Tag Archives: documentary

The Booksellers: A Review

The Booksellers directed by DW Young
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was an absolutely lovely documentary about the book world, specifically the rare book dealer world. It focused less on the stories within books and more on the stories of the books themselves. The only negative was that the film was too short, needing a more in-depth look into the collections of these booksellers.

The film focused on specific booksellers in New York City, but also about the history of book collecting and book binding. Did you know that there are books bound in human skin? Most of these books have made it into museums and libraries, but there are still a few collectors still in the game.

There has been a decline in collecting, though. Part of it is limited supply, and part of it is limited demand. Booksellers are having to pivot to keep up with the changes brought on by the internet and technology as a whole. Older booksellers would say the whole industry is dying, but there a still young people with a lot of ideas to keep it alive.

Book collecting is different than just buying a lot of books to add to a growing TBR. The libraries are curated to a specific theme. One collection may have just women writers, while another follows the history of hip-hop. And it is usually more than just the books, but other items that support the history they are collecting.

So book collectors are essentially historians with a love of their items. First editions aren’t always the best, sometimes it’s annotated copies or signed copies (especially signed to specific people). There was this infectious love of the search. The search that has been dampened by the internet, but it still out there.

It might have taken 20 years to find a particular book at one point, and now it may only take minutes on eBay or a bookseller site. But the love of books, the growing collections of books, is still a loved past time. It has definitely changed the way I will look at my own bookshelves and how I want those shelves to reflect me the next time I am ready to cull back or add to my own library.

There is no significant profanity in the film. Maybe some brief nude images on the cover of books for some of the stranger book collections. No violent content, either, though there is a section discussing how they wish their collections will be handled when they die.

Knock Down The House: A Review

Knock Down The House directed by Rachel Lears
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to watch this documentary because I thought it would be interesting to see the process of a campaign during an election year. The film follows four women from various parts of the country who are trying to win in their primaries during the 2018 election. This is during the primaries, so at this point, they aren’t running against another party, but an established incumbent within their own party.

Did you know that there are organizations whose main purpose is to find new people to run against already established candidates? Two that were mentioned were the Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. They basically seek out working class people to enter into grass roots campaigns to replace well established incumbents.

Each of the candidates had separate motivations for why they wanted to run and different obstacles to overcome. Sometimes it was personal, sometimes it was to make a difference in their neighborhoods on specific issues. Immediately, I recognized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as one of the candidates the film followed. I also had heard of Cori Bush as well. But I knew very little about the other women.

It was really heartbreaking for those that lost (but I looked them up and one of them has won their primary this year). I really got invested in their stories.. The strategy and stress that go behind each of the campaign is incredible. Seeing AOC gather her community and acknowledge them every stop of the way, I can see why she won.

I think this is a great film to learn about the process, the work, and gain respect for those who campaign for public offices. They and their team put their hearts and souls into it. It didn’t make me want to throw my hat into the ring, but I gained a new respect for these women and all of the smaller names on the ballots. Even if I don’t agree with them on every issue, it takes a lot of guts and sweat and tears to get out there.

There is no profanity in this film, maybe a “hell” here or there. No sexual content or violent content. One of the candidates does talk about how her daughter died which was the catalyst for her to get involved in politics and advocacy.

The Social Dilemma: A Review

The Social Dilemma directed by Jeff Orlowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The documentary portion of this film was excellent. It opens on a series of interviews with former and current engineers, designers, presidents, and ethical decision-makers of some of the social platforms we all use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. The main premise is how these platforms began with pretty pure motives. They were created to be content-sharing, thought-sharing communities, but eventually, the financial aspects and opportunities turned these platforms into places that can effectively build and destroy those same communities. Even whole countries can rise and fall to the power of manipulation these platforms hold.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I think this documentary is meant to give awareness to the potential of harm that has already happened in our country. And I had noticed already a lot of what they talked about in this film.

Take Facebook, for example. When I got an account with Facebook, it was a little more focused on college campuses. My university had to sign up for Facebook, and then the only way I could get an account is through my university email address. Of course, a year later, it would be open to the public. Then, I remember that the newsfeed was chronological in the beginning. So many of my friends were upset when it changed to only show the friends we seemed to be more engaged with. Out of 500 friends, you might only see 25 of those friends’ updates on your feed. You would have to go to each of the other 475 profiles to see any of the other updates.

Then, as Facebook became a publicly traded company, they had to really show that they could make money. They created a way for advertisers to only show ads to those people who fit their demographic, and that algorithm got smarter and smarter. Soon, there was this bubble around each person, pushing the agendas and ads that would drive this person further and further to the fringes.

