I love documentaries. Does that make me a nerd? Perhaps. But I don't care. I'm a cute nerd, right?
Learning about new subjects or people or history through imagery and narration and interviews and theories is completely fascinating to me. I guess that's why I'm a journalist.
Documentaries with random topics have a special place in my heart. I still remember that one day in American History class during my junior year of high school, when my teacher made us watch a documentary on President Garfield. James Garfield was only president for less than a year (before being assassinated). My fellow classmates were bored to tears with the film. Most of them slept at their desks, others talked quietly amongst themselves, and a few worked on assignments for other classes (these were the days before texting or ipods). But I was riveted. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. There was one harrowing moment during the documentary, when the narrator described the tragic death of Garfield's infant daughter. It had me in tears. I was so moved, I didn't even care that the hottest guy in class was staring at me like I was insane. The documentary was THAT GOOD.
With all the dozens of documentaries I have seen in the past few years, there are a few that I know will stick with me forever. They are the most bizarre, most random documentaries I have ever seen. They are the ones that had me staring at the screen, thinking "um, wtf."
I decided to share these gems with you. Put them on your netflix list, rent them at Blockbuster, or check them out at your local library. You won't regret it. Trust me.
Werner Herzog is the strangest and probably most brilliant filmmaker in the world. His 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man, shows us why. He follows the story of Timothy Treadwell, a man who was so obsessed with bears, he moved to Alaska to LIVE with them. Like, as a fellow bear. While doing this, Timothy also manages to snag an actual girlfriend who comes to live amongst the bears with him. (She was either crazy in love, or just crazy. Maybe both). Unfortunately, the moral of the story is that humans can't live with grizzly bears.
The King of Kong
I picked up this 2007 documentary from the library, thinking it would be harmless and fun. Instead, it kind of creeped me out. The story revolves around Steve Wiebe, an all-American husband and father who decides to take up the video game, Donkey Kong, while unemployed. Steve is just a nice, suburban guy who thought it would be fun to try and beat the world record for the game. But when he tries, he finds himself caught up in the seedy underbelly of the Donkey Kong world, which is ruled by Billy Mitchell, the current champion of 25 years. Scary Billy & his middle-aged fan club circle poor Steve like sharks, making sure his scores don't even come close...
My Kid Could Paint That
Have you ever seen a piece of modern art at a museum and thought it looked like something a kindergartner drew? Well, it might have been. This 2007 documentary focuses on four year old Marla Olmstead, of New York, who became a huge hit in the abstract art world with her paintings. In fact, her paintings became so popular, they started selling for thousands of dollars per piece. The documentary takes an interesting turn when it examines whether or not Marla was even the one creating these phenomenal artworks, or if she had help. Also, if a four-year-old is scribbling on a blank canvas, without any reasoning, should it really be considered art?
In the Realms of the Unreal
Sometimes geniuses can be found right under our noses. This 2004 documentary, narrated by Dakota Fanning, reveals the brilliance of Henry Darger, a janitor who had no friends or family. While alone in his pitiful little apartment, he spent hours working on his 15,000 page novel, titled, "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion." It was illustrated with hundreds of drawings and watercolors. His life's work was only discovered after his death in 1973. Warning: This documentary will make your head spin.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Another genius, but this time a musical one. Daniel Johnston is a manic-depressive singer, songwriter, and performer who shook up the burgeoning alternative rock scene in the 80s and 90s while living in Austin, Texas. His bizarre and raw material turned off a lot of people but also brought him a huge cult following, which includes fans such as Kurt Cobain and Johnny Depp. Its his heartbreaking personal life, however, which makes this documentary a must-see.
So, what are some of your favorite documentaries?