‘The Jinx’ and ‘The Overnighters’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

jinx poster

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 February 3, 2015:

1. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

[Premieres on HBO this Sunday, February 8th] — I’ve been asking for a serialized documentary series on television for months, and HBO is finally delivering the goods this weekend with the start of a six-part murder mystery that many are likening to the podcast Serial (I could concur, but I’m a rare bird in not liking Serial). I have already watched the first two episodes and am hooked, intrigued and fascinated by the story of Robert Durst, heir to a powerful New York City real estate fortune who has been assumed for more than 30 years to have killed his missing wife, whose body was never found. Director Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) revisits the story that inspired his 2010 drama All Good Things, having been approached by Durst after he saw the movie, and it’s a complex weaving of the old case and a more recent murder Durst was convicted of in Texas. While the promise of some sort of closure in the disappearance and possible murder of the wife is one reason to watch, I’m mostly in it for the interview with Durst, as his character is the real puzzle. I’m very excited by the series so far, and hopefully the rest is as good as the first third. (★★★★)

2. The Overnighters

[Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray via Cinedigm] — There’s not much more we can say about this film, so let me just reiterate again that it topped our poll results for the best docs of 2014, it was #2 on our own list for the year and I just added it to our guide to the essential nonfiction films streaming on Netflix (it’ll be there later this month). Plus I called it “brilliant” in my review more than a year ago. Here is what Dan Schindel wrote in our best of 2014 list: “If The Overnighters was a play or a novel, it’d already be considered a classic. You wouldn’t be able to get away from it. But it’s a documentary, so it’s relegated to the background noise of most culture discussion. Every year brings us movies that try to make a capital-S Statement on ‘The Way Things Are,’ but The Overnighters gets at that better than Foxcatcher, Birdman and Nightcrawler combined. It’s a dire story of a conflict between basic human decency and the relentless gears of capitalism, and it captures the American spirit of the moment with harrowing intensity.” (★★★★)

DVD and Blu-ray bonus features:

– Deleted Scenes
– Follow-Up Interview with Subject Jay Reinke
– Booklet
– Theatrical Trailer
– Digital Download

Also available on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.

3. Paraiso

[Now Available at SundanceNow’s Doc Club] — The latest curation at the Doc Club is by Sundance programmer Mike Plante and is comprised of short documentaries from the festival’s past. Among them is this 2013 selection, which our own Daniel Walber highlighted a few years ago at Movies.com. Here’s his brief write-up: “Nadav Kurtz follows a group of window washers as they work in downtown Chicago, living not so much on the edge but over it. In a city known for its skyscrapers, there is a constant need for this high-up maintenance despite the implicit danger. It takes no more than ten minutes to relay the risks and quirks of the job, from looking into some very private scenes to how these men understand their own chance of falling to doom. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.” (★★★★)

The other shorts in the Best of Sundance program at Doc Club are:

Born Sweet (Cynthia Wade, Sundance ’10 Honorable Mention)
Buffalo Common (Bill Brown, Sundance ‘03)
Catnip: Egress to Oblivion? (Jason Willis, Sundance ’13 Audience Award winner)
Family Portrait (Patricia Riggen, Sundance ’05 Jury Prize winner)
Notes on the Other (Sergio Oksman, Sundance ‘10)
Playing the Part (Mitch McCabe, Sundance ‘95)
Sister Wife (Jill Orschel, Sundance ‘09)
Skinningrove (Michael Almereyda, Sundance ’13 Jury Prize winner)
Speed Racer: Welcome to the World of Vic Chestnut (Peter Sillen, Sundance ‘94)
The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal (Matt McCormick, Sundance ‘02)
The Whistle (Grzegorz Zariczny, Sundance ’13 Grand Jury Prize winner)

4. Senna

[Now Available on Vimeo On Demand] — This thrilling archival compilation film on Formula One racer Ayrton Senna recently expired from Netflix Watch Instantly, but now here it is streaming in a new spot. Here’s part of what Dan Schindel wrote on the film in a post comparing it to the drama film Rush: “[Senna] includes extensive footage shot from the cameras mounted on the front of cars from the time, giving the camera the first-person view of a speeding F1 car. The effect is breathtaking. It shows us what it’s like for these drivers, and how they must react within a fraction of a second to every new obstacle on the road, moving at hundreds of miles per hour all the time. This is the kind of stuff that can’t be imitated. This is something you can only get from nonfiction. Senna is a better character study, a more interesting look at racing, and a more exciting action piece than Rush. F1 racers may drive to get closer to death and thus feel more alive, but when you’re looking to feel that rush yourself, you can’t empathize with the replication. You need the real deal.” (★★★★)

