I got a Netflix account sometime last year. I can’t remember the reason exactly. I think its was because I wanted to watch Lost beginning to end. While the show turned out to be a colossal disappointment, I did stumble onto my new hobby. I have become somewhat of a documentary junkie.
I started out with ones I had heard of from the media like Super Size Me, Waiting for Superman, The King of Kong, and other high profile films. I did not just stick to movies with which I agreed. I watched a few conservative documentaries which were mostly terrible. I am not referring to the message of the films. I am just talking about the quality of the direction. Makes me wonder why there are no good conservative filmmakers. I guess it’s hard to make mountain top removal sympathetic.
Sorry, I got off topic there, but it is just an observation.After I ran out of movies I could think of, I had to dig deeper. A short search on the Internet brought me to several movie sites and podcasts. Screened.com was particularly helpful to me as they directed me to some of my favorite documentaries last year. Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Art of the Steal are two different looks into the world of art that I would have otherwise never heard about. They weren’t only two of my favorite documentaries of last year but were probably among my favorite movies of any description.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a film about the world of underground street art and how the movement is being
turned into big business. The film is a fascinating achievement as it is two films in one. First it is a thorough record of street artists that, because of the here today gone tomorrow nature of their work, is the only record of their work that will endure. The second part of the film is a statement on popular culture, as the hapless man filming the street artists decides to become an artist himself. With only a few words to the media from the artists he filmed, he sets the art world ablaze. It becomes a modern version of The Emperor’s New Clothes as the media crowns him the hot new artist without much consideration of his actual work.
The Art of the Steal is about the system getting what the system wants. The story follows the fate of an art collection that belonged to Albert C. Barnes. Barnes held a deep seeded hatred for the wealthy and the politicians of Philadelphia and did everything possible to ensure that his collection would remain out of their grasp. After his death however, the forces that be came for his collection. Year after year, the failsafes Barnes put into place eroded until a final showdown for the priceless art collection that was never meant to leave the walls of the gallery came to a head.
The movie is a showcase for art pieces that even a philistine like myself can appreciate their beauty as well as a sobering reminder that the rich and the powerful are indeed very rich and very powerful.
For those of us who are looking for lighter fare or just do not have two hours to sit and watch a documentary I have also enjoyed other documentary style programs like the profanity riddled and always amusing Penn and Teller’s “BS” (I will leave what the “BS” stands for up to the imagination) and Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock’s social experimentation program 30 Days.
So, if you are in the mood for something a little different on movie night, maybe consider throwing in a good documentary. They can expose you to new things and new stories of real people in the world around us. The harsh reality is, if we do not stop watching Big Momma movies, Martin Lawrence will never stop making them. As long as we do not reject awful parody movies, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer will continue to take 45 minutes out of their days to “write” them and I suspect their stockpile of unfunny movie ideas may be endless.
Allen is a journalism graduate student. Reach him at [email protected]