WHAT'S UP DOC?  Who thinks up these things?




  When you are Strange 2010.  Well done documentary of the Doors and Morrison in particular during their tumultuous up and down career.  Archival footage shows them at their best and worst during Morrison's decline into drugs and alcohol.

  EXPO. tales of the White City.  Wonderful and exciting doc covering the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.  This doc covers the construction, the attractions, the people, the countries that participated through movies, photos, old post cards and reenactments.  Phenomenal.  It would have been awe inspiring to have visited that exposition. WOW

 AZORIAN.  What a great doc covering the construction of the Glomar Explorer and the attempt to recover the sunken Soviet submarine K-129 from the Pacific Ocean floor in 1974, using the purpose-built ship Hughes Glomar Explorer.  The 1968 sinking of K-129 occurred approximately 1,560 nautical miles (2,890 km) northwest of Hawaii.  Project Azorian was one of the most complex, expensive, and secretive intelligence operations of the Cold War at a cost of about $800 million 1974 dollars.  The technology can never be duplicated.  A fete of gigantic human proportions.  A secret operation that actually remained secret.  The Glomar Explorer is a ship that will never again be recreated.

  Amelia: a tale of two sisters.  Interesting newsreel footage of Earhart during her various journeys before her famous disappearance.  Amelia's sister spent years trying to keep the legend alive and keeping up interest in women aviators.  No new insights, but nice interviews with Amelia's elderly niece about some of her mother's remembrances of Amelia.  Interviews with the TIGHAR guy who has spent years searching and thinks she landed on a tiny island, sent several hundred radio then probably died a lonely castaway.  Worth watching.

 Elizabeth at 90: a family Tribute 2016.  Narrated by Prince Charles this documentary was put together with the help of the entire Royal Family, close and extended.  Elizabeth let Charles digitize old family films locked away in a trunk since the 1940s.  What a marvelous and wonderful history lesson.  There are amazing films of Elizabeth and her sister growing up, the Queen mother, King George, everyone!  We are taken through the halls of Westminster in the 30s right up to present time.  NOTHING has changed!  Amazing and well worth watching for the history lesson alone.  Elizabeth has lived through history and now made history.  What a character!

  The Boys of '36  2016.  A thoughtful and exciting tale of underdogs beating the self-proclaimed gods.  Short but brilliant documentary outlining the 1936 men's crew that went to the Berlin Olympics and trounced the unbeatable German crew in the last race for the gold.  Depression-era young men with little hope of employment or a bright future, some living in poverty or by the grace of others, eking out life the best they can and being a truly motley crew train and race all over the country until they are chosen as the Olympic team.  Nice interviews with family members, old photos and newsreel coverage bring the boys to life again in all their glory.

  Command and Control 2016.  Damascus, Arkansas 1980.  Titan missile explodes in its silo after technician drops a socket down the town and it bounces into the fuel tank.  The resulting explosion blew the nuclear tip across the road into a ditch and the entire silo complex to smithereens.  The documentary shows archival footage taken at the time, interviews with the crew then and now, how the military and the politicians reacted (over-reacted in many cases), the ultimate closure of the Titan program and what it mean to America's defense.  Many scenes were recreated at the Titan Missile Museum outside of Tucson, AZ.  A fun and familiar place to have visited.  Good documentary.

  Mifune: The Last Samurai  2015.  A wonderful documentary following one of Japan's favorite sons.  (see what we did there)  Toshiro Mifune lived in China his first 19 years.  He was drafted into the IJA during WWII, put to work in the photography unit and for a short time sent many young Kamikaze on the path to oblivion.  After the war he worked at TOHO studios as a cameraman, then later in an open audition during an actors strike he was seen by Kurosawa and the rest as they say is history.  This is a loving and diligent documentary of everyone's favorite Samurai.  Mifune took his roles seriously and trained hard to be and look the best.  The documentary reveals some personal character flaws with interviews of family and friends.  Footage from his movies is used to great effect in showcasing his career over the years and how he approached life, love and work.  An actor who memorized his lines in English or Spanish so he would look authentic in his roles though he spoke only Japanese.  Enjoyable look into his movie career.   

  Stories We Tell 2012.  Amazing what gets made into documentaries.  Sarah Polley makes a documentary with her extended family and discovers that her Father is not.  Her mother had an affair while she was off performing on stage in Toronto and after living with rumors, innuendo and the fact that she doesn't look like her Father she learns the truth of her patronage.  Mostly interesting.  Hard to believe it made a million dollars.

  Prince Philip: Plot to make a King.  Fascinating and revealing look at the man who would forever walk 2 paces behind the Queen of England for the last 65 years.  Photos and films show how the young man of royal origins was maneuvered into proposing to Princess Elizabeth by his scheming, ambitious uncle Lord Mountbatten.  Her decision to keep the Windsor name instead of taking his name in marriage drove a wedge between the newlyweds, but Elizabeth in an effort of reconciliation made the children hyphenates...Mountbatten-Windsor.  Prince Philip is the oldest, longest in position Prince Consort on record.  Other than putting his foot firmly in his mouth every now and again he seems to be a pretty levelheaded guy who came to terms with his position a long time ago.

  Tab Hunter Confidential 2015. An amazingly lovely and loving documentary about one of Hollywood's golden boys.  Beautifully handsome, talented (after a fashion), musically inclined (Warner Brothers built Warner Music around him) and made him wildly popular and the studio system that forced him to be something that he ultimately was not.  Hunter himself narrates the tale telling about his mother, his beloved brother, the women he was forced to date, some he chose to date and the men with whom he began long relationships over the years.  Through it all his love of horses and his faith kept him going even through some of Hollywood's darkest moments.  If you only knew him as a 50s heart throb, think again.  He is so much more.  Wonderfully produced by his partner of 25 years.  

  The Battered Bastards of Baseball 2015.  A lovely and lively Tale of Bing Russell and his independent Portland Mavericks trying to beat Major League Baseball at its own game.  Home movies, interviews with teammates and son Kurt Russell add spicy flavor to the documentary about the team that no one thought would be anything and made it all the way to the play-offs.  So enjoyable you don't even need to like baseball to enjoy the American spirit flowing through this Cinderella story.

  A LEGO Brickumentary 2014.  A lively and educational documentary on the LEGO company, team of designers and their world wide domination.  Fans and designers team up to produce some of the coolest brick sets to be found.  Brick conventions are held all over the world so fans can meet and collaborate.  Highly entertaining.

  Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans 2015.  An almost heartbreaking documentary following McQueen trying to get the movie so close to his heart made.  No script. Lots of race footage.  Innovative cinematography that hasn't been seen since not even with the advent of GoPro cameras.  McQueen poured his soul into the movie, broke up his marriage, made no friends and lost the backing of the studio.  He ended up having to play by the studios rules to get the movie made.  He was depressed and this movie broke his untamed spirit.  He ended his career by playing fire marshal in Towering Inferno.  Very sad movie.  

  The Summit 2012.  the deadliest day in the history of recorded climbs on K2.  11 climbers die in a single day.  many questions are asked, few are answered.  this documentary reenacts the POV of several surviving climbers showing the heroism, cowardice, hubris and genuine character of the people who climb.  Beautifully filmed in the region of the Himalayas using existing footage taken on the fateful day.  One might learn that unless you have only one leader in charge of such a  large group of climbers, a definite plan for ascent and descent for all the traffic generated by such a large group and the proper equipment, one might consider embarking on their adventure with only a couple of tried and trusted colleagues.  even friends will leave you when you are dying. Crazy what some people need to accomplish.

  Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead 2015.  Absolutely fascinating doc covering 1970-2010 and the publication known as National Lampoon.  From its inception as a political parodying powerhouse publication to a proving ground for some of the funniest, most talented people on the planet.  Nothing and no one was sacred and everything was a target.  This doc shows never before seen footage of the Second City Players who would become Saturday Night Live players.  Amazing talents.  The doc focuses primarily on the founders and their drug-addled foibles and paranoia. Movies were spawned using the NL umbrella name, most famous of which were Animal House and Christmas Vacation. Classics in American cinema!  Eye opening and quite entertaining.

 Always Faithful 2012.  Wonderful documentary about military service dogs and the members of all the military branches who volunteer, test rigorously and pass to handle these wonderful dogs.  The doc follows 4 young Marines and their dogs through training and deployment.  The care, friendship and loyalty between human and canine is truly something.  The soldiers get the option of adopting their dogs if US police departments pass on them.

  Magician: the amazing life and work of Orson Welles 2015.  For Orson's centenary the filmmaker has put together a marvelous visual presentation from his birth to his death and everything in between.  He blocked out Welles's career path from child singer, to artist, director of what may be the best made movie ever, Shakespeare, War of the Worlds, movies he self-funded and never finished, all the work he took in later years to keep his hand in.  As he said He loved Hollywood, but Hollywood didn't like him so much.  Wonderful source material, interviews, movie clips make a terrific salute to a great artist.

  Monk with a Camera 2014.  Nicholas Vreeland was born into a life of privilege and is grandson of legendary Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland.  Training to become a photographer Nicholas' life changed drastically upon meeting a Tibetan master, one of the teachers of the Dalai Lama. Soon Nicholas was giving up his glamorous life to live in a monastery in India, where he studied Buddhism for fourteen years. In an ironic twist of fate, Nicholas went back to photography to help his fellow monks rebuild their monastery. It was a long and arduous task raising the money to complete the project.  Recently, the Dalai Lama appointed Nicholas as Abbot of the monastery, making him the first Westerner in Tibetan Buddhist history, to attain such a highly regarded position.  Interviews with Nicky's family, teachers and early friends reveal a genuine transformation from playboy and gadfly to an earnest monk with highly polished birkenstock sandals.  Fascinating story that is well produced and told with humor and insight into the world of monks.  Well worth watching

  Lady Valor The Kristin Beck Story 2014.  An amazing and sad story of a true American hero who served with medal winning, suicidal distinction for 20 years as a SEAL in some of the worst places on earth that SEALS are ever sent.  After retiring he becomes what he truly felt he needed to be a transgender woman.  His family supports her decision, his wife and children don't speak to her.  Many of her brother SEALS accept and support her decision.  But as with anything unknown and different Kristin is subjected to bigotry from many sources.  Most of the time she spends traveling the country speaking out for transgender rights and acceptance.  Moving and well filmed, this documentary brings tears to your eyes and is well worth seeing.  A surprise.

