’12 O’Clock Boys’ and ‘The Armstrong Lie’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

12oclockboys poster

Most people don’t get to see documentaries until they arrive on a home video platform of some kind, whether it’s DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, iTunes, TV, Netflix streaming, etc. So, this may be the most important post of the week for fans of nonfics. Join us every Tuesday for a look at what documentaries and reality programming is recommended by myself and other contributors to the site. As always, if you know of something we missed or should be aware of, drop us an email or a note down below.

Here are our ordered picks for February 4, 2014:

1. 12 O’Clock Boys

[New to iTunes and Amazon Instant Video] — Lotfy Nathan’s film about one boy’s desire to join a Baltimore dirt biker club hit digital download and streaming and VOD outlets day and date with its theatrical release last week, so there’s no excuse to avoid it. I’ll admit that I’m not as in love with it as some of our other contributors, including Robert Greene, who calls it “a rare mix of fun and substance,” Dan Schindel, who calls parts of it “breathtaking,” and Daniel Walber, whose B+ review at Film School Rejects calls it a “rousing debut” and “spiritual heir to Tony Silver‘s 1983 classic graffiti documentary, Style Wars.” It is definitely worth seeing for the action sequence involving the bikers and police as well as for one of the greatest endings to a doc in years.

Also in theaters and on Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Vimeo On Demand, XBox, PS3 and cable On Demand

2. The Armstrong Lie

[New to iTunes and Amazon Instant Video] — Alex Gibney’s doc on Lance Armstrong, which started before the cyclist’s confession and continued production after, is available to buy digitally ahead of its DVD release. Daniel Walber reviewed the film for Nonfics, giving it only ★★★ but calls it “an effective, if perhaps overlong, interrogation of imagined heroism and the dreams we choose to believe,” noting that it “shines when Gibney decides to push things just a bit further, and tries to craft a portrait of power. At core, the Armstrong story is not that far off from those tales of institutional corruption that filled Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God [also newly available on Amazon Instant Video]. The very structure of cycling in the last decade has been propped up by drugs and blood infusions.”

Also available on Vudu and Google Play

3 & 4. Sherman’s March and The Thin Blue Line

[New to SundanceNow Doc Club] — I’ll always take an opportunity to recommend my two favorite documentaries of all time, both of which are part of February’s program at SundanceNow’s Doc Club, curated by Thom Powers. The theme this month is “Oscar Dreams,” a spotlight on great films that weren’t nominated for the Academy Award. Sherman’s March is a brilliant documentary memoir by Ross McElwee as he rebounds from a broken heart while exploring Civil War history in the South. Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line is one of the most important pieces of cinema ever made, both for how it saved a life and in the way it works with film form and the nature of truth. Other great selections in the program include The Oath, Touching the Void, Bill Cunningham New York and Manufactured Landscapes. I’m not a fan of the seventh doc, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, but the whole package is still worth the usual $4.99 price.

Sherman’s March is also available on DVD and iTunes

The Thin Blue Line is also available on DVD, iTunes and Netflix Watch Instantly

5. Cutie and the Boxer

[New to DVD and Blu-ray] — A version of this entry previously appeared in a Nonfics Home Picks back in October. Zachary Heinzerling‘s Oscar-nominated film about married artists Noriko Shinohara and the much more famous Ushio Shinohara is one of my favorite films of last year. The slightly dysfunctional duo provides a romantic yet complicated love story filled with wonderful animations of Noriko’s autobiographical cartoons and an underlying feminism. After watching it last January, I wrote that it “has a kind of violent beauty” and is “engaging and wonderful and upsetting and empowering and funny and sad and amazing.”

Also available on iTunes, Netflix Watch Instantly, Google Play and YouTube

6. American Promise

[New to POV Streaming] — Everyone’s talking about Richard Linklater’s latest Sundance hit, Boyhood, and I’m sure it’s pretty good, but if you want to watch a great movie tracking even more years in the life of boys, check out Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson’s film about their own son and his childhood friend. It’s a doc that grew on me, which I guess sounds kinda fitting. Here’s what I wrote in my very lengthy, meandering ★★★★ review: “American Promise doesn’t hold your hand as it reaches what it’s conveying. It’s a difficult doc that plays easy…If you’re looking for a real character study, though, this isn’t it. With so many jumps forward in time from age 5 to 18, there’s not a lot of time to really get to know Idris and Seun — if anything you get to know the parents more. As a sociological study with them as not part of an experiment but an observed sample, it does what it’s supposed to do very well. It just doesn’t appear to be doing much at all for a long while.”

7. And the Oscar Goes To…

[New on TCM] — This is a pretty conventional doc about the Academy Awards, produced for TCM’s annual 31 Days of Oscar programming, but if you’re interested in movies and Hollywood, not just the Oscars, it’s worthwhile. Plus it’s directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, both of Celluloid Dreams and other docs (Epstein has Oscars for The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt). They’ve been doing more narrative work lately, as with Lovelace, so it’s good to see them doing something even as basic and fluffy as this. The special premiered last week but continues to air throughout the month, twice this week. Now if only TCM would air some classic docs, or even some Oscar-nominated ones. I see none on the schedule at all.

