Monday, April 4, 2011


Recently, The Hedonist Jive took in some edifying documentary filmmaking in hopes of getting edified ourselves. As it turned out, the three most recent films we saw of the documentary persuasion were all quite good, and all came out in 2010 & have recently come to DVD/download. If you don't mind, I'd like to tell you about them here.

"THE TILLMAN STORY" - Remember when Pat Tillman, ex-NFL star, died in Afghanistan bravely protecting his Army Ranger unit from Taliban fire? Yeah, didn't happen. This well-paced documentary pieces together how his grieving family themselves pieced together how Tillman's death by bungled "friendly fire" was badly mismanaged by the US government in hopes of scoring a public relations coup off of the handsome, charismatic Tillman. While not the most outrageous government cover-up of all time by any stretch, it's hard not to sympathize with his immediate family, a rough-hewn, curse-a-lot bunch who lived only a few miles from my boyhood home in San Jose. Tillman's wife was even visited by military officials during her grieving in hopes of overriding Tillman's explicit wish to not have a big-deal, press-heavy military funeral in case he died. Another head-shaking chapter from a very strange recent era of warmaking. B+

"JOAN RIVERS - A PIECE OF WORK" - Joan Rivers, likable. Who knew? This "revealing documentary" follows the plastic surgery disaster herself as she hustles and sells her talents like the true Type-A personality she is. Nothing much happens, except you get to experience what it's like to have been a "something" years after mainstream audiences have stopped caring. Rivers doesn't like that. She's got the gays in her pocket, sure, as well as anyone who loves bitchy comedy with a raw, raunch-filled mean streak. She's also got a lot more self-awareness and character than I ever imagined, and she's pretty unflinchingly vulnerable in what I found to be a very enjoyable look at her seventysomething world. A-

"WAITING FOR SUPERMAN" - As an avowed opponent of the status quo in government-run schools, I'd been wanting to see this for months. It's the documentary that more than any single factor - "Race To The Top", Michelle Rhee, teachers' union self-sabotage - has helped to finally bring America around to the roots of our decades-long slide in public education. As it turns out, I think "THE LOTTERY", which mines similar territory, is actually the better, more dramatic film, and it pissed me off even more than this one did - but "Waiting For Superman" is the big-budget, let's-break-it-all-down for you primer course for what's wrong, what's working and what still needs to be done. I challenge all union supporters and head-in-the-sanders to see this and not be moved and angered at how poorly the United States is serving itself by holding its kids hostage to the job-security needs of adults. There are alternatives - good ones - and I'm not talking about pulling dollar bills out of a mattress for exorbitant private schools. I'd better cut this off here and grade this thing, because I feel a high-and-mighty rant coming on. B