  Knuckleball 2012.  A fun, entertaining and fascinating documentary on the art of pitching the knuckleball.  Known as the junk pitch and not taken seriously only a handful of pitchers through the annals of baseball have been able to use it effectively to keep their jobs in the bigs.  The documentary crew follows the career of TA Dickey who is the youngest and probably the last of the knuckleballers.  He talks to Tim Wakefield who passed the baton in 2012, Phil Niekro who pitched knuckleballs until he was 48 and Charlie Hough who pitched it for 24 years.  Knuckleballers who manage to control the pitch can pitch longer and even on consecutive days as compared to pitchers who rely on fast balls.  Even if you don't care much for sports this documentary gives insight into the inner workings of those who reinvent themselves to stay on the mound.

  One Lucky Elephant 2010.  Flora is 16 and needs a new home.  The circus she grew up in can no longer take care of her needs and it would be only a matter of time before she got mean and seriously hurt someone.  Her owner can't let her go, but deep down he knows he has to.  It takes 2 years for him to get her into an elephant sanctuary once he makes the decision to finally let her go.  This documentary follows Flora's journey from being an outsider elephant who has known only people to a lonely, angry elephant abandoned by her humans in a strange place, to an elephant who has to wait for another to die so she can become head of a little elephant troop at the sanctuary.  Over all it is a success story because Flora can live out her days in relative comfort with other elephants. 

   Pan AM  The Golden Age of Aviation.  Wow, talk about a time capsule of traveling the world!  These magnificent flying machines with the luxury of accommodations as fine as any clipper ship at sea brought Americans to faraway lands faster than they could go by ship.  Europe and Asia were now leisure destinations to be enjoyed and explored.  This DVD of restored Pan Am films offers a window to a world much simpler than today.  People didn't mind Americans being in their country.  This DVD covers England...with it's young Princess Elizabeth, Ireland, Norway, France and Rome and Pope Pius XII.  In each film the narrator comments on the conditions not being right for color film.  Pan Am was the first to have uniformed flight crews and attendants.  Fine cuisine was served in flight and the larger planes had beds.  Fascinating and almost childlike in its enthusiasm.

 Hot Coffee 2011.  America, land of the free, home of the litigious.  The documentary starts with a little old lady getting 3rd degree burns from McDonald's coffee in her lap and careens into the world of big corporate spending to have legislators enact laws to put caps on damages a civil jury can award a plaintiff in a wrongful injury suit against a product, service or company.  Political campaigns are won or lost over the millions of dollars spent on keeping the average American out of court.  Who doesn't the remember the commercials in the 80s, "Stop Frivolous lawsuits."  Average citizens have signed away their rights to sue on contracts with hidden arbitration clauses and voted to cap the dollars awarded to victims.  This is an interesting documentary in that it shows that putting caps on awards has not solved any of the big issues and they have certainly not brought down the costs of the medical profession or other large corporations as they intimated they would.  Taking away the right to sue gives companies carte blanche to screw the public over safety features and neglectful behavior.  An eye opener.

  The Donner Party 1992.  An interesting telling of the fateful Donner party.  They were so close to success.  So close to starting their new lives in California and Oregon.  Diary entries and recollections of the rescue parties offers up a chilling story of blind faith, determination and the ability of man to become an animal to survive when necessary.  The photos of the time are fascinating.  Murder, mayhem, bad weather, banishment, Indians.  If anything could go wrong it did on this journey to the west.

  The Jaundiced Eye.  A gay man and his father are accused, tried and jailed for molesting the gay man's 5 year old son.  This doc follows the gay man's journey to acquittal and starting his life over.  You hear the boy's own words from social worker interviews and trial transcripts, but you can just tell he's been coached.  The kid's mother and her boyfriend don't want to be shown on camera, why?  No one bothered to examine the kid for knife wounds since his statement was anal penetration with knives and a machete.  The kid is 5...how does he know the term anal penetration?  No one tested him for STDs.   Polygraph exams are taken, an erroneous STD test is administered.  The prosecutor with a bias toward gays in general does what she can to keep them behind bars.  There is no concrete evidence.  After 10 years the case is dismissed for lack of evidence.  Amazing.

  For the Bible Tells Me So 2007.  Gays and religion.  Acceptance, denial, suicide, divorce, strength, protests, fear.  This documentary has it all and covers some of the past decade's most know outings.  Interesting and thoughtful.

  Buried in the Backyard.  Bomb shelters for the 21st century.  A fun look at the survivalists today in America, ready for almost anything. Good for them.  They are the smart ones.

of time and the city 2008.  Terence Davies documentary about his native Liverpool.  At times boring, lurid, and depressing this documentary follows the director's ramblings of his childhood, adulthood and how the city changed through the war years to 2008 when this was put together.  Archival footage and footage he shot are mish-mashed together in a forgettable melange of images.  Not very likeable or interesting.  Liverpool may be another name for cesspool. But home is where the heart is and Davies loved his home.

  Girl 27  2007.  The documentary covering the little known 1937 rape scandal covered up by MGM studio chiefs, the police and the political machine of the era.  The rape occurred at the sales convention party held at the Hal Roach Ranch.  100 underage girls were called to perform a western dance number.  17 year old Patricia Douglas was manhandled, roughed up and taken to a car and raped by one of the salesmen being rewarded by MGM for a great year of movie distribution.  The parking valet was a witness who got Patricia help and then changed his story in exchange for a lifetime job at the studio.   Patricia's own mother betrayed her and took money to let the incident fade into history.  Patricia's own lawyer neglected to show up in court 3 different times thus getting the case dismissed.  Patricia spent the rest of her life as a self-loathing, bitter woman who married 3 times for sex and never told her daughter or family anything about the rape.  Patricia was obese, homely and sickly who, at first, did not want to grant the interview but relents shortly before her death in 2003 to tell her story in hopes of setting the record straight and giving herself some peace.  Interesting highlights also point out the Loretta Young-Clark Gable baby scandal/adoption at the same time that was whitewashed and condoned by the studio system.  No one ever apologized but there was a printed article chronicling the incident and the rape of another young girl that led to her suicide that allowed Patricia Douglas to let go a little to the taking of her innocence.

  Marwencol 2010.  Man's inhumanity to man.  People are so pathetically cruel and the health system has no heart.  In 2000 Mark Hogancamp is beaten to within an inch of his life more than likely because he said he liked to cross dress while drinking in the wrong bar.  Left brain damaged, in a coma and needing his face to be rebuilt Mark is left adrift by the medical community because of his lack of insurance.  Learning to walk, speak, write, feed himself all over again Mark creates his own therapy for dealing with the cruelties of the world and an outlet for his anger.  He builds Marwencol.  An amazing WWII town complete with bars, dress shops, jeeps, the SS, lovely ladies.  It's a place where he can be a hero, can be tortured and saved by the woman he loves, time travel, wear women's stockings under his uniform, get married, kill the SS, include his family and friends as characters and have all the adventures of a lifetime.  The documentarians decided after meeting Mark to publish his story in ESOPUS magazine and get him an art showing at White Columns in Greenwich Village.  The fact that Mark, though terrified of going out where there were so many people who wouldn't get it, went is a remarkable step forward for this man who lost everything in his life except his imagination.  The human spirit is really quite something to behold as this man is living proof.

  Tupperware...an American Experience...No kidding!!!  Bring on the Burping Bowls, the lettuce crisper and the popsicle makers!!!!!!!  This was the craziest trip down memory lane in a long time for Team Apeonaut!  The family kitchen cupboards were filled with green burping bowls.  Pphhhht!  Mr. Tupper invented his own process for molding polystyrene into the highly recognizable storage containers.  He used to sell them in stores.  Then Brownie Wise came into his life and convinced him to sell his wares... his tupperwares only through in home parties.  She was such a dynamo that his business grew by leaps and bounds.  As with all home based enterprises, Amway, Avon, the more people you recruited the more money you made.  This is an amazing bit of Americana.  The home movies, the pictures, the interviews with sons and daughters of distributor parents are almost unbelievable.  The documentary mostly follows the rise and fall of Brownie Wise who while wanting to be the leader, realized it was still a man's business world and though she was making Tupper rich, once she ticked him off she sealed her fate.  After all the business growth and jubilee nonsense and building his Florida headquarters Brownie was unceremoniously expunged from the Tupperware history to the point of having copies of her book remaining at the HQ buried in a pit on the backside of the property and all photos, newspaper clippings and other history thrown away.  Talk about plucking out the eye that offends thee!  Wow.  This is a fun documentary looking at a uniquely American product .  Well worth watching.

  Radium City 1987.  Right in our own backyard.  1922 - 1930, not really good years in small town America.  Along comes Radium Dial Company, later named Luminous Processes after word got out it was poisoning the young women employed there.  Who didn't own a Westclox or several when they were growing up?  Who knew that their happy glowing faces were painted by the Radium Girls of Ottawa Illinois?  This documentary is a sad reminder that big business doesn't give a shit about it's work force and will do anything to prevent getting sued.  It also reminds us that our own government covers up criminal negligence whenever it suits its own agenda.  Radium Dial Company hired young women at an almost unheard of wage back then for females.  Who wouldn't want to make that kind of money?  The workers used to hand paint without any protection whatsoever the numbers on the clock faces and airplane gauge dial faces with radioactive material, Radium -226.  Many workers got sick with cancers, anemia, bone fractures, honeycombed bones and many died.  The company under threat of lawsuit closed down, changed it's name to Luminous Processes and hired many of the same woman surviving Radium Dial Company employment.  The president of Radium Dial was enlisted by the President to supply radium for the atomic bomb program...what does that say about the quality of his glow goo?!?!?!?  In 1948 in an effort to appear as if it was concerned for its citizens and doing something about this man-made tragedy, the Atomic Energy Commission opened a research facility called Argonne to study the living workers, some of whom were so "hot" that they developed their own x-ray film and to study the corpses of those not fortunate enough to survive who had been buried in concrete or lead vaults.  These test subjects were responsible for the regulations of exposure to radiation levels used today.  Hmmm, someone must have known they were dangerously radioactive!  It was said one woman's remains would be radioactive for 3200 years.  That's pretty bad.  Not just women were dying.  Deer in the woods and family pets were cancer and tumor ridden for years in Ottawa.  Kids in 1987 were still getting tumors.  The old factory was dismantled and the bricks, glass and metal were put in a good old fashioned landfill and many of the townsfolk took the bricks and glass to renovate their homes thus spreading contaminated material all over town.  This is a terrible story of greed, both personal and corporate, cover-ups, negligence and ignorance.  The interviews with the oldest surviving woman employee of Radium Dial and the family members of some of the dead ones are sad and terrible at the same time.

