Eating Animals

Oh hey, a documentary. One about food, those aren’t common at all.

This one doesn’t even try to hide under a clever punny title about the issues. Eating Animals is straight to the point. It is most likely also going to be anti eating animals. I can’t imagine a documentary that is going to talk about the pros of carnivorism with a title like this.

Oh and it is narrated by Natalie Portman. That helps solidify the point as well.

I wonder at this point how much new information a documentary can have over a topic that has been so beaten to death at this point. But hey maybe.

Eating Animals
I didn’t expect the documentary to get so graphic and watch this man eat this chicken without cutting away for 35 minutes straight.

Needless to say I don’t have a lot to say about this documentary. It doesn’t go out and say animals are unhealthy for human consumption. Instead it is on the impacts on the environment and on the small farmer. It goes after corporations and sure, some animal rights is fair. Really what it wants to say is that if you are going to eat meat to think about where your food comes from. Support more local small time farmers and ones that treat their animals nicely.

I can respect that.

The documentary itself is deeply boring however. It has no pizazz. We have a true story of people getting punished and hurt from their better raising methods. That sucks. It is still boring.

Basically this is a documentary that will change nothing. People who like meat won’t go watching it. People who don’t might watch it and will probably still not eat meat.

Just give me something new in a documentary before making it, okay?

1 out of 4.

John McCain: For Whom The Bell Tolls

What’s this? ANOTHER political documentary?

Well first of all, complainy McComplainy Pants, most documentaries are inherently political. Secondly, yes, yes it is. First I had RBG (which is the shit), then I had The Final Year, which was disappointing.

Given them, I still cannot tell you why I decided to go out of my way to watch a documentary about John McCain. Dude didn’t even become President. And he is a Republican, which makes him a bad guy, right (#NotAllRepublicans)?

But I gave it a shot, because it was also on HBO, and HBO has generally impressed me with its documentaries. I was also so disappointed with The Final Year that I figured it couldn’t be worse. Especially with a more focused topic and a longer run time to tell the story.

Seems like the timing is also important, since (as of the time of this writing), McCain is still alive despite working with a pretty intense form of Cancer that is very likely to kill him. Now we can at least get his point of view on events as he reflects on his career, while he still has a chance. John McCain: For Whom The Bell Tolls will be interesting, if anything.

John McCain
It is just 100 minutes of him staring at you from the screen, only blinking seven times.

General knowledge has told me a few things about McCain before this viewing, and some I experienced. Besides the cancer, I knew he was a prisoner of war during Vietnam for quite some time. I knew he was from Arizona. I knew he lost the presidential election in 2008 by a shit ton to Barack Obama, and is the reason we all know who Sarah Palin is right now. And I know he is nicknamed a Maverick, and had partially helped stop bad health care bills from coming through recently. Not all of them, but some of them.

I didn’t know a lot more. The documentary goes into his families history of military service, and of course a big portion on the war. Details from his wife at the time, his kids, and of course himself. We also see his post war efforts when returning home, when he meets John Kerry, how he got into politics, and many of the major things he worked on before running for president.

Even better is an acknowledgement that Palin was a terrible choice as a VP nominee, and is one of the reasons he definitely lost the election. I like that they highlighted how he tried to run a clean campaign and not bad mouth Obama while running.

Unfortunately, after the election it basically fast forwards to this last year. His cancer problems, his confusing statements on senate meetings, and the health care notes. It makes him seem like a great guy, but it nicely points out that he was basically a huge dick while Obama was in office. Sure, occasionally he would say something we could agree with, but he still mostly just voted along political lines and didn’t feel like a Maverick unless he could get something out of it.

It is still a well crafted documentary about an interesting man. I am happy we get interviews with so many people, political and otherwise, who knew him, and of course the man himself.

3 out of 4.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

To get things started, I never saw an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood until I was 27 years old. And now, since then, I have seen about 1 and a half episodes. There are no Fred Rogers nostalgia bones in my body, because I just watched different things. My parents didn’t put it in front of me, and that is that.

I have seen a shit ton of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, because I have kids, and it is relatively swell. I think it raises good points and has easy enough songs to help relate to real life.

Now, I knew about Mr. Rogers growing up of course. I probably made fun of the concept of him, because I was a little shit. Late on in life, I’ve realized how incredibly awesome of a person and a man he was and how much difficulty even someone like him faced on getting his simple message of positivity out there. And really, that is just stuff I learned from memes.

