Why I like Documentaries

Some people may wonder why it is that I keep watching documentaries. It’s true; documentaries just are not as popular as the regular Hollywood fare, perhaps it’s because they aren’t speckled with Pitt’s, Goslings, Aniston’s and Jolie’s, which is actually kind of a shame. I don’t mean it’s a shame that they aren’t in a documentary, and I’m sure they have been/will be at some point. The shame is that we are so often pulled into movies simply to watch these big names flit about, and lately I’ve been kind of disappointed in them. I’m not calling out the actors I listed specifically either, since I do generally like them. I just happen to know who these ones are. So, feel free to substitute their names for whoever is actually popular and new right now.

Critics rave about this new movie or that new movie, but a lot of what I’m seeing is…well…*cough* boring. I’ve actually seen, or read, a lot of the stories they are coming up with now before, in some rendition or another, and the concepts and stories all seemed better the first time around. I’ve seen more movies with stacked casts in the past five years that have plodded on to be about nothing then I care to shake a stick at (My cats might enjoy that, but I digress). There are only so many times I can do the same plot, or no plot, before I get a serious case of the why-bothers. The space on my wrist starts calling to my eyes to check the time and I don’t even wear a watch any more. Ironic that I think documentaries are the answer, I guess.

And yet, they are! Well, I think so. Why? In these mostly true stories you get to meet real people, and real people have this thing about being unique. Non-Hollywood faces and unscripted interviews in film add a level of contrast that makes stories about nothing implicitly more interesting. Yet, I think for most documentaries, because of the bad rap they have for being the ugly backwoods cousin at the film parties, they often try harder to entertain you/move you/teach you. They don’t have a movie star (usually) in them for people to stare at, so, they have to actually do something.

A while ago I had a family member tell me that they don’t watch documentaries. I was a bit flabbergasted. Sadly, this attitude seems kind of common for these films. The stigma of the documentary is that they suck. I’m not sure if it is school documentaries that start this ball rolling or what, but like classical music is to pop music, there just isn’t really a fan base that seems to vocally give a crap.

That’s why I feel that I must give a crap (and crap is actually rather cheap this time of year). I will take these wallflower films out onto the dance floor of the internet and shake things up a bit. I don’t really care if I was interested in a subject before I watch them, or what awards they’ve won, or anything else. They’re with me now, I’m taking them to the prom (aka home from the library) and we’re gonna have a good time. Maybe once I get to know them I can introduce them to someone new. Maybe even someone like you.

You see, I don’t care if they happen to be a bit unpolished, or low budget, or biased, because I can always go to the library, or online, and find one that is of the exact opposite opinion, or even duh dum dah!…pause for dramatic effect…research them myself. I do that. I know. It’s kind of weird.

I’m a bit obsessive about the truth that way. I think that truth is often objective, and can sometimes depend on your personal circumstances and a whole ball of other varying factors. This might not be a popular opinion, particularly to the no-shades-of-gray crowd (no, I’m not referring to fans of that book). See, I sometimes think that my whole world is gray and we are often equally right and wrong for various reasons. Everytime I think I’ve finally found the answer to something, another layer of the onion falls away and some new angle pops up that changes everything. So, in my quest for the truth, I want to hear lots of different opinions, about lots of different things, because only then can you get enough perspective to actually, maybe, know what the bleep (also an interesting documentary) you are talking about.

So, in the spirit of the current nerd revolution, where it seems almost everyone who is intelligent now identifies with the freaks and the geeks, of which I proudly and fondly count myself, I hold my documentary filled head up high! These unpopular and often picked on Frankenstein’s monsters of film are simply misunderstood! And since you don’t look like the torch waving type, and you came here all on your lonesome, without the restless mob, let me introduce you to my friends here. You may just be surprised at what you see.

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29 thoughts on “Why I like Documentaries

  1. My husband and I love the ‘discovery channel which often has real life documentaries on it. But I will admit to watching some ‘mostly old’ movies on the Turner channel. They were much more interesting then I think those of today….actually I can’t attest to today’s except for hearing what others say because we don’t go to the movie theater. You’re likely not as old as I am so can’t remember some of the ‘oldies’….Diane

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    • I must admit to a fondness for some of the oldies too. Some of my favorites were My Fair Lady, The Man From La Mancha and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. 🙂

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      • I liked South Pacific, other musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers…strictly fun…I loved the old Boston Blackie mysteries, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart….(forgot the title) little gray cells..fail me. There were so many. I’m sure I’m much older than you…Diane

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  2. i love documentaries. there is so much to see and learn and so many different people having experiences that are nothing like my life experiences. way better to hear someone’s truth then watch the same lie over and over again.

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    • That’s so true! Even when I get one that I think I know everything about there’s still some nugget of information to learn, or a point I might not have considered. It’s great to see life through someone else’s eyes. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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      • You might try the 1941 black and white “It Started With Eve,” a comedy with an outstanding performance by Charles Laughton.
        I also like documentaries but one has to be cautions as so many now seem to be sensationalized, written more to draw viewers than to teach facts.

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      • Thanks for the suggestion. I must admit to also having a soft spot for some old films, so I’ll have to check it out. 🙂
        I think you make a valid point about needing to be cautious about what you believe, particularly about movies that pawn themselves off as the “truth” about something. For me, that is part of the fun of docu watching, because it’s not really as passive an activity as feature film watching. You have to come to them with an open mind, but you also have to watch what they say and think about it critically. Are they actually telling you the truth, or are they just making a fancy opinion piece? Are there facts involved? And if so, are the facts actually true? I might be kind of weird this way, but I love hearing different ideas and then looking to find out the truth of the matter, or at least the argument of the matter, since the truth is often buried in the grey area in between. I don’t really take anything as fact until I’ve had a chance to do some research of my own and decide for myself. It’s just so interesting to hear these different opinions and ideas and see different places, cultures and all the little things that work in the world around us. I want to know as much as I can about everything, but I’m kind of an information junkie. 🙂

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    • Yeah, they often don’t pull their punches, so the point they try to make often hits you, sometimes unexpectedly. The good ones get your heart and mind. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

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  3. We watch as many good docos as we can get–much like you (library, streaming etc)…we’ve probably seen 25 this year already. Thanks for posting this piece and for getting the word out.

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  4. I am with you on this and as an artist I seek the truth. I like some movies too but documentaries are really my thing. Thank you for the visit; it gives me a chance to view your post and get to know you!

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  5. The older I get, the more intrigued I am by documentaries. After all, most stories and themes were already covered by Shakespeard and the bible (not in that order). And inasmuch as most movies nowadays are about out of space creatures, which I cannot relate to emotionally, I would rather attach myself to a story about a real event. Nice post!

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  6. We don’t watch TV at home–don’t have cable. But when we stay in a motel, the first thing we do is check out the History Channel. My grownup kids still love Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. Ken Burns and Stephen Ambrose know how to present history in a documentary. Then there is the Planet Earth, and some amazing wildlife specials. Or Guns, Germs, and Steel. Fun post. Got me thinking!

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    • That’s so awesome. 🙂 I have seen most of Planet Earth, but will have to check out Ken Burns and Stephen Ambrose. Guns, Germs and Steel has been on my “to read and to watch list” (which is really way too long!) for awhile, and I’ve heard some pretty good things about it. Thanks for the ideas! I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂

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