 The Eyes of Tammy Faye 2000.  Say what you will, but TF was either the most naive person in televangelism or she was really an award winning actress.  This documentary follows her teen marriage to Jim Bakker, their first show with puppets, the 700 Club, TBN, The PTL network, Heritage USA, and their fall from grace at the hands of Jerry Falwell.  TF was a survivor through everything life had to send her way.  She is the one who had the faith and it made her strong enough to support those eyelashes.  This documentary showed she was more than just those eyelashes reinventing herself with every disappointment.  She was a singer of some note, a mother and entertainer.  Who really knows what was fact or fiction but after the fall she seemed genuinely thrilled and touched to be asked by Christians to sing at Oral Roberts University after the Christian community turned its collective back on her for so many years.  She is likable and sympathetic in this documentary about the cut throat world of televangelism.

  SICK, The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan Supermasochist 1997.  I think the adjectives used to describe this movie are a little flamboyant.  Work of Genius, Transcendant, Groundbreaking, Brilliant, Compassionate.  Not quite.  Bob Flanagan developed Cystic Fibrosis and was not expected to live.  He lived into his 40s which by default made him a poster child/hero to all sufferers of the disease.  He was even a CF camp counselor for many years.  EEWW  He did stand up comedy routines about S&M in S&M clubs.  He did performance art such as hanging weights from his testicles and suspending himself by rope from the ceiling naked for which he garnered huge celebrity status.  He was disgusting.  Sure, his motto was my body has treated me like shit, so I am going to treat it like shit and do all manner of twisted things to it.  Yes, kiddies, this is the man famous for nailing his penis to a board in front of a live audience.  There is nothing noble in this man's life or death, but he lived it the way he wanted to and seemed surprised when his death is being filmed that, hey, he's dying.  Probably the most disgusting scene is the biohazard bag in the garage holding a jar of his expelled lung juice.

  Helvetica 2007.  This is the most subversive and controversial documentary in years!  And yes, this is Helvetica Italic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now I'm using BOLD.  OOOOOOOOOOO!  Team Apeonaut quite enjoyed this rather perverse journey into typography.  Members of Linotype, Merganthaller and all manner of egotistical type designers vent or rave, condemn or elevate to Heaven's gates the creation and usage of Helvetica in the modern age of advertising white space!   It is EVERYWHERE!!! (Bold Italic).   Ubiquitous!  We dare say!  Arguably one would have to have an interest in typography to enjoy this and Team Apeonaut has varying degrees of experience with hot lead type, press on letters, system fonts and freefonts.com!  Anything goes in the cutthroat world of type designers!

  Into the Wild 2007.  Not a documentary per se and it wasn't clear why it was in the box o' docs until we arrived in Slab City...then all became clear!  Written and directed slowly and almost boringly by Sean Penn this movie follows a recent college graduate on his journey of self awareness and freedom from his lying parents.  Searching for something he calls Alaska Chris McCandless gives away all his savings, loses his car to a flash flood and works and tramps his way across the US and Mexico to get to Alaska where he thinks he can be a man.  This movie is fine fast-forwarded through stopping only at points where he meets people who help him and like him along his journey.  Chris kept a journal but who really knows what the hell happened since he can't say so how could Penn reconstruct his journey?  Unprepared and ill-suited for the life of a mountain man he got what he deserved for his dream by eating a plant that slowly starved him to death.  Emile Hirsch is a fine actor and portrayed wonder then disillusionment with astonishing grace.

  Marjoe 1972.  The Oscar winning documentary Marjoe is an insiders look at how revivalists bilk their audiences of their hard earned cash.  Named after Mary and Joseph little Marjoe begins his career at the tender age of 3 1/2 spouting the glory of Jesus Christ and the sins of hellfire and damnation at the insistence of his parents.  The home footage from those years is crazy!  This little tot spouting nonsensical gospel, playing his accordion and performing marriage ceremonies.  As he grows older he knows it's a scam and takes full advantage of it as the DVD cover says: You keep the faith, Marjoe keeps the money.  What an ultimate hypocrite.  The Pentecostals and Baptists he performs for are no better or different as they writhe on the floor for the glory of God.  Raise your hands and praise his name.  The film shows Marjoe telling the film crew how to act in the tent while filming in order for the members to accept them...cut your hair, don't smoke or swear and keep it in your pants.  Marjoe admits on camera he doesn't believe but it's one way to make fast cash.  Disturbing in that it does crush the myth that religion is a comfort for those that have faith.  Interesting to say the least.

   100 Films & A Funeral 2007.  What a fun look at one man's obsession to create a movie studio/distribution hub in Europe to rival and compete with the Hollywood movie machine.  The documentary follows the trials, tribulations, successes, failures, growing pains, and ultimate betrayal of Polygram Filmed Entertainment.  With a library of over 1300 movies and a few prestigious awards it's a mixed bag of silly, auteur, classic and classy entertainment.  Using it's record parent's business plan, PFE used independent "labels" to create product.  They also didn't use a system of only a few executives green-lighting movie projects.  Sometimes things were crap in the early days, sometimes mediocre, but out of this idea came several great films...Fargo and Usual Suspects among them.  In the 90s some think PFE helped revive British cinema.  Interviews with major players are interesting and seemingly honest.  This is just a whole lot of fun for anyone with an interest in the film industry.  All thumbs up

  The Origins of AIDS 2004.  This is as good an explanation as any out there.  After doing what they thought was their due diligence in investigating stories, rumors, and reports of how AIDS started a couple of journalists are poo-pooed when their works are published.  Primarily the story is this, contaminated polio vaccine was given to one million people in the Belgian Congo from 1957 to 1960.  The vaccine in question was built in a huge, modern lab/hospital in the Congo from chimpanzee tissue (a big no-no).  The creator of this disaster and his helpers when interviewed claim no such thing could have ever happened.  Eyewitness interviews, archival movie footage and photographs taken at the time in question are pretty good examples of hard evidence to contradict the man who became famous for inoculating the countryside.  Talk about conspiracy theory!  This answers in pretty straight forward terms how AIDS crossed into humans from apes.  SIV and HIV are closely related and it turns out when you inject HIV into a chimp, the chimp's system cures the virus. Compelling in it's reasoning this documentary goes far in joining big money/big pharmaceuticals and rotten testing/producing procedures at the wallet.  Absolutely fascinating watching the major players being interviewed.  None of them can look the camera/interviewer in the eyes.  As a side note, when the Congo was Belgian and imperial does anyone notice how clean the city and its streets are?  How clean the people are and everyone was industrious in the newsreel footage?  After the Belgians are booted out in the name of independence the city is filmed in present time and it's a giant steam pile of slum.  C O N S P I R A C Y.  You can't have one without race.

  Forgotten Ellis Island  2008.  Who knew!?  No wonder it's called forgotten.  This is an eye opening look at the making of America for those who had no clue.  It's only natural that a new country growing by leaps and bounds into the industrial age would require strong, healthy people to help build it and populate it.  As educated Americans we all know about Ellis Island being the gateway to the new world.  Get off the boat, have your name misspelled and move to New York City by the millions.  The story evidently went a little further than that.  Ellis Island is a coupe of islands that housed one of the most progressive hospitals of the time.  Using all the modern medical knowledge of the time when you got off the boat you were given a mental and physical health exam.  Rightly or not, depending on your school of thought, new immigrants that were deemed mentally or physically unfit were deported back to their native lands.  Sometimes at the expense of breaking up families.  If the hospital could cure you and deem you fit enough to be a productive member of America, poof, instant citizen, now got to work, support your family and learn English.  And WOW...they did.   The archival footage and photos are astonishing.  The people charged with creating a strong gene pool for America were pretty good at their jobs.  This was the proving grounds for the Department of Public Health.   Keep the cooties in your own country.  Some interviews of grown children treated at the hospital showed bitter old goats who didn't like the way they were treated as children, even though they were given toys by the nurses and whatever ills they had were cured.  One notable exception was an old German dude who understood the value of culling the weak from the heard.  Yes, we did perform our own brand of nationalism and eugenics.  Too bad immigrants today don't take coming here seriously and learn the language.  Sorry, my Aryan is showing.  The buildings were left to rot and ruin but the National Park Service had plans in 2008 to restore them and make an information center of them.   Great storytelling.

  The Polio Story.  Fascinating tale of the rise and fall of polio in America, the search for a cure, the stigma, the fear, the development of the March of Dimes (we had no idea that's where that came from), Salk's -dead-virus and Sabine's -live-virus vaccine developments, the human trials on orphans and the developmentally challenged, which in the 50s weren't frowned upon, the successes and failures of the drug tests and interesting interviews with the survivors of the polio epidemic and their family members.  Footage of the polio wards, iron lungs, and treatments for the disease are an amazing look into a time when things actually got done.  You couldn't get a vaccine for anything passed through the FDA these days.  Amazing.  One major problem is that today in 2011 all of the diseases eradicated in America are being brought back to this country by immigrants from countries that did not or were unable to vaccinate their populations.  That's probably our fault too.

  The Soviet Story.  Don't let history be re-written.  Does any one remember that the Soviets helped Germany invade Poland at the start of the war? And that the 2 countries divided that nation as a spoil of war. Yes, we have our own problems here in America and have been the cause of problems throughout the world, but the Soviet communists of WW2 were backstabbing thugs as bad or worse than the NAZI party was under Hitler.  The parallels between National Socialists and Communists are too compelling to be ignored from the propaganda of the time to their systematic elimination of entire groups of people.  In the Soviet case the Ukranians.  Does anyone remember that?  DO the Ukranians?  Their grain and lands are confiscated and millions of them are starved to death in 1932 and 33 while the government sells their grain to the NAZI party.  Following the rules of conquering nations they kill 10% of their own in order to preserve the balance of power and order and to show the rest of the populace who is boss.  The archival footage, still photos and interviews with survivors, journalists and veterans is both compelling and disheartening.  No government on earth has learned any lessons from the mistakes of the past as atrocity after atrocity occur around the world on a daily basis.  People choose the parts of history they like and perpetuate myths taught to the next generations.  Without documentaries such as this in less than another generation no one will even know there was a World War II and what it really meant to geopolitics.

  Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush.  The viewer does not even have to like baseball to love this documentary about "dem bums".   Ebbets Field, the Boys of Summer,  Reese, Bavasi, Branca, Podres, Jackie Robinson and the integration of the game, losing the World Series forever and then on one glorious day being the winners and igniting such joy as Muddville never knew.  Wonderful interviews with the veteran players, many of whom were inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, vintage newsreel coverage of the games, and most importantly the 2 men harnessing the power of the Dodgers, the man looking for talent and the man who knew only business and money.  The struggle to build bigger stadiums is older than time itself and when one determined businessman butts heads with the man with the power to say yes or no to a new stadium, a game of chicken is no place to flinch.  New suitors come calling and the siren song of California lures the owners to move the Dodgers to LA and the rest as they say is history.  This is a rip-roaring bit of Americana that is fun and enriching to watch.   

 The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia 2009.  Oh where to begin?  Hank Williams should be rolling over in his grave at the company his grandson keeps.  The Whites of West Virginia give Hillbillies,
in-breds,  Rednecks and White Trash all over America a bad name.  Called Appalachian Royalty by the documentarians, these people as a whole are lower than a snake's belly and twice as poisonous as a den of vipers.  Vulgar and
ill-educated, yet oddly aware of how to beat the system, the Whites have lived off the government teat for generations and are damn proud of it.  They've killed people, they're addicted to every kind of illicit and homegrown high imaginable, they frequent jail.  These are grotesques who breed like roaches and wonder why Child Protective Services would take away their babies.  They also wonder why many of their relatives die at early ages.  WTF!?!?  Children giving relations tattoos in the kitchen.  Everyone looks related and all the women have cigarette voice.  And they aren't above getting married in the flower department at the drug store by the pharmacist who is also a preacher.  These people should live on a compound.  If they charged admission it would be the first honest money any of them ever made.  After viewing this one needs a stiff drink, visine and a shower.  You will never be the same.   Be afraid if they ever leave the holler.

   The Captains written and directed by William Shatner 2011.  This is a love letter from Shatner to Shatner.  Shatner travels the globe to interview the Star trek universe captains and learn of their motivations, privations and successes in playing starship captains.  He also delves into their lives now getting uncomfortable answers and looking dew-eyed as he listens intently.  It is as oddly compelling to watch as is his Gonzo Ballet documentary about his 2004 CD Has Been being made into a ballet for the Milwaukee Ballet to perform.  So oddly self-serving that you have to watch it, agree with it and admire it.

  Kill The Irishman.  The documentary included with the movie is as fascinating and fun to watch as the movie.  Danny Greene wasn't just a legend in his own mind.  Brutal, smart and innovative Danny rises to the top levels of crime in Cleveland. 

  SALT: Tears of the Earth.  This is an absorbing, fascinating and educational documentary on the discovery, processing, sale and absolute need for salt in the course of human survival.  From salt flats in Argentina to the oldest salt caves in Europe and the salt gardens of Portugal this doc explores the techniques old and ancient for gathering this precious mineral.  The images and the people are unforgettable.  This is well worth 50 minutes of your time. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xikq1o_salt-tears-of-the-earth-salt-tears-of-the-earth_shortfilms

 Note by Note the Making of Steinway 1037  2007.  Whodathunk!?!?!  A documentary about how the famed Steinway is lovingly hand made in Queens, New York by Steinway's very own United Nations of piano builders.  People from every walk of life and young and old, Slavs, Russians, Jamaicans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Caucasians, Blacks and Asians everyone works at this company hand creating with such detail the concert pianos.  We follow the first piece of wood chosen for its perfection, and that is increasingly hard to find in today's world, to the framing by hand, hammer and chisel work, hand wiring, tuning, hand filing the felt hammers, it cures 8 weeks and the whole process takes about 1 year to make the 9 foot long concert piano.  Some famous pianists including Harry Connick Jr,  Lang Lang and others talk about their experiences with Steinway and how they chose the perfect one they use in their music venues.  The best part was the apparent love the Steinway workers put into their particular jobs to create these works of art.  Fascinating story.  

  Standing in the Shadows of Motown  2003.  This documentary about the unsung heroes of Motown is terrifically entertaining.  1959 Motown is created by Barry Gordy. He gathers together the best blues and jazz musicians to be session and back up players for the up and comers of a new recording company.  The Funk Brothers played for 14 years behind some of the biggest names and they played for peanuts and received no recognition.  This documentary is a walk down that memory lane via archival photos and footage and reenactments.  41 years later the surviving Funk Brothers reunite in Detroit to tell their amazing tale and perform Motown hits with contemporary performers like Bootsy Collins and Joan Osborne.  The story is powerful, moving and sad but their story was finally told and the old dudes still have that amazing talent that created the distinctive "Motown" sound all those years ago.  A must see for anyone with an interest in great music.

  The Man Who Would Be Polka King  2009.  Jan Lewan a Polish immigrant who came to the US after WWII with a dream.  In Poland he was a performer of some note.  Not sure how because he really was very untalented.  But with a dream of becoming something huge in America he came.  All he turned out to be was a mini-Madoff using a Ponzi scheme to make his Polka Empire.  These schemes work only because people are gullible and greedy.  His "victims" blame him for taking their money with a promise of huge returns on their investment into his business.  Yes he was a crook, but he did not twist anyone's arms to invest.  He spent 20 years essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul going from state to state getting "investors" even after being warned by the State of Pennsylvania that what he was doing was illegal.  His shows drew thousands.  He had an orchestra, he made records, he had a polka gift shop and he ran European tours where his fans met with Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa, presumably after Lewan paid out a great deal of "investor" cash to make the spontaneous meetings happen.  Lewan had a rat in his group and when investors found out there would be no return on investment they got ugly.  Lewan was finally arrested and convicted and sentenced to 5 years.  The Feds thinking they would teach him a lesson sent him for his first 3 years to a New Jersey penitentiary where he was shived in the neck.  He was lucky to survive.  This guy is kind of like the Jim Jones of Polka as people followed him until they didn't.  And then they blamed him for eveything.  

  Standard Operating Procedure (Abu Ghraib Prison) 2008.  The amazing thing about this documentary is that is got made at all using the testimony of the participants. But in true American fashion this doc tells the story of the most asinine case of poor judgment and bad behavior in recent military history.  Military police at Abu G humiliated and mentally abused many of the Iraqi prisoners in their charge.  The US soldiers interviewed said they were told by their superiors to do what was needed to get information.  One...a soldier can question an order they think is unlawful.  Two...MPs aren't interrogators, that's left to MI or CIA or DIA or any other alphabet organization.  Three...why be so fucking stupid to photograph any behavior like that, then burn copies to give to your "friends" only to find it posted on the internet.  Even though no one above the rank of Staff Sergeant was tried and convicted for their outrageous behavior, these few people got what they deserved for being STUPID.  The officers involved and high ranking US officials were smart enough to cover it up and not get caught.  This doc is an amazing bit of creative recreation using photos from the 3 cameras used in the prison and the meta data from the hard drives of the computer they were stored on to create timelines for these offenses.  The question that begs to be answered was this SOP for anyone working at the prison or were these few individuals just idiots in the service of their country?  It's one thing to be young, inexperienced and stupid, it's quite another to be young, inexperienced and in a position of power over others.  Simply amazing.

  Who the $#&$ is Jackson Pollock?  2006.  Trying to convince the art world of a painting's authenticity if they don't want to acknowledge it is like trying to brush the teeth of a T-Rex with some Raptor bits stuck along its gumline.  This is the crazy tale of Teri Horton, widow, dumpster diver, semi-truck driver and old biddie who buys a large splatter painting at a thrift store for a girlfriend of hers as a gag.  When her friend tells her she has no where to put it teri figures she'll sell it.  Someone comments it looks like a Jackson Pollock and so begins Teri's 10 years or more of investigating, irritating and annoying the art world in general.  She finds out more about that world than she ever thought possible.  She even has a forensic art specialist from Canada examine the painting.  He even goes so far as to go the Pollock Krasner studio to take pictures of splatters, samples of paint and a fingerprint left on a paint can.  He determines the fingerprint matches a print on the back of the painting.  Everyone but the art world is convinced.  The forensics guy even matches the print to a print found on a painting known and authenticated to be a Pollock.  They go so far as to ask a forger if he could fake a Pollock.  He said no. This doc is fascinating and compelling to watch.  At the end it says a Saudi offered 9 million dollars for the painting unauthenticated.  She said no.  Principles or just stubborn.  Who knows.   

  Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times. 2009.  This is one helluva ride through the empire that was the LA Times newspaper dynasty and the family that ran it for 4 generations. Starting with Harrison Gray Otis (publisher from 1882-1917) staunch anti-union and anti-Democrat rhetoric was the order of the day.  You were with him or dead...in the press.  Otis got lucky when his new son-in law Harry Chandler (publisher 1917-1944) came on board at the paper.  He not only published the paper, but was instrumental in building LA into what it is today.  Real estate, LA Harbor, water to Owens Valley...that entire episode is quite full of back stabbing intrigue.  Harry also was smart enough to foretell the future though he could not foresee the endgame by setting up 2 trusts to protect his fortune and to keep the Times-Mirror Company in the family.  Norman Chandler (publisher 1944-1960) kept the paper non-union but made sure union wages were paid to the best people.  He instituted medical insurance and pension plan.  But the quality of journalism remained a low priority. Norman wanted to diversify and took the company public.  This broke the family apart and started worse infighting than they had ever known.  Norman's son Otis (Publisher 1960-1980) was made publisher instead of Norma's brother thus fragmenting the family even further.  Otis' mom, Dorothy Chandler, was a pariah in the family who felt she was beneath their standards though she was from the Buffum family.  This is a wild look at the beginnings of Los Angeles and the people who invented it and reigned over if for over 100 years.  Anyone interested in LA should see this tale.     

  Harvard Beats Yale 29-29  2008.  1968.  Two undefeated ivy league football teams. The world was spinning out of control.  It's a much simpler time.  College football meant everything.  The biggest divisions in society closed during the season.  Interviews with members of both 1968 teams highlight this enjoyable time capsule of game footage.  Yale thought they would crush Harvard and got cocky. Harvard put in their second string quarterback during the second half and the universe tilted crazily as the Crimson racked up 29 points to match Yale's 29 points.  The interviews some 40 years later indicate that the lives of some of the men was determined on that day.  Hero or goat this documentary is at times funny and suspenseful.  No Hollywood script writer could come up with something so preposterous as a quarterback who hadn't lost a game since he was in the 7th grade, or a cartoonist, Gary Trudeau who included the Yale team in his strip, or a Yalie who dated Meryl Streep who was going to Vasser at the time, or an intellectual player who thought of football as a philosophical experience and then became an Oscar winning actor (Tommy Lee Jones was very peculiar in his interview portions almost like he couldn't speak of the old days without a script).  Highly entertaining this documentary takes you back to jacket and tie days, women's lib, Viet Nam and Richard Nixon.  Holy cow.

