‘Actress’ and ‘That Gal…Who Was In That Thing’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

actressposter

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. 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 March 3, 2015:

1. Actress

[New to iTunes] — Robert Greene’s latest documentary, on actress Brandy Burre, is such a complex work that I spouted more than 1100 words on it recently, finally, and none of it can really be excerpted for the purposes of this list. So, read that, be aware that it featured in my picks for most memorable nonfiction scenes of last year, that it ranked 4th in our poll of the best films of 2014 and that it was #6 on this site’s list of the best of the year. Here’s Dan Schindel’s bit on the film from that post: “Several critic groups have cited Actress subject Brandy Burre in their ‘best actress’ year-end polling. It’s an exceedingly unusual move that makes total sense if you see the film. In one scene, Burre, in the middle of a soliloquy for the camera, pauses and repeats a line several times. The movie explores how much of life is performance by layering purposeful artifice into everything that happens within it. Whereas most docs incorporate some fakery (reenactments of events, actions performed for the camera rather than naturally), they usually attempt to conceal it. Actress does the opposite, stylizing itself shamelessly. The result is one of the most beautifully shot and edited docs of recent memory and one of the most thought-provoking as well.” (★★★★)

Also available on cable VOD.

2. That Gal … Who Was In That Thing

[Premieres on Showtime on Thursday, March 5th] — I’m mostly including this doc, and so high on the list, because it makes a good pairing with Actress. It’s officially a sequel to 2012’s That Guy … Who Was In That Thing, a look at character actors and other familiar but typically minor-role guys that was almost like an acting equivalent to 20 Feet From Stardom. This one is more so that because it’s focus is on women. It’s also a lot more interesting because of how it becomes partly an issue film regarding inequality and sexism in the industry rather than just being a fun look at some recognizable people. A lot of these issues overlap between That Gal… and Actress, but the two docs couldn’t be stylistically any different. This one is purely talking head format. Still, it has a number of notable moments. For instance, one story Paget Brewster tells of a sex scene she suffered through made me wonder if Kirby Dick should complete a trilogy comprised so far of The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground with a deeper examination of rape and sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood. (★★★)

3. Grey Gardens

[Airs on TCM on Sunday, March 8th] — It’s still rare for TCM to show classic documentaries, so this is a special treat that might be intentionally coinciding with the fact that the film has recently been restored and is being re-released in theaters this Friday. Of course, you should go see it on the big screen if you’re in NYC, and you might want to buy that new 2K version on Criterion Blu-ray (released in 2013) — I doubt the one airing is the restoration — but the Beales are worth watching as often as possible. Here’s something I wrote on “Little Edie” Beale for a list of the most memorable documentary characters of all time: “The younger of the two destitute subjects of the Maysles brothers‘ 1975 classic quickly became an icon for her distinct style and performative behavior on screen. She has, with her mother, Big Edie, also been turned into a character for the Broadway stage and a dramatized prequel/remake on HBO. Now that she is deceased it’s a little easier to comment on her person and label her as a very peculiar human being, yet she’s always been considered odd in an endearing way. Al and David’s deep affection and respect for both Edies comes through in their gaze via their film, and that helps us remember them positively. Only Little Edie makes the list, however, because she just makes a point to stand out a lot more than Big Edie does.” (★★★★★)

Also available on Criterion DVD and Blu-ray, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and Target Ticket.

4. Du Côté de la Côte

[Airs on TCM on Monday, March 9th] — And here’s another documentary classic airing on TCM, a funny, early 25-minute film by Agnes Varda about the French Riviera. I haven’t seen it, as I’m not sure of what other opportunity there has been for me to outside of buying the Criterion Varda box set (which I’m sure I should do anyway). So, I’m excited to DVR this very late-night showing. Here’s Jessica Winter on the doc in 2003 for the Village Voice: “Du Côté de la Côte paints the Riviera in baby pinks and blues, brims with happy heaps of sun(burnt) worshipers, and ticks off all the celebrity star points: Here’s Matisse’s grave; Zola honeymooned there; that’s where Colette — ‘who looked like a cat’ — kept a flat. Varda’s witty narration suggests a promising alternative career as a scribe for Lonely Planet, though this edition ends on a bittersweet note. All summers must end, even on the Riviera.”