One of the interesting things was how different a search on climate change would be depending on where you live in the country. The top autocompleted searches would change if you lived in Texas versus California. Everything is built so that you will stay on the platform, because the longer you stay, the more ads you see, the more likely you are to buy.

I have my own thoughts about all of these platforms. I haven’t been a fan of Facebook for a while, so I might have a little confirmation bias. But it is good to approach these platforms with sober intentionality, a time limit, and an awareness of where these algorithms try to pull you.

The only thing I didn’t like was the fictional family that they follow throughout the show. The parents seem helpless. The oldest child seems aware of what is going on and prefers books to screens, but acts with more authority than the parents because she seems to know better. The two younger children are swept up in the rabbit holes and “likes” obsessions. And the ending is a little dire. I kept thinking, we have more tools as parents than what is presented. There are ways to keep up with what your kids are seeing online. When the girl smashes the compartment, the next scene shows her still having a phone. I mean, what the heck?

Still, this documentary is a good one to watch, even if it just lends a little more self-awareness to what you are doing online. There are a lot of things available now to track your intake and what exactly you are taking in. So I definitely recommend this one.

There is profanity in this film. No sexual content. One of the fictional children struggles with her looks. All the violent content are videos of riots and fighting, as well as a riotous protest in the fictional family story.

Behind the Curve: A Review

Behind the Curve directed by Daniel J. Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating film, but not really because of the flat earth movement. It felt like it was more of a look at conspiracy theories and how people can get really involved in the communities surrounding these conspiracies. And how difficult it can be to change your mind once you have committed.

The documentary opens on a man named Mark Sargent who is apparently pretty popular within the movement. He talks about flat earth’s validity simply based on the number of views his videos have or the number of members they have in their society. The science seems to be lacking or at least circumstantial, but it is believed by a lot of people.

The documentary then interviews people within the science community, mostly from CalTech who don’t’ believe in flat earth theory, but are fascinated with the people who do. It also has interviews with psychiatrists to discuss how someone could get involved with something like conspiracy theories, and there is where it really gets interesting.

When they look at a lot of the flat-earth community, they find that the majority of them want to be special, to be heard, and to belong to a larger society. They find all of these things by believing flat earth theory. But it’s more than just flat earth. It’s anti-vax, deep state, secret societies that are ruling the world. In one way or another, all the big conspiracies out there have found a tie to the world being flat.

The film itself was engaging. You come to really care about the people who lead, who disagree, who make art surrounding this belief system. The conference was the most interesting. There was a guy named Matt who was at odds with Mark and claimed the the whole conference was a big conspiracy from Hollywood. I mean, why not? According to most of the membership of the flat-earth movement, everything is a conspiracy.

It’s a fascinating watch. I’m so glad that one of my friends recommended it to me. It helped me to understand other people’s beliefs and the motivations behind people’s beliefs, especially when it comes to conspiracy. And 2020 has been full of them. Highly recommend!

There is profanity in the film but it’s not significant. This was one of the milder documentaries that I have watched this year. No sexual content or really any violent content at all.

Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers: A Review

Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers directed by  Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Beliefs are mercurial things”

So begins the narration by Mickey Rourke about a strange conspiracy from the late 1980s. A man named Bob Lazar comes forward on a news broadcast to talk about his time working for some secretive organization in the government. It has all the trappings of UFO conspiracy, and just enough of it is true that it all might be true.

He alleges that he was hired to work in a place called S4 north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Up to this point, he had been working on jet engines. When he arrived at this covert operation, he says he worked to reverse engineer technology that he had never seen before, tech that he believed were from aliens. He divulged this information anonymously at first, but later revealed it as himself.

His background is complicated. He alleges that he went to MIT and CalTech, but they have no record of him. He also says he woeked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, but they have no record of him, either. Yet, they do have him listed as a contact in the Lab’s directory during his alleged time working there. He has gotten in trouble with the law and been raided a few times, which is all used as evidence to substantiate all of his claims. If they were untrue, why would he be targeted so much?

The film was a bit chaotic. The music was ominous, and there were these flashes of random images – some including aliens, but others that didn’t seem connected. The flashes left me a little motion sick, which made it hard to focus on the information on the film, but maybe that’s what they wanted.

Overall, I don’t have a strong need to know whether or not there are aliens that have visited our planet. It was interesting in how information can be bent when processed to fit into our own confirmation bias. If we choose to believe him, then everything will match up. If we don’t, then we see the flaws in his argument. I felt it more fascinating to watch the filmmaker trying to make sense of everything going on. It was an okay film, but I could have done without the flashing images and ominous music, instead letting the information speak for itself.

There is profanity in the film. No sexual content or really any violent content unless you count the images of distorted aliens or skulls.

