Apollo 11 (2019)

Another big Documentary Film this year is Apollo 11, it takes the raw footage of the launch and mission from NASA itself and creates the documentary. In this film from CNN we watch as the mission goes up into space and it is pretty unique that I think that NASA and CNN could do this with all the other missions. If you are a fan of Outer Space pick up this film at least once and if you don’t want to go out and find it CNN will be airing it on June 23 and again on July 20. Will this be the film that wins Best Documentary in the upcoming Oscars, that seems possible yet we are only halfway through the year and there are bound to be other documentaries released before the end of eligibility for the year.

Go Space out and watch it. It’s a cool movie and since July 16 marks the 50th anniversary of liftoff what better time to watch it. I am sure that various places will be showing this film this summer from the local museums to maybe an outdoor movie showing under the stars.

This post has been updated fixing a previous error and adding another date on which CNN will be broadcasting it.

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They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

In the fascinating documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, from Peter Jackson dives deep into World War I.  This is a topic that as an American I am not that on top of since the United States wasn’t really as involved in this one so it’s typically glossed over in history classes so as to get to the second one. This was a wonderful film that colorized a film of soldiers and looks at the brutal nature of the war. It also has narration from WWI Vets recalling the events. This seems like the odds on favourite to win an Oscar for Best Documentary at the 92nd Oscars, if it’s eligible.

As today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing it felt that mentioning these heroes fighting men from the World War who gave of themselves so that we all could live. If you haven’t had a chance to see this film I know it had a brief run, it is worth the time to go watch it.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary about Mr. Rogers. He was a pretty cool guy and had a television show that influenced many peoples lives. It is a decent film about Mr. Rogers who seems to be have a big upswing in pop culture right now, with this documentary and upcoming film with Tom Hanks as well as that documentary on PBS with Michael Keaton about the show. It is the 50th anniversary of the show and would have been his 90th birthday. If you watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as a kid and enjoyed it this is the film that it seems like you’d want to watch it at least once or pick up one of those other documentaries, like Mister Rogers & Me.

Everything seem to have the same thrust that Mr. Rogers is the balm that we currently need, with the simple ideas of human empathy, caring about one another and kindness. You know that thing called love that seems to have gone away over the past couple of year. It is a fairly straight forward covering his life on television and if you’ve seen or read about his life nothing is really that shocking.  This film will be on PBS some time in Early 2019 so you won’t have to wait long.

 

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (2015)

I Am Big Bird is a documentary about Caroll Spinney, it came out after Being Elmo and is somewhat similar in scope as it allows us to learn a bit more about the man behind the character. I’ve watched both film and find the Big Bird one to be a whole lot better. Although that could just be my impression of Elmo compared to Big Bird.  This doesn’t really seem like a film where spoilers are possible.

The film begins with a brief overview of Caroll’s life before working with Jim Henson and Sesame Street. He was in the Air Force and after that it was in the early 60s and he was on the Bozo Show in Boston. At a puppeteering festival he met Jim Henson and Henson asked if he’d like to talk about the Muppets, in ’69 at another puppeteering festival Henson was there and saw Caroll once again Henson was impressed and asked if he’d like to talk about the Muppets. This time Caroll agreed and he joined Jim Henson working on Henson’s new show Sesame Street. Caroll was given the role of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Throughout the first season things just weren’t working out and Caroll was about to quit, but Kermit Love convinced him to stay. Big Bird evolved and became an integral part of the show. Sure Big Bird’s role has changed over the years with the introduction of Elmo and the younger viewers the show was geared to them, not sure how it is now since I haven’t watched Sesame Street since it has sort of moved to HBO.

If you watched any Sesame Street in your life this is a great film to watch. It had me in tears at times. This film is best for the older set as well, I wouldn’t recommend watching it with anyone under the age of like ten as it does go into some more mature material.

Mercury 13 (2018)

This documentary from Netflix is really interesting. First off it’s about early spaceflight which is a very interesting topic in general I am a big fan of the film The Right Stuff (about the Mercury program) and miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (about Apollo) so this one was up my alley.  This is about the women who underwent the same tests as the men did to determine if they were fit to be astronauts. The tests were developed by William Lovelace and with the influence of Jacqueline Cochran. There were several rounds of test but unfortunately it was never sanctioned by NASA and was shuttered before it really got that far. It shows how far we’ve come that in the 60s there was a Congressional hearing about women in space. This is pretty crazy as you’d think that they would really want anyone who was willing to go to space to go, just to beat the Russians but it would take some time for the US to have women in space. The old boys club was set and unwilling to budge. Thankfully it changed and Sally Ride eventually got into space followed by Eileen Collins who became the first female American to fly in space piloting the Shuttle first in 1995 and the current pool of astronauts is diverse.

