It is my annual (or bi-annual or periodic) list of documentaries I have seen since last time I did this and that I would label as "Bob-Approved" or strong to quite strong.
I absolutely love watching documentaries and over the course of time I have become a bit of a source for some of you on what documentaries are worth seeing and which are not.
Rather than ripping some that I found to be a waste of time, I have assembled lists that I think if you select, you will enjoy your documentary experience. I think many of these can be found on Netflix or Itunes, but since rights to these films change rather frequently, I will make you figure that out on your own because by the time you read this, the information about where to find them might be outdated.
Now, before we enter our 4th edition list, please find here the 1st 3 versions of this list.
1. I Love Documentaries - Part 1 - From August 2008
2. I Love Documentaries - Part 2 - From March 2010
3. I Love Documentaries - Part 3 - From March 2012
And now, all of the documentaries that I think are worth your time that I have seen in the last 12 months - with a short summary courtesy of IMDB. I admit that this is a lengthy list, but they are all good films in my opinon. I will bold the best 5, but beyond that I don't want to rank these because they are all so different and are worthy films.
Pelada - 2010
Away from the bright lights and manicured fields, there's another side of soccer. Two players, twenty-five countries, one game.
One Day in September - 1999
The 1972 Munich Olympics were interrupted by Palestinian terrorists taking Israeli athletes hostage. Besides footage taken at the time, we see interviews with the surviving terrorist, Jamal Al Gashey, and various officials detailing exactly how the police, lacking an anti-terrorist squad and turning down help from the Israelis, botched the operation.
From The Sky Down - 2011
In the terrain of rock bands, implosion or explosion is seemingly inevitable. U2 has defied the gravitational pull towards destruction; this band has endured and thrived. This documentary asks the question why.
Winnebago Man - 2009
Jack Rebney is the most famous man you've never heard of - after cursing his way through a Winnebago sales video, Rebney's outrageously funny outtakes became an underground sensation and made him an internet superstar. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer journeys to the top of a mountain to find the recluse who unwittingly became the "Winnebago Man."
Being Elmo - 2011
The film traces Kevin Clash's rise from his modest beginnings in Baltimore to his current success as the man behind Elmo, one of the world's most recognizable and adored characters. Millions of children tune in daily to watch Elmo, yet when Kevin walks down the street he is not recognized. Pivotal to the film is the exploration of Jim Henson's meteoric rise, and Kevin's ultimate achievement of his goal to become part of the Henson family of puppeteers. In addition to puppeteering Elmo, Mr. Clash is arguably the creative force behind today's Sesame Street, producing, directing and traveling around the globe training other puppeteers.
Four Year Plan - 2011
In 2007 Queens Park Rangers, a small Football Club of West London, were bottom of England's Second League and 2 hours from bankruptcy. Just as the club faced liquidation, they were bought by billionaire businessmen. Filmed in an observational fashion from a poetic distance, the documentary follows the larger than life and high profile characters who put their money and reputations on the line through 4 tumultuous years of enormous ups and downs. For 98 dramatic minutes we are given unprecedented access and remarkable insight into the worlds of sport, business, finance, power and ego - culminating in success in 2011, when QPR won promotion to the Premier League and the four year plan - set out by the owners in 2007 - was spectacularly achieved.
I Think We're Alone Now - 2008
Every celebrity deals with his or her share of obsessed fans. "I Think We're Alone Now" is a documentary that focuses on two individuals, Jeff and Kelly, who claim to be in love with the 80's pop singer Tiffany. Jeff Turner, a 50-year-old man from Santa Cruz, California has attended Tiffany concerts since 1988. Diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, he never had a girlfriend. Jeff spends his days hanging out on the streets of Santa Cruz, striking up conversations with anyone who has a moment to spare. Kelly McCormick is a 38-year-old hermaphrodite from Denver, Colorado, who claims to have been friends with Tiffany as a teenager. She credits Tiffany as the shining star who has motivated her to do everything in her life. Both Jeff and Kelly have been labeled stalkers by the media and other Tiffany fans. This film takes you inside the lonely lives these two characters, revealing the source of their clinging obsessions. This age-old story of unrequited love takes a comedic and emotional trip.
Uprising - LA Riots - 2012
The People Vs George Lucas - 2010
Uses a courtroom debate approach to explore the issues of filmmaking and fanaticism around one of the industry's most famous franchises and its creator. The innovative film combines filmmaker and celebrity interviews with fan films - submitted via the film's site - to make this the world's first digitally democratic feature documentary.
Game Of Honor - 2011
Extremely entertaining documentary taking a look at the rival football game between Army and Navy. Most sports documentaries might dig into the history of the rival, the fans hatred of each other or some sort of other events but this one here is quite different because the players themselves are different. We see the full 2011 season for the two squads but the football stuff is actually the least interesting bit. What makes the film worth watching is the behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to play football at these places. Not only do they have to train to play football but they are also full-time students, training for deployment and of course knowing that their five years after graduation will possibly put them into a war zone.
