The Les Blank Criterion Box Set and ‘What Now? Remind Me’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

Les Blank Box Set

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 November 25, 2014:

1. Les Blank: Always for Pleasure (Box Set)

[New to DVD and Blu-ray via Criterion Collection] — This essential box set of Les Blank documentaries may not include his most famous films (Burden of Dreams and Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, both of which are already available together in another Criterion release), but it does feature what are arguably his best, including my favorite, In Heaven There Is No Beer?, and Daniel Walber’s favorite, Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers (listen to our podcast discussion of Blank from last year). These are just all captivating, joyous movies about mostly happy folky American people and culture, and I’m guessing running through a marathon of this box set, features and shorts, you’ll come out with a big smile on your face. (★★★★★)

Bonus features:

  • New 2K digital restorations of all fourteen films — The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968); God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance (1968); Spend It All (1971); A Well Spent Life (1971); Dry Wood (1973); Hot Pepper (1973); Always for Pleasure (1978); Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980); Sprout Wings and Fly (1983); In Heaven There Is No Beer?(1984); Gap-Toothed Women (1987); Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking(1990); The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994); Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995) — with uncompressed monaural or stereo soundtracks on the Blu-rays
  • Excerpt from Les Blank: A Quiet Revelation, a film project by Harrod Blank and Gina Leibrecht
  • New interviews with Blank’s sons, Harrod and Beau; Blank documentary subject Gerald Gaxiola (a.k.a. the Maestro); Blank’s friends and collaborators Skip Gerson, Maureen Gosling, Taylor Hackford, Werner Herzog, Susan Kell, Tom Luddy, David Silberberg and Chris Simon; and chef and author Alice Waters
  • Related shorts by Blank: The Sun’s Gonna Shine (1968), More Fess (1978), Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge (1991), My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge (1994), and The Maestro Rides Again (2005)
  • Two outtake performances from The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Andrew Horton

Most of these films are now also available to stream on Hulu Plus or can be found through other outlets.

2. What Now? Remind Me

[Now Available on iTunes] — Here’s Daniel Walber on his favorite doc of the year: “Much has been made of Joaquim Pinto’s What Now? Remind Me as an all-encompassing documentary about life as it is lived by one man, and to a large extent that’s true. It’s an epic in miniature, a film built from a year of clinical trials and medically required rest, watching television and flipping through books, relaxing in the sun and hanging out with gigantic dogs. Pinto has been living with HIV for two decades. Yet his conception of the virus’s metaphysical implications is one of the many departure points from which Pinto leaps into the cosmos. More than a film about a single man’s experience, What Now? Remind Me is about life itself, well beyond even the single-species perspective of humankind. Pinto places AIDS at once in the specific context of Portuguese colonialism and the history of human evolution at large. Cartoons, piano sonatas, Freud, the murder of David Kato, Facebook and Portuguese Renaissance humanist Francisco de Holanda drift on and off the screen with remarkable equality of influence. Resting on a heartfelt, deep sensuality and flying into the stars with an age-old, spiritual wisdom, What Now? Remind Me is the best documentary of the year.” (★★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

3. The Chair

[Now Streaming Free at SundanceNow’s Doc Club] — In anticipation of the Doc Club’s upcoming Drew Associates retrospective, they’ve made this 1963 classic available for free. Daniel Walber recently wrote the following on the film in his DOC NYC roundup: “The Chair was made in between Robert Drew’s two most significant Kennedy films, Primary and Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment. Yet while The Chair features no figures as immediately recognizable and important as JFK and RFK, it makes a single death penalty case in Chicago feel just as urgent as any national crisis. The intimate electricity of Direct Cinema, particularly in the hands of Drew and his collaborators, makes this already tense legal drama into a riveting insight into American history.” (★★★★★)

Watch the trailer here.

Drew Associates

4. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster 10th Anniversary Special Edition

[Now on DVD and Blu-ray] — Here’s Jason Gorber on this modern classic music doc: “Often the best docs come about when things go madly awry. What started out as merely an intimate look at a band recording a new album became one of the more epic rock docs ever produced. While the Metallica-goes-to-therapy shtick should wear thin, it’s thanks to impeccable filmmaking by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky that keeps the film compelling throughout. Weaving in interviews with past bandmates and other elements of the band’s entourage between fly-on-the-wall moments and bombastic performances, this is in some ways the spiritual sequel to The Last Waltz, if only Marty had got The Band together in a room to talk things out. The best thing you can say is that Some Kind of Monster works for fans and detractors of the band alike. This is a film about the monster within any kind of successful group that lies within, and it’s a rare thing to see it exposed and documented in such a revealing and entertaining way.” (★★★★)

Bonus features (some carried over from the 2005 DVD release):

  • Metallica: This Monster Lives, a 25-minute follow-up piece filmed at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 looking at the decade since the original release of the film
  • 40 additional/deleted scenes
  • Exclusive intimate interviews with Metallica about the film
  • Highlights from festivals and premieres
  • Two audio commentaries by the band and the filmmakers
  • Two trailers and a music video

Also available on iTunes.

