Weird Documentaries

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm

There are a lot of weird documentaries out there, and it’s my aim in this article to familiarize you with a few of them–19 to be exact. Why not 20? Well, if you’re so damned keen on an even 20, why not add your own suggestion in our comments section? That’ll make everyone happy, I suppose.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that most of the following weird documentaries can be rented from Netflix. The nation’s leading online rental service offers multiple subscription plans, delivery right to your mailbox, and over 100,000 films to choose from.

Weird Movies

I’m Still Here (2010) – Acting star Joaquin Phoenix retires from the filmmaking business to pursue an ill-advised career as a rapper. In the process, he sleeps with lots of people, gets pooped on by an irate employee, and generally makes a damn fool of himself. Directed by brother-in-law Casey Affleck, I’m Still Here was eventually revealed to be a documentary, although nobody was aware of that fact when the film was released.

SICK: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997) -Suffering from cystic fibrosis, an L.A. performance artist and BDSM enthusiast waxes philosophic on the disease that will eventually kill him (his death is included in the documentary). He also drives a nail through his penis, something which is definitely not for the faint of heart.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) – Former engineer Steve Wiebe sets out to break the all-time score on Donkey Kong, but he’s stymied at every turn by reigning champ Billy Mitchell and a surprising amount of red tape. You’ll never believe that a weird documentary about video games could be so entertaining.

Crumb (1994) – Weirdo director Terry Zwigoff spins this true-life tale of weirdo comic book artist Robert Crumb, most famous for creating characters such as Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. Crumb and his dysfunctional family are exposed warts and all, and the resulting portrait is often a grotesque one. Still, it’s frequently funny and surprisingly touching. An Oscar snub resulted in the nomination process for documentaries being overhauled.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2006) – Bipolar artist and musician Daniel Johnston is profiled in this bizarre documentary, and the film traces his life all the way back to childhood. Be sure to check out the bonus material on the DVD, as you’ll get to see the reunion between Daniel and the longtime object of his obsession, a girl named Laurie.

For more weird documentaries, be sure to become a member of Netflix.

American Movie (1999) – An aspiring filmmaker tries to make a horror movie, but it quickly flies off the rails thanks to bad luck, poor planning, and the general incompetence of those around him. A touching tale of an everyday schlub trying to achieve his dreams, American Movie is also surprisingly funny. Voted one of the 1,000 greatest movies ever made by the New York Times.

Tarnation (2003) – Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette dug through over 20 years of photos, home movies, and answering machine messages to detail his relationship with his mentally ill mother. If you think your family life is complicated, see this documentary and then quit your bitching.

Brother’s Keeper (1992) – A multi-layered and odd documentary about four illiterate brothers who live in a run-down house and farm land that’s been in their family for generations. When one brother dies, another sibling is arrested for the murder, and the big city types descend like vultures to cover the trial.

Grey Gardens (1975) – The reclusive aunt and first cousin of Jackie O. tell their life stories while fighting isolation and the public perception that they’re absolutely insane. Later adapted into an HBO movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.

A Certain Kind of Death (2003) – What happens when you die and nobody claims the body? Find out in this frequently disturbing and always spellbinding documentary.

Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa (2007) – A documentary that details the lives of residents in the desert community known as “the Mesa,” which is located 25 miles from the nearest town. Whether it’s a pig farmer who takes in a runaway or a Gulf War vet who loses custody of his three kids, you’ll be surprised by the depth of human emotion lurking behind the ramshackle houses and trailers.

CSA: Confederate States of America (2004) – A mockumentary that takes a look at what would’ve happened if the South had won the American Civil War. Through these events, a number of real-world events are examined and satirized.

The Aristocrats (2005) – A look at a thoroughly filthy joke that stand-up comics like to tell to one another. The film is packed with recognizable faces, including Chris Rock, Robin Williams, George Carlin, Eddie Izzard, Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bob Saget (who tells perhaps the dirtiest version of the joke).

If you like strange documentaries or unusual documentaries, you’ll want to become a member of Netflix as soon as possible.

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999) – The life of self-taught execution technician Fred Leuchter Jr. is examined, from his time designing more efficient electric chairs to being brought aboard to determine if the Nazis really used poison gas on Jews. His findings on the latter subject don’t go over well at all, which brings about the fall mentioned in the title.

The Story of Furious Pete (2010) – The tale of a Canadian man who almost died from anorexia as a teen. Years later, he’s become a bodybuilder and eating champion. Prepare to be inspired and grossed out at the same time (especially when Pete devours a pound of butter).

Blood Into Wine (2010) – A look at the challenges faced by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan as he attempts to grow wine in the challenging Arizona countryside. A fascinating portrait of a rock and roll star who’s far deeper than most in his profession.

Sex in a Cold Climate (1997) – Magdalene asylums were Catholic-run institutions where so-called “fallen women” were sent to reform their ways. Not surprisingly, the places were also isolated hellholes where women were routinely subjected to abuse and humiliation. Yet another black mark for the Catholic faith.

Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy (2001) – Whether he’s leading a humdrum family life in Queens, New York or sleeping with all the latest female adult film stars, Ron Jeremy’s life is filled with humor and a longing for mainstream success. See his rise from a schoolteacher into perhaps the best-known male porn star to ever work in the industry. It’s amazing how far a friendly smile and a big penis can get you in life.

Vernon, Florida (1981) – Originally meant as a look at people who cut off their own limbs to collect insurance money, director Errol Morris decided to change the focus when he received death threats from his subjects. Therefore the film morphed into a study of the various eccentrics in the town of Vernon, Florida.

That wraps up our look at weird documentaries, but there are plenty more where these came from. To find more, simple follow this link to become a member of Netflix. There are numerous subscription plans available, and the small commission we receive will help us keep our doors open in the future.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 at 2:11 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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