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.
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.