Immigration Nation: A Review

Immigration Nation directed by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This is a new documentary (came out on August 3, 2020) about the state of Immigration and its process. It covered a lot of the things I see in the media already – the separation of families, the harrowing journeys crossing the border, and the ICE raids. But I learned so much more.

Most of the episodes followed immigrant families or ICE agents. The first episode starts as ICE agents in New York City are going to different apartments to apprehend targets who have received a deportation order. Under the Obama administration, the main focus was on people who had committed serious crimes, but now all violators are in danger of being deported. And if an ICE agent enters a home with a target but finds others who are in the United States illegally, they are also taken, called “collaterals.” One ICE agent talks to the film crew about how he doesn’t take collaterals when he goes for a target, and minutes later, his boss calls over the radio to order him to bring in at least two collaterals so they can fill their quota.

Agents have to become desensitized in order to do their job. Some even looked at it like a game. They repeat over and over how it is not personal. Their hands are tied. They are just doing their job. The PR guy for ICE was very specific in his wording when he gave presentations or talked to people about ICE operations. He was super creepy and slimy. He would mention the word criminal, but that could mean anything from murder to a traffic stop. And the agents would repeat the rhetoric, most not really wanting to face the entire truth.

Families are still being separated all over the country, just not in the shelters at the border. One man has to say goodbye to his wife and children as he is deported back to El Salvador where he will most certainly be killed, as he was a police officer that helped American agents apprehend drug gang members from his country. A grandmother seeks asylum for her and her granddaughter because gang members want to force her young granddaughter to marry. The granddaughter got to stay in America with her mom. The grandmother was deported, and will probably be killed.

Plus, people who are already granted asylum in the US don’t have a guarantee they can bring their families with them. Even when it is clearly a civil rights issue, the paperwork alone can delay the process, leaving families separated and detention centers full. One mother is separated from her children for five years, only when she returns to Africa to talk to the embassy do things start to happen. And that trip was incredibly dangerous for her, considering her husband paid to have acid thrown at her, hence the reason she had to leave. It still took five years.

There are so many heartbreaking stories. And the solutions are not easy. This is a system that is set up to keep people out, and a lot of the changes need to start with the Executive branch decisions. I learned so much from this film, but I wish they had followups at the end of what became of the families that were interviewed. Overall, it is an excellent, in depth, heart-wrenching series that I highly recommend to anyone!

There is profanity in the film. Not much explicit sexual content – mostly just talks of rape or the forced marriage. There is some violence – the story of the woman who had acid thrown on her, the dead bodies in the desert or the river (including a child, so trigger warning there), but all faces are blurred.

Miss Representation: A Review

Miss Representation created by Jennifer Siebel Newsom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This documentary from 2011 was recommended to me by a friend.  The director and narrator, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is an actress who had recently found out she was having a girl.  This sparked a deep dive into the way our community is set up for women, and how the patriarchy plays a part in both politics and Hollywood in keeping women from believing they could become leaders in industry.

I had heard about much of the content in this film through conversations and even in the media, probably since this film came out.  It covers the fact that women are encouraged to seek power through sexuality and not their intellect.  It described the evolution for women’s rights from WWII when women were working in the factories, through the 1950s when media encouraged women to return home, on to the ERA and then how Hollywood still continues to portray women in narrow roles.

There have been some things that have changed since this film aired.  The Me-Too movement happened.  There have been more and more women involved in politics as well as more female production companies in Hollywood.  In fact, I watched the TV show Mrs. America which gave a look into the ERA and the anti-ERA movement of the 1970s which is mentioned in this documentary.

But we still have a long way to go before we can really consider a realistic representation of females in leadership as it reflects to the number of women in society.  I found it interesting that a lot of the conversation around women in this film also applies to people of color as well as other marginal groups.  It was really shocking to hear what some men felt completely comfortable to say on live TV about their female counterparts.  And that still happens. Just a few weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to some inappropriate public behavior of a fellow congressman.

There is profanity throughout the film.  The sexual content consists of women dressed and moving provocatively and talking about rape in headlines.  The violent content included video of women getting cosmetic surgery and pictures of women covered in bruises after assaults.

I felt convicted to really keep an eye on what I was watching, to critically think about what messages are being communicated in how women are portrayed, even in major roles in film, even how they are portrayed in news media.  I think this film is a good starting point to the conversation, but it shouldn’t stop there.

A Rotten Netflix Show

Okay, so how could I not play with the name of this series on Netflix?

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but this show hooked me. I wanted something slightly educational, as well as something I can watch while I fold clothes. Rotten is a documentary series on Netflix that checked both of those boxes.