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

5. Racing Dreams

[Now Available to Stream Free via PBS/POV] — More race car drivers! But these are children. Children competing in amateur go-kart racing who want to grow up to be NASCAR pros. It’s a film directed by two-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry that has long been threatened with a Hollywood remake (so far it’s still just on this list). Here’s part of a review by Dan Schindel, from his Doc of the Day site, which actually references Senna: “After Senna, I suppose any other car movie is going to look staid and slow in comparison, but Curry does a good job of making you feel the speed when it comes time to enter the track. The editing and sound become supercharged, blaring out a dizzying rush of screaming engines and wheels and pavement. Karts weave in and out amongst one another in a struggle to break ahead. It’s a terrific thrill. It isn’t boring off the track, though. After all, being good is only half the battle. The kids also have to seek out sponsorships and make connections if they want to one day become professionals. (★★★★)

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

6. Dreams of a Life

[Now Available on Fandor] — I’m so glad there’s somewhere for people to see this documentary, which I’m still surprised didn’t do better on the festival circuit over here. From my recap of the 2012 SXSW Film Festival at Movies.com: “Depressing the hell out of you doesn’t necessarily make for a bad documentary, as evidenced by the reenactment-heavy Dreams of a Life, a stunningly perplexing British film about a 38-year-old woman whose dead corpse went undiscovered for three years, despite her body being at home, which was above a busy shopping center […] it fits perfectly with the very popular mystery doc The Imposter, and while it does leave you terribly bummed out in the end, it also leaves you with a whole lot of questions. Of course, the answer to all of them might be, this was a time before Facebook.” (★★★★)

7. Expedition to the End of the World

[Now Streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly] — I hope I never run out of reasons to include this film, which I’ve already added to the Netflix 100 essentials, in the Home Picks! This entry previously appeared in an earlier Home Picks. This doc is #4 on my person list of the best docs of the year and the kind of adventurous nonfiction cinema I wish was made more often. Daniel Walber gave it a positive review here, but I’d like to share a bit of my own from Film School Rejects: “When a movie as magnificent as Expedition to the End of the World comes along, it’s hard to find the right words to describe it. Awesome comes to mind, but that sounds so broad. […] The title of the film refers to both the edge of the earth as well as its demise, and yet the journey in question is hardly one of alarm. Just as the physical end of the world is an illusion, given that it’s not flat, the temporal terminus is just a point somewhere amidst the infinity. Expedition to the End of the World follows a group of explorers sailing toward the North Pole along the Northeast coast of Greenland, a trip made possible only recently thanks to global warming, in order to study the newly exposed environment on every level. Scientists aboard the schooner Activ include a geologist, a geochemist, a marine biologist, a zoologist, an archaeologist and a geographer. There are also artists along for the adventure, aside from the filmmakers, which provides for some of the doc’s deepest discussions, on art versus science and ultimately how each is important for our understanding the universe.” (★★★★★)

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

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

African Americans and Black in Latin America

Air Show Extreme: The Sky’s the Limit [Also on Blu-ray]

American Civil War: Beyond the Battlefield

The Big Burn (American Experience)

Discover Planet Ocean [Also on Blu-ray]

Firestone and the Warlord (Frontline)

Food Chains

I Believe in Easter

A Journey Through Broken Dreams

Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking Season 2

NASA Collection

The New Public

The Overnighters [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics revew] [Also on Blu-ray]

The Reagans

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] [Also on Blu-ray]


Video Game: The Movie

The World’s Greatest Railroads

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Expedition to the End of the World [Nonfics rating: ★★★★/★★★★★; Nonfics review; Film School Rejects review]

Generation Iron

The Ghosts in Our Machine

Gucci: The Director

Money for Nothing [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

The New Public

Paul Williams: Still Alive [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]

This May Be the Last Time

We Could Be King

Wings of Life

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

And the Oscar Goes To… [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Amazon

