DOCUMENTARIES I'VE SEEN IN 2016, RANKED

  1. 1.
    Hoop Dreams
    Following two young basketball players as they are recruited in to an elite high school program, the film shows how sports are a gateway out of their difficult lives in poverty. Both boys go through extraordinary challenges as we follow them to college. A moving film that deserves a twenty years later follow up.
  2. 2.
    Finding Vivian Maier
    Perhaps you've seen a listicle about the professional nanny who was discovered after her death to be an amazing street photographer. She showed her work to no one and the filmmakers explore how very little it is possible to know someone who is very private through interviews with those who knew her. One note of caution: the film oversells Maier's importance as an artist, probably because one of the co-directors owns the rights to her work, but it didn't take away from the experience for me.
  3. 3.
    No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
    The trial of a high school basketball star (before he became an NBA star) ignites controversy over race and privilege.
  4. 4.
    Primary
    Following the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary contest between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey this short film is ground zero of the Direct Cinema movement. The innovative visual style influenced generations of documentary filmmakers as well as folks like Martin Scorsese (an unbroken single shot that follows Kennedy from outside a campaign rally to the stage could have been in "Goodfellas"). Well worth the watch.
  5. 5.
    Pumping Iron
    Do you even lift, bro?
  6. 6.
    The Overnighters
    A pastor turns his church in to a shelter for homeless shelter for men who have come to his town in search of work over the objects of many within the community.
  7. 7.
    F For Fake
    Orson Wells looks into a case of art forgery and explorers the nature of truth by way of illusion. He also performs magic.
  8. 8.
    Peace Officer
    Timely look at the effects of SWAT and police tactics that question their effectiveness while examining cases in Utah.
  9. 9.
    Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL?
    A football league created as an alternative to the NFL discovered future hall of famers and promoted some changes that would become the norm in professional football. Donald Trump bought a team in the second year of the league and....
  10. 10.
    The Price Of Gold
    Portrait of Tanya Harding decades after the Nancy Kerrigan hit that she claims not to have known about. Fascinating in that it also touches on class and gender expectations.
  11. 11.
    Daft Punk Unchained
    The film starts with unmasking the duo without interviewing them and builds an argument for their place among the pantheon of all time musical greats. It's really effective until the final quarter of the film where it turns in to an ad for their "Random Access Memories" album.
  12. 12.
    I Am Road Comic
    Enjoyable look at the life of a comic on the road.
  13. 13.
    Into The Inferno
    Werner Herzog's exploration of volcanos spans the globe as he visits remote islands and North Korea. It zigs and zags through a series of tangents, but there is a reoccurring connection with religion that I found to be a little off putting because it was an outsider looking in distance that I found somewhat condescending to the native people and their beliefs. I should note that I haven't found any other complaints on that issue while poking around online.
  14. 14.
    Casting By
    Celebration of casting directors featuring many famous actors.
  15. 15.
    My Friend Rockafeller
    Professional scammer infiltrates high society and even after he is revealed to be murderer living under several false names, many still consider him a friend.
  16. 16.
    Sample This
    The Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" is the greatest song in hip hop? It's not the most sampled, shout out to "Funky Drummer" & the "Amen" break, but it's a great song. The doc solves the small subject documentary problem by going all over the place on tangents, kind of like a patchwork of samples.
  17. 17.
    Raiders!
    A group of kids filmed a shot-by-shot remake of "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" over the course of their teen years. Over the years their remake gained a cult following & we follow their kickstarter funded attempt to complete the final sequence as they are in their 40s. The documentary's message of following your dreams seems to be a bit off, but this is a deeper film than you would expect.
  18. 18.
    San Francisco 2.0
    Tech has ruined San Francisco. True story.
  19. 19.
    Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project
    John Landis documents Rickles stage show and the love his insult friendly comedy inspires.
  20. 20.
    Hitchcock/Truffaut
    Inspired by the book that is famous in film circles, the film discusses the Alfred Hitchcock interviews that François Truffaut conducted and attempts to contextualize their importance by interviewing current filmmakers. Interesting, but ultimately less satisfying than just watching a Hitchcock film.
  21. 21.
    No Mas
    Recounts the rivalry between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán as they try to find answers as to why Durán stopped a match mid-fight. Enjoyed the description on the Filmspotting: SVU podcast more than the actual film.
  22. 22.
    The Death Of "Superman Lives": What Happened?
    When I first heard they were developing a Tim Burton directed Superman film starring Nicholas Cage, I was intrigued and I still am. However this is a mess. Director Jon Schnepp comes from the world of entertainment journalism (I think) and inserts himself into all of shots in the interviews. It hits obvious notes but fails to get much depth from the interview subjects. Also, it's got some weird "I can't believe we are walking in Tim Burton's house" footage of the walk upstairs. Odd.
  23. 23.
    Best Of Enemies
    Focuses on a series of debates that the film argues shaped the face of politics on American television for decades. A great example of taking a very specific subject that proves to be too small for the running time.
  24. 24.
    This Was Intense
    Documents the world tour of Trance/EDM star Armin van Buuren without actually showing enough of the concert to immerse us in it and fails to properly dig in to what happens backstage. Example of insight: we learn that after touring for a year that some of the performers have become friends. This also happens if you work at Starbucks for a year.