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Pearl Jam Twenty (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on December 11, 2011

90. Pearl Jam Twenty (available to stream on Netflix)

Here is the trailer for Pearl Jam Twenty:

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Pearl Jam Twenty is a documentary that chronicles the 20-year span of rock band Pearl Jam. I was introduced to this band with all of my friends in the early 90s, and we all fantasized about Eddie Vedder and just loved the band and the music so much.  I had no idea that this documentary would end up making me as emotional as it did, but when certain songs were discussed, especially “Release,” I was a lost cause.  My connection to the music on my own personal level definitely influenced my reaction, but I imagine that anyone can relate.

I don’t want to talk about “plot” too much. There are interviews with everyone in the band, plus quite a bit of Chris Cornell, and no one minds that. Cameron Crowe wrote and directed the movie, and when you have obsessed over Almost Famous/Untitled as much as I have, you can see his style all over the place. It’s a really enjoyable film and an interesting study into the way a rock band works. I highly recommend a viewing, as soon as possible. Get on it.

Pearl Jam Twenty is available on DVD from Amazon for $17.99. Go get it right now.

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Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on November 28, 2011

89. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (Available to stream on Netflix, available to rent digitally from Amazon)

Here is the trailer for Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.

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Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the aftermath of Conan’s shortened Tonight Show run and following nationwide tour.  As someone who has never been a huge Conan person (although I was completely Team Coco while he was getting screwed by NBC), this was an interesting look at the man tied to all of the drama.

So, the beginning of the film gives us a short recap of the drama with NBC that led to Conan O’Brien walking away with $45 million, which we know now turned into a deal for him to do a show on TBS.  Soon after the end of his Tonight Show run, the tour was conceived and rehearsals began.  We are exposed to Andy Richter, Conan’s new backup singers/dancers, and his long-suffering (but hopefully well-paid) assistant, Sona.

So, Conan is really funny, but at times, incredibly exasperating.  He sells out most of the tour within minutes, and the audiences clearly love him.  He seems to be too annoyed about meeting fans and doing meet-and-greets.  Cut to Conan saying how he will never say no to someone but while he is saying it, it seems that he is relaying that he HATES it.  It sort of ruined the movie for me.  I’m sure the intent was not to make people think that Conan is a big d-bag, but it sort of made the rest of the movie hard to watch. I’m sure hardcore Conan fans will be all over this though.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is available on DVD from Amazon for $16.99.

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Bear Nation (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on November 26, 2011

88. Bear Nation (Available to rent digitally on Amazon)

Here is the trailer for Bear Nation.

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Bear Nation is the most recent documentary by Malcolm Ingram, who I previously praised about his fabulous documentary Small Town Gay Bar.  It teaches the audience about the bear community within gay culture.  The bears are bigger, hairier, more traditionally “manly” men – but the community also includes the chasers who love them.  I’m married to a bear myself, so I certainly understand the attraction.

The bears have entered my consciousness as a flag-waving fag hag in the past 5 or so years.  I knew it was a big deal when the innkeeper at a B&B in Provincetown told me how popular Bear Week was, and theme weeks in Provincetown are a BIG DEAL.  Bear Nation gives us a little more in-depth look at the subgroups within the larger group of “bears,” including muscle bears and leather bears, as well as focuses on a few chasers that aren’t bears but love them all the same.

My favorite part of Bear Nation is the joy I feel when seeing people who have found their people, found their place in the world.  A lot of the subjects of this film talk about being absolutely confused about being not only gay, but not interested in being or being with the twinky standard that many people think of when they think of a gay man.  Thanks to the internet, groups of bears started forming, gatherings started happening, and now the bears all have somewhere to go.

Malcolm Ingram, himself a bear, gives a wonderful look into a lesser-known portion of the gay community that have taken matters into their own hands and have an amazing time doing it.  I definitely recommend checking this documentary out. Go Bears!

Bear Nation is not currently available on DVD, but can be rented for $3.99 from Amazon to watch online, and for $2.99 from Walmart (totally surprising) to watch online.

Also, Malcolm Ingram’s next film will be a documentary about the infamous Continental Baths in NYC, where a young Bette Midler started her career!

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Vanishing of the Bees (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on November 21, 2011

86. Vanishing of the Bees (Available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon)

Here is the trailer for Vanishing of the Bees.

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Vanishing of the Bees is a 2009 documentary about the disappearance of bee colonies in the United States, later defined as Colony Collapse Disorder.  Narrated by Ellen Page, the film focuses on both commercial beekeepers who travel the country specifically to bring bees to farms that need their help in pollination, and organic beekeepers who are trying to give bees a more natural experience.

The honeybee disappearances started happening in the United States in 2007.  In addition to the immediate impact on commercial beekeepers, the bigger issue of the environmental factors that lead to CCD comes to light in the film.  The movie suggests that the widespread use of systemic pesticides, in which the pesticides are introduced into crops from germination (as opposed to the topical spraying of pesticides as done in the past) are creating a dangerous situation in which populations of not only honeybees but frogs and butterflies are facing certain death.

Much like the pharmaceutical industry, the research being done on the long-term effects on animal and insect populations of these systemic pesticides are being completed by the manufacturers of said pesticides, which is certainly worrisome – however, the film complains about this but does not address the fact that funding for these studies, outside of the big manufacturers, is hard to come by.

The story of the discovery of CCD in the United States, and the steps taken by the commercial beekeepers to research the issue and try to impart changes to sustain their business, is covered in the film.  The organic beekeepers who are more interested in letting the bees do their own thing (while still getting to collect delicious honey) have their own ideas about how the farming system in the United States is what is causing problems with the natural existence of bees, and necessitates the commercialization of honeybees.  It’s a vicious cycle, it seems.

Vanishing of the Bees is available on DVD from Amazon for $11.99.

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Crazy Love (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on November 15, 2011

85. Crazy Love (Available for streaming on Amazon, available on DVD from Netflix)

Here is the trailer for Crazy Love.

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Crazy Love is a documentary that is amazing when you don’t know anything going in. If you are interested in seeing this, do not read my blog post.

At the beginning of the story, we hear about a beautiful girl named Linda Riss, who is living life and meets a man named Burt Pugach.  They start dating and he wines and dines her, and impresses her with his extravagant lifestyle.  Linda plays along until she finds out that Burt is married and has a child.  They break up.

Linda meets a nice man and after some time, they become engaged.  Burt, who was obsessively in love with Linda, hires some men to attack her and they throw lye in her face, disfiguring her eyes and leaving her almost completely blind.  Burt goes to jail and remains there for some time, while still professing his love for Linda.  He starts sending her money, and he is let out on parole so that he can keep sending her money.  The story moves on, and the SHOCKER that I was NOT expecting at all was this.

Burt and Linda ended up MARRIED to each other.

Yeah, the guy who paid people to attack her and ruin her life.  Hmm.

The rest of the movie was me trying to understand how this happened, but it seems sort of obvious.  Linda was in a terrible situation without being able to find someone to share her life with who wasn’t turned off by her injuries or intimidated at the thought of having to care for her.  Burt came back around and said that he loved her and would take care of her.

I typed that but I still don’t really get it.  Not my situation though.  Even if you have read this far and have spoiled it, I still suggest you watch it, I thought it was really well done, and it was fascinating.

Crazy Love is available on DVD from Amazon for $15.99.

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