Trouble The Waters - 2008
A redemptive tale of an aspiring rap artist surviving failed levees and her own troubled past and seizing a chance for a new beginning.
Sonicsgate - 2009
"Sonicsgate" is a feature documentary film exposing the truth behind how Seattle lost the SuperSonics after a heated legal battle in 2008. The perfect storm of corporate greed and political impotence formed to rob loyal Seattle sports fans of their oldest professional franchise. As NBA salaries skyrocketed following the 1999 player lockout, the league's business model changed to require expansive new buildings paid for with taxpayer dollars. Seattle's KeyArena, built in 1995 as a remodel of the old Seattle Coliseum, just wouldn't cut it anymore according to NBA Commissioner David Stern.
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne - 2011
Ozzy Osbourne's four decade track record as a culturally relevant artist is unprecedented, but his personal struggles have been shrouded in secrecy, until now. Featuring never before seen footage uncovered from the archives and interviews with Paul McCartney, Tommy Lee and others, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is the first documentary to take viewers inside the complex mind of rock's great icon. Emerging from a working class family in war torn England, Osbourne and his neighborhood friends formed Black Sabbath and invented heavy metal. Plagued by self doubt, Osbourne the solo superstar went on a binge that lasted 40 years. God Bless Ozzy Osbourne will relive the highs of his triumphs as well as his journey to sobriety, which Ozzy regards as his greatest accomplishment.
Hearts of Darkness - 1991
Documents the sensational events surrounding the making of 'Apocalypse Now' and Francis Ford Coppola's struggle with nature, governments, actors, and self-doubt. Includes footage and sound secretly recorded by Elanor Coppola, wife of Francis.
An Unreasonable Man - 2006
A look at the career of consumer advocate Ralph Nader from wannabe presidential candidate to public pariah.
Jiro Dreams Of Sushi - 2011
In the basement of a Tokyo office building, 85 year old sushi master Jiro Ono works tirelessly in his world renowned restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. As his son Yoshikazu faces the pressures of stepping into his father's shoes and taking over the legendary restaurant, Jiro relentlessly pursues his lifelong quest to create the perfect piece of sushi.
Pulling John - 2009
John Brzenk is troubled by when to call it quits; should he retire when he is on top or wait until someone takes his title. After twenty-five solid years of total world domination, John Brzenk, is aware that his dethroning may be near, he just doesn't know the cause. As the prodigal arm wrestler, Brzenk excelled in a way that seemed humanly impossible. Hungry for the best arm wrestling competition, Brzenk traveled the world beating every opponent. With a humble and understated character, his legend supercedes him in the hearts of arm wrestlers in over 120 countries. Among the super warriors of arm wrestling are 2 titans from opposite ends of the world, bonded by one defining goal, to beat John.
Occupation: Fighter - 2011
Eight months in the life of a fighter, the film provides the opportunity to discover the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) sport in a fresh and striking new light, revealing the life of a dedicated fighter on his way to the top. In times of hard labor and an infamously tough economy, this film inspires the very spirit of our existence... to never give up. Over the course of 8 months, we learn about the amount of sacrifice and suffering professional fighters have to go through in order to stay competitive. Moreover, the challenges of life such as dealing with stereotypes, financial situations, relationships, and injuries are portrayed as seen through the eyes of a top athlete and the people surrounding him. The storyline continues to intensify as we approach what happens after the 8th month: Fight day! Occupation: Fighter is a feature length documentary film by Andre Enzensberger and Bavayou Films featuring WEC veteran Chad 'Savage' George.
Jens Pulver: Driven - 2011
Jens Pulver: DRIVEN is an intimate feature documentary film about legendary mixed martial arts champion, Jens Pulver, who rose from a childhood laced with violence and substance abuse, to become one of the most loved and respected mixed martial arts fighters of all time. The film presents an in depth look into the fighter, and his life, past, present, and future as we follow his last march toward what could be his final bout.
Queen Of Versailles - 2012
A documentary that follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles. During the next two years, their empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis.
The Imposter - 2012
A documentary centered on a young Frenchman who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years.
Project Nim - 2011
Tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s.
The Staircase - 2004 (warning: 10 hour documentary)
Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, presents a gripping courtroom thriller, offering a rare and revealing inside look at a high-profile murder trial. In 2001, author Michael Peterson was arraigned for the murder of his wife Kathleen, whose body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the stairway of their home. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers, home and immediate family, de Lestrade's cameras capture the defense team as it considers its strategic options. "The staircase" is an engrossing look at contemporary American justice that features more twists than a legal bestseller.
The Last Gladiators - 2012
In ice hockey, no one is tougher than the "goon". Those players have one mission: to protect the star players at any price.
As I usually say at the end of these lists, that should keep you busy for a while.