Also available on Criterion’s 4 by Agnes Varda set.

5. Farmland

[New to DVD via Freestyle Digital Media] — From my posting of an exclusive clip of this documentary when it was released theatrically last year: “Think you could be a farmer? Do you think you’d like to become one, maybe leave your rat race life and go work the land? It might sound nice, it might even sound relaxing, but it’s still really hard work. Perhaps it’s more rewarding at times, but often it’s a job, or a business even, just the same. And there’s new documentary that illustrates this really well from award-winning director James Moll (a rare documentarian to have an Oscar, Emmy and Grammy — now he just needs to get a Tony somehow for his EGOT honor). Titled Farmland, the film looks at the lives of a new generation of growers and ranchers. These subjects, all in their 20s, are a rarity right now, as a lot of children and grandchildren of the traditional American farmer is moving on to other kinds of work.” (★★★)

6. A Life in Dirty Movies

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — If you’re not familiar with Joseph W. Sarno or his work, this is a good introduction to the life and legend of the softcore movie maker. It’s really a film history lesson about a time just before the explosion of hardcore in the 1970s, when someone like Sarno could take influence from Ingmar Bergman and do artsy adult cinema. Wiktor Ericsson’s doc is especially worth watching, though, for Sarno’s energetic wife and former actress, Peggy Steffans, who does most of the storytelling. (★★★)

Also available on Vimeo On Demand and Amazon Instant Video.

7. Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This is Stones Throw Records

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — From Landon Palmer’s review: “Jeff Broadway’s history of Los Angeles-based Stones Throw Records refuses to make a false, simplified equivalence between label and genre. The documentary instead makes the case that a good label produces interesting work and develops talented, envelope-pushing artists by encouraging creative change and throwing caution to the wind. Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton decisively rejects genre borders by arguing that Stones Throw accomplished the same. The end result isn’t always convincing, but it’s an engaging and ambitious documentary that laudably seeks original ways of stylizing movies about music […] a laudable experiment that allows Stones Throw’s music to play through in a way that evocatively visualizes the label’s dedicated “underground” aesthetic. It’s a beautifully shot and realized combination of sound and image.” (★★★)

Also available on Google Play and YouTube.

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

AC/DC: Rock N’ Roll Buster

Algorithms

The Bridge

Farmland [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here

Messenger of the Truth

Nazi Megaweapons Series 2

Pink: In Her Own Words

Rage Against the Machine: The Power & The Glory

Selena Gomez: The Story of a Teen Superstar

Understanding Art: Baroque & Rococo

Victori: The Truth Just Can’t Be One Thing

Vietnam: 50 Years Remembered [Also on Blu-ray]

Web Junkie [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review]

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

The Culture High

Harmontown

Levitated Mass [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]

Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This is Stones Throw Records [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD/etc.:

Actress [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — iTunes, Cable VOD

Alive and Well — Fandor

Beware of Christians — Amazon, Vimeo On Demand

Big Men — Amazon

The Decent One — Amazon

Dick Cavett’s Watergate — Amazon

Dirty Pictures — Fandor

Dr. John Featuring Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys — Amazon

Draw Hard — Fandor

Echoes That Remain — Amazon

Embracing Dissonance — Fandor

Ever Again — Amazon

Genocide — Amazon

Ghosts of California — Amazon

I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal — Amazon

The Immortalists [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon, Vimeo On Demand

In Search of Peace — Amazon

It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl — Amazon

Liberation — Amazon

The Long Way Home — Amazon

Messenger of the Truth — Amazon

NFL Super Bowl XLIX Champions New England Patriots — iTunes

One Nation Under God — Amazon

The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers — Amazon

Top Gear: Best of British — Amazon

Understanding Art: Baroque & Rococo — Amazon

Unlikely Heroes — Amazon

Victori: The Truth Just Can’t Be One Thing — Amazon, Vimeo On Demand

Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny — Amazon

Without a Home — Fandor

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Wednesday — 03/04

1:25am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO and HBO Latino]