I was really excited for a fully detailed account on his life and his struggles. And so despite the lack of nostalgia, I went in excited to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, knowing that I could learn a lot about both a man, and how I should personally be a man.

WYBMN
That’s one small gesture for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.

This documentary gives us the whole Rogers story. How he first got involved with TV in the 60’s, his first show, and how things evolved from there. We had archive footage for him to tackle all of the biggest events, from the Robert Kennedy assassination to 9/11. Whatever happened, Rogers was there.

He didn’t dumb things down. Sure he talked simply. He talked slowly. He talked like someone who was willing to listen. But he still talked about hard topics that kids would hear and need help fully comprehending, instead of bottling things inside.

It is incredible the journey this man went through, and what he did for human rights. I definitely cried at least three times during this documentary, so I cannot imagine what someone will do who lived and grew up with Mr. Rogers. You will be bawling your eyes out from start to finish.

We also gain a lot of insight on the show from former crew members, actors, and guests, including Yo-Yo Ma, and of course his wife, Joanne.

Next year we have a bio film coming out as well, with Tom Hanks in the lead called You Are My Friend. I am sure it will be excellent and probably focus on just a small part of his life. But good or bad, I will be content knowing that this documentary exists and is a truly worthy piece of art for a worthy human being.

4 out of 4.

The Final Year

I first heard about the documentary The Final Year sometime last year. Politics are getting crazier every day, and the Obama administration feels like forever ago.

From what I understood, it would be looking into the year 2016, not from a year of worrying about primaries and nominations, but specifically on Obama and his goals in that last year. What drove him forward, what was he hoping to accomplish, what did he actually accomplish, and why? His desires to not just be a lame duck and coast his final year.

And it would have behind the scenes access! It would be very fly on the wall candid feeling!

These are mostly assumptions I made in my head it turns out.

It was technically about Obama, sure. But really, it was about the Obama administration foreign policy team, dealing with the world, and what the world was doing to them.

TFY
Oh good, a photo of the four main people, with the most focus on those who had less screen time.

John Kerry was the Secretary of State in the second half of the Obama administration, and he was dealing with foreign policy. We also have Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes. Power was the Ambassador to the United Nations for four years, while was the Deputy National Security Adviser.

Clearly all three of these individuals were in positions to deal with a lot when it came to foreign policy. We get a lot of access to these three during the final year, both from interviews for the documentary, their own scandals, and videos of them doing their normal jobs and responsibilities. Kerry has less screen time than Rhodes/Power but still is definitely a lot more involved than Obama.

And well, I think this one fails to become a great documentary for feeling all over the place. What connects it is just one year and events happening to and from three people. And lets just be clear, this is not an opinion. They are less interesting than Obama. A lot of people are going to go into this expecting a lot of Obama, and they are going to be disappointed.

It also feels a bit sadder overall, knowing that basically everything they set to accomplish and did is being dismantled and finished. It is a dark look at politics in that regard. But still not dark enough to really fully care.

At this point, I wish this documentary came out a whole year earlier, right away, so that we can get the impact fresh in our minds. At this point, it just feels too late.

1 out of 4.

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

Rethinking Barbie?! How can I rethink a barbie? As a man, with daughters, I am trying my best to make sure my girls are well rounded individuals, exploring many different types of toys and sure, some dolls. I want to make sure they don’t grow up thinking they have to be one type of girl. The girl who plays with dolls, the girl who dreams of being a passive princess, the girl who might just want to be a housewife (nothing wrong with that last one, but it is important for them to know options are available).

So I have never given my girls a barbie doll. Other people have, when people are lazy at gift giving. She still has a ton for absolutely no reason. I say no reason, because why do they need like, 8 barbie dolls? People not thinking give her one every birthday, every Christmas, and sometimes multiple ones, because it is easy to just grab a barbie and send it over. I mean, its a girl toy! Girl toys are dolls, and boy toys are everything else (including different dolls).

It is completely fucked up. But I still went into Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, letting my mind me somewhat open. Come on, tell my why Barbie is progressive now. Tell me everything I have learned through slight googling in the past is a lie.

See? I am a willing participant!

Barbs
“Couldn’t you have picked a less creepy photo for this review?” No.

This documentary has two goals. One, to give a small history of barbie, to show how it was a trendsetter back in the day (first doll with boobs!), how it didn’t want to be a perfect women archetype, to the eventual feminist backlash. Their idea was to make sure Barbie had all these jobs so that it could encourage woman to live out fantasies and achieve these dream jobs, not just be a homemaker. And of course, modern, modern backlash over its unrealistic proportions and body image notes.

