Documentary Days – Update #1

Hey there! I’m back from vacation, and promise (haha) I’ll post photos sometime soon. It was a really nice time, just hanging out and taking it easy in Austin, TX, which is by far one of my favorite cities. Maybe if you’re lucky I’ll tell you all about the AH-MAZING seaweed wrap and full body massage I got at this great spa & yoga studio called Yoga Yoga. Oh wait, I just did.

Anyway, I’m super busy, as always after a long time away from the computer. Yesterday was my first day back at work, and I started the day with a new client meeting for my personal business, then went to my day job, was there until around 7pm, then took a little downtime, followed by a couple of hours of client work for another personal client, then a couple of hours watching TV with The Man. Today I got up at 7am for a client meeting at 8am, followed by a fitness assessment by a personal trainer (oh boy, do I need help!), then home for a quick shower and change, to work from 11am to 2:30pm, and now I’m home, waiting for a Craigslist buyer to show up and buy a drum from me.

Yeah, it’s a tad insane right now.

Despite that, I’ve had time to watch four different documentaries since January 1st, and I plan to watch another tonight before going back to work. I’ve chosen an interesting mix of movies, and learned a lot so far, I think. The first movie I chose is called Of Dolls and Murder, a description of The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths. My mom is really into doll house miniatures, and for Christmas I did a lot of research to get her a few nice additions for her doll house. When I saw this documentary about dolls and forensics pop up on my Netflix list, I had to watch it. Each of the murder stories told within the Nutshells is a puzzling mystery, not actually meant to be solved, but rather to help investigators learn to look for tiny clues and understand forensic evidence. When Frances Glessner Lee created the tiny crime scenes in the 1930s and 1940s, she wasn’t building them for her own edification, but rather to help increase the rate of murders solved in a time when the police and the coroner did not typically work together. As an avid fan of CSI-type shows, this was right up my alley, and I sincerely admire the work that Mrs. Lee did in a time when women were simply not allowed to participate in the law enforcement world. It’s a very short movie, and not the best film, but it’s definitely worth watching to get a basic understanding of the topic.

The next film on my list was Nursery University, a disheartening look into the insanity that New Yorkers go through when choosing to put their children in nursery school. It’s a very upbeat movie, so not sure why I found it so sad. The movie follows four different families living in NYC who want to get their 2 and 3 year olds into pre-school programs around the city. The parents are all from different walks of life, from a economically disadvantaged couple who want a better life for their son, to a family with all the money in the world (seemingly) and are already planning their daughter’s Harvard years, to a couple who don’t particularly care where their baby goes, and find the whole thing laughable. I identified with the last parents most, but all of the couples went through absolute hell to get their kids into schools. There are wait lists and donation scams and no call waiting and only so many slots available for applications (which will be whittled down to two slots, etc.). It’s insane, and the chances are high that a child won’t get into ANY school at all, but if they do, tuition can be $15k or so. I’d recommend watching this movie to feel better about yourself for not living in NYC, and to marvel at how ridiculous helicopter parents can be.

I really enjoyed the next movie I watched, Vegucated. As an aspiring vegan, I liked the very friendly route the movie took to explain why people choose to abstain from using animal products, go over possible health and lifestyle concerns, and show why there’s really no telling where your meat and dairy products come from today, despite labels like “organic” and “free range.” A major problem I’ve always had with vegans is the holier-than-thou attitude, so I found it refreshing that that’s one of the first things the documentarian talked about when discussing her choice to become vegan, and how she was so annoyed/scared by others that it took her awhile to overcome the stigma. The documentary is mostly very simple, handheld video, and follows three New Yorkers from three very different backgrounds who enjoy meat and cheese, but volunteer to become vegan for six weeks just to see what happens. All of them start with health in mind, but believing that the experiment will fail. At the end of the movie, all decide to remain vegan or vegetarian. There are some horrifying things in the movie – slaughterhouse scenes that show how animals are treated before, during and after death. Live baby chicks are dumped into a grinder to be ground into feed for other animals. A gorgeous hog receives a bolt to the head. A calf is born and dragged away from its mother to become veal. The difference between conventional chicken farming and so-called “free-range, organic” chicken farming is shown. Spoiler Alert: there’s not enough of a difference to ever convince me that it will be OK to eat eggs again. Overall, it’s an informative movie that manages not to be preachy or make presumptions, and it was fun to get to see three real people trying to walk the walk and sometimes encountering road blocks. Definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet!

The final movie that I watched this week was A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt. It felt shorter and much less serious than the other movies, but I love watching food documentaries, so that didn’t matter as much. The movie is about a rising star chef in New York, and how his genius in the kitchen led to both success and failure in the restaurant world. It’s a bit hard for me to explain, other than that it follows the chef for seven years as he traverses the rocky road to critical acclaim by NY food critics. If you’ve worked your fair share of restaurant jobs, you’ll probably be interested in watching this movie, even if it’s just something you’ve got on in the background while enjoying a beer with friends.

 

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