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Jason’s challenges

Documentary a Day – Marwencol

Documentary a Day – Marwencol

MARWENCOL poster 72dpi.jpg2010. 1 hour 23 minutes.  Stacy 3.5/5 & Jason

Written by Stacy

What an odd documentary.  We had no idea what this was about but checked it out of the library on the Facebook recommendation by a friend.  Mark was attacked by five men in 2000 and spent nine days in a coma and over a month in the hospital. He had suffered so much brain damage that he had to learn everything over again, including eating. walking and writing.  When his free therapy ran out he turned to creating a miniature town in his backyard.  He was an artist before the beating but he was no longer able to draw so he turned to creating a WWII town with dolls and telling their stories through pictures.

The pictures and Mark’s story were interesting and at times disturbing.  This one definitely takes you to a place you’ve never been before!

Documentary a Day – CT Fletcher

Documentary a Day – CT Fletcher

CT Fletcher: My Magnificent Obsession Poster2015, 1 hour 41 minutes.  Jason 4/5, Stacy 3.5/5

Written by Jason

Are you feeling bad for spending too much time on the couch?  Not working out as much as you want? Then this documentary might be just what you need.   But be forewarned, CT really enjoys cursing.  CT became famous on YouTube.  I think his intensity, honesty, and personality really come together in a way that’s kind of infectious.  At first you’ll think he’s ridiculous and then he will start to grow on you and by the end you’re ready to head for the gym or tackle whatever challenge you’ve been putting off in your life. 

CT had a difficult childhood growing up in Watts California when the riots were taking place.  To escape the mayhem of Watts, his family decided to move to a better neighborhood, Compton.  And if things weren’t bad enough on the streets of Compton, CT’s father was also physically abusive.  CT goes on the beat the odds and works for the postal service for many years and on the side he devotes himself to weight lifting.  He then goes on to become the strongest man in the world and he’s sets several world records for the bench press and curling.  Then while he’s still in top form he suffers a heart attack and doctors tell him he should never lift weights again.  His journey back to health takes many years and it also costs him his job and his house.  The postal service fires him after his disability time is exhausted.  CT hits rock bottom and then rebounds.  CT’s goal in the movie is to open his own gym and some of the story revolves around that.  However, CT’s story is much more than weight lifting, it’s about surviving adversity and reaching your goals no matter how improbable they may seem.  He has a hard work and no excuses philosophy that will make you think you can do anything.  Here is one of his clips.

Documentary a Day – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

Documentary a Day – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (film).jpg2010, 1 hour 37 minutes, Jason 4/5 , Stacy 4.5/5

Written by Stacy

Aussie Joe was over 300 pounds and on many medications for a number of disorders.  He was fat, sick, and nearly dead.  He decides to take control of his life so he comes to the United States, his second home, to juice his way across America.  Convinced of the healing powers of a plant based diet and wanting a body reset he uses his commitment touch others.  This was no small commitment either.  He spends 60 days on a juice diet with great success.

At this point it was informational, interesting, and completely in line with all of the other food documentaries we’ve watched this month, but it wasn’t until we meet Phil that it became inspirational.  Phil is depressed and reaches out to Joe after he gets back to Australia.  The two had met at a truck stop when Joe had been filming his juicing journey and had given Phil his number in case he decided to do something about his health (they shared an autoimmune disease).  Joe came back to the US to get Phil on the road to health.  It was uplifting and encouraging.  So encouraging that I will be adding a juicing piece to my next thirty day challenge.

There is a Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 that I’m sure we will watch.  It might not happen this month since I think we have watched four or five healthy food documentaries this month and at this point we only want to eat salads. Okay, okay, only Jason is eating salads I’m storing up fat and sugar for next month when I follow Joe’s advice and juice for a week.  Just ordered my juicer!

 

 

 

Documentary a Day – Inequality for All

Documentary a Day – Inequality for All

Inequality for All Poster2013, 1 hour 29 minutes. Jason and Stacy both give it 4/5.

Written by Jason

I’ll start by saying that this was actually a very entertaining and often funny film, which I would have thought was highly unlikely given its content.  The main character is former Secretary of Labor and current Professor at the University of California, Robert Reich.  Mr. Reich reminds me a little of John Stewart and that’s what makes this movie interesting.   As the title suggests, this film examines the income equality in the U.S., which today has matched its previous peak reached in the early 1930’s.  According to the film, the top 1% account for 23% of total income in the U.S.  Income inequality has been cyclical  throughout the history of our country.  If history repeats, the top 1% share of total income should begin to decline going forward.

