‘Crumb,’ ‘Teenage’ and ‘Elena’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

Criterion Crumb

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 September 9, 2014:

1. Crumb

[Turns 20 Years Old This Week] — There is no new special anniversary edition of this film, nor has it been introduced to any additional streaming outlet. It’s just turning 20 years old on Wednesday, having debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 1994 (and soon after screening at NYFF, then later Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize), and I think that’s a good enough reason to recommend it this week. Directed by Terry Zwigoff, the doc introduces us to the eccentric personality and lifestyle of underground comic artist Robert Crumb, making him a kind of celebrity at the time. It’s funny and sad, but not in an exploitative way; there’s a lot of respect in how Crumb and his family are portrayed here by his filmmaker friend. Earlier this year, I named the subject one of the most memorable of all time. Stream Crumb for free, with ads, at Crackle.

Also available to buy digitally from Amazon, iTunes and Vudu and on special edition DVD and Blu-ray from Criterion featuring commentaries by Zwigoff and Roger Ebert.

2. Teenage

[New to DVD via Oscilloscope Laboratories] — While Landon Palmer’s review for Nonfics is positive, stating that it is “a rousing, emotive, and accessible portrait of youth from the position of people who first had to make sense of it,” he did only rate the film ★★★. Meanwhile, at Film School Rejects, I called it “the best teen movie of the year so far” (this was before Boyhood came out). Here’s more from that column: “while it’s heavy on the archival footage, it’s very accessible, cleverly constructed and even quite entertaining. It’s produced by Jason Schwartzman, features character narration by Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw and features Alden Ehrenreich. And like any good teen movie should, it has a memorable soundtrack — albeit one totally in the form of an anachronistic electronic store by Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. […] as a historical piece, Teenage is an umbrella under which most other teen movies fall.”

DVD bonus features: commentary by director Matt Wolf and producer Kyle Martin; more archival footage, including: Pillow Fight by Thomas Edison (1897), Chicago Swing Jamboree Newsreel (1938), Boy Scouts in Michigan (1920) and NYA in Wartime (1941); Dreaming Documentary: Making TEENAGE (a featurette with director Matt Wolf, writer Jon Savage and executive producer Jason Schwartzman); On Set with the Bright Young People (a behind the scenes look at filming a recreation); and the theatrical trailer.

Also available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

3. Elena

[New to iTunes] — Petra Costa has made one of the most unique docs of the last couple years, a personal and dreamy portrait of herself and her older sister, Elena, and the parallel lives they shared, save for the latter’s death. Taking inspiration from Chris Marker and Agnes Varda but still working in a poetic style distinctly her own, Costa recounts her move from Brazil to New York City to become an actress, following in the footsteps of her sibling more than a decade earlier. Much of the footage comes from Elena’s own home videos as Costa attempts to piece together what happened to her. It’s a film that I want to like more than I do, especially since I was definitely transfixed by its visuals. I love watching it, so it’ll likely keep growing on me as it haunts my mind.

Also available on DVD.

4. Fed Up

[New to DVD and Blu-ray via Anchor Bay] — I couldn’t recommend this doc as something to pay $10–15 for at the theater, but it’s worth checking out in some form or another, the cheaper the better. I’d like to see the DVD distributed free to the poor, actually. Executive produced and narrated by Katie Couric, the doc looks at the American obesity epidemic and where the food industry is to blame for taking wrong approaches in fighting it over the last 30 years. From my Film School Rejects review: “Like any well-produced issue film of today (and this one’s other executive producers include An Inconvenient Truth‘s Laurie David and The Invisible War‘s Regina Scully), Fed Up fills out the spaces between its rhetoric and archival sound bite footage with human interest stories. Here they go specifically with severely overweight children, each of whom provides webcam testimonials that go pretty far with their emotional punch. These subjects are also followed through their days by the documentary crew; we meet their families and see them at school, senselessly eating junk at lunch in spite of claiming to be, or wanting to be, on a diet. Because they’re kids, we want to look to their parents for some culpability in the metabolic disease they suffer. When the doc highlights special programs and assemblies and touring nutritionists making a different with some students around the country, you have to wonder where these things are for the moms and dads. Maybe that’s where Fed Up comes in, to ignite their eduction on the issue.”

DVD bonus features: deleted scenes.

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

5. A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY

[Streaming on HBO GO and available on HBO On Demand] — Steve Buscemi produced and appears in this hour-long documentary from Liz Garbus on New York firefighters. Here’s part of my endorsement at Film School Rejects: “The resilience of these workers has been and keeps being put to the test, and in its short running time A Good Job paints a portrait of the FDNY as being this brave and rather macho organization that has time and time again been shown to have a certain vulnerability and emotion and even dread. It’s that side of these firefighters (and the million-plus they represent) that will leave you most impressed and proud of what they do for a living (not to mention for your living) in spite of the risks.”

