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 10, 2013:
1. Grey Gardens and The Beales of Grey Gardens
[New to Blu-ray, via Criterion Collection] — This may seem like an obvious choice for this list, but the Maysles Brothers’ 1976 classic about the riches to rags profile of a mother and daughter duo — cousins of Jackie Kennedy, no less — is always worth recommending. I know this more now than ever, having dressed up this past Halloween with my wife as the Beales and being surprised at how many people, arts and movie-loving types included, hadn’t even heard of this film. Most hardcore cinephiles are familiar with it, at least, thanks to it being in the Criterion Collection, and now they can appreciate its cinematography all the better in an about-time 2K HD release (maybe it’s best that this will be the first way for some to see it). Also, the Blu-ray includes the even less seen 2006 “sequel” The Beales of Grey Gardens, which is kind of like a compilation of deleted footage yet is still fascinating (I think it’s here where we come to realize Little Edie had a crush on David Maysles) and of course a must for any fan of the original. For more info specs and bonus material, click on the link to the Criterion listing above.
Also available on DVD, separately or in a box set.
2. Far From Vietnam
[New to DVD, via Icarus Films] — Sometimes it’s necessary to recommend something before I’ve even seen it, as is the case with this 1967 doc against the Vietnam War from Chris Marker, Joris Ivens, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Claude Lelouch and William Klein. Is it possible that a collaboration between all these amazing filmmakers could be terrible? Sure, but I trust that it is at least worth watching to find out (never mind its many positive reviews calling it a masterpiece; I always need to see something for myself). Nonfics will have something more on the film soon, so stay tuned for that.
Also screening theatrically this week at Vancouver’s DOXA fest and in cities around the U.S. through the Spring.
3. Dirty Wars
[On Netflix Watch Instantly] — Rick Rowley’s film is hardly new to home video, having been on Netflix Watch Instantly for nearly two months now. But last week it was included on the shortlist for the Academy Award, so I finally gave it a spin. And unexpectedly it’s now one of my favorite docs of the year. The film follows journalist Jeremy Scahill around the world as he investigates connected stories involving a covert U.S. military branch called the Joint Special Operations Command. It’s a doc that pulls us through the narrative journey with Scahill, as he retrospectively yet matter-of-factly narrates throughout, not knowing where we’re being led or how different parts will fit into a greater puzzle. I mostly love how it ends somewhat abruptly with a sign that there is no ending, so it’s like the first chapter in a history that is still being written. But that doesn’t mean we need continuous sequels, either, because leaving us with the horizon ahead is very much the point. This is a doc that I’m hearing buzzed about increasingly and I won’t be surprised if it earns the Oscar nomination next month.
Also available on DVD, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, SundanceNow, YouTube and more VOD outlets.
4. GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — For those of you who never had the fortune of watching G.L.O.W. on TV, you have to see this doc to know and believe it existed. And for those of us who did see it, whether we liked it or not, it’s even more worthwhile for how surprisingly emotional the story is here. It’s not just a doc that caters to nostalgia, fandom and the spectacle of this ridiculous concept and program (this is no extended episode of I Love the 80s). It’s about an era of excess and exploitation and extreme entertainment that now looks rather silly and tame decades later. It’ll make you wonder about the real, human side of every piece of forgettable pop culture and hope it could be tackled smartly and with as much sensitivity as a doc like, as opposed to via another sensational or fluff-driven TV show of today.
Also available on DVD and Amazon Instant Video.
New to DVD [and/or Blu-ray]:
Crafting a Nation: One Craft Beer at a Time
Far From Vietnam (1967)
Furious Beauty: A Hip Hop Family
Grey Gardens (1976) [Criterion Collection Blu-ray]
Les Fils Du Vent
Ocean Giants 3D [Blu-ray]
One Direction: Reaching for the Stars
Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary
Prehistoric Dinosaur Disasters
Rocky Mountains 3D [Blu-ray]
Sample This: The Birth of Hip Hop
The Sandman’s Garden
Secrets of Selfridges
Vinylmania: When Life Runs at 33 Revolutions Per Minute
Wild Madagascar 3D [Blu-ray]
World’s Worst Natural Disasters
New to Netflix Watch Instantly:
Blackfish (Nonfics Home Pick 10/22/13) [Stream starting 12/12]
GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling [Stream Now]
Journey of the Universe: An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation [Stream Now]
Nightmares in Red, White and Blue [Stream Now]
Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness [Stream Now]
The Short Game [Stream starting 12/12]
The Water Front [Stream Now]
New to iTunes/VOD:
Forumula One 1976: Hunt for the Title [Amazon Instant Video]
How It’s Made: Surfboards [Amazon Instant Video]
One Direction: This Is Us (Extended Fan Edition) [Amazon Instant Video, available 12/13]
The Proving Grounds
Must-See Nonfiction TV:
Beware of Mr. Baker [12/10 on Showtime Next, 6:25pm ET]
The Redemption of General Butt Naked [12/11 on Pivot, 3am ET]
Foreign Parts [12/11 on Pivot, 12pm ET]
Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [12/11 on Showcase, 8pm ET]
The Gatekeepers [12/12 on Starz Cinema, 4:45am ET]
Last Call at the Oasis [12/12 on Pivot, 3pm ET]
West of Memphis [12/12 on Starz, 11:40pm ET]
Exit From the Gift Shop [12/13 on Showtime 2, 6:45am ET]
Freakonomics [12/13 on Showtime Next, 7:35am ET]
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [12/13 on Showtime Women, 10:35am ET]
Pearl Jam Twenty [12/13 on Palladia, 2:30pm ET]
Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll [12/13 on VH1 Classic, 10pm ET]
Fahrenheit 9/11 [12/14 on FLiX, 11:35am ET]
Mandela [12/15 on Starz in Black, 8:50am ET]
Startup.com [12/15 on FLiX, 9am ET]
Space Station [12/15 on 3net, 4pm ET]
Startup.com [12/16 on FLiX, 4:35am ET]
Food, Inc. [12/16 on Pivot, 8am ET]
Saving Face [12/16 on HBO 2, 10:45am ET]
State 194 (Nonfics Home Pick 11/26/13) [12/16 on Pivot, 12pm ET]
Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll [12/16 on Palladia, 9pm ET]
Toxic Hot Seat [12/17 on HBO Signature, 8:25am ET]
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [12/17 on Pivot, 10am ET]
Gasland Part II [12/17 on HBO, 11:45am ET]
99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [12/17 on Pivot, 12pm ET]
Kings Point [12/17 on HBO 2, 2pm ET]
Dragonslayer [12/17 on Showtime Extreme, 3pm ET]
The Queen of Versailles [12/17 on CNBC, 9pm ET]