Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Best of 2005: Documentaries

The year 2005 was a pretty bang-up year for documentaries, but for you, dear readers, I've culled my faves down to five:


5. Inside Deep Throat
An entertaining trip down memory lane through the platform-heeled sleazepit of the Seventies, with the particular thrust (heh heh) being the notorious X-rated gem that made Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems household names (well, a lot depends on the household, I suppose). What's not to like? I'll take porn over penguins any day.


4. Grizzly Man
Less a documentary than an impressionistic work by legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog, who manages to put his indelible vision on the story of another visionary, the late Timothy Treadwell. The "grizzly man" of the title, Treadwell was an environmentalist-filmmaker who lived among the wild bears of Alaska until -- well, knock me over with a feather -- he was done up and eaten by one. Herzog, who pored through more than 100 hours of footage taken by Treadwell, presents a complex portrait of a man equal parts solicitous, insane and just another society burn-out. What I personally like most are Herzog's bizarre, occasionally jarring, narrative asides about the common denominator of nature being chaos and murder. Oh, those nutty, nutty Germans ...


3. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
If you don't like Bob Dylan (and if not, shame on you), you'll like it. If you like Dylan, you'll love it. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this is a big, dense chronicle of the rise of the enigmatic Robert Zimmerman -- and a wonderful reminder of the crucial role that music can and does play in shaping our beliefs.



2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
The get-pissed documentary of the year makes the Enron saga a bit easier to understand, but filmmaker Alex Gibney, for the most part, stays away from the scandal's technical side. This is chiefly a fiery corporate-horror story. While Gibney makes a few leaps in interpretation -- such as explaining Enron's evil streak by way of Stanley Milgram's behavioral experiments of the Sixties -- this is still compelling, infuriating stuff. And few moments in modern cinema are quite as jaw-droppingly gross as actually hearing the Enron traders laugh about causing misery in California.


1. Murderball
Although undoubtedly the finest sports documentary in recent years, Murderball is much, much more. It is that rarest of documentaries, a work in which filmmakers Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro came expecting one subject but instead stumbled on to a wide range of human experience. At its most direct level, the movie follows quadriplegic rugby -- known to its hyper-competitive participants as "murderball" -- as practiced by the U.S. Paralympics team. The picture is dominated by two larger-than-life personalities, the U.S. team's Mark Zupan and the Canadian team coach, Joe Soares, but Murderball ultimately explores richer, more fundamental truths about humankind. Just great.

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At 12:57 PM, Blogger LilRed said...

What?! No "March of the Penguins?" Come on!!!

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

When did you get so militant over penguins, LilRed? I thought it was only cats you liked. Anyway, just so's yah knowed, "March of the Penguins" woulda come in at #6.

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger LilRed said...

I am a lover of animals, my friend. Cats are at the top of my list, but animals in general kick ass. People, on the other hand? Not so much.

 
At 3:03 PM, Anonymous whitepawn2a6 said...

Hey, what about Why We Fight? I liked that documentary a lot.

 
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I have to admit ... I didn't see that one.

 
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