6. I Am Divine

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — This listing previously appeared on another Nonfics Home Picks: From Daniel Walber’s review of the biographical doc about John Waters‘s drag queen muse: “As is often the case with cult icons, the breadth of Divine’s career has fallen by the wayside in the popular imagination. Documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz has set out to change this […] Divine shines through. The film itself may not have his style or his bombast, but it hardly needs it to bring the great performer to an audience. Fans of Divine and of Waters’s work will be delighted, and anyone else who catches it will want to dive right in to the diva’s gigantic body of work.”

Also available on Showtime On Demand, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and Vudu.

7. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

[Now on DVD via Zeitgeist Films and Available on VOD] — This film chronicles the ultimately tragic story of a small-scale utopia attempted by a couple in the 1930s on one of the uninhabited Galapagos islands. Featuring voiceover by Cate Blanchett in the character of one of the main subjects, the doc mainly rests on footage shot by the couple and restored by directors Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine (Ballet Russes). Here’s more, from Daniel Walber’s ★★★ review: “There are home movies by Ritter and Strauch, eerie in retrospect, and a brief adventure film made by the Baroness in which she plays a villainous pirate maiden. There is something inherently unsettling about watching the moving images of the dead, especially those whose lives were lost under such mysterious circumstances. Multiple people on or around the island died or went missing after the tensions between Ritter, the Wittmers and the Baroness reached a fever pitch. It is known who is gone, of course, but not why or how. Goldfine and Geller do not pretend to have solved the mystery, wisely choosing to ask open questions rather than present frail theories.”

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

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

Bee People

Citizen Autistic

Corazon, Live From Mexico: Live It to Believe It [Also on Blu-ray]

Country Roads — The Heartbeat of America [Also on Blu-ray]

David Bowie — Becoming Bowie

Fed Up [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Film School Rejects review] [Also on Blu-ray]

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden [Nonfics rating ★★★; Nonfics review]

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: A Very Boo Halloween

The Hornet’s Nest

How to Survive the End of the World

Johnny Cash — Ring of Fire: The Story

Korengal [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review]

Lifegiving Relationships: Discovering How to Love God, Love Others, and Have a Blast While You Are Doing It

Live and Let Live

Live at the Rainbow ’74 [Also on Blu-ray]

My Name is Maceo

Paranormal Prisons: Portal to Hell on Earth

Rage Against the Machine: 25 Years at the Edge

Royal Family: By Royal Appointment

Secrets of Westminster

Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen

Stevie Ray Vaughan — Rise of a Texas Bluesman: 1954–1983

Teenage [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]

Who is Dayani Cristal? [Nonfics rating: ★★]

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Citizen Koch

Honor Diaries

I Am [Nonfics rating: ★]

I Am Divine [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]


New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

9/11 Commemorative Collection — Amazon

Al Capone: Icon — Amazon

Discover the Gift — Amazon

Elena [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — iTunes

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden [Nonfics rating ★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon

James McNeill Whistler and the Case for Beauty — Amazon

Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace — Amazon

Mariah Carey: MTV Unplugged — Amazon

Sadermania: From Fanship to Friendship — Amazon

The Son of the Olive Merchant — Fandor

Titanic: Band of Courage — Amazon

Who is Dayani Cristal? [Nonfics rating: ★★] — Fandor

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Tuesday — 9/9

12:50pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

4:15pm: Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart [HBO East]

7:15pm: Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart [HBO West]

Wednesday — 9/10

8:00am: Rize [Showtime Next]

9:30am: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO East]

12:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO West]

5:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO East]

6:10pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Showcase]

7:00pm: Food, Inc. [Pivot]

8:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO West]

Thursday — 9/11

12:00am: I Am Divine [Showtime 2]

4:30am: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

7:45am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

3:15pm: Rize [Showtime Showcase]

8:00pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO East]

11:00pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO West]

Friday — 9/12

3:40am: All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State [HBO Signature East]

6:40am: All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State [HBO Signature West]

Saturday — 9/13

2:55am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Next]

6:00am: Casting By [HBO East]

9:00am: Casting By [HBO West]

9:30am: Rize [Showtime Next]

10:30am: Captivated: The Trials of Pamels Smart [HBO East]

1:30pm: Captivated: The Trials of Pamels Smart [HBO Wast]

3:00pm: I Am Divine [Showtime Showcase]

11:00pm: Sicko [Pivot]

Sunday — 9/14

3:00am: Sicko [Pivot]

7:25am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

12:00pm: Food, Inc. [Pivot]

3:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO East]

6:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO West]

Monday — 9/15

8:00am: Rize [Showtime Showcase]

1:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO East]

4:30pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO West]

Tuesday — 9/16

3:30am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime]

5:30am: Rize [Showtime Showcase]

8:30am: Rize [Showtime Next]

9:00am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

11:30pm: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Next]

8:00pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

10:00pm: Rize [Showtime Next]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.