Unforgotten 25 Years after Willowbrook 2002.  This is one disturbing disgusting look at man's inhumanity to man.  From the time of the very first "Bedlam" facility man has tossed people with differences into institutions to keep them from polite society.  Institutions talked about in whispers, with fear, anguish and shame.  People usually choose to forget they have family inside these types of places.  Willowbrook was supposedly a shining beacon in the mental health community. This DVD follows only a couple of stories of people who managed to get out of Willowbrook alive. This is also one of the few Geraldo Rivera exposes that actually accomplished anything good.  In 1972 using a stolen key and with the help of a former Willowbrook doctor Rivera got inside with a camera and filmed the deplorable conditions.  What he saw and filmed shocked 1972's America.  Inmates eating off the floor.  Filth everywhere.  Children covered in their own  feces and who knows who else's.  Turns out hepatitis cases were at 100%.   Developmentally challenged patients were forced to feed themselves, and most of them were incapable of the task.  The two families interviewed for the documentary
thought Willowbrook was their only hope.  One family had a Down Syndrome daughter.  They knew she was different from their other kids but weren't sure what it was.  Put her in Willowbrook.  A Puerto Rican family had a son with mental challenges.  He was given a feeding tube which subsequently increased his condition.  Both families felt guilt after having learned of the true conditions at Willowbrook and relief that their children were still alive so they could be put into other facilities.  In 1965 a 4000 patient institution housed 6000 patients.  Sen. Robert Kennedy called the place a "snake-pit".  For years it was a dumping ground for the unwanted.  Changes in mental health may be better on the surface today with integration into society, regulations that are enforced and advocates that are proactive for humane treatment of the challenged.  Willowbrook closed in 1987 and its lands parcelled out to various educational institutions.

  Animal Love 1996.  Oh those wacky Austrians!  Werner Hetzog's quote on the DVD cover is "Never have I looked so directly into hell." is a bit over dramatic and over blown.  The documentary is actually quite boring and mundane.  The animals in question are living lives filled with borderline abuse from their over-devoted masters and mistresses.  These people filmed live on the fringes of basic, stable, employed, "normal" society.  These people are just disturbed, disgusting and dispossessed of any morals, common sense or decency.  Some of them are outright creepy and should be locked up in places like Willowbrook...see above note.  These folks are really no different from hoarders or the "cat lady" who has 83 cats in various stages of health or the Grey Gardens ladies.  A screw or twelve is more than likely loose that could be easily fixed with lithium.  One supposes life is what you make it but being dysfunctional with humans doesn't mean you should take it out on the family pet. 

  Crazy Love  2007.  1957 Burt Pugach, an ambulance chasing NY lawyer sees and falls in love with Linda Riss.  She thinks he's a weirdo but goes out with him anyway.  1959 she can't take his lies, possessiveness and crazy behavior anymore and gets engaged to someone else.  The police are no help to her whatsoever.  Pugach hires thugs to hurt her.  One man shows up at her home and when she opens the door throws lye in her face.  She ends up blind, Pugach gets a jail sentence.  When he is paroled some 14 years later for basically giving her money he starts stalking her again.  She relents and marries him.  He takes care of her.  In his early years pictures of Burt make him look like a psycho Mephisto.  Totally creepy.  She has her revenge on him however, by making him wait on her hand and foot.  Ah love, 'tis a horribly twisted thing.  Fascinating look at what obsession can make people do.

  All In This Tea 2007.  Follows the tea import travails and travels of David Lee Hoffman former owner of Silk Road Teas.  Hoffman wants to convince the Chinese government to let exporters buy directly from the farmers who grow all their teas organically instead of going through the factory grown tea bureaucracy.  Hoffman is shown talking to farmers and government officials trying to make points against using chemical fertilizers.  He even tries to introduce earthworm shit as a natural fertilizer.  Worm shit for tea is his motto.  This is a fascinating history lesson on the tea masters of China and their personal techniques for processing their teas to the mental and health benefits of drinking fine teas.  Makes the tea-totaller in me want more.  The sheer joy Hoffman exhibits when sticking his whole face in a bag of freshly picked tea is amazing. This is a guy with passion and isn't afraid to follow that passion to find the perfect tea.

  Forbidden Lies 2007.  Norma Khouri wrote a book about her "friend" who was honor killed in Jordan for dating a Christian.  It was a bestseller and made her money.  Turns out it was all a lie, or was it, and Norma is the biggest con-artist/grifter or not.  She takes a documentarian to Jordan to prove her story after an Australian journalist exposed her for a fraud.  By the end all you want to do is smack the crap out of Norma.  Interviews with her husband (who is a douche bag in his own right), a friend who took Norma's kids "for safe keeping" after death threats against Norma were received, Norma's own father who she reported as having molested her all paint her as a truly bizarre character.  Police records in America show her to be a con artist who started at an early age by convincing an elderly neighbor to turn over her bonds.  This show is hard not to watch. 

  Teddy In His Own Words 2009.  Regardless of your political or religious beliefs this is a fascinating documentary covering Senator Kennedy's life and legacy.  Using archival photos and movies from his childhood through to the 2008 national convention the documentary covers the highlights and the lowlights of his family life and the tragedies that have plagued the Kennedy's.  Old campaign commercials, footage of his father as ambassador to England, JFK and RFK and their subsequent assassinations and how those events thrust upon him the mantle of patriarch of a very prominent family.  It covers his many ups and downs in the Senate as a liberal over the years.  The most shocking bits were the recordings of Nixon trying to plant anything dirty on him to get rid of him.  The most touching scene was him standing up to give away Caroline at her wedding.  It also covers his disgraceful behavior at Chappaquiddick.  Nothing is left out of this fascinating saga.  Teddy's own words however are not current they are culled from other sources.

  Running the Sahara 2008.  3 men want to be the first people to run coast to coast across the Sahara.  In a journey they expected to be 80 days, their amazing story took 111 days.  They've run together before never anything this ambitious.  They start out in good shape, happy and excited.  By the end they are snapping at each other, have lost all their body fat and hate their support team.  They have no official papers with them but most countries allow them safe passage without problems or controversy.  They represent no political interests.  Libya was the most difficult but a guy who understood their apolitical nature and happened to be an amateur runner helped them get clearances across the borders.  An amazing tale of endurance. 

  Crossing the Line 2006.  A documentary 44 years in the making.  In 1962 a 20 year old US Army PFC walked across the DMZ and entered North Korea leaving behind everything he had known before and his country.  Joe Dresnok thinks he has found the life he deserves where the government takes care of him, clothes him, feeds him and houses him.  Basically abandoned as a child Joe joins the Army thinking he will be taken care of.  Once in he realizes he doesn't like the structures imposed on how he should behave and when he's posted to Korea he realizes that he really doesn't want to be in the Army.  One day he walks across the DMZ and lets himself be captured by the North Koreans.  He is interrogated for days until they realize he hasn't been in the Army long enough to know anything.  They let him go as a provisional guest of the DPRK.  He is a propagandist's dream come true.  A big, tall American who denounces his own people and decided to learn all about the Koreans, their communist ideals, their language and their glorious leader Kim Jong Il.  The North Koreans offer money (glorious prizes) to American soldiers who denounce the Imperialist bastards.  3 more cross over.  The men are photographed together smiling in public with the happy happy little Koreans.  They are on the covers of magazines and even act in Korean propaganda movies as what else...evil American Imperialist bastards.  Joe becomes well known to the population and is called in the street by his movie character's name.  He marries an allegedly kidnapped Romanian woman and has 2 sons who think of themselves as Korean but are listed as American.  When she dies he marries a Korean-Congolese woman and has a kid.  In 2004 one of his fellow defectors, Sgt Jenkins, gives himself up so he could be reunited with his wife, who was kidnapped from a small island in Japan and brought to Korea to be his wife.  Jenkins wrote a book his tenure with the Koreans, all horrible lies according to Joe, showed up in interviews in uniform, the uniform he disgraced by defecting and he only spent 30 days in jail.   Go figure.  Joe doesn't think he did anything wrong by defecting.  He thinks he's built the perfect life.  Who's to judge really?  Interesting as far as it goes.  The DPRK still controls quite a bit of what you see.  Worth seeing. 

  Comrades in Dreams 2006.  An interesting documentary following the lives of 4 diverse cinema auteurs.  An Indian, some Africans, a North Korean and a woman from Wyoming.  Each has their own reason for wanting to show movies in their own place in the world.  The Indian wants to run the biggest cinema in his part of India.  He's taken over his father's tent.  He also wants a wife that understands his need to run the travelling movie group.  He only shows movies that the villagers can relate to, ones with religious, family or musical storylines.  Pretty much anything Bollywood and not Hollywood. He would not be able to show a movie like Titanic.  Anup's entire family is on the prowl for a good wife for him.  In his village it is a sin to marry for love.  The Africans used to work for the state run cinema corporation.  When that closed down they tried to start up their own theater group renting spaces around the countryside showing movies to the locals.  Like Cellular and Titanic.  It's pretty humorous when they ask one patron his thoughts on Titanic and he says it was very sad to just disappear without a trace.  The African's wives think they should stay at home more and not talk cinema all the time.  The guy's say no way.  The North Korean female projectionist is somewhat unique in that she is the only female in that line of work in the DPRK.  She promises the collective certain movies and feels obligated to keep the promises even in the event of flooded roads, downed bridges, and film offices that give the movies she wants to other collectives.  They have one movie hall and close the doors promptly at the starting time whether the entire collective is in attendance.  This quarter of the movie is perhaps the oddest because these people think that these movies save their lives in some fashion by solving their problems with drought, modernized machinery, planting and irrigation and keeping them in touch with their culture via kimchi and ancient dress codes.  There is a scene where she is talking about the death of their great leader and she blubbers like it was her own death that had occurred.  Her husband is assigned to a collective that is to beautify the burial place of the great leader.  She thinks her life is as wonderful as that in one of her movies.  Creepy and compelling.  The woman in Wyoming owns and operates a one screen theater in a one horse town.  She has 3 jobs to keep herself busy.  Her reasons are a little vague.  She married, had 2 kids.  She wanted lots of kids. Talking with friends they discuss good husbands and bad husbands.  You never find out if her family is dead, has run off and left her alone or abused her.  But she cries a lot.  Her friends volunteer to work the concessions and the ticket booth.  The one common thread in the documentary is these people seem to want to do anything to keep showing movies and they use real film.  Seems odd in this day and age of DVD and digital.  Interesting.   

