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Documentary film recommendations


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I just saw a couple good documentaries and had another recommended to me (rustyjaw says Manufactured Landscapes is good).


So, anyway, here are three that I saw recently liked:


Helvetica (about the typeface)

Heavy Metal Over Baghdad (about an Iraqi metal band)

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (about metal; duh)


I saw one years ago about a glassblower/artist named Dale Chihuly that I'd love to see in HD some day.

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The Rockafire Explosion

-This movie recently had a limited release here in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse and I LOVED it. It's a bit wacky, but the film tells the history of Showbiz Pizza [which would eventually become Chuck-E-Cheese], the company behind the creation of the animatronic band in every location [the film's title name], and the people who have an obsession with reliving their childhood by collecting, restoring, and creating new shows for "The Rockafire Explosion". FASCINATING. I swear. See it. :)



-Follows 5 or so kids from regional to state to the National Spelling Bee. Fascinating look at kids who are both pushed by their parents, the joy of winning, and the sadness of defeat... in the spelling bee.


Michael Palin's Travelogue series

-There's a bunch... most of them are released in Region 1 now but there's a Region 2 PAL boxset that's much cheaper that collects all the series [which I have]. If you like Monty Python... and you like travel series... this is among the best. For instance in Around the World in 80 Days, Michael attempts, against the clock, to go around the world without the help of modern air travel. There's also Pole to Pole where he goes from the North Pole to the South Pole, and Full Circle which brings us around the "Ring of Fire" area of the Pacific. And there's 5 or so more, but those are my personal favorites. :)


The Long Way Round

-Ewan McGregor and his friend Charlie Boorman go from London to New York via Motorcycle [AKA: The Long Way Round!]. They go across Europe, Across Russia to the Bering Strait, and finally across Canada and the US. I recommend seeking out the 10-episode "Special Edition" as when you see this you're just gonna want to see more.


When the Levees Broke

-Excellent 3-part documentary series from Spike Lee and HBO... probably the best summarization of the events and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Super Size Me

-I still thought this was one of the best docs I've seen in the cinema... it's darkly funny to see a man stuff himself with hamburgers for a month, gain 50 pounds, and almost kill himself in the process. A bit one-sided but this film did manage to get the title item off the menu [although I'd argue that it's now renamed "Large" :) ]. If you like this also check out the TV series 30 Days also by Morgan Spurlock.


Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

-A look at Wal-Mart from the side of employees who are not allowed to unionize and are forced to use food stamps because of low wages, Chinese workers who live in disgusting living conditions, and the impact Wal-Mart has on small communities. It reinforces what we already know: Wal-Mart is evil. :)



If you're really interested in Documentaries I highly suggest getting a Netflix subscription. They've got a TON of good docs on their Instant Watch service.

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Man on Wire was great.


I'd also recommend:


The Agronomist


The White Diamond


Encounters at the End of the World




Grey Gardens


Touching the Void




Winged Migration


oh, and Manufactured Landscapes


I actually have Helvetica at home, but I haven't watched it yet....


Ones I don't recommend:


Word Wars - spellbound is better

Rivers and Tides - Andy Goldsworthy is great, but listening to Andy Goldsworthy talk about his art is not so great.

Edited by rustyjaw
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I recommend:


Super-Size Me

Grizzly Man

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

The Corporation



This is my current "to see" list:

Man on Wire

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?


Rivers And Tides


Word Wars


The Weather Underground

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A few I liked:


Dark Days - Homeless living in the subway tunnels of NYC


God grew tired of us (I could be slightly off on the title here) - About a bunch of African refugees brought to the US and trying to cope with stuff like electricity, running water, driving cars, etc.


Darkon - Guys who dress up in armor and beat the hell out of each other with padded swords on soccer fields.


Another one I saw accidentally was Southern Comfort, I DVRed it thinking it was the movie about the national guard guys getting picked off by the Cajuns in the swamps and it turned out to be a documentary with the same name about a female to male transsexual who was dying of ovarian cancer. Not something I'd watch usually based on the description but it wasn't bad.


I know there's more I'm just not thinking of right now, I've seen quite a few, I'll give any documentary not made by Michael Moore a watch.

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The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters


Such a fantastic film. So good, in fact, it almost makes you wonder if it was staged (it wasn't). It's rare in life to find a villain that lives up to those in the movies...but Billy Mitchel does just that.

It's my understanding the story has been purchased and a feature film (fiction) is being derived from the documentary.

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I know there's more I'm just not thinking of right now, I've seen quite a few, I'll give any documentary not made by Michael Moore a watch.


Which reminds me of another one, Manufacturing Dissent: Uncovering Michael Moore, which uncovers some information about his "documentaries".

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I saw Bill Maher's "Religulous" a couple of weeks ago, it was pretty good. "Startup.com" is another one that I love. It follows a startup at the turn of the millenium that didn't make it through the bubble bursting. Interesting to watch, especially if you've had any experience with startups, venture capital, etc.

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I loved Religilous as well as Jesus Camp, but I'm a skeptic agnostic...to be expected I suppose.


I second the recommendation for "Dark Days" about homeless people living in the subways...we saw that some years ago, pretty good.


I haven't seen this one recommended...I thought it was fascinating.


Devil's Playground ... about the Amish rite of passage time when they can leave and go be normal people...not so amazingly a lot of them fall into drugs and alcohol pretty hardcore.



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Another doc that was filmed around the same time as King of Kong is "Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade". It's not as good as KOK because it doesn't follow a story with characters quite as engaging as Steve and Billy.... but it's worth checking out. This one basically takes a look at the lives of most of the people that were at the Life Magazine photoshoot that Walter Day organized back in the 80s, and was briefly mentioned in KOK.


It's not out on DVD yet, but it can be acquired through other means. Maybe even streamed free on some of the websites that are doing that for a lot of docus nowadays.

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  • 5 months later...

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