2:30am: Citizenfour [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

2:30am: Inside Job [Pivot]

4:25am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

10:45am: Every Little Step [MoviePlex]

11:00am: Inside Job [Pivot]

12:10pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Next]

2:00pm: Best of Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures [BYU TV]

8:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Women]

9:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

10:00pm: Every Little Step [MoviePlex]

10:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO 2]

Thursday — 03/05

1:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO 2 West]

11:00am: Bully [Pivot]

1:00pm: Pearl Jam Twenty [Palladia]

7:00pm: That Gal … Who Was In That Thing [Showtime]

9:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO]

10:00pm: That Gal … Who Was In That Thing [Showtime West]

Friday — 03/06

12:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO West]

2:20am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO and HBO Latino]

3:15am: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer [HBO 2]

5:20am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

6:15am: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer [HBO 2 West]

11:25am: Citizenfour [HBO 2]

2:00pm: I Am Divine [Showtime 2]

2:25pm: Citizenfour [HBO 2 West]

5:00pm: I Am Divine [Showtime 2 West]

5:10pm: Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Encore Black]

5:30pm: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

6:40pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

8:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO 2]

8:00pm: The Cove [Pivot]

11:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO 2 West]

11:00pm: The Cove [Pivot]

Saturday — 03/07

12:45am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO and HBO Latino]

1:30am: Paris Is Burning [The Movie Channel]

3:00am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Next]

3:45am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

4:30am: Paris Is Burning [The Movie Channel West]

5:30am: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

6:55am: Bears [Starz Kids]

7:00am: Bully [Pivot]

7:30am: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime 2]

10:00am: Free Angela and All Political Prisoners [Centric]

10:30am: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime 2 West]

10:40am: Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Encore Black]

2:00pm: Elevate [ESPN Classic]

2:55pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

3:50pm: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

7:15pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO 2]

10:15pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO 2 West]

Sunday — 03/08

12:30am: Bully [Pivot]

3:30am: Cesar’s Last Fast [Pivot]

4:40am: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime 2]

7:40am: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime 2 West]

10:00am: Grey Gardens [TCM]

10:15am: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime Showcase]

10:30am: A Place at the Table [Pivot]

12:25pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Next]

1:00pm: Elevate [ESPN Classic]

1:15pm: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime Showcase West]

2:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 1 [HBO 2]

3:15pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2]

4:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO 2]

4:45pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO 2]

5:30pm: Food, Inc. [Pivot]

5:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 1 [HBO 2 West]

6:15pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2 West]

7:00pm: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime Showcase]

7:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO 2 West]

7:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Women]

7:45pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 4 [HBO 2 West]

8:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO and HBO Latino]

10:00pm: That Gal … Who Was in That Thing [Showtime Showcase West]

11:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

11:35pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO]

Monday — 03/09

1:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Latino]

1:15am: Paris Is Burning [The Movie Channel Extra]

2:20am: Du Cote de la Cote [TCM]

2:35am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO West]

4:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Latino West]

4:15am: Paris Is Burning [The Movie Channel Extra West]

2:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO 2]

5:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO 2 West]

9:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO]

11:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Latino]

Tuesday — 03/10

12:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO West]

12:45am: Citizenfour [HBO 2]

2:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Latino West]

3:35am: Milius [Epix 2]

3:45am: Citizenfour [HBO 2 West]

5:00am: Tyson [Starz Cinema]

6:15am: Some of the Best [TCM]

2:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime]

3:45pm: Bears [Starz Edge]

4:25pm: Cool It [Epix 2]

5:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

7:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Signature]

10:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Signature West]

11:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO]

11:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 5 [HBO Latino]

More to Read:

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.