Thursday, February 09, 2006


Except for The Constant Gardener, which I liked a great deal, the last dozen or so movies I watched have been documentaries.
I love documentaries.

And I think I could live a very long rest of my life without seeing another "summer blockbuster" type of movie.

Here are a couple (okay a lot) of reviews, in order of my preference:

Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room

Outstanding. Slickly produced with great music and presenting the sometimes complex corruption schemes in an easy to understand form. These guys are the worst kind of corporate greedheads and criminals. The outcomes of their trials will make for interesting 2006 news.

Enron: 5 stars

Ghosts of Rwanda

This Frontline documentary is powerful and fantastic. The filmmakers interview, among others: Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Madeleine Albright, General Romeo Dallaire (head of the U.N. peace-keeping force in Rwanda). If you've seen "Hotel Rwanda," which I highly recommend you do, you need to see this too.

Ghosts of Rwanda: 5 stars

Grizzly Man

The joke goes "Timothy Treadwell tried to be #1 with the bears but he ended up being #2."

I loved this movie because Werner Herzog definitely has an opinion about Treadwell that Tim wouldn’t have necessarily shared. Herzog also had tons of "fuzzy wuzzy bears frolicking" footage available that he did not show. Bravo! This is a story of a man in need of serious psychological help but he found his salvation in living with bears. And eventually one ate him. That's what bears do.

Grizzly Man: 5 stars

The Iceman Interviews

This is a series of interviews of Richard Kuklinski, a cold blooded mafia hitman. This guy is absolutely workmanlike about his ugly profession. That itself makes for an interesting experience but the whole thing was surreal (at least in my head) by the fact that this guy IS Tony Soprano. If James Gandolfini did not pattern his voice or mannerisms around this guy, he channeled the guy.

Iceman Interviews: 5 Stars. (the Sopranos gets 5, of course).

Death in Gaza

This started out being a documentary about Palestinian children growing up on the Gaza strip and how the ongoing battles between Palestinians and Israelis have affected them. It was to be one of two stories, the second being a story about Israeli children in the same area. Unfortunately the cameraman, James Miller, was killed by Israeli troops during the filming (his death is filmed although in very poor light). It is very poignant.

Death in Gaza: 5 stars

A & E: Serial Killers: Profiles of the Criminal Mind

I love Bill Kurtis's voice. There, I've said it. Twenty minutes into disc 1 one of my all-time favorite supervisors appears in a two second shot of my dispatch center (the old configuration) during a segment about Robert Hansen (Butcher, Baker). All in all, a comprehensive and well done series of shows on the profiles of several serial killers.

Profiles of the Criminal Mind: 4 stars

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills
Paradise Lost: Revelations

The first is a documentary about the trial of three scumbag teenagers who may or may not have killed three 8 year olds in West Memphis, Arkansas. The three teens are punks, and I don't mean they like the Sex Pistols. The murders were gruesome. The three are quite possibly not guilty of the murders. A thought provoking first movie. The second is a less-so good movie about the appeal of Damien Echols, the one of the three sentenced to death. If you watch the first movie you should also watch the second. These guys may not be murderers (and I'll leave that for you to decide) but they are no heroes either. At absolute best, they are also victims. Damien Echols had over 700 items on his wish list. Oh yeah, that list is currently empty because his supporters have bought him all this stuff. Let's just say I'm not contributing to his commissary fund.

Paradise Lost I: 4 stars, Paradise Lost II: 3 stars.

Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State

Also a very well produced documentary. There are a lot of computer generated graphics and schematics of the camps and a lot of "dramatic recreations" of discussions between the heads of the German governing units. This is both good and bad. The whole story is presented thoughtfully, though, and it's a great reminder that, while I don't happen to like our current president or his political party's main goals, W is not a Nazi. We use that word too freely.

Auschwitz: 4 stars

Guerilla: The Taking Of Patty Hearst

This is pretty much self explanatory and well done with very news coverage of the last standoff between the SLA and the LAPD.

Guerilla: 4 stars.

Bus 174

This is a documentary about a cracked-out street guy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who held 12 hostages aboard a city bus in June 2000. The whole thing was covered on television by numerous cameras. It would be a great "training by bad example" movie for SWAT teams. A very sad story. Oh and it's in Portuguese so expect to read subtitles unless you are well versed in lyrics to "The Girl from Ipanema."

Bus 174: 4 stars


This documentary traces the path of two girls in the Baltimore juvenile justice system. One makes good, the other doesn’t. It's interesting but quite depressing in that it points out that without a good family support system these kids have no chance.

Girlhood: 3 stars

Burden of Dreams

As described on Netflix: "This feature-length documentary from filmmaker Les Blank paints a riveting portrait of megalomaniacal German director Werner Herzog as he worked against almost insurmountable odds in the Amazon jungle to craft his epic movie Fitzcarraldo. Besides capturing the seemingly hexed production's myriad adversities, Blank's camera exposes Herzog as a man obsessed with his art and pressed to the brink of insanity to see his cinematic vision fulfilled."

Great documentary but it exposes less of Herzog as an obsessed man than it shows Klaus Kinski as a raging asshole.

Burden of Dreams: 3 stars.

H.H. Holmes, America's First Serial Killer

Great subject, so-so show. Nearly a one-man production but better than Murders of Hollywood. Read "The Devil in the White City" instead.

H.H. Holmes: 2 stars

Murders of Hollywood

Bad production (the pictures are all pixilated since they were obviously blown up on a computer screen with crappy digital video editing equipment). This is a one-man production that is so cursory in its portrayal of the murders, all of which could earn a full documentary devoted to them (and most have) that it's a total waste of time. Plus the narrator calls Sharon Tate's husband "Norman Polanski" when first introducing the murders.

Murders of Hollywood: 0 stars.


Jenn said...

You and I have such similar tastes. I love anything about serial killers. Big fan of, a wealth of information.

I am going to check a few of these out. I am not one to frequent documentaries, but you have enticed me.


Chandira said...

LOVED Hotel Rwanda, I cried for DAYS... OK, I'll take that recommendation, and give it a watch this weekend. I might go for Auschwitz, too, though I've seen a LOT of Nazi documantaries. Way too many for a girl of my tender disposition..
Grizzly man was an oddity, I loved him, even though I thought he was completely insane. I can understand what drove it. I love animlas more than people sometimes.

smussyolay said...

what's with all the serial killers, g? you've been watching a shitload of movies, yo.

does k watch all the movies with you?

Eric said...

I can watch documentaries while K is either reading getting ready to sleep or actively sleeping (or not home). Some things she finds interesting but usually she's not all that interested in the form itself.

And these were maybe the last month. Some have been sitting in my "in basket" of stuff to post about.

And serial killers are interesting. Sometimes because of the police work it takes to find them and sometimes because of their personal tragedies. I certainly don't have any sympathy for these folks or admiration for them (the bad guys), usually they are the loser rejects who happen to be attractive to the vulnerable or the naive.

Kathryn F said...

Did it occur to you that the woman w/the head on the airplane....her last name is SEVERE? LIKE CUT OFF? Now that's funny stuff. hahahahhahhahahhahahha!

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