How did we get to this extreme?  The major forces increasing this disparity over the past 40 years are globalization and technology.  Beginning in the 1970s, firms starting moving U.S. manufacturing overseas to take advantage of lower labor costs.  That trend has continued uninterrupted ever since.  Advances in technology, particularly in factory automation, have also resulted in fewer middle class jobs.  And when there is excess labor, wages don’t normally rise very quickly or at all.  A few years ago I visited the largest steel factory in Cleveland.  They told me that in 1975 the factory employed 20,000 people but today they have only 1,000 and the factory makes three times as much steel.  Walking through the enormous plant we almost never ran into employees except in the control rooms.  On the other side, top executive pay has continued to rise.  In many professions today, being near the top results in enormous income – think corporate CEOs, professional athletes, or entrepreneurs.

How do we fix this problem as a society?  This is a challenging issue because many of the proposed solutions could have negative consequences.  The simplest solution would be to tax higher earnings at ever increasing rates and that’s what we did last time.  In 1945, the marginal  tax rate on income over $200,000 (the equivalent of $2,400,000 today) was 94%.  That’s almost unbelievable, but that actually happened.  It’s easy to say tax the rich more, but the problem is that assumes the government will use that money for more productive uses.   Should we tax the rich and redistribute the proceeds to the poor?  Would that make our country stronger?  These are difficult questions and this film will certainly  help you think about these topics in different ways.  This is a major issue for our country and I would encourage you to watch this movie and consider this issue in greater detail.  

Documentary a Day – David Blaine: What is Magic?

Documentary a Day – David Blaine: What is Magic?

David Blaine: What Is Magic? Poster2012, 45 minutes. Stacy 3/5 & Jason 3.5/5

Written by Stacy

Jason was going to write this one but he’s sick and we’re getting behind in the reviews.  I hesitate to call this a documentary because it is only 45 minutes and really didn’t offer much insight to the premise of the title.  Indeed, we found it under the documentaries on Netflix so this shorty counts!

Blaine goes around to different areas of the country with all sorts of people showing of his mad magician skills.  It was probably the locales and people he chose that made this film work since it added so much diversity and entertainment.  He did a trick with money, some with cards and, for some unknown and seemingly unrelated to the rest since there was no real audience for it, he took a bullet to the mouth.

It was fun but the tricks did get repetitive, even at 45 minutes, and it was the colorful people that kept it fun.

Documentary a Day – Food Inc

Documentary a Day – Food Inc

Food inc.jpgFood, Inc. 2008. Jason and Stacy both rate it a 4/5

Written by Stacy

This movie is old by documentary standards.  It shows the industrial production of meat side by side with the more humane organic way (yep, making a judgement here).  It also goes into industrial farming versus those farmers trying to do it the organic way (made more and more difficult each passing year that Monsanto and the like throw their considerable money and influence around).  It did go into the big money influence in Washington DC and the food labeling laws that 90% of Americans want but lobbyists kill with money.  I am not a newbie to the truth found  in the documentary, but I did learn a few things.

The movie is daunting.  When you begin to realize what’s in your food, even seemingly safe things like tomatoes, you get mad and want to do something.  Then you look into it and realize the enormity of the fight.  Big business has taken over our food supply.  I don’t think that anyone is surprised that killing animals for food is not the easiest thing to watch, but it may make you consider organic.  I knew there was a reason to buy grass fed beef and this movie clarified that and many other things that I’ve known so long I may have forgotten why.

If you eat food you should watch this.

Documentary a Day- 13th

Documentary a Day- 13th

13th (film).png2016, 1 hour 40 minutes. Jason 4/5, Stacy 4.5/5

Written by Stacy

The 13th Amendment outlaws slavery but it does have a loophole, it doesn’t apply if you are in prison.  This film documents the last 150 years of race in America using real footage and segments by both conservative and liberal speakers.  The prison system has put an unfair burden on the black community, a burden that perpetuates itself again and again as black men are taken from their families and locked up, leaving communities of broken homes behind.  Politicians, especially since Nixon, are scrutinized and judged harshly.

I have been a critic of the prison system for years, especially because of voter disenfranchisement, leading to millions and millions of people being denied the right to vote even after they’ve left prison having paid their debt to society.  This movie puts into context how the prison system has allowed citizen rights to be abused while the politicians and shadow groups make laws to keep our prisons full.

