Day 26 – 10 Netlfix Documentaries for People Who Would Rather Read

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge).

Today’s post is Buzzfeed inspired.  That is, I’m giving you a glorified list of things.

A little over three years ago I cancelled my cable (part of my path towards financial freedom), and decided I would read more.  Even though most evenings I would rather spend curled up with a good book, like anyone else, I still enjoy the occasional Netflix evening – minus the “and chill” part.

What I don’t like, however, is the endless scrolling through the infinite choices of things I’ve never heard of, or worse.  Passing over gems like Sharknado and Zombeavers, one can easily become discouraged and reconsider that book. But in most cases, the addiction of scrolling simply continues ad infinitum.

Not to worry.  I can save you the scrolling. Here are ten documentaries currently available on Netflix streaming that you won’t regret spending time wathcing on a Friday evening at home: Continue reading “Day 26 – 10 Netlfix Documentaries for People Who Would Rather Read”


Day 24 – Black Mirror : A Look at our Dystopian Future Selves

I may be a little late coming to this, but the British show Black Mirror, currently streaming on Netflix, is one of the best pieces of dramatic social commentary I’ve seen in some time.

In this anthology series, each episode tells a different story from the perspective of a not-so-distant future “us” that has somehow allowed certain technologies to progress to their logical, albeit dystopian and destructive conclusions. Continue reading “Day 24 – Black Mirror : A Look at our Dystopian Future Selves”

The Unknown Known: Is there a takeaway?

Tonight, I saw the recently released documentary about Donald Rumsfeld.  It was about his handling of the Iraq War, and an overarching perspective of the decisions he has made throughout his political career….I think.  The film is called “The Unknown Known“, and it was directed and written by Errol Morris.  I say ,”I think” that is what I saw, because throughout the entire 103 minutes of interviews and footage (all of it entirely between Mr. Morris and Mr. Rumsfeld), I had a hard time deciphering the narrative, or “point”, of the whole thing.  More precise, I could not figure out Mr. Morris’ position on the matter of Mr. Rumsfeld.

Based on the promotional spots for this film, I believed I was going to see a documentary that somehow revealed something about Mr. Rumsfeld that I had not already thought before.  In short, that there was something more behind the public persona he portrayed while in public office; a persona, I might add, that I remember as coming off as calculating and manipulative. However, the movie left me with a feeling of utter vagueness.  I couldn’t tell what the point of it all was.Unknown knowns

At some points throughout the film, I felt that Morris was trying to prove Rumsfeld was complicit in his knowledge of a plan for the second Iraq War in 2003, prior to the attacks on 9/11.  Rumsfeld is filmed reading memos he had written that seem to indicate he had some foreknowledge of the plans to attack Iraq.  Or, what some also might call, the “Neo-Conservative Agenda for the Middle East.”  But then, a few minutes later, Morris allows Rumsfeld the cliché when asked about the outcome of the Iraq War, “Everything seems amazing in retrospect…Stuff happens.”  What is Morris trying to prove here?  That Rumsfeld is complicit in something sinister, or that he deserves the benefit of the doubt?

The film then delves into a historical exploration of Rumsfeld’s political career, coupled with a smattering of personal anecdotes (I guess for the purpose of humanizing the subject of the film).  And yet, each of the sub-topics of his civic and political career; his time in the U.S. Navy; his positions in the Nixon and Ford Administrations; his actions leading up to and during 9/11; seem to have an implication that “something fishy is going on”.  And yet, these “fishy implications” are never summarized, or spelled out by Mr. Morris.  One is left wondering, “what was the point of all that?”  I for one left wondering, “what did I just see?”

Was I to believe Rumsfeld was culpable for covering up something during his time in the Bush Administration?  Or, was I to believe that he was a noble man, doing his job, and simply made an honest series of mistaken decisions along the way?  There is much evidence to suggest that the latter is not the case.  Morris does not offer an overt position or explanation on either in the film.

In fairness, it could have been Mr. Morris’ intention all along to present a nuanced portrayal of a controversial figure.  Perhaps, I am simply too caught up in my pre-conceived notions of Mr. Rumsfeld to give him a fair shot.  Or, perhaps Mr. Morris knowingly used Mr. Rumsfeld’s own words and calculated demeanor to paint a picture of him that so may Americans already suspect…

Just as Mr. Rumsfeld perfected the art of language manipulation in his press conferences (as the film shows), Mr. Morris utilizes Mr. Rumsfeld’s own words and smarmy gestures to show that there really might be something lurking under the surface that is not entirely tangible.  There just might be, as Morris hints at throughout the film, something hiding behind that wide grin….Something, as Rumsfled might say, that could be considered an “unknown known.”


Say what? – anachronistic language in our favorite period dramas

Who doesn’t love a good period drama?  Whether it’s the classic movie “Gone with the Wind”…, or the more recent successes of “Lincoln” and “Downton Abbey”, westerners (Americans) love reliving the “good ol’ days” when everything seemed more simple; more, tidy.  While these shows are certainly entertaining, do we really get an accurate picture for how real individuals from those time periods would have spoken about and acted towards issues such as equality? Think about it:  we watch these programs about 19th and early 20th century societies, but we wrap them in a cozy, warm blanket of 21st century, post civil rights viewpoints.  carson

As this NPR story details, the key to discovering how we impress our 21st century morals onto the past is by paying close attention to the use of words and phrases in our favorite Pre-WWI drama series’.  Did Abolitionist Republicans during the time of Lincoln use the word “equality” the same way we think of the word today?  Most likely not.  Are the butlers and maids in Downton Abbey really struggling with their own feelings of homophobia?  Probably not, considering the notion of “being gay” as part of a person’s identity and not merely a sexual behavior, is an idea prominently attuned to the 20th century.

Although, I guess this could happen in reverse too.  Think about those 1960s and 70s movies about what “the future” will hold.  More often than not, modern versions of the future are nothing more than a stylized reflection of the present.  That is of course unless aliens and superhuman’s decided to adopt from us such revolutionary styles as “the afro” and “polyester wear”.

The point is, try as we might to recreate the past, or project the future, we are always imposing upon it our own modern notions of right, wrong, and what outfit will make this character look most sexy?