‘Boyhood,’ ‘Visitors’ and ‘Marjoe’ Top This Week’s Home Picks


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 January 6, 2015:

1. Boyhood

[Now On DVD and Blu-ray] — Wait, isn’t this a fiction film? Yes, it is, but it’s a fiction film that incorporates a major element of documentary: actual, chronicled time and its effects on real lives. Shot over 12 years by writer-director Richard Linklater, Boyhood is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama that shows us at least the true physical growth and change of its actors, including Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater, who literally age before our eyes from childhood to adulthood. It’ll be no surprise when it wins the special hybrid-honoring Heterodox Award at the otherwise doc-centric Cinema Eye Honors this week. In the past, we’ve spotlighted “doc option” alternatives to the movie, such as American Promise, the Up series and the Paradise Lost trilogy, but we’ve also recommended Boyhood in the process, including naming it a highlight of the 2014 True/False Film Fest (also typically doc-centric). Here’s what Ben Godar wrote in his recap of the event: “Documentaries derive a certain power from the underlying reality onscreen. When a film like Boyhood can incorporate the reality of time, it projects a similar power. So often, it seems documentaries are borrowing techniques from narrative filmmaking. It’s interesting to see the exchange go the other way.” (★★★★)

Bonus features:
• 19-minute making-of doc titled The 12 Year Project
• Q&A with Linklater and the cast from an L.A. screening last summer.

Also available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu.

2. Visitors

[New to Fandor] — I don’t know why I didn’t give more love to this new film by Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi). I blame everyone else for not talking about it more — it was didn’t even crack the top 100 in our year-end poll (thanks to Landon for recognizing it at least) — and reminding me. Maybe it’s not viewed by many as even qualifying as nonfiction. But, hey, I’m including Boyhood this week, so what the hell. Here’s my introductions in my interview with Reggio from last summer: “His latest is the most difficult to defend to purists yet. Titled Visitors, the film is not only a narrative- and argument-free work comprised of people’s (and a gorilla’s) faces in slow motion and landscapes depicted with time-lapse photography, it also utilizes a lot of post-production special effects that alter those natural images completely.Is this even nonfiction? There are cyborgs on screen. There are computer-generated shots of the moon, as we look upon Earth from the orbiting satellite. We expect docs teetering towards the avant-garde from the director of the Qatsi trilogy, but this entirely black and white feature is an especially experimental endeavor. And depending on how you wish to view it, the result works or doesn’t. Just like any piece of art. (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

3. Marjoe

[New to Fandor] — It’s great to see this classic showing up online in different places (it was also recently added to the SundanceNow Doc Club in a batch of films with unforgettable characters) after we referred to it as rarely seen just last summer. This Oscar winner is about former child preacher Marjoe Gortner after he’d returned to the game and then decided to quit the ministry. Here’s part of what Dan Schindel wrote on the film while recommending it over Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight: “Much of the film is an alternation between the tent meetings and the back-room expositions. The revival scenes are a vivid antecedent of every documentary depiction of religious mania en masse that would follow, such as Jesus Camp. The contrast between Gortner’s thunderous stage presence and his calm, matter-of-fact everyday manner is rather chilling, especially given his continued admittance that he’s scamming these people. Yet he remains sympathetic, both due to his recalcitrance and his revelations about his upbringing. For instance, his mother apparently would punish him by smothering him with a pillow or by drowning him, since she couldn’t leave bruises that would show up on stage […] it is one of the least flattering portraits of religion in all of nonfiction film — which is saying something. (★★★★)

Also available in the SundanceNow Doc Club.

4. Bowling for Columbine

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — This Oscar winner is arguably Michael Moore’s best film, though personally I think I prefer Roger and Me even if this is a more effective issue doc. Not effective in that it was the last word on guns and violence in America, but outside of certain scenes with Charlton Heston and Dick Clark it’s the smartest, funniest, most balanced and most affecting work he’s ever delivered. It’s also the one that feels the freshest and most relevant years later — of course, part of that is for the unfortunate reason that guns and violence remain parts of difficult yet pressing issues and current events. And Moore seemed to agree when last year he responded to yet another school shooting by stating that everything he wishes to say on the matter he said with this film. One person who should always be recognized when acknowledging the achievements of Bowling for Columbine is editor Kurt Engfehr, now better known as direct of the Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead movies, including the newly released sequel that also just hit Netflix Watch Instantly. (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

5. Finding Vivian Maier

[Premieres on Showtime This Thursday, January 8th] — This Oscar-shortlisted doc about the discovery of a great, unknown photographer posthumously came in at #10 on our year-end poll, and I won’t be surprised if it’s nominated for the Academy Award, so see it already. From Dan Schindel’s review: “On the whole, Finding Vivian Maier is one of the first great documentaries of the year. As far as Vivian Maier ever knew, her’s was a private universe, and as far as we can tell, that’s how she wanted it. But now the genie’s bottle is uncorked, and that outside universe has a much different perception of her. And her life and work are well worth discovering.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, iTunes and Google Play.

