Intriguing ideas – at home.
Fall is a time for movie nights at home and more screen time while I exercise since there are days that are too blustery or wet to walk outside. I have received enthusiastic recommendations for these documentaries which elevate screen time from passive escapism to new experiences and learning. Feeling like lifting your screen sights? Here are some suggestions.
Ron Howard has produced “Pavarotti”, a documentary that salutes the life of this world-renowned operatic tenor. It has received mixed reviews, but three people have told me that it is a ‘must-see’. It is 1 hour and 54 minutes long (or roughly three 40-minute workouts). Released in June 2019. Watch on YouTube. From $5.99
Social media drama erupted over the Fyre Luxury Music Festival in Exuma, Bahamas. It was promoted as a billionaire’s Woodstock by a cocky entrepreneur. It failed and left furious ticket owners and bankrupt Bahamian vendors who built up capacity for an event which never happened. Two documentaries competed to tell the story. The Netflix version gets better ratings. Both films are full of island scenes and super models who rushed to be part of the spectacle and ends with the founder indicted and facing prison.
“Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened”, a Netflix Original. 1 hour and 37 minutes. TV-MA, mature audiences. Free for Netflix subscribers. 2019. Watch on Netflix.
“Fyre Fraud: A Hulu Original Documentary. 2019 Fyre Fraud, watch for free on Hulu with a subscription or free trial.
Ken Burns has produced another thorough, riveting look at a unique slice of America – the “Country Music” world and its history and evolution. He includes more than 80 artists – some you know and some you will meet. Eight-part, 16 hours.
Pre-order on Amazon for $66.29 for DVD of the series. DVD release on September 17th, 2019.
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong took that first step on the moon, “Apollo 11” combines new footage and photographs and reminds us of the enormity of the effort and the drama of the moment. It is described as awe-inspiring. 1 hour and 33 minutes. Released March 8th, 2019. Rent from Amazon Prime, $5.99.
“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” is the story of Theranos and its young, entrepreneurial founder, Elizabeth Holmes. For a while, she was lauded as the next Steve Jobs for the invention of a revolutionary analysis device which could give results with a single drop of blood. Eventually the truth was revealed, and her lies were exposed. 1 hour and 58 minutes. 2019.
“The Biggest Little Farm” is the story of Molly, John and their dog leaving Los Angeles behind for the challenges and exhilarations of living closely with mother nature, building their small, sustainable, family farm. I will bet most of you occasionally yearn for a ‘simpler’ life. They have California wildfires, a coyote and their own naivete to overcome. Described as ‘uplifting’, ‘inspiring’, ‘riveting’ and having great cinematography – this life is anything but simple.
Watch the free trailer. Released May, 2019.
This ABC News documentary is described as the story of “Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye?” ~ABC
1 hour and 20 minutes. Released March 15th, 2019. Watch The Drop Out on ABC.
“Amazing Grace” presents a live recording of 29-year-old Aretha Franklin in concert at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in 1972. There were technical problems with the original recording and video footage, which have been corrected with modern technology. Her family has agreed to this release, a year after Aretha’s death. Look for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in the audience. The music will lift you up. 1 hour and 29 minutes. Release April 5th, 2019. Rent on Prime video. $5.99.
Looking for a ‘feel good’ moment? Disneynature has produced “Penguins” with film footage of live penguins in Antarctica. You follow the life of ‘Steve’ and ‘everybird’ of his penguin community who builds a nest, finds a partner and starts a family. It is described as ‘technically brilliant’, ‘heartwarming’ and offering ‘a thrilling sense of wonder’. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 92%. 1 hour and 16 minutes. 2019. Rent on Amazon Prime for $5.99.
If you are looking for a challenging topic, ‘American Factory’ is the true story of a Chinese billionaire who bought a GM plant in 2016 which had closed in 2008 . He re-opened it with a combination of American and Chinese workers. The hope was for blue collar workers to get back to work in Dayton, Ohio. The challenge of blending two cultures was larger than anybody guessed. Cameras record board meetings and break-room casual conversations. This is a little like the book Hillbilly Elegy, challenging, but offering insight into factory jobs in Ohio. 1 hour and 50 minutes. Released on August 21st, 2019. Rotten Tomatoes 97%. Winner of the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary at Sundance. Netflix Original.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is described as ‘touching’ and a ‘tribute to a man who reminded generations of children that they mattered’. Mr. Rogers was gentle and offered unconditional kindness. We could use a little more of that today. 1 hour and 34 minutes. Released in January 2019. Rotten Tomatoes 98%
ASE readers – I am working on a list of classic, favorite documentaries so we will all have it as a reference when we want indoor enlightenment and entertainment. Please share your favorites with me – and I will share them with the whole ASE community.