Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Documentaries Part 1

A couple days ago, someone made the point that for all the films I talk about, I've never once touched on the Documentary genre. Honestly it's simply because I don't watch a lot of Documentaries. It got me thinking: why?

Why is it that when faced between a choice of "Hollywood Schlock" and a Documentary, I'll choose the schlock 9 times out of 10? There certainly is a plethora of excellent Documentaries out there.

My problem, I think, is that I've been burned once too many times. Far too often it feels like Documentarians get so caught up in the strength of their subject matter, that they neglect the entertainment element. I may be over cynical in this regard, but if a documentary is boring then it doesn't matter the subject matter or the strength of your message; you'll lose your audience's attention.

Without further ado, here is a quick list of the critically acclaimed and highly celebrated Documentaries that I just couldn't stand.

Paper Clips
PREMISE: A group of Middle School students from a small town collect paper clips to represent the people who died in the Holocaust.
REACTION: Heartwarming story that goes on far, far too long. It feels like there's an hour worth of padding here.

Game Over
PREMISE: In 1997, a machine beat the world champion chess player. But what intrigue was going on behind the scenes?
REACTION: Tries to build a grandiose conspiracy out of a game of chess (Um, points for effort?). It just comes across as too little story spread over too much time.

Look, chess is about what's going on under the surface. The filmmaker's job is to show us that; this film hinges on the audience understanding the mindset of Kasparov. Instead we just get people talking.

Blind Spot
PREMISE: After 50 years of guilt-ridden silence, a secretary to Adolf Hitler finally tells her story.
REACTION: How in flying hell is it possible to make that boring?! I mean, holy crap! A retelling of the final days of Hitler's life from a woman who was with him in the bunker.

Yeah, this movie is 90 minute of a single old woman talking to a camera. With no music.

A story this compelling shouldn't have been given such a dull treatment.

Well, that's it for me today. In Part 2, I'll be looking at the Documentaries that blew me away.

Until then, I'm the Trenchcoat Anti-Critic.

1 comment:

  1. I see your point about entertainment and such. I never once really cared about how entertaining a doc was because I kept busy while listening to the doc's words... In other words I was paying attention to mostly audio multitasking. Also for the fact that Im a hound for knowledge and the information is all im interested in... Even when I watch entertaining stuff, I try to find subliminal msgs or study the storyboarding and directing.