Thursday, March 15, 2007

Documentary Fool

There comes a time when there are no films on that I want to see. Or, there are films out that I’d want to see but Mr Cinema has decided to put them on at dumb times (A Guide to Recognising Your Saints, the new film staring Robert Downy Jr, would have been this week’s review. Now you’ll have to fend for yourselves without my quality opinion. Poor you.)

So instead of the cinema I watched something I’d taped off the telly (bear with me), a documentary (wait for it) that I’d wanted to see at the cinema last year but missed due to similar reasons (there’s the link. It wasn’t like I was about to review Neighbours or anything.) It made me realise that there are many film/documentaries out there that are definitely worth a watch, so in order that I might guide your witless souls towards quality entertainment, I thought I’d briefly go through five highlights of the documentary world that you should watch. Then someday you might be as clever and thoughtful as what I am.

This Film is Not Yet Rated

A doc from 2006 (and the one I watched last night) about the weird ratings systems in the US. As well as showing lots of rude sex scenes that were rated a seemingly dreaded NC17 (that’s 18 to UK folk) and scenes that were ultimately cut (a ‘pooping on his face’ moment in Team America that is hilarious but ‘unacceptable’ even though they’re puppets) this documentary also digs its way in to issues like ‘who has the right to decide the morals of others’, ‘why is female pleasure so offensive to watch’, ‘how come sex is much worse than violence’, and ‘what’s with all the prejudice against gay sex, when stuff like violence to women is ok?’

The main thrust is the involvement of a private detective duo (a fabulously rich couple of characters – and not rich as in money, but rich as in they’re a lesbian couple, deeply in love, who also happen to be great detectives). They’re hired by the director Kirby Dick to try and find the names of the ratings panel members, which are for some reason kept mega private. As they discover the supposed snap shot of America includes mostly middle class whites in their late 40s, Kirby interviews directors, actors and others in the biz to find their experiences and gripes with the system.

Though a little one-sided, this doc is amusing, enlightening and brings up plenty for debate. It’s rated 18 in the UK.


Quadriplegics playing rugby in wheelchairs isn’t the most obvious of sport-films, but this doc from 2005 is an exciting, moving piece of work that combines all the typical traits of a sports story (the competing teams, the build up to the main event etc) with some affecting personal stories. The doc follows a group of mostly young lads, including the likes of Mark Zupan (accomplished player, who also pops up in Jackass 2. With a rocket attached to his wheel chair. Shooting him off a pier) and a more recently injured guy coming to terms with everything. It then mixes these stories with the fierce competition between team USA and team Canada.

I watched this while recovering from a foot operation and it promptly stopped me from feeling sorry for myself. It also moved, entertained and gripped me, and I would highly recommend it.

Super Size Me

A 2004 film that really, really made me want to eat a McDonalds (mainly because I watched it after a big night out). But with an intriguing premise (what happens when you eat nothing but McDonalds for a month?) and some balanced questions (a guy who eats a Big Mac every day and stays skinny) this is a relevant, amusing doc.

Bowling for Columbine

Ok, I know a lot of people now see Michael Moore as a whiney sort of fellow, but back in 2002 he produced this smart documentary that delves into America’s gun culture with funny and downright disturbing results. More focused than Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine uses the infamous school massacre as the crux for a look at the media, gun laws and the culture of fear.


Nominated for an Oscar, this 2002 doc centres on the biggest bunch of dweebs you’ve ever seen, makes you pity them, then makes you quite like them, then makes you really root for them as they compete in a spelling-bee competition. It also reminded me how much I can’t spell.

These are just five of the numerous quality documentaries to grace cinemas, and then later most channels ending in ‘4’ (as in BBC, and More – if you’re lucky to be in the UK). Watch out for them. And then, you know, watch them. It’ll do you good.

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