I've been watching a whole lot of documentaries lately and some are really, really good. Of course they only show one point of view and they all have an agenda, but they definitely teach me things I was previously clueless about. 

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is the life story of the child prodigy turned computer programmer, writer, entrepreneur, political organizer, and internet activist. You might remember him as the co-founder of Reddit or a major figure in the SOPA protests. He committed suicide in 2013, at the age of 26, in the middle of a legal nightmare for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It's a sad story, but focuses more on his impact and selflessness and I think it's an important story to tell.

Banksy Does New York chronicles the month Banksy (the anonymous British street artist) spent in the five boroughs of NYC. He exhibited one piece of art each day, which sent citizens on a hunt for the painting, sculpture, stencil graffiti, and performance art before it was removed or damaged. I love Banksy and remember following along online a little bit in October 2013, but really enjoyed seeing everything in order and learning more about it and it's affect on the city.

Citizenfour is an up close and personal look at Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. Filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald went to Hong Kong where Snowden was hiding to avoid arrest for leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance of American citizens. They filmed for eight days as Snowden watched the story unfold on the news. It was surprisingly thrilling for just a bunch of footage of a man in his hotel room. I totally understand why it won an Oscar.

Burt's Buzz is an intimate look at the unique life of Burt Shavitz, the co-founder of the personal care line, Burt's Bees. He's a reclusive beekeeper who lives as basic as possible off the land, and who sort of accidentally became a millionaire and celebrity. The movies chronicles his upbringing, his photography career, the creation of his company, his professional relationships and success. He's a weird, old hippie, but so likable, funny and even charming. It's a slow moving film, but it matches his personality, so it worked. 

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is an investigative miniseries about the disappearance of Durst's wife Kathie, the murder of his friend Susan Berman, and the death and dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black. I had planned on watching it, but totally forgot about it until I read about his arrest. I watched all six episodes in two days (though it could have easily been edited down to three or four episodes) and couldn't believe how creepy it all is. I know it's not a popular opinion, but there were times when I felt sorry for him. He clearly suffers from psychological disorders and had a pretty crappy life, despite being a millionaire. But he's obviously a murderer, so I don't feel that bad. I'm definitely keeping up with this case!

The Out List was released on the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and showed a diverse group of famous people sharing their personal stories about being LBGT in America. The stories are from athletes, actors, drag queens, and politicians like Neil Patrick Harris, Wade Davis, Dustin Lance Black, Suze Orman, Janet Mock, and Lupe Valdez. Larry Kramer's story made me cry, as it always does, and Cynthia Nixon's message was so perfectly said. I really loved this little documentary. 

Life Itself is a biographical documentary about film critic Roger Ebert. I remember catching Siskel & Ebert a few times as a kid and thought it was terrible. They just seemed like grumpy old men fighting about movies. But this shows so much more than that side of Ebert. It was filmed in the last four months of his life and was a little bit of a tearjerker. I really liked it.

State of Play: Trophy Kids follows four overbearing parents and their obsession with their child's athletic career. It's really tough to watch! Grown men calling their kids "fucking idiot" and "stupid bitch" when they miss a ball or a fail to block. Of course you should push your kids to achieve their goals and reach their potential, but these parents were scary and selfish. I wanted smack these assholes! Then I thought, I don't know, maybe it's me because I'm just not that into sports. I felt validated at the end of the show when a professional athlete and a child sports psychologist discussed how damaging these parents can be.

Rich Hill follows three teenage boys living in a small town in Missouri for a few months. They come from poor families plagued with problems - illness, domestic violence, addiction, abuse, and parental incarceration and it affects their lives every single day. It's heartbreaking, and even worse, there are so many more kids like this, which makes it hard for them to find hope for themselves. I wish more people would watch this before judging the lives of "poor, lazy, drug addicted welfare recipients."

Hunted: The War Against Gays In in Russia is so fucked up. There's not a nicer way to put it. It's disturbing. The crew followed an anti-gay vigilante group who, among other horrible things, lures gays online for what they think are sexual encounters. When they arrive, they are beaten, terrorized, and emotionally abused. Everything is filmed and posted online. It's awful, but filmmaker Ben Steele said it's necessary to show because after the Sochi Olympics, the world hasn't been talking about it anymore.  

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch follows journalist Angela Sun as she travels to the Midway Atoll, which has become a large garbage dump from marine debris, 90% of which is plastic. The film gives a little history of plastics creation, early uses, current uses and it's impact on the environment, the food chain, and our bodies. Did you know that you absorb BPA when you hold a receipt?! Gross. I had never heard of the garbage patch before. It was eye opening. 

The Woman Who Wasn't There is based on the book of the same name and tells the story of 9/11 survivor, Tania Head. She was in the second tower when the plane hit it and had to walk down 78 flights of stairs with her skin burning and her arm dangling. After losing her husband in the first tower, she found help with her depression in a survivor support group, where she formed many friendships and was often seen as a beacon of hope for other members. Except, everything she said was a lie. She wasn't married, she didn't work at WTC, and she wasn't even in the country that day. When she was outed, she vanished. This bitch is crazy! The movie was totally engrossing.

Dinosaur 13 details the 1990 discovery of Sue, the largest, most extensive, and best preserved T. rex ever found. After the discovery, the government seized the skeleton and started a ten-year legal battle over who owned it, because of the land it was found on. Spoiler alert: the paleontologists didn't get to keep it. This was clearly only showing one side of the story, but I really liked learning about the entire situation.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief recounts the history of Scientology and the allegations of abuse suffered by the church members. Holy crap! I read a book about Scientology a few years ago so most of this wasn't new information to me, but hearing the personal stories really made me sad and mad. This is a cult, plain and simple. I just wish there was more. I wanted to hear about celebs Katie Holmes, Lisa Marie Presley, and Leah Remini, the detox program that has killed people, and the disappearance of David Miscavige's wife. Maybe there will be a follow up? 


Misty, Handbags + Handguns said...

I sympathized with Robert Durst too. He definitely had a messed up life with messed up parents. But he's also, most definitely, a murderer.

Micah said...

I go through phases of wanting to watch lots of documentaries and true crime stuff. HBO Now was just added to my AppleTV, so I'll definitely be checking out "Going Clear."

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I watch a lot of documentaries

Gracey Williams said...

Banksy was so cool! We watched it in ethics class for some reason and I loved it.

Breakfast at Gracey's

Karen M. Peterson said...

Some of these are on my list.

The Jinx was SO GOOD! I couldn't stop watching. Loved Life Itself, too.

Allison said...

I JUST watched Going Clear and thought it was really well done and creepy as fuck. I didn't know about everything you were just talking about though - I'm going to have to do more research because Ant and I were fascinated.
I'm documentary obsessed and now have so many more to watch. Thanks as always, girl! :)