Friday, November 30, 2012

10 Best Documentaries of 2012


Below are the 10 best documentaries I saw this year. Most of which were released theatrically or at least online in 2012. Best features coming soon.

1. Marina Abramovic the Artist Is Present
Easily the most inspiring film I saw this year. It documents the Serbian performance artist’s recent residency at MOMA where she sat in the foyer of the museum, motionless, staring at whoever was in front of her for 8 hours a day, everyday, for 3 months. It also goes into her incredible history of performance work that, upon serious consideration, really boggles the mind. I saw the show in NY and it stuck with me for months. The film also plays as a wonderful love story about two extreme artists growing apart. I can’t remember the last time I actually shed a tear for any reason whatsoever but during the scene when Ulay sits with Marina- a salty drop of water rolled down my face. 

2. The Imposter
This is one of the more incredible stories I can recall hearing about. I first read the long form article on con man Frederic Bourdin in the New Yorker years ago. That piece makes him come across as a monster but in this documentary he actually seems kind of sane- it’s the unfathomably idiotic and possibly criminal white trash family that look bad. If you’re not familiar with the story: Bourdin was a French man that traveled around Europe pretending he was a kid to get into social programs for youth- not because he was a pervert but because he was alone and had nowhere to go. In order to stay in a boarding house he had to come up with an identity and through a series of conniving manipulations, Frederic convinced the staff he was a missing boy from Texas. Then, after he flies out to San Antonio, things get crazy. While some of the re-enactments in the film are distracting, it is an otherwise engrossing and well told tale. At the heart of the story is a mystery- what happened to the missing boy? We may never know.


3. Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
A late entry for documentary of the year. Stacy Perelta’s film is a fascinating look at the personalities behind the boards that dominated 80’s skateboarding. These guys are truly legends- they created a vocabulary of tricks and moves that shaped a culture. Their dedication, innovation and love for the sport is intoxicating and inspiring. Rodney Mullen is the best on screen character of any movie this year. The man is an actual genius on the level of Glenn Gould. His analogy that ends the film comparing skateboarding to the unread literary classics is nothing short revelatory. 

4. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Pure inspiration. A film about what happens when a man dedicates his life to a craft and the resulting human excellence. Essential viewing for any artist or any one that eats food. If you like this movie also check out El Bulli: Cooking In Progress.

5. Give Up Tomorrow
A very fucked up story about corruption at the highest levels of power in the Philippines. I thought American cops and politicians were bad- but these people are truly the scum of the earth. Two young sisters are found savagely gang raped and murdered. It turns out the father is connected to organized crime and is about to testify against a colleague- the murders may have been a warning to him. As usual, the crime family has the government paid off so they pick a bunch of kids to blame for the murders in order to protect the father. Some of the kids have mountain of proof that they didn’t do it and the one the story focuses on, Paco, wasn’t even in the country at the time. Regardless, they are given a death sentence. The story goes on from there- check it out. 


6. There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane
A portrait of a family in deep, deep denial and totally blinded with grief. I found it fascinating to watch these people that can’t come to grips with the fact that their beloved Diane was not a good person. Aunt Diane was by most accounts not very likable. She had major abandonment issues, was irritable and grumpy and was secretly alcoholic. One day while driving her and her brothers kid’s home, she drove the wrong way down a highway and into an oncoming car- killing herself, the 5 kids with her and 3 men in the other car. The film thoroughly dissects the events leading up to the incident and the resulting pain experienced by loved ones. The sad sack husband comes off as particularly pathetic. My theory is that it was suicide. Even if you are stoned and a little buzzed- you don’t drive down the highway at full speed for mile after mile until you hit someone. I think she was deeply disturbed and wanted to die so she took the kids out with her. A hard scenario to grasp but people really are that evil. Great documentary.

7. Better This World
Two young American protesters are coerced, fooled and entrapped by a piece of shit undercover fed. I got so angry watching this film I almost snapped. An excellent example of just how scary, real, and twisted the Patriot Act, “Homeland Security” and the resulting surveillance state has become. Essential viewing for any American.

8. Hot Coffee
Don’t let the name fool you, this is one of the headier, more intellectual docs I have seen in a long time. Remember the case where the grandmother sued McDonalds for the coffee being too hot after she spilled it on herself? That’s the launching point for this discussion on tort reform (a law forbidding companies to compensate people they fuck over, hurt or kill), forced arbitration by corporations (clauses hidden in the fine print of contracts saying you cant take the company to court if shit goes down), and most importantly, the corporate takeover of the judicial branch of government. Corporations truly run American and they don’t give a fuck about you. The woman who spilled the coffee, Stella Liebeck, is an American hero. 

9. Marley
Any documentary on Bob is going to be awesome by default. This one was done particularly well. Though 1992’s Time Will Tell had better and longer interview footage (some re-used here), this film spent more time on his last months alive when he was sick- a period usually glossed over in Marley docs. The footage of the hills in Jamaica where he grew up, pre-Trenchtown, was amazing. One can only imagine what Bob would have done were he still alive. JAH! RASTAFARI.

10. Pink Ribbons, Inc.
A really interesting expose on breast cancer culture and the scumbag companies that exploit and benefit from a painful and deadly disease- and the fools that buy into it. It’s good to see what most consider a sacred cow completely shot down.



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please see Boy Interrupted-poigent tale of a young man with bipolar disorder and his suicide

Anonymous said...

I personally think it's over the top disrespectful that it was decided to post Ms. Schuler's death picture. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Anonymous said...

You are obviously a liberal fanatic looking for blood money by hoping blood-thirsty advertisers will pay you money to advertise on your self-absorbed site. You're not any better or above the same corporations you complain about that are taking money from innocent people. You are heartless and outright mean for posting the picture of Diane Schuler while she lie dead. Regardless of what you think of her and what came as a result of this tragedy, there are still living family members such as her son that are innocent and may love the memory of what he had with his mother. You can never fathom what Diane's family or the family of the other victims may be suffering - but to post a picture of this woman is disrespectful and ugly to everyone and including the world that suffered and continues to suffer from this horrible tragedy. I hope you never have to see your beloved family members or friends displayed so thoughtlessly - reality or not.