And that is where the other part of the documentary comes into play. Actually trying to change the way Barbie looks and the problems that have come about. You see, they have been trying to change her appearance for some time to better represent more realistic people. But they have had plenty of focus group issues. They have the issue that the model rarely ever changes, and by having a change, that creates accessory issues, and is the change worth making it so they need various sized outfits/accessories for every release? (More expensive for them and the consumer).

Add to the fact that they don’t want people to think they are pandering to an audience and doing too little too late. They have one shot to try and redefine Barbie so that she has various body types, a task they can’t just do every year in case they mess up. They have to make a statement and they WANT to make a statement.

Strangely enough, this toy redesign happened in 2016 and I really didn’t hear about it at all. There are four different sized barbies at this point, did you know? I didn’t. I remember when they made a lot of hooplah about the different races represented with their barbies, which was a good change, but for whatever reason this redesign was never put in front of my eyes.

I found the whole story to be compelling and it was good to see a company full of people who cared. They cared about the repercussions of their decisions and they wanted to help make the world feel more inclusive. I still don’t think I’d go out of my way to introduce different sized barbies to the kids. My wife told me we actually had different sized ones, so that is how unnoticeable the changes really were.

But this is still a good story of a company trying to do good, and coupling it with a history that I knew nothing about, makes it a compelling story.

3 out of 4.

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word

Pope Francis hit the world in March of 2013, after a long period of searching. Well like two weeks, but it felt like a long time. Originally called Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he comes from Argentina (first from any America, first from the Southern Hemisphere, first Jesuit) and took the world by storm. You see, the pope before him? Kind of lame. But this Pope? This is a cool Pope. This is a modern, smart, hip, Pope. The kind of Pope you might want to introduce to your parents.

You see, this pope is cool, because he isn’t saying homosexuality is bad. He is a fan of science, and evolution, and progressive stuff. He is totally down with other religions doing their thing.

And hey, he is the first Pope Francis. He took his name from Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most well known saints across the world. Why? Well, he was smart, wanted to make the world a better place, and seemed to have values. This Pope Francis wants to do the same. Live life in a simple way, helping out the worst and the bottom of the barrel, getting rid of his wealth and focusing on the Jesus.

This documentary, Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word, is meant to tell his beliefs on various subjects and how they all actually relate to each other. You know, making the world a better place. Damn it.

PF
Actually, not damn it. That is another goal of his. No damning of the its.

If you are Catholic, and happy with the pope, you are going to love this documentary of behind the scene Catholic stuff. Nothing drastic. No one is a lizard person unfortunately (spoiler??). We just get one on one interviews with the Pope where he explains why he is humble and a super Christian.

Now, coming from someone like me, a very nonreligious person, it has less of an appeal. I was a bit excited to see it though, because I had just seen RBG and it was an amazing documentary about an old person who was helping to make a better place. So why not one on Pope Francis, which should be about a similar topic?

Look, it was cool and all. He talked about tons of subjects. Gays, climate change, one trump bash, poverty, hunger, climate change some more. You name it. He is basically a really religious liberal and wants people to be cool to each other.

That is cool. And yeah, what else is there to say? I don’t know. Watch it if you want. It is totally average!

2 out of 4.

RBG

Ruth Baden Ginsberg is not the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. No, that was Sandra Day O’Connor, appointed by Ronald Reagan. But RBG, as the hip kids are calling her, has been one of the most influencial voices on that court, speaking for women and minority rights for decades.

Ginsberg has always been a tiny little lady, growing up in pre World War II America. She went to college at a time when girls were not expected to go to college. They were supposed to get married, have babies, and stay at home.

She was one of the first women in the Harvard Law school classes, and supported wonderfully by her husband, Albert, who was also in Law School and a year ahead of her. She faced many challenges along the way. Professors and deans thinking that women didn’t belong, even if they could handle the coursework. She even had to leave to switch to Colombia because her husband finished his degree and got a job in NYC.

And it turns out that just getting through law school, on its own a big challenge, while facing sexual discrimination, taking care of a kid, and dealing with cancer issues, wasn’t even the hardest parts of her life.

RB

You see, getting a nice law degree doesn’t mean you get a nice law job. Firms didn’t want to hire her, because she was a woman, even with high recommendations from current workers and from her schools. They would say they just didn’t hire women and move on. Men’s only clubs.

