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Friday Question of the Day (Fun Edition) – What’s Your Favorite Documentary

by Prince Of Petworth — October 28, 2010 at 10:05 pm 62 Comments

I think it may have been mentioned in last week’s random reader rant and/or revel but someone recommended a good documentary. I also love documentary films and since I finally got a Netflix account (it only took me 2 years and Blockbuster closing in Adams Morgan…), it’s time I start building the queue.

Back in Oct. ’08 we talk about our favorite ‘regular’ films here.

Ed. Note: And I’ve learned to stop combining my FQotD with different topics so a serious question about the election will be in a different post above.

  • O&C

    *Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill
    *Deep Water
    *I Like Killing Flies
    *Anvil, The Story of Anvil
    *Top Secret!
    *Taxi to the Dark Side
    *One Day in Sept.

  • A.S.

    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
    Harlan County, USA

  • Gretchen

    -Smartest Guys in the Room
    -3 Days in Beslan (very difficult to watch but sensitive treatment of such painful material)
    -When the Levies Broke
    -Inside the Meltdown (PBS; I believe you can still download for free from the FRONTLINE page)
    -Sex Positive

    -Bob Roberts
    -Spinal Tap
    -Best in Show

    -Another State of Mind

    Haven’t Seen but will soon:
    -Inside Job (I hear it’s very good)

    • saf

      Seconding Bob Roberts!

      And adding:

      Spaceman in Cuba (about Bill Lee)
      The Power of Song (about Pete Seeger)
      Wordplay (about crossword puzzles)

      • Anonymous

        +1 Wordplay. That Will Shortz gets me every time.

  • Tres

    I’ll list two great ones that touch on recent PoP posts.

    “Paris is Burning” in honor of recent drag races. Profiles the Harlem drag ball queens who originated vogue-ing that Madonna later adapted.

    “Harlan County, USA” because we had a thread about union protesters recently. Reminds us why we have unions. A guy literally shoots at the filmmakers at one point.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with a lot of the docs already recommended. I’m a big fan of documentaries.

    My two all-times faves are:
    Afghan Star
    Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story

    These are worth a watch(all are on Netflix, btw):
    The September Issue
    A State of Mind
    The Cove
    Bigger, Stronger, Faster
    Jandek on Corwood
    The Devil Came on Horseback
    Street Fight
    The Fall of Fugimori
    The God Who Wasn’t There
    The Hunting of the President

  • Matt

    “American Movie” and “Hands on A Hard Body” (It’s not what you think.)

    • Anonymous

      I second Hands on a Hard Body

  • In some sort of order:

    Hoop Dreams
    Bukowski: Born into This
    American Movie
    The he king of Kong
    Grizzly Man
    Man with a Movie Camera
    Confessions of a Superhero
    American Pimp
    Pumping Iron
    Street Fight

  • A.S.

    Grizzly Man is wonderful as well. I wouldn’t call Man with a Movie Camera a documentary (it probably wouldn’t meet the Academy’s definition, considering The Thin Blue Line didn’t either) but it is great.

    • Tres

      Herzog, yes! Grizzly Man and other pseudo-docs he’s done. That guy is crazy and he makes good cinema.

      • Tres

        Okay, along those lines — “My Best Fiend”, for the sheer joy of hearing one wild man dissect another (Klaus Kinski via Werner Herzog).

        • Jim

          +1 billion. Herzog is weirdly brilliant; Kinski was insane.

  • In no particular order:

    Hoop Dreams, Spellbound, Capturing the Friedmans, King of Kong, American Movie, Roger and Me (Moore’s first and by far still his best),

    What’s scary about Bob Roberts is not just how prescient it is, but how positively tame / innocuous he is relative to many of the politicians we are now afflicted with. Compared to the Angles, Bucks, Palins, O’Donnells, Millers of the world, Roberts is almost quaint.

  • dc_chica

    Herb and Dorothy

  • Anonymous

    This is Spinal Tap

  • Anonymous

    “American Movie”
    “Jesus Camp”
    “The Great Happiness Space”

    • ShawRes

      +10 on the Great Happiness Space.

      What an incredible documentary. It follows the lives of several men in Osaka, all of whom work at a bar and serve as entertainers/male geishas for wealthy young women. I was completely floored. Really good.

  • Vampira

    The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda

  • Anonymous

    Beer Wars

  • PG

    American Movie
    Louie Bluie

    When We Were Kings and Soul Power (two different movies about the same event)

  • KR

    The “Up” Series (7 Up, 14 up, etc. etc.) Can’t wait for the next one.

  • dave policy

    Why We Fight: damm good look at society and the defense industry.

  • Reader

    A lot of good suggestions already, but Man on Wire has to be mentioned.

    • Anonymous

      Ditto that! Man on Wire is fascinating.

      • **DOLPH STRIKE**

        overrated, I think, but it is good.

  • dave policy

    Re: Why We Fight: here’s a brief blurb:

    Why We Fight is the provocative documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (The Trials of Henry Kissinger) and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

    Named after the series of short films by legendary director Frank Capra that explored America’s reasons for entering World War II, Why We Fight surveys a half-century of military conflicts, asking how – and answering why – a nation of, by and for the people has become the savings-and-loan of a government system whose survival depends on an Orwellian state of constant war.