Atari: Game Over — Vimeo On Demand

Backstreet Boys: Show ’Em What You’re Made Of — iTunes, Vimeo On Demand

Beautiful People — Fandor

Better Life — Doc Alliance

Born Sweet — SundanceNow Doc Club

Carlin — SundanceNow Doc Club

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion — SundanceNow Doc Club

Come Together: A Beatles Tribute — Amazon

Crime After Crime [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

Cyber-Seniors — Vimeo On Demand

Dreams of a Life [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Fandor

Foreclosure — Amazon

Home Master Class — Victor Kossakovsky— Doc Alliance

Hauser and Zizek: Teoreticians of Postmarxistic Philosophy — Doc Alliance

Katanga Business — Doc Aliance

Life Itself [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics revew] — iTunes

Mad as Hell — Amazon

Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies — Vimeo On Demand

Namibia Crossings — Doc Alliance

A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler — Amazon

Orania — Doc Alliance

The Overnighters [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics revew] — Amazon, iTunes

Paraiso [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — SundanceNow Doc Club

Racing Dreams [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — PBS

The Reagans — Amazon

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

Skinningrove — SundanceNow Doc Club

Solar Eclipse — Doc Alliance

The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal — SundanceNow Doc Club

This is Gary McFarland — Fandor

Top Gear’s Top 41

UnDivided — Amazon

Working Man’s Death — Doc Alliance

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Wednesday — 02/04

1:00am: Bully [Pivot]

1:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 West]

2:30am: West of Memphis [Starz Cinema]

5:00am: Unraveled [The Movie Channel Extra]

7:05am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz in Black]

7:10am: Milius [Epix 2]

8:00am: Unraveled [The Movie Channel Extra West]

1:35pm: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz in Black]

6:30pm: Paris is Burning [Showtime Showcase]

9:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

9:30pm: Paris is Burning [Showtime Showcase West]

9:40pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2]

9:45pm: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix 2]

Thursday — 02/05

12:40am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 West]

4:00am: Winged Migration [Outdoor Channel]

4:15am: The Gatekeepers [Starz Cinema]

5:30am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2]

5:55am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

6:05am: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Edge]

7:15am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix East]

8:30am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

10:00am: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

10:15am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix West]

10:35am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

7:30pm: Pearl Jam Twenty [Palladia]

8:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

Friday — 02/06

2:00am: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [Pivot]

4:05am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime]

7:05am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime West]

8:20am: Bears [Starz]

10:20am: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

11:20am: Bears [Starz West]

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

5:40pm: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

7:30pm: Inside Job [Pivot]

8:00pm: King Corn [Fusion]

11:00pm: Inside Job [Pivot]

11:00pm: King Corn [Fusion]

Saturday — 02/07

4:00am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase]

7:00am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase West]

8:30am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Showcase]

11:30am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Showcase West]

12:00pm: Elevate [ESPN Classic]

1:00pm: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

8:00pm: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) [Starz in Black]

Sunday — 02/08

12:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2]

1:00am: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

1:15am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime 2]

3:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

3:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2]

4:15am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime 2 West]

6:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

9:50am: The Crash Reel [HBO 2]

12:00pm: Elevate [ESPN Classic]

12:20pm: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) [Starz in Black]

12:50pm: The Crash Reel [HBO 2 West]

1:00pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

1:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2]

4:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 West]

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

8:00pm: Standing in the Shadow of Mowtown [Starz in Black]

10:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2]

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

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

Monday — 02/09

1:00am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 West]

1:00am: Food, Inc. [Pivot]

1:35am: Tyson [Encore Black]

2:30am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

3:00am: Foreign Parts [Pivot]

3:00am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime]

4:30am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Extreme]

6:00am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime West]

7:30am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime Extreme West]

9:30am: My Kid Could Paint That [MoviePlex]

1:55pm: Tyson [Encore Black]

4:55pm: My Kid Could Paint That [MoviePlex]

5:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

8:00pm: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime Showcase]

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

9:00pm: Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music [Palladia]

10:00pm: Tyson [Encore Black]

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

Tuesday — 02/10

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

2:00am: West of Memphis [Starz Cinema]

2:40am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime 2]

5:40am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime 2 West]

5:40am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

6:00am: Private Violence [HBO and HBO Latino]

8:30am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

9:00am: Private Violence [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

12:00pm: Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music [Palladia]

6:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime]

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

9:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

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

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

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.