Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Documentary Review: Please Subscribe

Available for streaming
on Netflix as of 10/1/14
Finally, a documentary about the incredible phenomenon of "YouTubers". I am just on the fringe of being young enough to be able to embrace this world without being considered to be in a mid-life crisis, or a creep. Please Subscribe is a film that follows around a few of these small-small screen stars and takes a look at how they got started and what they actually do on YouTube that makes millions of viewers tune in, often daily, to watch them speak, or display a talent.

I was excited to see this documentary pop up as available on Netflix.  I have a couple of YouTube channels I check out daily and/or weekly to be entertained away from anything else I could be doing with my time. Not everyone's idea of fun. But I find joy in it.

What I did not find joy in was this documentary. It was like someone turned in half an assignment and assumed it was good enough. It wasn't compelling. The world of YouTube and YouTubers is very compelling. People have made their career off making a fluke video that went viral, and then were able to repeat that success until they had a following of loyal viewers who turn out in droves and treat them like they are every bit a celebrity as they would a movie star. That is amazing.

So why couldn't the film maker capture the curiosity of that phenomenon? Maybe it was the subjects he chose. Dan Dobi picked 8 YouTubers to chronical. (9 if count the feature after the credits) But unless one of those is your preferred YouTube personality or your favorite subscription then you had no other reason to watch. He didn't delve into the culture. He didn't mention other YouTubers other than the 8 he chose. Are they the only 8 that exist? How would a casual documentary viewer know? He gave very few statistics on just how much YouTube is watched by viewers. He didn't show us ANY actual subscribers and what makes them watch on a regular basis. He just talked to 8 people who shoot videos on YouTube and get paid to do it.

In other words he only gave us the Who. He forgot about the What and the Why. A skilled documentarian can take a subject like this and either find the deeper story, or hit us with a wave of facts and figures that make us say "Wow!"

Mostly he just showed us that YouTubers like making videos on YouTube... and... duh.

I give this documentary... 2 stars


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Documentary Review: The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden

Available for streaming on
Netflix as of 9/23/14
Now we're talking! I love a good mystery. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden is a true story about about how several groups of people or couples ended up on an deserted island named Floreana in the Galapagos in the1930's.

The original couple that first got there was the Ritters. They were Nietzsche-loving philosophers that wanted to get away from humanity and be isolated from the rest of the world. Then a eccentric pretty blonde named Baroness Von Wagner shows up and spoils the party.

"The Baroness" has two male companions in tow that are either her slaves, or lovers, or both. And she decided the island was hers and she was going to get rich by putting up hotels and making it a rich tourist attraction.

Then the Wittmers show up who are escaping the war that is breaking out in Europe.

The next hour and a half of the documentary is how tempers flared and neighbors clashed. It almost is like the story of the Garden of Eden. This oasis is marred by the depravity of man. And several people end up dead.

Of course, since all those involved have passed on, we are left just reading accounts and journal entries from the island's inhabitants. But luckily since even back then the story of several eccentric outcasts was sensational enough we have lots of footage of the island, and the Ritters, Wittmers, and the Baroness and her weird boy toys.

It seems most of the account is from the wife of Friedrich Ritter. She, Dore Strauch, is actually voiced by Cate Blanchett which lends even more credence to this well made documentary.

In the end, we are left to decide for ourselves what actually happened, because no one knows for sure, and no charges were ever filed. But whatever happened on that island is a direct result of the inability of man to get along.. and in my opinion is a textbook picture of what the world would truly look like if everyone followed the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. A man revered by liberals and atheists alike.

I give this documentary... 4 stars

Monday, September 08, 2014

Documentary Review: Sherman's March: An Improbable Search For Love

Available for streaming on
Netflix as of 9/8/14
Ross McElwee's film is not what you would think. This soft spoken guy set out to make a historical documentary about General Sherman's destruction of the south during the civil war.. however he can't help from getting distracted by women along the way. This film was made in 1985 and it shows in the women he meets along the way.. giant glasses, giant hair, the whole thing!

Every once in awhile he tosses in a few facts about General Sherman, but mostly he follows a number of different women around like a stalker, filming their every move.
The film took me three days to watch it. It's 157 minutes long! I mean, McElwee must hate editors and editing because he seems to have just left in everything he filmed over his journey.

I have to wonder if he was ever truly planning on making the film about Sherman. Only a handful of times during this documentary did he actually set up the camera and start narrating facts about William Tecumseh Sherman.

So what I think this film does show is a lonely man whose girlfriend broke up with him just before he began to make his Sherman documentary, so he did what most of us do when we hurt and started to try and fill that void with the company of other women. And like most filmmakers he simply found everything too interesting to put the camera down.

As boring as the premise for this documentary seems, I found myself wanting to finish it to find out if he ever got back to making the movie he intended, or if he ever finds a lasting relationship. And unfortunately we are left unsatisfied on both accounts.

The only other redeeming quality of this movie is getting a glimpse of life in the true south with the "debutantes" he meets. And then the woman at the end who was psycho about getting him hooked up with a woman... to the point of making him and the audience feel uncomfortable.

Also, who knew that people in the South were still mad about General Sherman?


I give this documentary... 2 Stars.



Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Why Ayn Rand is Nonsense

I hope this makes Ron Paul supporters go insane! You cannot make sense without God.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

5 ALS Ice Bucket Alternatives For Raising Awareness For Your Cause

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is taking the nation by storm.. And say what you will about it, it has raised many many millions of dollars for ALS research. So I am guessing this is just the beginning. Many other causes are about to come out with creative challenges to raise awareness for their foundations. So I decided to help them out and give them ideas to start the next craze.

1. The Raw Onion Challenge -- Prostate Cancer
You have 5 minutes to eat a white onion like you would an apple.. Or donate $20 to Prostate Cancer research.

2. The No Selfie Challenge -- Cystic Fibrosis
You must go one month without taking ANY picture of yourself, taken either by yourself or by someone else. If you fail then you must donate $20 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

3. The Slap In The Face Challenge -- Kidney Disease
A friend or family member must film you getting slapped in the face or else you must donate $20 to the National Kidney Foundation. Don't worry.. To ensure no one gets injured, if you suffer an injury as a result, the slapper has to pay your medical bills PLUS donate $200 to the NKF!

4. The Tic Tac Challenge -- Chronic Halitosis
This is a simple challenge.. How many Tic Tac's can you fit in your mouth at one time? (Not responsible for choking mishaps) If you decline the challenge, you must donate $20 to the ADA.

5. The Bucket Of Spiders Challenge -- The Arachnaphobia Support Group
Dump a bucket of NON-poisonous spiders on a friend to raise awareness and support for The Facebook Arachnophobia support page. If you decline the challenge then you must join their support page and also man up just a little bit.

You're Welcome America!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Documentary Review: Falling Up: A Story From The Streets

Currently Available For Streaming
On Amazon Prime As of 8/19/14
Falling Up is a short little one hour documentary that tells the story of a man whose real name is Johnny Popp. He is a Vietnam Vet who came back from the war traumatized. But he managed to find a wife and began attending church. I believe he had a son from that marriage. But shortly into his new life his wife was killed in a car accident. This turns out to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Johnny gave up material things, traveled around homeless, and ended up on notorious "Skid Row" where he was soon introduced to crack cocaine. And that where he stayed. He stopped getting haircuts or shaving. He slept in a shopping cart where he kept all of his material items.
The camera follows him on the streets through a typical day, and even as he smokes crack daily.
Then they lose him for about a month or two and find him again after he turns up in a hospital after being beaten quite severely by a group of either gang members or other homeless people. And he ends up needing a hip reconstruction. Then they release him to a nursing home for recovery. And this is where things make a sudden turn.
You'll want to watch the film to see if Johnny's transformation is genuine or short-lived.
The story is very compelling, and at times is well shot, capturing some genuine street life as it happens. The documentarian's point about how social services can serve a massively needed purpose is made in a few small commentaries. He makes a good point and shows one graphic that is compelling which shows that it costs more to keep these folks on the street than it does to get them into a home where they can receive medical care and get more independent as normal home dwellers. That was something I hadn't known before.
However...
There is more to a documentary than the subject. And in this case the use of stock footage, the really lackluster narration, and the shallow musical score, kind of gave this film the feel of a undergrad's art school project. The narrator seems to be trying kind of a monotone approach since this is kind of a dark subject, but it comes off as seeming like his heart just wasn't in it, which I bet it actually was. So I think it may have been better if he had left those duties to someone else.
I don't want to be too harsh because I really stayed tuned because I wanted to see if Johnny stayed clean. Especially after he met and started a relationship with a recovering alcoholic lady that was with him in the nursing home. And my suspicion is that the budget was pretty small. So for what it was, it was a pretty good Doc.

I give this documentary....2 stars

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Documentary Review: My Name Was Bette: The Life And Death Of An Alcoholic

Available For Streaming On
Amazon Prime As Of 8/6/14 
My Name Was Bette: The Life And Death Of An Alcoholic is a film that showed up on Amazon Prime last week. I had never heard of it before and decided to give it a shot. It turns out that it is a great documentary. It's sad. Tragic even.

The story is about Bette VandenAkker, who was a beautiful woman who had a hard lot in life. This is not about some hobo who was drinking to get high. This is a woman who was trying to raise kids on her own in a time when that was an absolute taboo. Combine that with a really tough and broken childhood, a demanding job, and DNA that started her off with alcoholism already in her genetic makeup, and you have a recipe for the use of hard alcohol to numb the senses and hide from the hardships of life.

The film is not perfect. A lot of it is meant to be less story centered, and veers off into education about the disease of alcoholism itself. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but occasionally it will lose focus for a few minutes.

The director of the film is Bette's daughter who does a wonderful job with the interviews and the story and narration of her mother's decline. I think the educational parts of the film are important and needed to help those that may be struggling with this disease. So I can't fault her for adding those in at different portions of the movie. Alcoholism is a slow deliberate killer that ruins more than just the life of the drinker, but those around the victim are also affected in sometimes horrible ways.

Obviously, the film ends talking about the death of Bette VandenAkker and it is quite emotional. But that is the mark of good documentary making. And if this is Sherri VandenAkker's first attempt at filmmaking then she is to be commended for doing a great job of sharing her mom's tragic story with us in an insightful and entertaining way. It's just an hour long, and well worth the watch.

I give this documentary... 3 stars.