She basically had to found her own organization, after getting various jobs through colleges and lectures, with other women, in order to get their voices out. Their goal was to get cases that dealt with sexual discrimination. Their goal was to help take over these cases from local areas and take them all the way to the Supreme Court.

You see, Ginsberg was a thinker. She knew first hand that women were second class citizens, and she needed a Supreme Court ruling or two in order to help ensure equal rights in the work place and other places for the women. And if that wasn’t good enough, she would go to them again, and again, and again.

And I guess if that wasn’t good enough, she’d just have to join the Supreme Court herself and do her best to make sure that someone was a voice of progressive reason and equal rights on that bench, damn it.

This documentary is full of footage, old and new, of Ginsberg kicking ass throughout her career. We even get to see a young Joe Biden leading her confirmation hearing in 1993 to the Supreme Court. We get to see new footage and interviews with the woman herself, her friends and coworkers growing up, and from her children and grand children. It is a wonderful view of the life and times of a great Supreme Court justice. It is full of stories and anecdotes that just give a complete look at her life (As of now) and feels so honest.

In fact, I want one of these type of documentaries for other Supreme Court justices. I am sure some of them are just as interesting as her. Maybe not, maybe some are just regular average people who did the right things and are a place holder. Hell if I know.

This is what the movie Marshall should have been like. Marshall was of course not a documentary, but really just told a story of one case that made a white guy equally important as Marshall, and didn’t go into his later life successes. We need a legit documentary on this scale of his triumphs and life, so people can get a better picture of him as well.

What we really need though, is tons of ladies to see this documentary and get inspired to wreck enough legal havoc to get this country truly free and equal on all levels.

4 out of 4.

Greetings from Krampus

This is one of the many reviews that have come out of WorldFest in Houston. Check the WorldFest tag to see them all!

The idea of Krampus, coming from a humble American, is fascinating. An evil Santa Clause? A beast that steals away naughty kids? Why worry about coal when your goddamn life can be on the line?

That is about as much as I really know about the idea. It was flirted with a bit in Rare Exports, we recently had the horror-comedy Krampus as well. It seems Krampus fever is hitting America stronger than ever, and we are eating it up.

Needless to say, I was very excited to be watching Greetings From Krampus, a documentary from the Austrian area, an actual source on their customs and belief of Krampus. How it has grown through the tiny villages and the national phenomenon that has grown for many to have a worthwhile sort of career in it as well.

Krampus
Horny little buggers they are.

It turns out there is a lot I didn’t know about Krampus. Exciting! Did you know there were a lot of creatures like Krampus, that are not Krampus, but come out at the same time as Krampus? Krampus is basically a demonic pet of St. Nicholas. But they also have the Perchten, which are other humanoid esque creatures. And basically, they get weeks of celebration after the Krampus.

But for the most part, these things are celebrated with Krampus Run events. First of all, to get rid of all the past shenanigans where people would dress up and cause problems, the Krampus ideas were outlawed for some time. Only the ruralist villages still did it. But they had official troops who would get together, have rules, to dress up and do appropriate mischief for the holidays, and not just any weirdo in a mask. That way they have some form of checks and balance!

Anyways, basically each villages has a troupe, with some amount of members, to dress up, make their own costumes and masks and rules and funds as a part time job. They travel to these different Runs, where there could be 60-80 different troupes going through a special path while onlookers cheer and get spanked and whatever.

A huge event, many of them all in a few week span, while the rest of the time is spent making sure Krampus awareness happens. Like teaching kids that Krampus isn’t real and to know its a person in there and NOT use it as a tool to frighten kids into behaving.

Overall, there is a lot of useful information in this movie. However, what it lacks on is the lore itself. It does talk about it some, but I thought it would go a lot more into the lore aspects of it. This is basically Krampus Run, the movie. We see so many clips of them, and groups talking about them and their traditions. It is extremely repetitive, especially when it goes back to topics they covered 40 minutes prior.

Cool information, very unique, just not diverse enough and easily boring in the last half hour as you wonder how much longer it will be until finished.

2 out of 4.

Deadly Deception, Exposing The Dangers of Vaccines

This is one of the many reviews that have come out of WorldFest in Houston. Check the WorldFest tag to see them all!

Hey? You like diseases? No? Then you like vaccines? Also no? Well, aren’t you a special sort of person.