5. The Last of the Unjust

[Now Streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly] — The latest from Shoah director Claude Lanzmann is another postscript for that 1985 landmark documentary and more. It’s built around one interview shot for the film but not ultimately included, now at last available on its own. The subject is Benjamin Murmelstein, the only Nazi-appointed Jewish Elder (Judenälteste) of a concentration camp, in his case Theresienstadt, to survive the war. In his review, Daniel Walber calls it “a character study of a most significant nature. This controversial relic of history is the one man we have left who can help us understand how such horrors can happen in a world of human beings. In fact, we don’t even have him anymore. All we have is this week of interview footage from over thirty years ago, a voice from the past whose perception of an even further past is inevitably skewed by time. Lanzmann and others have already told us to ‘Never Forget.’ With this new film he is not changing that, but rather is extending our memory into the grayer, more confusing corners of this past.” (★★★★)

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

6. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

[Now Streaming on Vimeo On Demand] — From Daniel Walber’s list of the best LGBT culture documentaries: “Deeply romantic and thoroughly surprising, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a tonal triumph of tribute to a relationship, to art and to the art of the relationship. And perhaps more than anything else, director Marie Losier has shown that LGBT nonfiction cinema is in such an exciting place that the best films are very likely still ahead of us, to be discovered as the 21st century unfolds.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD.

7. Focus on Infinity

[Now Streaming Free at Doc Alliance] — One of my favorites from this year’s Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, Joerg Burger’s new feature is sort of Nostalgia for the Light light. The doc offers glimpses of major scientific locations around the world, large telescopes and labs and mines in Chile, Armenia, various spots in the American Southwest and elsewhere, with shots of the mostly desert landscapes surrounding these places, while we hear scientific and philsophical discussions on the infinite nature of the universe and existence in the contexts and perspective of the limits of human understanding and mortality. Those talks go perfectly with the limited exposition and views we’re provided for what we’re looking at. We see the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, for example, but never any images of what has been observed from there. Focus on Infinity is new to Doc Alliance but also currently free to stream this week only as part of the site’s latest curatorial event, titled “Documentary Space Odyssey.” Others featured free in the program include I Am in Space and The Battlefield Titan (sadly favorites of ours in the program, The End of Time and Space Tourists are not available to stream in the U.S. through D.A.). (★★★★)

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

20,000 Days on Earth [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] [Also on Blu-ray]

2014 World Series

*Always for Pleasure [Also on Blu-ray]

Beyond the Edge

*The Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’ Hopkins [Also on Blu-ray]

C.S. Lewis: Reluctant Disciple

Days That Changed the World

The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

*Dry Wood [Also on Blu-ray]

Everything Will Change [Blu-ray]

Explore the World

Flower Films

*Gap-Toothed Women [Also on Blu-ray]

*Garlic Is as Good as ten Mothers [Also on Blu-ray]

*God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance [Also on Blu-ray]

*Hot Pepper [Also on Blu-ray]

*In Heaven There Is No Beer? [Also on Blu-ray]

It’s Not Over

Les Blank: Always For Pleasure Box Set* [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★] [Also on Blu-ray]

A Life in Dirty Movies


*The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists [Also on Blu-ray]

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster [Nonfics rating: ★★★★][Blu-ray]

Pink Floyd: 50 Years on the Dark Side


Rise of the Black Pharoahs

*Spend It All [Also on Blu-ray]

*Sprout Wings and Fly [Also on Blu-ray]

*A Well Spent Life [Also on Blu-ray]

*Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella [Also on Blu-ray]

Turkishe Agais

Warriors of the Road: The Saxon Chronicles Part II [Also on Blu-ray]

*Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking [Also on Blu-ray]

Last of the Unjust

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Alive & Well

Beyond the Edge

Desert Runners

I Am Santa Claus

The Last of the Unjust [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

Mr. X

Running From Crazy

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

Kasey in The Homestretch

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

1 — Amazon, iTunes

15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story (Director’s Cut) — Vimeo On Demand

