Far better true stories to stream than the ten hour tale of Steven Avery…
I’m just like you; paralyzed by choice in the modern age. My solution? I’ll happily watch just about any documentary on Netflix — even those on subjects I have zero interest in — rather than experience a slightly unsatisfying fictional movie. It helps me feel smart and intellectual while still being weak-willed and lazy! In particular, I’m a huge fan of Paradise Lost and other docs about the wrongly convicted, so of course I binged the shit out Making A Murderer. However, I strongly recommend that you do not.
Like many of you, I emerged from my sweaty, pizza-soaked Making A Murder viewing cocoon thinking the exact same thing; “Steven Avery is innocent and was totes framed!” Then I read a bunch of the things the docuseries left out. I suppose I should say SPOILERS, but the jurors and other citizens of Wisconsin circa 2005 (like my girlfriend who remembered the case much differently) were supplied with plenty of evidence Making A Murderer viewers were questionably denied. Did the cops plant and tamper with evidence under an extreme conflict of interest? Absolutely. To a fucking ludicrous degree! Did Steven Avery commit the crime? According to my own opinion and those of a jury of his peers: yeah, probably. The filmmakers claimed to have left out a lot of crucial information to tell the streaming story they wanted to tell, which would be fine if Making a Murderer were just a tale of rampant police corruption. But it’s not. Making a Murderer frames itself as an “innocent man” story, but it’s told very selectively, and it unfolds in the time it takes watch FOUR OR MORE of the docs listed below. I’m happy to elaborate more on MAM in the comments below, but I’M ACTUALLY TRYING TO SAVE YOU TIME HERE. Ten hours worth, in fact, plus however much time it takes to sign an online petition to free a guilty monster. Here, have some far better “true stories” to stream on Netflix:
Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Doctor Moreau
There is nothing remarkable about 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau except for the story of the creation itself. From the inside, we have Val Kilmer, Marlon Brando, and fired director Richard Stanley sabotaging the production. Producing more physical harm; a hurricane and a cadre of debaucherous hippies. All of these insane elements are just the tip of the iceberg of this troubled big-budget production. I love a good making of-documentary, but I’ve recently become slightly more spellbound with the emerging genre of “unmaking-of” docs, such as The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, Jorodrowsky’s Dune, and the enduring classic, Hearts of Darkness. With the possible exception of the latter, this is a much better documentary, featuring a helluva lot more candid testimonials from the disgruntled principals involved as well as plenty behind-the-scenes footage. Plus, the story in general is leagues more bizarre.
Lost Souls splits itself beautifully between the unique film that was supposed to happen, and the torturous process behind making the movie that did happen and probably shouldn’t have. Discover how big a dick Val Kilmer was in the 90s! Learn why Marlon Brando’s ridiculous demands are the only thing anyone remembers about the film! Marvel at how the director was fired, ran away from the airport, lived in the woods for weeks, and snuck into the finished film in dog boy makeup! PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME REVEAL ANY MORE!
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
The only thing bad about this film is that it can’t possibly hope to cover all of its subject matter’s wonderfully fertile ground. Cannon Films was a notorious power house of schlock schlocky 70s and 80s “cinema.” You can make fun of Golan and Globus all you want (and we have), but they’re self-made moguls, proud Hollywood outsiders, and they’ve proudly produced some of the best bad movies ever made.
The story behind the studio that made Delta Force, the hilarious He-Man movie, Superman IV, the American Ninja series, and too many Charles Bronson sequels to mention is beyond fascinating. Yet there’s a ton of things you don’t know, and this doc’s only fault is that there are way more Cannon trainwrecks and oddities than can be properly discussed in its runtime. If Netflix would’ve planned ahead and scooped up the rights to some of the movies showcased in Electric Boogaloo, I’d be a happy boy. That’s hardly the doc’s fault, but I wanna see more, and everything’s either crazy expensive, stranded in standard def, or looooooong out-of-print.
W/Bob and David – Episode 5
This is kinda cheating, and no, I’m not talking about my inclusion of it on the list. For it is Netflix who are futzing with the rules! They’re the ones who included a behind-the-scenes documentary as the “fifth episode” of W/ Bob and David instead of properly promoting it as its own feature. Let’s get this out of the way: Mr. Show is the greatest sketch comedy show of all-time. No matter how much the new series would like to distinguish itself, W/ Bob and David acts as a wonderful extension of it and is basically the fifth season of Mr. Show we had always wished for.
While I’m sure it was the uncensored language that attracted me to Mr. Show back in the mid 90s, it was the straight-faced commitment to absurdity that kept me rewatching for the last two decades. Unlike a lot of sketch shows and Mr. Show before it, W/Bob and David avoids most pop culture references, direct parody, and topicality. So in a time where Comedy Central has trained all of us to expect every comedy sketch to begin with contextual introduction from its stars, this behind-the-scenes doc posing as a fifth episode is as close as you’ll get to demystifying the thought process behind some of the best comedy sketches of 2015. With a DVD commentary track unlikely, your Mr. Show plate is not clean until you’ve watched “Episode 5.”
Call Me Lucky
I’ve stated repeatedly that Bobcat Goldthwait could possibly be my favorite director. From films like Shakes the Clown to World’s Greatest Dad, he might have one of the greatest track records of all-time. His movies are uniquely his, mostly in that nobody else would make a movie where a baby gets obliterated with a shotgun, a lady blows a dog, or a teenager strangles himself to death while jerking off. You know? For laughs!
At the very least, almost every Goldthwait film contains a doozy of a shock, and his first documentary is no exception, so by all means go in cold. Call Me Lucky centers on unsung comedian/activist Barry Crimmins, and even though they seemed perfectly fine spoiling the film’s turn while out doing promotion for it last year, I won’t do it here. The surprise in question is by no means a happy one, but it’s one everybody should probably see for themselves. Let me just say Crimmins went from telling dick jokes in Boston to dedicating his time to redefining many of the laws that protect you and yours today. Call Me Lucky is more than just one of the prettiest and most polished documentaries made last year… it’s one of the best movies of 2015 period.
What you’re about to witness is the most I have ever written about sports on Laser Time. I’m not a fan of spectating balls of any kind outside of pornography, but damned if I can’t get wrapped up in a well told tale of sports drama. Immediately after WWE Network’s Monday Night Wars docu-series concluded, ESPN’s 30 for 30 swooped in to save my interest in sporting documentaries, and almost all these stories are unbelievably watchable. Chasing Tyson is the best of that bunch, since it’s easy for a non-sports fan to follow. It definitely helps that most boxing superstars’ entire careers only amount to a handful of hours in the ring per decade (compare that to the dozens to hundreds of hours players spend on fields and in arenas for team sports).
That’s not to take away from what Evander Holyfield did with his stellar career while the boxing world disrespected the legend. Heck, the documentary about him doesn’t even bear his name! It would be tragic if “The Real Deal” seemed to care at all, but Holyfield remains humble and smiles through it all. Chasing Tyson follows Evander Holyfield through his plight of being the most decorated (yet least revered) heavyweight champion of our time. No matter how many belts he won or opponents he bested, the public always claimed there was one man he needed to beat; “Iron” Mike Tyson. Through a bizarre set series of events, Tyson and his camp denied Holyfield a fight for almost a decade. Worse, even in defeat, Tyson still denied him a satisfying victory. It would be downright Shakespearean if Holyfield wasn’t still a millionaire and seemed to give an absolute shit.