I think this is a must see for everyone.

 

 

Documentary a Day – Pumping Iron

Documentary a Day – Pumping Iron

Pumping Iron movie poster.jpg1977, 1 hour 25 minutes.  Jason and Stacy 3.5/5

Written by Jason

This is one of the most well known documentaries in history and it propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger to super stardom.   As the title hints, it’s about body building.  The story centers on Arnold’s attempt to repeat as Mr. Olympia (the best body builder in the world) for the sixth consecutive year.   When the film takes place, Arnold is 28 years old and his personality really bursts through the screen.  While Arnold jokes around constantly, its abundantly clear how competitive, driven, and focused he is.  Winning is everything and little else seems to matter.  During his run as Mr. Olympia, Arnold’s father passes away two months before the event and he doesn’t even consider going to the funeral.  Maybe that kind of commitment is what it takes to be the absolute best at something, but some things are more important winning.

Arnold’s primary competition for Mr. Olympia is Lou Ferrigno, otherwise known as the Hulk.  Lou finished 2nd the prior year and is training harder than ever to try and knock off the champ.  The personalities of Arnold and Lou are almost polar opposites.  Arnold is such an extravert and Lou hardly says a word.  In one scene, Arnold’s training partners are telling him that Lou is training harder because he’s hungrier and that Arnold is getting complacent.  Arnold’s response, and you have to think of it in Arnold’s accent, “when the top dog wants to eat, he eats all the food”  That line reminded me of some of Arnold’s classic lines like “hasta a vista, baby” from Terminator or “I let him go” from Commando.

The other amazing thing I was thinking about was that this guy is going to be the governor of California.  If he was born in the U.S., he might have even become President.   If you were watching this in 1977, you never would have thought that would be possible.  I guess it proves that with focus and hard word anything is possible.  This is an entertaining film and definitely worth seeing.           

Documentary a Day – Minimalism

Documentary a Day – Minimalism

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things Poster2016, 1 hour 19 minutes. Jason 2.5/5, Stacy 2/5

Written by Stacy

We both chose this one, one of the three we had in common from our two lists, and we were both disappointed.  We live in a consumer driven country and it’s no surprise that the accumulation of stuff doesn’t lead to a more fulfilled life. I feel like I’ve read a lot in the past few years about de-cluttering or living with less and the tiny house shows on HGTV make me think that people are already familiar with the concept of living more simply. To us, this didn’t really add much to the conversation.  It could have been more interesting if they had focused a bit more on people living the lifestyle, but it was more of a beginners overview without much sustenance.

It did lead to a discussion on whether minimalism is connected to living within your means and whether we thought we wasted money on anything.  Jason thinks eating out but I disagreed.  I don’t think we eat out enough 🙂

 

Documentary a Day – Sky Ladder

Documentary a Day – Sky Ladder

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang Poster2016, 1 hour 16 minutes. Jason & Stacy both give it 3.5/5 stars.

Written by Stacy

Jason chose this biographical documentary about Cai Guo-Qiang, renowned Chinese artist.  I have no idea why because we aren’t exactly contemporary art aficionados and he claims that he doesn’t remember choosing it at all.   I’m only telling you this because neither of us had an overwhelming desire to see this, but we did enjoy it, so this movie is for everyone.

There were two things that I really liked about this one.  The first is his tool of choice, gunpowder.  I had no idea that fireworks could be an art form, but this documentary made me a believer.  Watch the clip and see a little bit of what I’m talking about

It was visually stunning. Jason and I watched half of it together and let Gage watch the second half at dinner, thinking he would love the fireworks, if not the subtitles, and he did love it BUT during one of Cai’s larger shows there was a naked couple making love, oops.  It was a fast shot sandwiched between fireworks and Gage didn’t mention it.  Don’t know if you’d be so lucky with your kid.

The second thing that really struck me was how driven he was to complete Sky Ladder.  He had failed many times, at much expense and yet he kept trying, kept moving toward his goal regardless of the setbacks.  I didn’t get that particular obsession, but don’t we all have big things we want to do and get waylaid by the roadblocks?  It was inspiring to see him succeed at a lifelong dream (yes, I am spoiling the ending here).

Considering how short a documentary this was we learned quite a bit about Chinese history.  His childhood brought him to tears, but he had a very close relationship with his 100 year old grandmother who was in the film.  It was art,  history and the life of a visionary.