  Leona's Sister Gerri 1995.  How would you feel if you saw a picture of your little sister naked, bloody and dead in a magazine centered around women's interests?  This documentary quickly follows the life and death of Gerri, one of 15 children of Russian immigrants.  She marries young to a man who really isn't very good marriage material.  She has a couple of kids.  She runs away from the husband and goes back to her hometown.  She gets a job and falls into an affair with a married co-worker.  She learns she is pregnant and is due to have the baby about the same time her husband wants to come back and see their kids.  Being an era when women were still mostly chattle-like and not very independent minded, Gerri thought her only solution was an abortion.  Her lover talked to a guy who knew a guy and read up on the procedure, got some medical instruments and met Gerri at a hotel.  Botching the "kitchen table" abortion he leaves her to bleed to death while he runs away.  She is able to make one crying phone call to her sister, who is not at home at the time, and tries to staunch her own bleeding with towels in the room.  Her death photo soon became a rallying cry for anti-abortionists who want safe and clean facilities for women who want a choice.  Weird time capsule in history.

  Roman Polanski Wanted and Desired 2008.  Fascinating documentary covering the 1977 media/legal circus surrounding Polanski's statutory rape charge.  Archival footage of the time shows a Polanski willing to help and a judicial system wanting to make a name for itself.  The doc also follows his marriage to Sharon Tate and the aftermath of her horrific murder.  A man of talent screwed by the wild times in which he lived, loved and played.  Well worth watching.

  Cat Dancers 2008.  The director of this documentary took seven years to make and release this amazing story of Ron and Joy Holiday and Chuck Lizza.  Ron and Joy were dancers who taught dancing, loved ballet and eventually played at Radio City Music Hall.  When they got too old they decided to keep working by training big cats.  The story is full of archival footage of the pair dancing, raising and performing with their tigers, panthers and leopards.  The Holidays started a tiger act long before anyone heard of Siegfried and Roy.  Raising the cats like any parent would raise a child the tigers would perform almost any task for "Mom and Dad".  Ron Holiday, the sole survivor of the trio, is in his seventies and still teaches dance.  Up to the point where the exotic animal ranch that was housing his remaining tigers closes Ron taught animal husbandry.  Outlandish costumes complete with cod pieces and really big bad hair highlight the performance clips.  When they bring in Chuck to work with the cats their lives change dramatically especially after they invite him to be part of a menage a trois.  Ron spins an amazing tale and you know things didn't end well for the Cat Dancers.  Both Chuck and Joy are killed by an inbred white tiger leaving Ron to carry on.  Fascinating, creepy and tragic but well worth watching.

  Smothered: The censorship struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour 2002.  The title says it all.  Funny and often times biting in their humor, the SB managed to get everything relevant on the air even if they had to do it in a backhanded manner.  Sexual orientation, drug use and Viet Nam weren't the sacred cows the Network thought they were if the SB wanted to make a statement or showcase people who were black listed.  Great archival footage of the particular episodes that caused the Network consternation and interviews with the SB retelling how they had to use subterfuge to do what they wanted.  Educational and entertaining.

   A/K/A Tommy Chong 2005.  Who knew that Tommy Chong was deemed to be Public Enemy #1 in 2003 when the Fed busted him for selling drug paraphernalia and had him sentenced to 9 months in jail.  It is pretty scary that with everything else going on in the world an old comedian and his bong are more threatening than any terrorist from a desert country.  Oh that wacky Justice Department.

  The Orson Welles War of the Worlds Scandal...the broadcast that panicked a nation! 2007   this 2 disk set contains rare photos at the Mercury Theater radio studio, interviews with Welles and other actors involved with the production, ordinary citizens who remember being packed into the car by the folks and being caught in massive traffic jams while trying to flee the Martian attacks. After WOW it chronicles Welles meteoric rise and equally spectacular fall as one of the youngest men to ever make it in the old Hollywood system and be brought down by his own genius and hubris. He is brought before the senate for causing such a panic.  WOW was basically the beginning of broadcasting controls like Night of the Living Dead started movie ratings.  The media hype that followed helped the Mercury Theater get a new sponsor and a renewed contract.   Fascinating journey for any Wellesian.  The second disk contains the original broadcast.  Things were so simple then.

  Overnight 2003.   Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.  And the head and arm and torso.  Jeez, what a shithead!  Troy Duffy could have had it all.  A lowly blue collar by every sense of the word bartender is "discovered" by Harvey Weinstein of Miramax.  Harvey gives him the movie deal of a lifetime that everyone would kill or die for, including buying him the bar in which he works.  Boondock Saints, a now cult classic about two brothers wanting to root evil out of their neighborhood by any means necessary, is Troy's baby, his grail.  Trouble is he thinks this seeming good fortune is his due just for having been born on the planet.  Did we mention the guy is a total shithead?!  He also gets a record deal for his band The Brood.  The movie is in development hell for years, Harvey washes his hands of the guy when he realizes what a dick he is and when the movie is finally released it is on a microscopic scale. He treats his family and friends like serfs and they up to a certain point allow him to treat them as such.  Then they too realize he is a total shitbird.  Fascinating tale of one man's arrogance and how the Hollywood system can make you or break you.

  Zoo 2004.  A horse is a horse of course...some people love animals.  Some more than others.  This documentary follows the King's County story of a group of animal lovers who met at the farm to drink, unwind, talk and spend time with their four legged equine companions.  The only reason their lifestyle is thrust into the harsh light of reality is when one member, Mr. Hands, dies as a result of having his interior sigmoid colon ruptured by a horse's penis.  Makes you wonder.  The horse in question is gelded immediately and adopted by a family that could give it a good home.  These men recorded all the encounters, some recordings were uncovered by the police during the investigation. The State of Washington then passed a law to make it unlawful to have sex with animals.  We need laws for that?  Oy.  Disturbing but hey, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?!     

  Z Channel 2004.  The Z Channel, pre-courser to HBO and Showtime, was the cable pioneer in showing uncut, full length movies of every ilk.  This documentary follows Z's shining light Jerry Harvey as the force behind it's success.  Harvey loved movies and he programmed Z with all the odd, never shown, foreign, critically panned, financial bombs he could beg borrow or steal.  He pretty much invented the "director's cut" by allowing movies such as Heaven's Gate, Salvador, Once Upon a Time in America and Das Boot to be shown in all their original glory to like minded audiences who craved movies of substance but wouldn't necessarily go to a theater to see them.  The documentary also follows Harvey's descent and touches on his murdering his second wife and killing himself.  Notoriety comes in many forms.  Interesting fellow who knew many Hollywood players.

  Gray Matter  2004.  After reading an article on the internet about the burial of some 700 brains child victims of the Third Reich, this documentary's director traveled to Vienna, Austria to investigate the doctor mostly responsible for the children's deaths.  He finds that the doctor was still living in Austria getting a pension from the government for his continued experimentation on the brains over the years since the War and his help as an "expert" witness on mental defects. Austria had not been very forthcoming about it's involvement with Hitler's eugenics programs and hoped this burial of the brains of retarded, deformed and orphaned children would lay to rest their collective consciences.  The children were all well documented during the experimentations. There were a few survivors of the Spiegelgrund mental hospital who were able to attend the burial ceremony.  Some survivors had relatives that were victims of the experiments.  The technician who sorted out the brains and prepared them for burial showed the director documents that named the doctor responsible for the deaths of these children.  The doctor was brought to trial once but released because of insufficient evidence that he could stand trial because he was senile and fragile...amazing that even today the Third Reich reaches into people's lives.

  The Lobotomist 2004.  Dr Walter Freeman was a doctor who believed in relieving the misery of man.  Odd in a doctor.  Mental hospitals were filled to overflowing with the dregs of humanity.  People who had no one who wanted to be bothered with them.  Freeman took the ideas of a Portuguese doctor about treating the brain for disorders and decided an ice pick through the tear duct into the frontal lobe and stir it up a little to relieve whatever demons are in there.  Many patients exhibited relief from their demons but it wasn't until years later that studies showed that these people were actually never the same again.  Lack of energy, motivation, motor skills, long term thought afflicted them, but oh baby, they were docile!  Dr Freeman was undeterred by the study results.  He was adamant even as he was being denounced in the medical community that lobotomy was the miracle cure for mental illness. Fascinating archival footage of the actual procedure and photos taken of the pick sticking out of patient's eyes.

  Hitler's Pawn 2004.  Gretel Bermann, German, proficient athlete, Jewess at the wrong time in a country trying to conquer the world is used by the Nazi party to ensure that the US wouldn't boycott the 1936 Olympics.  Archival footage of Bermann excelling at track and field meets, winning the hearts and minds of people is suddenly an outcast when being a Jew in Germany is as dangerous a proposition as could be imagined.  She gets to America and tries to start a new life when she is asked by her father to come back to Germany to practice for the Olympic team (or the family will be shot).  To protect her family she returns and practices at the special Jewish training camp.  As the world watches to see how the whole thing pans out Gretel still thinks she is going to the Olympics where she can prove to everyone that she is just as good if not better than everyone else.  Gretel is notified by letter dated one day after the American team sets sail for Germany that she isn't qualified to be on the team.  It was all a political ploy to get the Americans to participate.  amazing story.  Good thing politics don't color the Olympics anymore...yeah right.   

  The Angel Makers  2005.  Now this is a story.  In 1929 in Nagyrev, Hungary the bodies of several hundred men were exhumed and found to have been all killed by arsenic poisoning.  The culprits, the disgruntled, abused and tired wives of crippled war vets from the Great War, lazy ass farmers who did nothing but drink and expect their wives to be their slaves.  The whole village knew about it.  The midwife of the village told them how to do it with a simple solution made from soaking strips of flypaper in water and pouring the water on their food a little bit every day until lights out.  Everyone turned a blind eye to it.  But it started to spread to other villages and the lid couldn't be kept on it. When the police started to make arrests, some of the women killed themselves with their own poisoned mixture or by hanging.  These women were kind of like the urban legends of their time.  Stories passed down to the generations.  Now the disgruntled women can get divorced.  This is great!  You can't write fiction like this. Fascinating and great!

Green Porno 2008.  Isabella Rossillini and the sex lives of bugs.  Go figure.  She writes, directs and stars in 8 minute and a half long tales of how bugs fornicate. Probably the most bizarre thing we've ever seen...

