Monday, December 19, 2005

Doc Doc Goose

One nice thing about the holiday TV hiatus is that it gives us all a chance to catch up on DVDs. A number of documentaries bubbled to the top of my Netflix queue:

  • MAD HOT BALLROOM - Delightful. When I heard about this movie, I figured it'd be one of those heavy-handed deals about kids lifting themselves up from poverty through dance. Or growing up and learning how to deal with their identities and the *gasp!* opposite sex. Or coping with a high-pressure competitive situation.

    While MHB touches on all these, it's with a light, deft hand. The filmmakers don't have any obvious agenda, except that of showing the joy these young dancers express as they merengue and rhumba.

  • MARCH OF THE PENGUINS - Amazing story, amazingly filmed. Really just a National Geographic special writ large, it's nonetheless an astonishing tale, full of sweetness, perserverance, loss, and hot penguin-on-penguin action. It's not afraid to make you choose sides (seals are mean!) and goes to some lengths to anthropomorphize the penguins, who already look like a scrum of maitre d's.

    Although the making-of doc behind the doc tends to the overwrought ("Do I darken the purity of the White Continent with words?"), it provides more birdy footage plus context for the filming, which included a near-fatal whiteout that sidelined production for a month.

  • MURDERBALL - Apparently audiences found quadriplegic rugby players less cuddly than penguins. Too bad. This story is far more gripping and immediate. Lively and lecture-free, MURDERBALL zings with the energy and personality of its stars. Yeah, these guys are in wheelchairs, but they're just as ornery, proud, horny, independent, and occasionally juvenile as anyone else.

    At its heart a sports movie, MURDERBALL follows Team USA and their Canadian rivals, and the drama runs high. A parallel story thread about a newly rehabbed young man trying to come to terms with the shifted definitions of his life provides both bitter and hopeful moments.

    The most heartbreaking scene for me, though, came at the very end, where the team demos quad rugby for future players among Iraq War veterans, all of who look about fourteen years old.

  • MONDOVINO - Not as well-shaped as these others, MONDOVINO zips from vineyard to vineyard around the world, painting a sobering (har!) picture of the impact on the wine industry of globalization, technology, and high-profile consultants.

    One year, an Orellaia red sells for 35 Euros. The winery partners up with American juggernaut Mondavi, and the next year the wine's at 110 Euros and named the best in the world. Not, importers and retailers note, because the wine got better, but because it was made more palatable to the market and critics. Kinda makes me feel like a slob for buying my wines from the bottom shelf at Vons.

  • Goose! WINGED MIGRATION - Okay, I saw this ages ago in the theater, but it was top of mind because:

    (1) It's another incredible story about the natural world.
    (2) Even more than MARCH OF THE PENGUINS makes you gasp, "How did they film that?!"
    (3) Though narration-free (Morgan Freeman must've been booked), it contains myriad mini-narratives, some funny, some sad (crabs are mean!).
    (4) It's the DVD selection of the month in the cat area of the kennel some friends are using to board their feline over the holidays. Yes, in LA even the cats have screening rooms.

    chris said...

    Ok. You just made me want to join NetFlix...and sign up my parents for Xmas...

    MaryAn Batchellor said...

    You should add "Cry of the Snow Lion" to your documentary list on Netflix. It's breathtakingly beautiful and thought provoking without being preachy. Amazing footage and unbelievable information that we don't hear on the six o'clock news. Trust me on this one.

    Kira said...

    Thanks for the recommendation, Maryan. It sounds like an intriguing film.

    Chris, I adore Netflix! No late fees, an incredible selection, and you don't have to go any further than your mailbox.