6. Rich Hill

[Now Streaming on PBS via Independent Lens] — From our list of the best documentaries of 2014, on which it was ranked #5: “Small town America, to the extent that it even exists anymore, is not in good shape. Rich Hill, Missouri, is one of those troubled places, where the Fourth of July parade still marches strong but 19% of the population lives below the poverty line. Filmmakers Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos filmed three local teenage boys, all of them forced by circumstance to grow up much too fast. As each grows into his own, a multidimensional portrait of 21st century America emerges. In these young lives caught between the financial crisis, drug addiction, family and faith there is a sad but hopeful manifestation of the state of the union.” (★★★★)

Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

7. A Will For the Woods

[Now on DVD] — From Dan Schindel’s review: “This film is nominally about “green burials” a growing trend as awareness increases about how badly traditional Western funeral customs harm the environment. Embalming fluids are awful toxins. Coffins too are an insidious contaminant. Cremation uses a great amount of fossil fuel and creates pollution. So a simple burial in the woods, using only biodegradable materials and no embalming, is the most environmentally-friendly way to be laid to rest. That’s what Clark Wang wants to happen to him after he dies, and the movie is really about him approaching that moment. […] A beautiful rumination on living, dying and what to do with oneself after death. Advocating without preachiness and emotional without exploitation, this film is a lovely piece of work.” (★★★★)

Bonus features:
• Extended, Deleted and Follow-up Scenes

Also available on iTunes and Vimeo On Demand.

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

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case

America’s Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

The American Civil War 150th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

The Case Against 8 [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review]

Dinosaur 13 dig site

Dinosaur 13 [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review] [Also on Blu-ray]

Emancipation Road [Also on Blu-ray]

The FBI Files The Complete Fourth Season

Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler

In Plain Sight

Ladies of Country Music

The Manners of Downton Abbey [Also on Blu-ray]

Navy SEALS: The Untold Story

The Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Notes on the Life of Nat Hentoff

Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power

Sacred Journeys With Bruce Feiler [Also on Blu-ray]

A Will for the Woods [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

A Will for the Woods

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Bowling for Columbine [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]


Dance for Me

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2

Finding Fela

Finding Fela [Nonfics rating: ★; Nonfics review]

Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria (Frontline)

League of Denial (Frontline)

Losing Iraq (Frontline)

Return to Homs [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]

To Be Takei

The Yes Men [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]

What Is Cinema?


New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

7 Days in September — Fandor

59 Middle Lane — Amazon

Arise — Amazon

Art and Craft [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon, iTunes

Beautiful Noise — Vimeo On Demand

Boys — Amazon

Chasing Fortune [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Fandor

Convento [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

Fishing With John — Fandor

God’s Country — Fandor

The Joe Show — Vimeo On Demand

Make It in America: Empowering Global Fashion — Amazon

The Manners of Downton Abbey — Amazon

Marjoe 1972 Still

Marjoe [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Fandor

Michael Jackson: The Journey — iTunes

My First War — Amazon

Olga — Doc Alliance

One Wall — Fandor

Patti Smith: Dram of Life — Fandor

The Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Notes on the Life of Nat Hentoff — Amazon

Ripley: Believe It or Not — Amazon

Road to Peace — Amazon

Stream of Love — Vimeo On Demand

Visitors [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Fandor

A Will for the Woods [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — iTunes, Vimeo On Demand

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Disneynature Bears

Wednesday — 1/07

3:45am: West of Memphis [Starz Edge]

6:25am: My Kid Could Paint That [IndiePlex]

6:45am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

7:00am: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

7:55am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Encore Black]

8:45am: Bears [Starz Kids]

4:55pm: The Last Waltz [AXS TV]

8:00pm: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Showcase East]

9:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

11:00pm: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Showcase West]

11:40pm: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 East]

Finding Vivian Maier

Thursday — 01/08

2:40am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 West]

3:05am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Showcase East]

5:55am: Tyson [Starz Cinema]

6:05am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Showcase West]

3:00pm: The Dark Matter of Love [Al Jazeera America]

6:00pm: Elvis: That’s the Way It Is [TCM]

6:00pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Flix]

8:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime East]

11:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

Paris is Burning promo

Friday — 01/09

1:10am: Paris Is Burning [Flix]

1:40am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Next East]

4:00am: Winged Migration [Outdoor Channel]

2:15pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime East]

4:50pm: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

5:15pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

9:00pm: Life Itself [CNN]

Grizzly Man

Saturday — 01/10

12:00am: Life Itself [CNN]

1:45am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime East]

4:00am: Grizzly Man [Outdoor Channel]

4:45am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime West]

6:00am: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

7:00am: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

7:35am: Love Child [HBO 2 East]

10:35am: Love Child [HBO 2 West]

11:00am: The Dark Matter of Love [Al Jazeera America]

Nas: Time is Illmatic

Sunday — 01/11

1:20am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 East]

4:20am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 West]

12:50pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

5:30pm: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [Pivot]

6:40pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

9:35pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 East]

10:30pm: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix East]

11:00pm: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime Showcase East]

'Bully' (The Weinstein Company)

Monday — 01/12

12:35am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 West]

1:30am: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix West]

2:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime Showcase West]

9:15am: Bears [Starz Kids]

11:35am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Next]

3:00pm: Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve [Al Jazeera America]

4:50pm: Last Days Here [Showtime Next]

8:05pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase East]

9:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

11:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

11:05pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase West]

12 O'Clock Boys

Tuesday — 01/13

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

1:00am: West of Memphis [Starz Edge]

4:50am: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Cinema]

2:40pm: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Cinema]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.