  The Bridge.  A documentary that shows people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.  At the heart of the tale is society's lack of action to prevent something that occurs more often than some would like to admit. Tourists on the bridge just blithely pass by those who have been standing for long periods of time with their hands on the cables, sometimes tears streaming down their faces but a determined look in their eyes.  True, there is amazing footage of people looking around furtively, climbing over the rail, taking the plunge and then having the Coast Guard pick up their broken and dead bodies, but the filmmakers interview the families, friends and witnesses to weave together the stories behind the jumps.  There is even a survivor interviewed.  A young man who changed his mind after he jumped. He is undergoing treatment for his anxieties that stem from not being good enough for his father.  This poor young man should never have to deal with his parents again. There is also footage of one tourist grabbing a young woman when he finally realizes what the hell she's doing and pulling her back over the railing and sitting on her until the police arrive. One comments that it takes a lot of courage to actually make the decision to go over the side.  It's a long way down.  Well worth watching.  Does that make us ghoulish?

 At The Death House Door.  Fascinating but in need of editing documentary following the minister who helped 95 inmates embark on their final journey via the death houses in Huntsville, Texas from 1982-1995.  Whatever his belief was for or against the death penalty was kept to himself as he tried to be non-committal when ministering to the condemned.  He went through two wives, had 2 sets of children and led the prison choir.  Huntsville, the one time rodeo capitol of the world is now the prison capitol of the world.  Everyone in town works for the Dept. of Corrections in some capacity.  The minister Pickett having no one to really talk to after sending the inmates on their way recorded cassette tapes of everything he could recall about his talks with the inmates after their executions.

  Gorilla King.   In 1974, Dian Fossey introduced a researcher named Kelly Stewart to a gorilla family Fossey was studying. Stewart was the first to see a tiny new baby gorilla. She named him Titus, and her journal entry began the up-close observation of his life that researchers have continued to this day. Titus's turbulent life story, from orphan to ruler and the challenge to his throne today, is chronicled in this hour long special called the "The Gorilla King."  At 33 years old, the 400-pound silverback Titus has ruled for nearly half his life, an astonishing feat.   When Titus was four, his father was slaughtered by poachers. Shortly after, his infant sister was killed in a coup attempt by an interloper.  It wasn't unusual; when a male outsider takes over a group, he will kill all the infants in order to sire his own offspring. Titus's mother and other sister fled, leaving him orphaned and abandoned.  In 1991, at age 17, Titus surprised researchers when he deposed interloper in a bloodless coup. At that time Titus was entering his prime, but Rwanda was descending into the chaos of civil war, forcing researchers to flee. The war created the only gap in his life's record. Today he is no longer the king of the largest group of mountain gorillas because he allowed his own son to depose him, but he still rules a troop of loyal subjects.  Fascinating.

   Burden of Dreams 1982.  Fascinating documentary of Werner Herzog's near messianic determination to make the movie Fitzcarraldo. War between Peru and Ecuador, Indian uprisings, low cast and crew morale, low water tables, and harsh jungle conditions all played havoc with the production.  40% of the movie was shot when Herzog lost his main actor, Jason Robards to poor health and had to recast and reshoot.  Klaus Kinski is no prize either.  For much of the shoot his boat is grounded forcing him to build sets and shoot pivotal scenes on stages.  Using authentic native peoples had it's own challenges during the making of the movie. Herzog had to make sure they did not get bored and wander off or shoot cast members accidentally and had to allow the natives he was using to go upriver on a raiding party as a show of strength to the neighboring tribes.  Klaus Kinski looks lost, constipated, psychotic and angry the whole time.  One good thing was the fact that Herzog kept the crew and natives separated so that the actors wouldn't contaminate the natives.  It is amazing that the movie was even completed.  

   VBS.TV Vice Guide to North Korea.  For those of you who think we are fucked up as a nation check out this web cast of of this man's journey into North Korea through several back door routes.  Weird, scary and often pathetic our guide is indoctrinated the same way the North Koreans are.  He is taken to the Pueblo still on display after 40 years in captivity.  He attends a tea house staffed by a single lonely woman.  He is shown the school where the best of the best are trained to entertain the State.  He is taken to the Eternal President's monument to lay flowers.  He is shown the largest gymnastic exhibition in the world.  The food is weird, the people have no awareness of any culture but their own.  This is engrossing and freaky and well worth watching.


  Mr. Warmth: the Don Rickles Project 2007.  This is a cavalcade of stars waxing nostalgic about one of the most enduring stand up comics today.  Still performing in Vegas and Canada, Rickles hasn't changed his schtick in 50 years.  Photos, film and TV clips and interviews with people who know, love and have worked with Rickles liven up this documentary directed by John (I can't get a real gig) Landis.  Highly entertaining. 

  Salesman 1968.  Brought to us by the Maysles brothers (Grey Gardens) this is an unrelenting tale of the rigors of being door-to-door bible salesmen in the 60s.  It follows four guys and their efforts to sell expensive bibles to low income Catholic families.  These men give meaning to the term sales-scum.  Some of the potential buyers look like they've been brow beaten through the ringer when these guys get done with them.  It takes some nerve to barge into peoples homes uninvited in most cases at all hours of the day or night.  Their sales pitches weren't even that good.  Took Team Apeonaut back to the days of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Fuller Brush and Kirby Vacuum cleaner salesmen days of yesteryear.  We think Grey Gardens was easier to watch.

  Titicut Follies 1967.  Banned from being shown publicly from 1967 to 1992 this movie is not for the weak.  One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest had nothing on this documentary set in the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.  A harrowing look at inmate/patient treatment in the mid-60s.  Inmates are stripped naked of their clothing and whatever dignity they might possess for no valid reasons.  They are allowed to wander aimlessly in the yard and in the common areas when not locked up in their cells.  Many of the inmates look like concentration camp survivors, skeletal and haunted.  One graphic scene shows an inmate being force fed via a tube shoved down his nose.  the doctor stands on a chair and pours god only knows into a funnel in the end of the tube and tells the inmate to "chew".  All the while the doctor has a cigarette dangling ash from his mouth.  This same doctor, who sounds vaguely Russian, is the psychiatrist in charge of evaluating patient behavior.  Right, this guy has more ticks than a junkyard dog!  There is a singing guard who looks vaguely like Aristotle Onassis.  There is a startlingly erudite conversation about the Viet Nam war between two inmates.  During one patient-staff meeting a patient describes very clearly how the medication, the treatment by the staff, the constant noise of the inmates and the television was preventing him from getting better.  In fact he was much worse under their observation.  He sounded very convincing but of course the staff thought he was schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies.  And ordered his tranquilizers increased. The movie is titled after the Annual Titicut Follies show put on by the inmates and staff.  Scary people, scary place, scary singing.  Wow.  Worth the watch.

  The Last Mogul 2005.  Fascinating look at one man's journey into the annals of Hollywood power players.  Lew Wasserman knew everyone who was anyone in the business.  He had close ties to the unions and possibly crime families, he worked for political figures and some of the biggest names in Hollywood.  He had a lock on most of the talent in Hollywood through MCA Talent.  He built up Universal Studios Tours and the Amphitheater.  Who remembers the Grateful Dead being the first act booked there?  Under his reign as the undisputed power figure in Hollywood circles some of the biggest movies and careers were made. He brought Jack Vallenti to Hollywood.  Also some of the costliest mistakes in Hollywood history were made under his auspices. The government investigated MCA Talent and then later MCA Records for all types of securities violations, insider trading violations, and ties to organized crime.  In the end he lost everything and the only monument to his legacy is the Lew R. Wasserman building, the black tower. 

  Mardi Gras: Made in China 2005.  A rather apolitical documentary on the making of beads in one particular factory in China, where the beads are sold and the consumer's ultimate use and discarding of said beads.  Most of the factory workers are young girls who work 12-16 hour days, get paid per piece and have their meager pay docked for not reaching quota who live in prison-like barracks (the compound) and hot bunk 10 girls to a five bunk room.  They are excited when they get rice for lunch that day.  They have no clue what the beads are used for and the factory owner Roger thinks all is good, free, happy people, do what they want in capital society, it's frow me your bees!  It free in China now, not like it used to be.  Roger lives in a nice modern home with all the conveniences and the girls are allowed to travel to their homes that are pretty shabby, dank, slum-like.  One young girl does not want to eat the greens mom picked so she suggests they order out...Order out?  In China???  Dear old dad said if daughter not make money in that factory he send her out of the country to make money to send home.  Why the hell isn't dad working?  It is a fascinating process how the beads do get made.  The strands, the electrical shock to melt them on their strands, the hand painters how they are labeled for US customs, how they are shrink wrapped in color order.  At the Mardi Gras it's Beads for Boobs man!

   Asylum, Real Asylum Real Crazy 1992.  A never before released made for TV documentary filmed on the grounds of Patton State Hospital.  The documentary follows a variety of inmates, baby killer, dog abuser, arsonist, girlfriend killer and some other miscreants not guilty by reason of insanity. I think that's mental defect now.  These are some scary ass people who all look like they could kill you and eat you without batting an eye regardless of the crime that got them incarcerated.  Eventually all inmates can be released and a whopping 88% of them will go forth and sin no more.  Yeah right.  Gives one pause.  Most of these offenders looked like the real deal.  You'd have to be crazy to want to be sent there on purpose.   Shivers up the spine,  this is a real horror show.

   Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea 2004.  Who the hell knew!?!?!?!  Makes Team Apeonaut want to go see for itself the sad existence on the Salton Sea.  Who knew it was a thriving community for the rich and famous in the 50s and 60s.  Who knew the explosive growth of Southern California would all but destroy a wild life refuge and the lives of the few folks that hang on by their fingertips.  Who knew that this fascinating stink hole is only a few miles away.  Well, when it finally dries up and the wind blows its alkali dust into Palm Springs everyone will know.  Narrated inexplicably by John Waters, this tale interviews some of the denizens of the Sea.  Scraggly, toothless and leathery inhabitants who remember the heyday.  The boating, skiing, swimming and fishing and the plans to sub-divide the place into a booming retirement community to rival Palm Springs itself.  Fascinating.  All monkey thumbs up!  thanks again to QOTOTV for this entry.

