We’ve finally made it to the top ten — that means 5 days left in 2009 and the decade! Today you get two documentaries, and to liven things up, I’ve decided to add a bonus list, too: my top 11documentaries of the decade! It means you’ll get a sneak peak at a few of the movies to come in my overall list, which is fine by me. I have another bonus feature coming, too, but let’s do the #9 and #10 of the decade first, and then see the documentaries below that!
First, previous movies in the top 25 list (remember, these are my favorite of those I’ve seen this decade — see the link to movie #25 for a description of the list and the other movie links for previous descriptions):
#25: (500) Days of Summer (2009)
#24: FLOW: For Love Of Water (2008)
#23: In The Bedroom (2001)
#22: House of Sand and Fog (2003)
#21: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003)
#20: Wo Hu Cang Long (2000)
#19: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (2007)
#18: Hable con Ella (2002)
#17: The Wrestler (2008)
#16: Revolutionary Road (2008)
#15: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
#14: Hotel Rwanda (2004)
#13: Elephant (2003)
#12: Moulin Rouge! (2001)
#11: Juno (2007)
#10: Spellbound (2002)
Because I’m a big fan of documentaries (there are a total of 6 in my top 25, and 4 in my top 10!), I tend to see a good amount of breakouts in the theaters before they catch on with others, and I was lucky enough to see this one on the big screen as well. It’s a basic premise: make a documentary covering the National Spelling Bee, doing individual features on a few of the participants along the way. I think part of the genius is that spelling bee participants have to be pre-high school students, so the focus is on kids and their families. You have first timers and those who have been there before. Every one of them studies, but the amount varies drastically. You have participants with rigorous study habits and private coaches, with parents pushing them all the way. You have participants with language tutors (a lot of spelling is about etymology). Some rely mostly on what they know already and are more laissez faire about it. Personalities range from serious to bubbly to outright odd. In the end, it’s a fun and suspenseful movie that leaves a smile on your face, something lacking from many scripted movies being put out these days.
#9: The Weather Underground (2002)
Without last year’s presidential campaign, most people would never have heard about the Weathermen. But luckily for me, there was some kind of connection of Bill Ayers, one of the Weathermen, to now-President Obama, so it’s at least a recognizable group now. (Bob Dylan mentioned them, too: “You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”) In any case, this documentary details the doings of the “radical” (debatable) group acting out west during the Vietnam War protests. You get some historical footage along with present day interviews with former members (a trio died in the building of a bomb) to make a very engaging and thought provoking story. No matter your opinion of such protest strategies, you get a good view of what was happening during that time in history and what the Weathermen were seeking to do.
And here are my top 11 favorite documentaries (I’ve seen) of the decade! (Since 1-6 are in the general top #25 list and 7-9 in a soon to be released bonus list, I’ve only provided descriptions to #10 and #11 right now, but this page will change with other links as the year continues!):
1. The Corporation (2003)
2. Jonestown (2006)
3. The Weather Underground (2002)
4. Spellbound (2002)
5. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003)
6. FLOW: For Love Of Water (2008)
7. Wordplay (2006)
8. Neverland: The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army (2004)
9. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
10. The Natural History of the Chicken (2000)
I’m not actually sure if I saw this entire movie, but what I did see is enough to get it on this list. This movie is a precursor to other “investigative” movies like FLOW and Food, Inc., but with a twist. It’s a combination of vignettes about chickens (as the title implies). You see a bit about chickens in factory coops (and their overcrowding). You get to see a woman with her pet chicken. You get to hear about complaints of neighbors because of disruptive chickens nearby. We don’t think about chickens very much, but this movie put a nice personal touch on them. I saw this in a film class and then headed to lunch where they were serving my favorite dish, marinated chicken. I site it as one of the instigating factors in my vegetarianism!
11. Food, Inc. (2008)
I just saw this movie this past summer (in a theater, so that 2008 date may be a bit off) and really enjoyed it. There was a lot of information that didn’t surprise me, but a lot of new info, too. In all, it tells the story of the industrialization of food into lots of “food like substances,” make with lots and lots of high fructose corn syrup. There’s too much other information to detail here, but with it now out on DVD, you really should check it out (you can borrow my copy). It will hopefully make you think more about the “food” you’re eating and the choices you make when putting things into your body.