If you got the chance to watch it please do to learn a little bit more about the beginnings of the Space programs.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film about the African American Experience in America. It is based on the James Baldwin unfinished novel, Remember This House, which was a manuscript which contained the personal recollections of Baldwin on civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Now this should be a film that everyone goes out and watch or it should be added to like high school history classes. It could help kids figure out how broken the world still is even though “we solved racism” by electing President Obama. Racism will exist for awhile longer, but I believe that Rodgers and Hammerstein were right in their song You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught “that it’s not born in you, it happens after you’re born.”

The film itself was rather interesting as in most history classes that I’ve taken you hardly get to the Civil Rights era or they gloss over it talking about Martin Luther King and Civil Rights Act of 1964 in like the final weeks of class. So it was nice to learn a bit more about these figures Evers, Malcolm X and MLK. It is available to watch on PBS until the end of the month so make some time to watch it.

The Vietnam War

The newest Ken Burn documentary film about The Vietnam War is a deep dive into the Vietnam War the often forgotten war since it was one that America lost. Now, I was born in the middle of the 80s and in school we glossed over it as the focus was World War II since that’s the big War then it would sort of peter out in the 60s with JFK assassination and early LBJ with Civil Rights. So the closest I’ve come to this War was the films and shows that take place in it. The first was the television show The Wonder Years set during the Vietnam War on the home front. As for films it was either Good Morning, Vietnam with Robin Williams as the radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Service or Operation Dumbo Drop the Disney movie from 1995 about a group of soldiers bringing an elephant to a village inspired by true life events. All of these were comedies-dramas so that about all I knew about it for year. I’ve gone on to the other well known gritty films Platoon, The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now over the the years. It wasn’t until college that I actually did any work with The Vietnam War when in a class on the 1960s where we read A Rumor of War, Phillip Caputo’s memoir on Vietnam.

I’ve been watching The Vietnam War and learning a whole bunch of things that I didn’t know about Vietnam so I’ve decided to reread  A Rumor of War more on that later. This should be a series that everyone needs to takes the time to watch as it explains a lot about how society got to be the way it is today. Burns and Novick tell to story from all sides involved it’s wonderful so far

Five Came Back (2017)

The latest documentary Five Came Back on Netflix focuses on five directors who went to and fought in World War II and came back from it alive. This documentary was interesting as when it comes to World War II we some 70 years out all know the broad strokes of it, there Hitler takes power, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Holocaust, Bombings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Sure HBO’s two brilliant miniseries focusing on the Army (Band of Brothers) and the Marines (The Pacific) telling the stories of the two theaters of war and there are a bunch of great films on World War II but this documentary tells an interesting story of the people who went to war and how it changed them.

Five Came Back focuses on John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens all of whom are directors who joined the War effort Ford joined the Navy while Wyler, Huston, Capra and Stevens all were members of the Army Signal Corp. All of them were involved in filming World War II. The documentary features famous directors all talking about one individual Steven Spielberg talks about Wyler, Francis Ford Coppola talks about Huston, Guillermo del Toro talks about Capra, Paul Greengrass talks about Ford, and Lawrence Kasdan talks about Stevens. In the first hour we hear about how they made names for themselves before the war, the second hours is about their time at war and the third hours from D-Day to after the war and what became of them afterwards. If you are a fan of film history this is a very interesting film to watch.

One of the coolest things that I’ve discovered after watching is that you can watch the films that they made during WWII which were talked about in the documentary on Netflix as they have a handful available to watch. If you have some time I would recommend that everyone watch this.

Elstree 1976 (2015)

Elstree 1976 is an interesting Documentary about the lives of some of the lesser known Star Wars actors, It focuses on Paul Blake, Jeremy Bulloch, Garrick Hagon, Anthony Forrest, David Prowse, Angus MacInnes, Pam Rose, Derek Lyons, Laurie Goode and John Chapman and looks at the impact that being in Star Wars had on them. Sure everyone knows Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett and David Prowse was Darth Vader but it is interesting to see them without the masks on. The documentary is sort of interesting for the first three quarters of it and it is wonderful that these unrecognized actors from Star Wars are getting a time to shine. It has the built in audience of Star Wars fans and it seems that might be the only audience. It is a clever idea for a film and is something wonderful to come from kickstarter. If you’d like to know a little more about the unknown actors of Star Wars this is a fun film to check out.

The Wrecking Crew (2008)

This is a documentary about The Wrecking Crew, session musicians behind some of the most iconic songs of the 60s. If you listened to any of the records from like The Beach Boys, The Mamas and The Papas, Phil Spector groups, and many others even Frank Sinatra you’ve heard them play but may not know them. These were the musicians behind the bands in the 60s. I hadn’t really heard of The Wrecking Crew until the film came out, but I guess that could be said for a lot of people. If you haven’t heard of them go watch the documentary and discover a unique part of the development of Rock and Roll. It’s nice to see these people from behind the scenes get the recognition that they deserve even after all these years.