  Brother's Keeper 1992.  If there were any true conspiracies in this world it was Madison County in New York state bringing to trial Delbert Ward for the murder of his ailing brother Bill.  4 semi-literate bachelor brothers live in squalor as social outcasts in the tiny rural community of Munnsville.  They work their farm and bother no one and no one bothers them, though all in town have known them since they were kids.  Looking far older than their years, being barely intelligible these scraggly guys eke out a meager life.  They use a school bus as a barn to house their cows and chickens for crying out loud!  Smelly and disheveled Delbert is hauled off to jail where some say he was coerced into waiving his rights and signing a confession.  No attorney was ever present.  Medical findings were inconclusive and there were rumors of police collusion with real estate developers who wanted the farm land for suburban development.  Whatever the truth behind Bill's death, Delbert should never have been brought to trial.  A fascinating and disturbing look at rural America and the us versus them big city folks ethos.  Folks pulled together to help pay for Delbert's defense and the jury was apparently not persuaded by the "evidence" that Delbert was guilty.  It was amazing to watch the criminal investigator's and prosecutor's body language during the filming of the documentary and the news broadcasts.  anyone watching could tell they were lying.  Many thanks to QOTOTV for the box o docs!  

  Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling 2004.  Fascinating documentary with archival footage of women wrestlers of the 40's and 50's.  It was a way to take charge of your own life.  You could travel, see the world, meet interesting people and smack down the crap out of them.  Interviews with the ladies, most in their 80's now, show a diverse segment of society.  Some were looked down upon, but most flourished in the ring.  Many married and had kids.  Some of those kids went into wrestling themselves.  Some of the ladies became promoters, trainers and a couple have wrestled in their 80s' for Vince McMahon and his WWE.  A reunion held in Florida in 2003 brought together some wild and crazy old women.  Wonderful.

  Mayor of the Sunset Strip 2003.  This is one interesting oddity of filmmaking.  It follows Rodney Bingenheimer, a peculiar little man with no discernible musical talent of his own, but possessing the ability to know what will be popular and what will sell.  He is infatuated with celebrity and all it's trappings.  As a DJ on KROQ for many years Rodney was able to play any and all new music that was interesting to him and introduce us to the likes of Blondie and the Sex Pistols.  He was instrumental in airing punk, goth, new wave and alternative music on California's airwaves.  He has hung out with everyone from the Beach Boys to Gwen Stefani and anyone you can think of in between.  The photo essay of him with celebrities is absolutely phenomenal.  Rodney is definitely not one of the "beautiful people" by celebrity standards but he is adored and tolerated by many.  Fascinating.  Many thanks to QOTOTV for this one.  

  The Liberace of Baghdad 2003.  This documentary follows the life of an Iraqi piano player who plays the oldies in a hotel frequented by mercenaries and foreign businessmen.  His daughter fled to the US after the war began but thinks Hussein was the best thing since sliced bread.  His wife is none too happy about the state of things in Iraq.  He is glad Hussein is gone.  He thinks he was the devil.  They live in relative comfort because of his job at the hotel.  Interesting view of how real Iraqis think of things.  

  Year of the Yao 2004.  Fascinating story about Yao Ming and his adventures in the NBA.  The weight of 1.2 billion Chinese squarely on his back, the young star of China comes to America with a daunting task of honoring his country and people and showing America that he can play B-Ball with the best of them.  Fortunately the young, inexperienced translator assigned to him helps him transition from China to America with relative ease.  They forge a mutual understanding and friendship that transcends race.  Very enjoyable tale.

  Moog 2004.  An interesting documentary recounting Robert Moog's synthesizer invention in 1964.  The Moog interviewed for this documentary is an eccentric with crazy Einstein hair who feels a connection with music and electricity.  This is how he constructed the "Moog" synthesizer.  It also shows his connection to the Theramin machine that seemingly makes music from thin air.  The electrical currents react to the way your hands move over the electrodes to make sounds.  Mostly sounds like a cello mixed with a violin.  Moog and some others revolutionized something totally new in the music business and changed the way producers could market their artists.  Fascinating how this device actually changed the way music was made. 

  Weeping Camel 2003.  It's Springtime in Mongolia.  Shepherds are preparing for the new herd of baby camels.  One camel has a particularly horrible labor and decides she doesn't want to nurse or love the rare white colt she has just brought into the world. Despite the best efforts of the family they can't even force the mother camel to accept the baby.  They send their 2 young boys across the desert to the nearest town to get the musician who can perform an ancient camel ritual to bond mother to baby.  The baby camel is really cute in a goofy, overbite way.  Beautiful and touching. What an existence.

   Wisconsin Death Trip 1999.  This is an account of the small town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin.  It is at times shocking and hilarious.   It's an amazing blend of black and white photos from the last decade of the 19th century and a select images and stories from the town newspaper of the same time period.  The town apparently was caught in some sort of hoo doo.  Murder and suicide were the order of the day.  People went mad, were haunted by ghosts and bedeviled by those possessed.  Some of the excerpts are from the Mendota Asylum for the Insane.  Truly fascinating and worth the watch.

 Mr. Death, The Rise and Fall of Fred A Leuchter, Jr.  1999.  An Errol Morris documentary covering the story of one truly odd little man.  The son of a prison worker, Fred becomes a self taught execution expert.  He trains himself in the art of making the more humane electric chair after seeing how some people explode, cook or become vegetables until they actually die.  He is employed by prisons across the country to improve capital punishment delivery systems.  The documentary only touches lightly on his skill at making the electric chair more effective.  Prison officials think that because he can do that he can create more efficient gallows and lethal injection delivery systems.  He does research and has some original ideas about how to take the executioner out of the execution and to make the execution more humane as his thought is these criminals are people too and deserve to be extinguished with as little pain and discomfort as possible.  He makes a pretty good living going around the country.  Then Fred gets embroiled in one of the biggest controversies of the 20th Century.  Ernst Zundel, Holocaust Revisionist, is going on trial in Canada for his claim the Holocaust never happened.  He needs an expert in execution, gas chambers in particular, to prove his case.  For whatever unknown reason he chooses Fred for the task of going to Auschwitz and collecting evidence to prove nothing happened there.  Trespassing on state protected property and desecrating what is essentially a massive gravesite, Fred collects samples of bricks, floors and ceilings and takes them to a lab in the US for testing.  The report he files debunking the occurrence of the Holocaust and the subsequent guilty verdict of Zundel send Fred into a spiral of lost employment, repossessions, divorce and disillusionment.  People who knew him were surprised he didn't kill himself.  This was an interesting documentary. It's just too bad it didn't focus more on his execution techniques.

  Jupiter's Wife 1994.  What a sad tale this is.  A chance meeting in Central Park by the movie's director and a lady sporting a gigantic backpack walking a herd of dogs weaves a tale of outrageous claims of parentage, being switched at birth, communicating with the Roman gods of old, hallucinating conversations with other planes of existence.  Maggie is well spoken, obviously well educated, and obviously bi-polar.  She has friends both homeless and well to do who are eager to take care of her.  The filmmaker and his crew follow her for 2 years.  During that time he unravels much of her mystery.  Who she really is, who her parents are, the fact that she did have several nervous breakdowns as a young woman and most astounding she was a featured contestant on What's My Line and was highlighted in a news reel for her profession as one of the few women carriage drivers in Central Park.  Fascinating and disturbing.  We can have everything or nothing and lose it in a blink of an eye.  Some survive the loss.     

   Grey Gardens 1975.   This is one disturbing and riveting documentary.  You ask yourself if those are your eyes bleeding, yet you are mesmerized, nay, transfixed as the story of one former high society grande dame, her unhinged offspring and their lives amid cat filth and years of decay unfold in the hands of the documentary making Maysles Brothers. Bordering on pathetic and creepy the filmmakers follow Big and Little Edie around their East Hampton mansion during the course of their activities.  Sunning on the upper deck, checking the weeds on the front porch, watching the cats urinate on the bed, boiling corn on the cob in a small pot next to the bed.  None of that compares to Little Edie's wardrobe of underwear worn on the outside and scarves used for any and all types of clothing.  Skirts, shirts, hats, shawls, pants.  Absolutely amazing how versatile scarves are as apparel.  And leave us not forget the broach!      

  Pripyat 1999.  Sad documentary on the people who still live and work near the contaminated "Zone" of Chernobyl.  Interesting and insightful interviews with guards, secretaries, lab technicians.  Pripyat was once home to 50,000 people.  Now it is a ghost town under the shadow of the nuclear plant.  Only the sick, old and homeless still live there.  Guards trying to sound important keep out the curious souvenir hunters.  Most folks really see nothing wrong in staying on.  Even on a good day it's a good idea not to eat, breathe or walk around in Pripyat.

  Moscow Skyscraper 2004.  Irony, thy name is Russia.  The "skyscraper" was built as an apartment building for Stalin's inner circle and the Moscow elite.  Built by prisoners of war and detainees from the gulags the massive building is still a symbol for a country steeped in it's own history.  Massive stone statues and a huge star adorn the top of the gigantic structure.  It is still home to the descendents of the original inhabitants.  It is in many respects as decayed and decrepit as the society in which it exists.  These folks are true denizens hanging on by their fingertips to something that might not have existed in the first place.

  Africa Addio 1966.  The end of colonialism in Africa is just the beginning of the end.  On their own, without the vaguest idea of how to govern themselves, Africans for Africa set out to slaughter everyone and everything that is not black.  The hardest thing to watch in this documentary isn't man's inhumanity to man, because the truth is we can't get along no matter how PC everything has become, but the slaughter of the animals who have no politics, no aspirations for power, no color preferences.  The Italian filmmakers risked their lives to film the brutality of the people who now think they are in charge.  Bloated dead bodies, executions, piles of hacked off limbs all photographed with the intention of showing the plight of the "Dark Continent" now left on it's own by the rest of the world.  40 years later, the same things are still happening.  It never gets better, the animals still suffer.

    Goodbye Uncle Tom 1971.  From the same Italian filmmakers of Africa Addio, this cheesily rendered documentary about the American slave trade atrocities is almost laughable.  Made with every unattractive European that could be found to portray the "Ugly American" it starts with the importing of Africans as commodities packed into ship's holds like sardines with rats, roaches, dysentery and near starvation.  Once in the new world they were cleaned, disinfected, dressed and sold to the highest bidder.  Many times the slaves treated their own kind worse than the white slave owners did.  Slaves were handed down from father to son.  If you think about it it was a job that could be better than most out there.  Food, housing, clothing and medical attention.  If anyone needed any other reason to incite race riots they should watch this film.  Oh wait, since we can't get along anyway we don't need another reason.  An oddity of filmmaking. 



December 26, 2017