Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Documentary Review: Farmland

Available For Streaming
On Hulu Plus as of
Short and sweet. Farmland is a film that is just a surface look at the ins and outs of 6 farmers and the struggles they are currently facing. There is nothing deep about this documentary and with the exception of a brief bit about Genetically Modified Crops, there is very little political opinion shared.

I have always had a secret fantasy about being a farmer since I was a very little boy. I love the idea of vast, wide open spaces and working the soil. I never pursued it and no one in my family is a farmer so I wouldn't have known where to start anyway. But I still get the tingles when I'm driving in the Kansas Flint Hills or Western Kansas and I see a lone 3 story house sitting among a golden wheatfield off in the distance. What a life!

So unless the idea of that kind of lifestyle has any thrill to you then you probably wouldn't enjoy this film. But the beautiful HD cinematography and well suited orchestral musical score sold me alone.

There is heart and emotion in there as well. So I recommend this documentary if you care anything about where your food comes from.. Or if you are like me, and just love beautiful scenes of sunsets in a field that you cannot see the end of.

I give this documentary... 4 stars

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