Bruce Weber Collection and ‘Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt’ Top This Week’s Nonfics 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. 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 December 3, 2013:

1. Bruce Weber: The Film Collection (Broken Noses; Let’s Get Lost; Chop Suey; A Letter to True)

[New to DVD, via Docurama Films] — Famed photographer Bruce Weber earned an Oscar nomination for his 1988 film of the final year in the life of jazz trumpeter and crooner Chet Baker, Let’s Get Lost, and it’s wonderful to have this film finally arrive on DVD for the first time. But even better is the simultaneous release of a four-film set of Weber’s documentary work, which includes Let’s Get Lost as well as 1987’s Broken Noses, about a Portland boxing club, 2001’s Chop Suey, about a mix of Weber’s favorite things, and 2004’s A Letter to True, about his dogs. So far, I can mostly only speak to the poetic, relatively free-form Baker doc, which isn’t like any other music film I’ve ever seen. Watching the black and white cinematography, at times crisp as can be and other times gorgeously grainy, I wondered if we could ever have another nonfiction film that looks like this. How often do we see docs where every frame is by itself a work of art? Transcending decades, mostly superimposing the ’50s and the ’80s, Let’s Get Lost floats through and around its subject’s life, at times sad and funny and cool and beautiful and entrancing.

All four film are also available on Amazon Instant Video.

2. Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt

[Newly Launched Online] — Not a film, but Nonfics isn’t simply about traditional forms of visual nonfiction, and this multimedia project from NPR’s Planet Money offers up a new kind of documentary journalism, telling the story of a t-shirt from cotton seed to your back using a combination of video and text. Full disclosure, my buddy co-produced and directed much of this pick, but that’s not why I’m including it (believe me, I’ve had to deny friends’ projects before). It’s here because it’s novel and very well crafted and unintentionally timely due to the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh this year (however, that tragedy did make it into the story). The best of the chapters is “People,” which contrasts the life of a worker in Bangladesh and another in Colombia. In only six minutes I went from being choked up to laughing out loud. Part trivial education piece, part global issue doc and part human interest character study (I’d love to see montages like the “You” chapter at the end of some feature documentaries), it’s a brief yet packed special, and I’ve love to see more projects like it.

3. Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

[New to Netflix Watch Intantly] — It’d be nice if both this and the film it’s about, Bananas!*, were both on Netflix Watch Instantly at the same time, but it’s not necessary to see the first doc before the second (I still haven’t seen the first, for instance). Fredrik Gertten directed both, and while it should be preferred that an objective outsider take on this sort of story, he handles the mix of first-person narration and third-person approach quite well. The sorta-sequel is about the controversy surrounding the earlier doc, a journalistic film about Dole plantation workers in Nicaragua who are allegedly sterile because of pesticide exposure, and chronicles legal action between the filmmakers and the giant multinational corporation begun just before its debut at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. It’s a necessary work for any documentarians, journalists and supporters of free speech and press, but it’s also a perplexing study of the globalization of business and art, and the clash of the two.

Also available on iTunes and DVD

4. Woody Allen: A Documentary

[New to SundanceNow Doc Club] — Robert Weide’s two-part documentary on the life and films of Woody Allen is a must for his fans, of course. And there aren’t a lot of people who don’t like at least one of his titles, right? I like part one a whole lot more than part two, and that’s not just because I prefer his earlier work (admittedly I haven’t seen his most recent, acclaimed few, however) but because it really avoids the life part of the biography since he got together with Soon-Yi, who oddly isn’t even interviewed at all — see Barbara Kopple’s Wild Man Blues for more into their early time as a couple and her speaking a bunch. Originally aired on PBS as part of American Masters, Woody Allen: A Documentary is now part of (the only one I’ve seen) this month’s Doc Club program selected by Thom Powers. The theme is “Jews Telling Jokes & Stories,” and the other titles included are Jews and Baseball, Four Seasons Lodge, Defamation, Arguing the World, A Tickle in the Heart and A Life Apart, Hasidism in America. You can see them all for only a $5 monthly subscription to the club. It’ll make a great, rather humorous Christmas gift.

