Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Best Docs of the Decade

10. New York Doll

A film very close to my heart as it combines two of the dominant pieces of my genetic make-up – music and Mormonism. It’s the story of Arthur Kane, former bass player for the revolutionary punk band the New York Dolls, and how he went from cross-dressing rock icon, to broke drug addict, to Mormon temple worker. It’s a story you probably thought never would or could exist, and yet here it is. It’s proof that the message of the gospel has the potential to touch just about anyone that’s open and ready. That’s miraculous to skeptics like me that begin to question whether it’s possible.

9. Capturing The Friedmans

It’s the story of possible child molestation taking place by an educated man (and his son?) at his home in an uppercrust suburban neighborhood. I say possible because the film takes the risky angle of not completely answering the question of guilt versus innocence. Did they do it? The film doesn’t tell you, you’ll have to work it out for yourself. The puzzle is wonderfully challenging. The fact this family has no qualms airing all their dirty laundry in front of the camera doesn’t hurt. Side note: the project began as a feature on NYC’s most popular party clown. While getting to know him, this story comes spilling out. Crazy.

8. For The Bible Tells Me So

What if the modern interpretation of how the Bible views homosexuality is wrong? What if there are other ways to look at the subject from a religious perspective? Not to mention, the science behind homosexuality (as opposed to the predominant religious view that it’s a choice). Are we ready to face that? This is a crucial argument for looking at tradition another way. Change your way of thinking and you may find some truth lying in areas you wouldn’t have guessed. Given the heightened urgency Christian churches are placing on this issue (especially my own), it’s worth everyone’s time to see the issue from another perspective.

7. The Ramones – End of the Century

The best music doc of the decade covers the story of, arguably, the first and most important punk band in history. The film removes the rose colored glasses and laudatory tones of normal rock docs to showcase the internal tensions and drama that plagued the Ramones since the beginning and, ultimately, stalled their careers. Each member, Joey, Johnny, Marky and Dee Dee get equal time with each one’s story being told in full. Sometimes, those stories bump into each other or one corrupts another. So goes the life of a band over time. The fact that 3 of the four members are gone now and all within a short span of time, makes it all extra poignant.

6. Outrage

Every few months, some ultra-conservative politician seems to get caught in the act of homosexual activity. And chances are good that guy has a voting record that has fought to keep basic human rights away from gays and lesbians. So, the camera gets turned on them. What congressmen and senators are in the closet? How have they voted? The film makes the statement that if these closeted government employees are going to fight so hard to keep homosexuals as second class citizens in order to further their political careers, then they deserve to be outted and labeled as the hypocrites they are. It sounds sensationalistic, but it’s just good investigative journalism.

5. The King of Kong

The great American narrative played out over a game of Donkey Kong. Steve is a guy with an average life and a lot of regrets. He figures he can alter his station if he can score the world record in Donkey Kong. Standing in his way is the arrogant Bill, who has held the record for years and will stop at nothing to maintain it. Good vs. Evil battle it out at the arcade. It’s an age-old premise fought on a new battlefield. Will fairness prevail? Find out for yourself.

4. Bigger Stronger Faster

An inside look on the effects of steroids in sports, both good and bad, and how they have not only changed the games, but contributed to the American need to always be the best. Again, greed plays a big part (the biggest, actually) and corruption from the top down mounts unabated. For instance, anyone remember Pres. George W. Bush’s address where he said it was imperative to get steroids out of baseball for the sake of children and fair play? Ironic that just a couple years before he was the owner and president of the Texas Rangers, a team with 4 known ‘roid users. He conveniently ignored the issue then, we assume, because it benefited him. It’s all a big scam. Everything. Everywhere. Prepare to lose your faith in just about everything.

3. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

Maybe the most culturally and politically important film of the last 10 years. It pulls back the curtains on the inside scandal that brought Enron to the ground and shines a bright, unflattering light on those that made it happen. You realize while watching it that corporate America and, by extension, the financial system, are run by a bunch of greedy nerds with Napolean complexes. They can’t knock another team down by nailing a 3-pointer, but they can do it with a balance sheet. It’s all a big boys club where the rules, what little there are, are bent or ignored. It’s my opinion that these criminals deserve the death penalty. Taking someone’s livelihood is almost the same as taking someone’s life. The saddest part, the corruption continues to this day and probably always will.

2. Murderball

This is the fascinating story of a bunch of paraplegics that play full contact rugby in their souped up wheelchairs. These guys are nuts, tougher than you and me with half the appendages. The film covers all the bases. How did they get that way? How do they feel about it? How do they have sex? How do they live? What motivates them? What are their prospects? And they don’t entertain sympathy. Don’t feel sorry for them and don’t get in their way.

1. Spellbound

It’s as gripping and full of tension as any tied sporting event with one second left on the clock. Becoming invested in these childrens lives and then seeing them have to perform under pressure is one of the most emotionally taxing experiences you’ll have at any movie. The kids are bright, smart, awkward, nerdy, driven, funny, everything a child should be. And they have this skill that makes them special, maybe gives them some place in this world and some self-esteem that they work very hard at. And it all comes down to that moment with so much on the line. You’ll be yelling the next letter at your TV screen and cheering when they get it right.