At first, I thought this was another “guess what is in your food” kind of show. But instead, it kind of assumes you know the basics. While it does briefly touch on a few of the processes for each food product, it is really about the whole culture surrounding it. It’s about how government policy, climate, and consumer demands affect everything in the process.

For example, the first episode is about honey. They talk about how bees make the honey and the difficulties of bees disappearing or colony collapses. But they also talk about some of the crazy things local beekeepers have to deal with and decisions they have to make.

One problem is that China sold diluted honey (diluted with sugar syrup) to America, making a very cheap product and American beekeepers could not compete. Even when America put tariffs on the honey to help American beekeepers, China still found ways to circumvent the tariffs by sending it through a third country.

Another problem is when American beekeepers lease out their bees to almond groves in California to help with pollination. It sounded like a great idea, but then someone came and stole whole colonies out of the orchards. They ripped off any identification, so when the thousands of stolen colonies were found, they couldn’t get them back to the rightful owner. So any keeper that leases their bees to these groves could lose the hive forever.

Each episode doesn’t end with an answer to the problems that these keepers/growers/farmers face in food production. Of course, it promotes buying from small, local farms, but it doesn’t villainize bigger operations. In fact, it shows human faces to all of it. It really discusses the complexity of how our food shows up in the supermarket and how being an informed consumer will help in the long run.

Season 2 recently came out. I’ve already watched a few of those episodes. I will put a caveat on this show. There is some profanity, mainly in the people being interviewed. They are not bleeped out. It is rated Mature and I think it’s because of the profanity. Nothing else really stuck out to me as graphic or gory.

Overall, I am really enjoying it. I’m not sponsored by Netflix or anything like that. I just thought I would share this fascinating documentary. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the second season!

Matthew 13: 45-46


“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 4When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46 NIV

I watched the Fyre Festival documentaries on Hulu and Netflix, and on one of them (I believe it was the one on Hulu) it mentions that one person quit their job and sold everything just to be able to experience this adventure. Only, of course, to find out that they had been duped.

The millennial generation is known for their desire for experiences. Anything that can be Instagram worthy is even better. And that we will do anything for those experiences. The Fyre Festival is a great example of that.

In the above verse, this merchant was looking for fine pearls. It was his version of “that Instagram worthy experience.” And when he found it, he did everything in his power to get it.

God wants us to long for the Kingdom of Heaven experience. To search for it. To give up everything for it. And there are glimpses of this experience all around us. When enemies reconcile with one another. When people from different backgrounds come together under one cause. When a child is born. When a child is healed. When a person who is broken finds healing. Glimpses of a kingdom yet to come. And it’s definitely something more important, more precious, than anything else we have on this earth.

January Favorites

What a month. We have been dealing with some illness in our little family lately, so a focus on favorites is just what I need for a pick me up.

Book of the Month

I had a few strong four-star reads this month. I’m still working on my last book of my TBR (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath), but I’m really happy with the books I’ve read so far this year. If I were to recommend one, it would be this one, It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. I wrote a review for it here.

Baby

As I’ve said, we have had a lot of illness in our house this month. So you better believe we have had at least one pack of these in every room. We use saline drops as well, but when you hear that sneeze (and you know the one I am talking about), it’s good to have these nearby.  You can check it out here.

Beauty and Fashion

Michael bought me the Winter box from FabFitFun.com because I was really intrigued. It was on sale for about $30, and you got a lot of products in the box. In fact, I think the Winter box is still on sale, although from what I understand, you don’t get all of the exact same products. It seems that they change them for new products once the old ones run out, but I haven’t seen much that I wouldn’t enjoy getting. Anyway, that long explanation brings me to this face mask. I couldn’t find it on Amazon, but it’s a mask that you can either put on for 5 mins or leave on overnight. It’s the perfect hydrating mask for me on nights I don’t have much time. And I love the feel of my skin when I wash it off. 

Like most subscription boxes, I can get you a bit of a discount and they will also give me a discount. The Spring box comes out next month and I can’t wait to see what they have in store (which will probably be Michael’s Valentine’s present to me). Here’s the link for the discount.

Entertainment

I am a bit behind on all of the movies. I realize that this came out last summer, but it’s the first in my TBW (To Be Watched) list that I could finally rent (the next one is in February…it’s not weird to watch the Nutcracker in February, right?).

It’s basically a documentary on Fred Rogers. There are some things about his childhood, his education, the famous speech that saved PBS, and his later years where he was parodied and the rumors swirled. I remember those rumors as a kid. It was fascinating how they were addressed. Also, I learned a few things that warmed and broke my heart.

It’s definitely a good watch and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend.

What are some favorites you have been enjoying this month?

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