Documentaries

Time for a new category “Film.” What, prey tell, does film have to do with tea? Nothing. Except for the fact that a solid film is as relaxing and enjoyable as the best cup of tea or a great book to me. I’m not a movie theater person though, and most of the films I watch tend to be independent, unknown, foreign, anime, or just plain nuts. I don’t watch esoteric films just to be “cool” either… they have to be excellent and stand on their own. Documentaries are a particular area of interest to me, and almost an obsession. I’ll toss out a few films and quick overviews from time to time to maybe turn you on to some great entertainment. So, it is with documentaries I’ll begin:

“Johnny Berlin” – This documentary follows Johnny “Berlin” who works as a porter on an old Pullman car as a means to provide him with enough money to travel to some far away locale and pursue his writing. Sounds straight forward enough, and it is mostly filmed in the claustrophobic confines of the train while Jon speaks in monotone about just about every topic under the sun including The Dead Kennedy’s, re-used headstones, and pubic hair. In many ways you feel bad for Johnny, and most likely there is some condition or secrets from the past that account for his personality and life, but he endears himself to you and he possesses a great wit and intelligence which hits you almost unexpectedly. Simple, real, and exactly the kind of film that would never get made if not for a filmmaker willing to take a chance.

“Dark Days” – Live the life of a homeless person in NYC. This documentary is riveting and hard hitting but not in the usual way homeless are portrayed. You are not lead to feel sorry for them but to understand them and their lives. In fact this film singlehandedly changed my view of what “helping” the homeless really is. The “help” that we see as a positive, such as shelters, or finding them housing, are in fact quite the opposite. Filmed in black and white, Dark Days is a film that every person should watch and digest.

“American Movie” – One last documentary for today, and I’ll change to a happier and humorous note. A film about an amateur horror filmmaker. Doesn’t sound like a premise for levity, but I assure you it is. I have watched this movie countless times and laugh myself stupid each and every time. Another very simple tale that manages to cover a wide spectrum of understanding, emotion, and feeling. It’s required watching to even know me.

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