Basically, a couple decades ago, Andrew Wakefield released a paper relating Autism to Vaccines, and it all went downhill from there. The Anti-Vaccines group rose up, claimed non scientific facts, and turned science from a peer reviewed group of studies to a thing where opinions go a long way.

Speaking of opinions, Deadly Deception, Exposing the Dangers of Vaccines, directed by Gary Null. Who is that? Well, he is someone famous for believing in alternative medicines and being dubious with science. This is not his first documentary. He has a complete poop ton and you can see his list on the IMDB link I just showed.

The crux of this documentary is that vaccines are bad, not tested enough, don’t even work, and actually are worse for people overall. You know, things you may have heard before.

And let me just say this aspect before the picture. This documentary on a just technically level is badly put together. It is full of movie making graphics to distract the viewers. We get odd fade outs between talking points or within the same talking point. Every speaker has their name/title on the screen (good!) but it comes up in a right to left flying in graphic instead of just…being there, serving as a minor distraction and making it actually hard to see who these people are.

It has words flying into the screen in big bold red letters to scare, and important sentences for their argument on the screen with someone talking completely different words, to overwhelm your senses and not paint a clear picture.

I am certain that a few people did interviews in front of green screens in order to have a more professional looking background behind them (Note, this is just how it appears, technically I wasn’t there to prove if this is true). We have scary graphics that are not based in science, including Null’s own occasional voice over that seems extra deep and scary. We also have the occasional scary ghost doctor, as seen below, to look like an evil vaccine boogieman.

DD
Gonna get you with his science!

Now clearly I went into this with my mind mostly made up. As a scientist, I am definitely willing to believe things that have been peer reviewed and tested over something that people are just assuming or drawing connections from personal experiences. But I still took notes, over 3 pages worth in my notebook, of claims that sounded far fetched, and the general notes that I described earlier.

Like the claim about the Measels outbreak in Corpus Christi, that all of the people who got Measels had the vaccine and the ones without it (like practically no one) were fine. Well, the truth involves the people who got it did not have the antibodies, the people who were immune and safe did, meaning those who got it didn’t get the right amounts earlier in their youth to be fully immune. Cool. Moving on.

They blamed vaccines on basically every neurological disease, not just autism things. Autism rates have increased over time, but so have our abilities to properly diagnose them, which is the best explanation for why we have more autism.

It claimed that the flu vaccine for senior citizens is the cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia. There was a sentence about how future kids might not be fully human due to all the animal DNA in vaccines. It claimed that eventually Wakefield won his lawsuits from a judge and got reinstated, but honestly, I can’t find information confirming that anywhere. It said that vaccines were a form of population control. It used the phrase “just a theory” for a scientific theory.

Just felt like medical conspiracy the movie. Sure, some legitimate concerns about too much government control in the lives of the citizens, or being in a police state. But they are exaggerating how far things are going, and it is still considered only a minor side point in this documentary. It is a topic that should have its own time to showcase, like…in its own documentary, and just serves as a distraction point in this one.

At no point should anyone go out of there way to see this mess. From a technical documentary level it is bad. From a science level it is worse.

0 out of 4.

Andre the Giant

André the Giant is a man who lived up to his stage name. A giant was he, his disease for us to enjoy.

He wasn’t always giant. He grew up normally, but it was discovered in his later teen years. He grew up in a small French village, but once he became large, he got into smaller wrestling leagues around the world. Like Japan, where he was big in Japan. Eventually, he made it to the USA, and the rest is history.

Andre the Giant is a documentary that not only tells of the career and life until his death of Mr. The Giant, but also the rise of wrestling in the United States, the rise of the McMahons, and the rise of cable TV.

All of these stories intersect and tell a complete picture of America and wrestling over the decades.

ATG
And they all loved him for his big shoes.

It still yet tells an even bigger picture than all of that. This documentary questions what it means to be a legendary entity, to be a real life tall tale, still before everything was shared across the world. All we have now about Andre are his clips and the stories his friends have told about him.

Featuring commentary from some of his friends and coworkers, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Crystal, Cary Elwes, Hulk Hogan, Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, and Vince McMahon.

Overall, I don’t think this is a documentary that you will only enjoy if you like wrestling. I haven’t liked wrestling in a long time, but the stories make it worth it.

Andre had a big heart. He touched a lot of lives. And shit, there is not a lot you can say in analysis about this documentary.

3 out of 4.

1 2 3 18