features the recorded interviews that were used in the Andrew Morton book played over footage of Diana on royal tour, dropping the kids off at school and everything in between.

We watched this on Netflix.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

12/52 - The Last Dance


Another one I was late to the party for, the big Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls docuseries. I am not much of a basketball fan, but I will watch if the game is on. So I really didn't know anything about the Chicago Bulls or Michael Jordan prior to watching this. Because of this I sometimes had a hard time connecting stories as they jumped back and forth through the years. There was a handful of guys, like Steve Kerr, that I particularly enjoyed hearing stories from, but it is pretty clear this is the Michael Jordan show, which is fine, but it also keeps this from being a true deep dive on that last season. 

As for the man himself, I found him to be a lot of things, arrogant, intelligent, obviously talented, charismatic, guarded in areas surrounding his private life and things like politics, which I think he probably has a right to be. It is definitely not easy to life your life in the spotlight and additionally, to countless other's expectations. I've seen criticism online, notably from Ken Burns, that this is the Michael Jordan story because MJ's production, Jump 23, is listed as a production partner. The idea being that he could then have influence on how he is portrayed in the docuseries. While I feel that is a fair assessment, I don't take big issue with it. Every interview in every documentary is telling that person's version of events. I don't think it's an unreasonable expectation to think you have to engage some critical thinking while watching any documentary about what you are being told, by who and in what manner. 

Overall I did enjoy this one, probably more than I thought I would.

I watched this on Netflix.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

11/52 - Billie Eilish The World's A Little Blurry


I actually didn't even realize a Billie Eilish documentary existed, but that is the exact thing I am enjoying about this project. I actually wasn't even planning on watching a documentary at that moment, but one of my kids had turned it on and it seemed like a situation that was going to check a lot of boxes, for example, documentary watching, sharing time and an interest with my daughter and, of course, follow up discussion! Since I knew absolutely zero about this prior to watching it, I really had no idea what to expect or what we were even going to learn. I will admit, I am not a huge Billie Eilish fan, but there are a few songs on the communal playlist that is our daily dinner soundtrack that I like. The documentary is really just following her around as she records music, tours, does press etc, a regular day in the life type stuff, if you happen to be a rising star on the music scene.

Watching this as a Mom, who is in the midst of raising teenagers and understands the challenges that can bring.... wow, celebrity/global talent/fame etc all adds a huge wrinkle to that situation and kudos to her parents who seem to be doing their best to keep it from spiraling out of control. I couldn't help but compare this to the Britney Spears documentary and wonder if there was the same level of parental engagement, could that have been beneficial to the situation. To be clear, that is pure speculation on my part based on what was portrayed in each documentary. 

I did like that the documentary offered up many topics of discussion for my daughter and I. Part of the documentary dealt with a relationship Billie Eilish was in, that was portrayed as being more that a little one-sided, so we discussed knowing your worth and not chasing crumbs. It also showed and allowed us to discuss that no one is immune to feeling less than, not even the Billie Eilish's of the world. 

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Billie Eilish as at once an incredibly talented artist (as is her brother Finneas) making her mark in the music business and a seemingly typical teenager with a supportive family.

We watched this on AppleTV+

Sunday, March 14, 2021

10/52 - Becoming

 I have been listening to a ton more podcasts in the past year and Michelle Obama's is in my regular rotation. This documentary follows Michelle Obama as she does her book tour and speaking engagements for her book, Becoming. I haven't yet read the book, but I still really enjoyed watching this. I do enjoy the content and tone of her podcast and this documentary has the same feeling. I appreciate her insight and take on the world around her. I enjoyed hearing about the behind the scenes happenings at the White House. Particularly how you raise younger children while living there. Some of these topics are talked about more in depth on her podcast, but the visuals were a nice addition. 

I appreciated and respected the advice and attention she gave to young people as she met with them on her tour. Not to mention her dedication to looking people in the eye and being engaged with people who came to her book signings. It's a class act, that can be missing in the most simple day to day interactions. There were some repeating themes here, for example, how women are depicted in the media. Being from the world of politics added another wrinkle to the mess, not surprisingly. It's disheartening, we should be better than this by now, shouldn't we? 

We watched this on Netflix.

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.