After the End — Vimeo On Demand

Alfred Hitchcock: More Than Just a Profile — Amazon

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

The Battlefield Titan — Doc Alliance

Beyond the Edge — Amazon

Bjork: Biophilia Live — Vimeo On Demand

Black Sun — Doc Alliance

Boudicca: Warrior Queen of Ancient Britain — Amazon

Breaking Barriers — Amazon

Coldplay: Ghost Stories Live — iTunes

Drop of Joy — iTunes

Gravitas Ventures

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 — iTunes

A Film About Coffee — iTunes

Focus on Infinity — Doc Alliance

Food Chains — Amazon, iTunes

Forest of the Dancing Spirits — Vimeo On Demand

Fritz: The Walter Mondale Story — Vimeo On Demand

The Homestretch [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon

Hue — Amazon

I Am in Space — Doc Alliance, Vimeo On Demand

Imagine the Sound — Vimeo On Demand

It’s Not Over — Vimeo On Demand

Jack the Ripper: Conspiracies — Amazon

Jeff Beck: Live in Tokyo — iTunes

Jerusalem: The Covenant City — Vimeo On Demand

Killing Arafat — Vimeo On Demand

Life After Django Reinhardt — Vimeo On Demand

A Life in Dirty Movies — Amazon

Like Stone Lions at the Gateway Into Nights — Doc Alliance

Lucky Express — Vimeo On Demand

Martha & Ethel — Vimeo On Demand

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — iTunes

Mushroom — Doc Alliance

NASCAR: Fastracked — Vimeo On Demand

Night Sweat — Doc Alliance

Commedia all’italiana, Germi Style — Fandor

One Direction: Reaching for the Stars Part 2 — Vimeo On Demand

Richard Pryor: Icon — iTunes

Pulp documentary

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — iTunes

Random Principle — Doc Alliance

REMTV — Vimeo On Demand

Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves — Vimeo On Demand

Small, Fast and Out of Control — Vimeo On Demand

Stupidity — Vimeo On Demand

Tomorrow’s Children: Partnership in Action — Vimeo On Demand

What Now? Remind Me [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★] — iTunes

When Comedy Went to School — iTunes

Whittle: The Jet Pioneer — Vimeo On Demand

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)


Wednesday — 11/26

12:30am: Cesar’s Last Fast [Pivot]

1:00am: Cool It — SD version [EPIX 2]

3:00am: 12 O’Clock Boys [The Movie Channel Extra East]

6:00am: 12 O’Clock Boys [The Movie Channel Extra East]

11:40am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 East]

1:35pm: Private Violence [HBO Signature East]

2:40pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

2:40pm: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

4:35pm: Private Violence [HBO Signature West]

8:30pm: Banksy Does New York [HBO2 East]

11:30pm: Banksy Does New York [HBO2 West]


Thursday — 11/27

12:00am: Milius — SD version [EPIX 2]

9:05am: The Gatekeepers [Starz Cinema]

10:25am: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

12:00pm: Doc of the Dead [Epix Drive-In]

5:25am: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

6:35pm: Doc of the Dead [Epix Drive-In]

6:45pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Showcase East]

9:45pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Showcase West]

11:15pm: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix East]

Beats, Rhymes & Life

Friday — 11/28

2:15am: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix West]

4:55am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz Cinema]

5:15am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Showcase East]

8:15am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Showcase West]

10:45pm: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase East]

private violence

Saturday — 11/29

1:45am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase West]

5:40am: Mad Hot Ballroom [The Movie Channel Extra East]

7:45am: Banksy Does New York [HBO2 East]

8:40am: Mad Hot Ballroom [The Movie Channel Extra West]

9:40am: Private Violence [HBO Signature East]

10:45am: Banksy Does New York [HBO2 West]

12:40pm: Private Violence [HBO Signature West]

4:30pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO2 East]

7:30pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO2 West]

HBO Documentaries

Sunday — 11/30

4:00pm: Banksy Does New York [HBO Signature East]

7:00pm: Banksy Does New York [HBO Signature West]

The Weinstein Company

Monday — 12/1

5:40am: Doc of the Dead — SD version [EPIX 2]

8:00pm: Pearl Jam Twenty [VH1 Classic]

11:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

Lions Gate Films

Tuesday — 12/2

12:00am: West of Memphis [Starz Cinema]

2:10am: Deliver Us From Evil [MovieMax]

3:50am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

4:50am: The Newburgh Sting [HBO East and HBO Latino East]

5:00am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime 2 East]

7:50am: The Newburgh Sting [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

8:00am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime 2 West]

8:30am: Every Little Step [MoviePlex]

10:45am: No No: A Dockumentary [Showtime Extreme East]

11:00am: Bully [Pivot]

1:45pm: No No: A Dockumentary [Showtime Extreme West]

4:00pm: Pearl Jam Twenty [VH1 Classic]

4:35pm: Every Little Step [MoviePlex]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.