    The Why We Fight DVD features interviews and observations by a “who’s who” of military and Washington insiders including Senator John McCain, Gore Vidal, and Dan Rather. Beginning with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s prescient 1961 speech warning of the rise of the “military industrial complex,” Why We Fight moves far beyond the headlines of various American military operations to the deeper questions of why America seemingly is always at war. What are the forces – political, economic, and ideological – that drive us to clash against an ever-changing enemy? Just why does America fight? Unforgettable, powerful and at times disturbing, Why We Fight on DVD will challenge viewers long after the last fade-out.

  • TonyS

    “A Question of Eligibility”

  • PG

    Deep Blues

    And This Is Free (no, narration at all, but a great look at a Sunday afternoon at Chicago’s old Maxwell Street Market.)

    The King of Kong

  • JRL

    Roger and Me

  • Melissa Gilbert

    “The Man Who Knew” (Frontline – PBS)

    The documentary profiles an FBI agent who desperately tries to sound alarms in the months leading up to 9/11. He has been successfully tracking Bin Laden for years. Unfortunately, he is much better at counter-intelligence than he was at agency politics. Just weeks before 9/11 he is pushed out of the FBI.

    Here is the jaw dropper in the last 5-10 minutes of the documentary. He quickly gets a new job, a job that will ultimately prove to be his last job. His new job is head of security at the World Trade Center.

  • “The Fog of War” — despite Errol Morris ham-fisted touches (he actually used tumbling dominos as a visual metaphor for the Cold War…).

    • **DOLPH STRIKE**

      what’s wrong with the domino usage?

      • Uh, it’s cliche? The Domino Effect is how Cold Warriors justified their use of intervention (direct or indirect) in Communist countries. If one country becomes a Communist regime, then surrounding countries will, as well, they reasoned. It’s such an oft-bandied about and now useless trope that I was surprised to see it used in Morris’ film, since his films don’t trade in cliches at all.

        Otherwise, I love the film.

  • skellie

    Exit through the gift shop!!!! (think Banksy and street art world)

  • Ann

    I was one of the recommenders last week for Man on Wire.

    I also can’t believe Murderball hasn’t gotten a mention yet.

    Otherwise, I agree with the ones suggested above. Also, although it’s more of a miniseries, Eyes on the Prize is really outstanding. If you haven’t seen it since you were likely forced to watch it in middle or high school, it will seem better through adult eyes.

  • i’m trying to break your heart, about wilco

  • Derek

    Gray Gardens
    American Movie

  • jlh

    The Gods Grew Tired of US –

    About a group of Lost Boys of Sudan, now young men, who after living for years in a refugee camp have an opportunity to move the US. Not always easy to watch, but it’s one of those movies that you can get out of your head days after you see it.

  • Eric in Ledroit

    Fast, Cheap, and Out Of Control. My favorite movie of all time.

    • CheeseTriangle

      Great movie!

  • ShawRes

    Can’t believe no one mentioned The Tillman Story. I think its the best of move of the year.

  • Joy

    Please Vote for Me
    Word Wars (yes, a docu on competitive Scrabble tourneys and even better characters)
    A State of Mind
    Afghan Star
    Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo
    Up the Yangtze
    The War Room
    Last Train Home (great docu that explains the Chinese factory worker life/economy)

    • **DOLPH STRIKE**

      Please vote for me is awesome.

      Street Fight is great too – there are some parallels between that and our recent election in DC, I think.

  • JenDC

    One Day in September
    Capturing the Friedmans
    Man on Wire
    Waltz with Bashir (belongs in the sorta not really documentary category)

  • InTheGaP

    (Definitely the greatest documentary ever about a font.)

  • David Magee

    Please Vote for Me

    It is about student elections for a class president for a 3rd grade class in China. The documentary follows 3 children and their families during the course of this Democratic Experiment…

    So interesting and entertaining, also a cultural eye opener.

    • saf

      I loved that one (Silverdocs!)

  • Anonymous

    Gray Gardens!

  • Smoove T

    I really enjoyed “The Two Escobars”, one of ESPN’s recent documentaries on their “30 for 30” series. It was incredibly fascinating. See link below:


  • PG

    Errol Morris did a fascinating documentary series called First Person. You can get the dvds from Netflix.

  • ess

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned these yet:

    Twisted: a Balloonamentary (about balloon artists…much more than making a dachsund out of a single balloon)

    The Cheese Nun: about a nun who gets a Fulbright to France to study cheese microbiology. However, I might just be partial to this one because I adore both nuns and cheese.

    • Anonymous

      Both of these sound so interesting. Thanks for the recommendations! I might have to get Netflix now.

  • Sakoku

    Hearts and Minds

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone seen Babies? It looks interesting from an anthropological perspective, but I can’t sit through it if it has a lot of baby crying/shrieking footage.

  • victoria

    Superstar: The Karen Carpenter story. Brilliant – using Barbie Dolls – but big brother objected & there were some copyright issues, so it is unavailable except on Youtube.

  • Sully

    When the Levees Broke
    Hotel Gramercy Park
    The Five Obstructions
    You Don’t Love Me Yet
    Child of Rage (HBO classic)

  • Anon

    I second: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control and join the fan club for: Man on Wire. March of the Penguins was pretty cool (no pun intended) too.

  • alambra

    the Two Escobars was by far my favorite documentary this year but i still haven’t seen waiting for superman. i heard that one was really good too.


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