Sweetgrass is an extraordinary non-narrative documentary about sheep herders in Montana rustling their sheep across country for 3 months through wild grazing fields. Most scenes are static mountainous vistas, single-shot scenes as if they’re were directed by Jim Jarmusch, long quiet shots that allow the viewer to observe everything in the frame. Several ultra slow zoom shots are breathtaking. There is no voice-over narration, very little information given. You just have to sit there and watch it and take it all in. The sound of the sheep can grind on the nerves, but that’s my only complaint. A beautifully shot, unique documentary, maybe not perfect, but one worth keeping an eye out for.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil is in the same class as The King of Kong. It’s a documentary that tells an entertaining and touching story about a subject that most viewers probably would never care about but will once they get to know the people in it. I laughed out loud through much of it, but was equally moved as the story unfolded.
From the linked DVD Talk review:
It’s easy to describe “Anvil!” as a real world version of “This is Spinal Tap,” and the comparison is incredibly accurate… While suitably absurd and prone to spotlighting rock cliché humiliation, “Anvil” is a far more reverberating and loving film than it seems at first glance… [It presents the core members of the band] as sensitive, generous, and terrified men nervously facing the rest of their life without the proper career explosion they deserve, and that potent tension turns “Anvil!” from a cheap laugh to a documentary that’s thrillingly heartfelt and extracts a genuine reflection on life that’s downright poetic.
I didn’t think I’d be interested in it, but it’s a good movie. A good story.
Food, Inc. is a documentary film that addresses the problems of industrial food production. Nobody wants to see how hot dogs are made, but you don’t want to see how factory farm crops are grown either. We’re gradually making ourselves sick with this crap (which includes meats, fruits, vegetables and just about everything sold in supermarkets). We’re not doing the environment much good either. If the information presented in Food, Inc. doesn’t convince you to make healthier food choices and shop at farmers markets, nothing will.
Dark Days is a documentary about a group of homeless people who live underground in abandoned subway tunnels in New York City. It was shot entirely on film by the director and the homeless people in the movie. None had any previous film experience. It is one of the most impressive achievements in filmmaking I’ve ever seen, a surreal and compelling documentary. The “making of” bonus material on the DVD completes the story.
From the linked DVD Talk review: “Dark Days is an alternately humorous, saddening, touching and fascinating picture that is a masterful documentary of the lives these people lead and the hope in their hearts for a better life… This is a powerful, emotional picture that is an amazing effort from director Singer. It’s definitely a must-see film.”
The King of Kong is a documentary about two guys going for a world record in Donkey Kong. One of them, Billy Mitchell, comes off as such a conceited jerk, you want punch him in the nose and knock him down in the mud. It may not be an important documentary, but it presents an engaging story of good vs. evil and it’s entertaining. The editor deserves an award for piecing together a compelling, exciting and entertaining story, just as good — if not better than — most dramatic feature films from this past year. I couldn’t believe the people in it are real. The movie is full of characters who are the definition of geek. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that they’re all actors and the whole story was scripted. But it’s all real. And thus surreal.