New to DVD [and/or Blu-ray]:

American Blackout

The Amish: Shunned (American Experience)

Blood Brother (★★ Nonfics Review)

Chasing Shackleton

Cold Case JFK (NOVA)

Cutie and the Boxer (★★★★★ Nonfics Rating) [Also on Blu-ray]

A Death in St. Augustine (Frontline)


Off the Hook: Extreme Catches

One Direction: Clevver’s Ultimate Fan Guide

The Poisoner’s Handbook (American Experience)

Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues

The Song Within: Sedona

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

9/11: Day That Changed the World (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Asteroid Trackers [Stream Now]

Buying Sex [Stream Now]

Day of the Kamikaze (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 [Stream Now]

The Fabulous Ice Age [Stream Now]

History in HD: The Last Bomb (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

In a Town This Size [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Abraham Lincoln (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Alexander the Great (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Birth of Christ (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Hitler (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Joan of Arc (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: King Arthur (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Leonardo da Vinci (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Marco Polo (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Mystery Files: Pope Joan (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Nazi Temple of Doom (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Nurses: If Florence Could See Us Now [Stream Now]

The Real Story: The Amityville Horror (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

The Real Story: Escape From Alcatraz (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

The Real Story: Indiana Jones (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

The Real Story: James Bone (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

The Real Story: The Untouchables (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Secrets: Golden Raft of El Dorado (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Secrets: Richard III Revealed (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Secrets: The Sphinx (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Secrets: The Turin Shroud (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Secrets: A Viking Map? (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Shuttle Discovery’s Last Mission (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers [Stream Now]

Soldiers of Paint [Stream Now]

Tapestries of Hope [Stream Now]

Titanic’s Final Mystery [Stream Now]

Titanoboa: Monster Snake (Smithsonian Channel) [Stream Now]

Wagner & Me [Stream Now]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

12 O’Clock Boys (B+ Film School Rejects Grade) [Amazon Instant Video] [iTunes]

The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State [Amazon Instant Video]

American Promise (★★★★ Nonfics Review) [POV]

The Armstrong Lie (★★★ Nonfics Review) [Amazon Instant Video]

Blood Brother (★★ Nonfics Review) [Amazon Instant Video]

Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo [Amazon Instant Video]

Format Perspective

King of Comics [Amazon Instant Video] [iTunes]

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (★★★★ Nonfics Rating) [Amazon Instant Video]

Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road [Amazon Instant Video]

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


The Other F Word [2/4 on Showcase, 12:05pm ET]

Chimpanzee [2/4 on Starz Kids & Family, 2:50pm ET]

Galapagos [2/4 on 3net, 1pm and 7pm ET]

Hubble 3D [2/4 on 3net, 9pm ET]

Deep Sea 3D [2/4 on 3net, 10pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [2/4 on Link TV, 11pm ET]


Deep Sea 3D [2/5 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [2/5 on Showtime 2, 1am ET]

West of Memphis [2/5 on Starz East, 3:50am and Starz West, 6:50am ET]

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [2/5 on Showcase, 9am ET]

Dragonslayer [2/5 on Showtime Extreme, 12:05pm ET]

In the Shadow of the Moon [2/5 on the Military Channel, 4pm ET]

99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [2/5 on Pivot, 7pm ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [2/5 on 3net, 8pm and 11pm ET]

Space Station 3D [2/5 on 3net, 9pm ET]

Last Days Here [2/5 on Showtime Next, 10pm ET]

Under the Sea 3D [2/5 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Space Station 3D [2/6 on 3net, 12am, 6am, 9am and 3pm ET]

Under the Sea 3D [2/6 on 3net, 1am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [2/6 on 3net, 2am, 8am and 2pm ET]

In the Shadow of the Moon [2/6 on the Military Channel, 4am ET]

Wordplay [2/6 on Sundance Channel, 6am ET]

My Kid Could Paint That [2/6 on Starz Cinema, 7:35am ET]

Kumare [2/6 on Pivot, 12pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [2/6 on Link TV, 1pm ET]

Into the Deep 3D [2/6 on 3net, 1pm and 7pm ET]

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [2/6 on Pivot, 2pm ET]

Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve [2/6 on Al Jazeera America, 3pm ET]

The Other F Word [2/6 on Showtime 2, 31:10pm ET]

The Loving Story [2/6 on HBO Signature, 3:40pm ET]


Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [2/7 on 3net, 1pm ET]

Into the Deep 3D [2/7 on 3net, 10pm ET]


And the Oscar Goes To… [2/8 on TCM, 12:30am ET]

Into the Deep 3D [2/8 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [2/8 on Pivot, 10am ET]

Lou Reed’s Berlin [2/8 on Palladia, 3pm ET]

Everest [2/8 on HDNet, 4:30pm ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [2/8 on 3net, 7pm ET]


Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve [2/9 on Al Jazeera America, 4am ET]

Make Believe [2/9 on Showtime Beyond, 10:25am ET]

Galapagos [2/9 on 3net, 11am and 5pm ET]


The Last Waltz [2/10 on MGM, 1:05am ET]

Searching For Sugar Man [2/10 on Starz East, 3:40am ET and Starz West, 5:40am ET]

Microcosmos [2/10 on HDNET, 6am and 1:15pm ET]

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [2/10 on Pivot, 11am ET]

Redemption [2/10 on HBO2, 12:15pm and 3:15pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [2/10 on Link TV, 1pm ET]

And the Oscar Goes To… [2/10 on TCM, 6pm ET]

Galapagos [2/10 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Galapagos [2/11 on 3net, 1am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia [2/11 on Showtime 2, 3:30am ET]

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [2/11 on Showcase, 4am ET]

Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? [2/11 on Free Speech TV, 9pm ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.