Also available on Netflix Watch Instantly and DVD

5. The End of Summer

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — One of the rare old documentaries to be added to Netflix Watch Instantly of late, I am somewhat spotlighting it simply to support the idea of more classic works of nonfiction being available through this service. This 1966 surfer travelogue is one of the fluffiest of doc classics, and the racist exotification of the West African segment is a bit unfortunate, all thanks to director Bruce Brown’s non-stop narration. It’d be cool to see a recut with just the footage and the score by surf-rock group The Sandals, but I kinda like the playfulness of the voiceover at times for the way it seems to be — unintentionally, I’m sure — a parody of formal travel and nature narration — up to then, that is, as today’s Disneynature docs don’t sound much different. Again, it’s weird that Netflix doesn’t feature the whole franchise, not that I’ve seen The Endless Summer II. But Bruce Brown’s Oscar-nominated motorcycle race doc On Any Sunday is.

Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and DVD

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

men at lunch dvd

Bruce Weber: The Film Collection

Duck Dynasty: Seasons 1–3 Collectors Set with Limited Edition Duck-Camo Bandana [Also available on Blu-ray]

Good Ol’ Freda [Also available on Blu-ray]

Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme

Let’s Get Lost

Men at Lunch

Miley Cyrus: Reinvention

Mr. Angel

Nicky’s Family

Running Wild: Life of Dayton O. Hyde

Selena Gomez: Reinvention

Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers

Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone [Also available on Blu-ray]

Why We Ride

A Year in Burgandy

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

love of movies

Big Boys Gone Bananas!* [Stream Now]

The Endless Summer [Stream Now]

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism [Stream Now]

The Harvest (La Cosecha) [Stream Now]

La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus [Stream Now]

Mexican Fighter [Stream Now]

Occupation: Fighter [Stream Now]

New to iTunes/VOD:

Artifact [iTunes]

FTA [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

artifact poster

The Gambler [Amazon Instant Video]

How to Dance Through Time, Vol IV: The Elegance of Baroque Social Dance [Amazon Instant Video]

Huxley on Huxley [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’ [Amazon Instant Video]

Let’s Get Lost [Amazon Instant Video]

Mediastan [Amazon Instant Video]

My Trip to Al-Qaeda [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

No Tomorrow [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

Pictures From a Revolution [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

Soundtrack for a Revolution [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

Step Into Liquid [Amazon Instant Video]

Superheroes [Docurama Channel on YouTube]

Trial at Nuremberg [Amazon Instant Video]

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


Toxic Hot Seat [12/3 on HBO, 1:45pm ET]

Primary [12/3 on Pivot, 10pm ET]

I’m Still Here [12/4 on Showcase, 1:10am ET]

Bruce Weber: A YoungArts Masterclass [12/4 on HBO Signature, 6:05am ET]

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [12/4 on Showtime Women, 9:15am ET]

Dragonslayer [12/4 on Showtime Extreme, 12:30pm ET]

West of Memphis [12/4 on Starz, 6:30pm ET]

American Teacher [12/4 on Pivot, 8pm ET]

Hearts and Minds [12/5 on Showtime Extreme, 3:30am ET]

Inside Job [12/5 on Starz, 6:45am ET]

In the Shadow of the Moon [12/5 on the Military Channel, 12pm ET]

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [12/5 on Showtime, 9:30pm ET]

Fahrenheit 9/11 [12/6 on FLIX, 1:30am ET]

Chimpanzee [12/6 on Encore Family, 9:30am ET]

99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [12/6 on Pivot, 10:30am ET]


The Other F Word [12/6 on Showtime Women, 1:35pm ET]

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [12/6 on Pivot, 5pm ET]

Senna [12/6 on ESPN Classic, 10pm ET]

Freakonomics [12/7 on Showtime Next, 6:40am ET]

War Comes to America [12/7 on TCM, 2:15pm ET]

Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot [12/7 on ESPN Classic, 3pm ET]

The Loving Story [12/8 on HBO 2, 4:45am ET]

Hubble [12/8 on 3net, 4pm ET]

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [12/8 on Pivot, 9pm ET]

The Yes Men [12/9 on Starz Comedy, 4:40am ET]

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington [12/9 on HBO, 5am ET]

Bowling for Columbine [12/9 on HBO 2, 6am ET]

Into the Deep [12/9 on 3net, 10pm ET]

Beware of Mr. Baker [12/10 on Showtime Next, 6:25pm ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.