Happy 4th of July, the holiday where we celebrate the day after the day after the writing of our Declaration of Independence.
This week’s column has nothing to do with that thing.
Our subject is documentaries. I love them, but apparently they’re not for every one. Recently, the wife and I were brainstorming why this is so. Some reasons that popped up were a lack of narrative thread, a documentary’s resemblance to “learning”, the examination of topics which seem like they would be boring, and so on.
Also, there is often the lack of an antagonist. So few documentaries have a villain, as it were. As any wrestling fan can tell you, cheering against someone can be more motivating than cheering for some one. It isn’t that I want the Bears to win; I want the Packers to lose.
Villains are not essential to the documentary format, though. If you look at March of the Penguins, the main antagonist is . . . the cold. Granted, the cold is a fairly powerful and nefarious villain. It plotted the death of many a penguin, egg and chick. (All of whom deserved it, goddamned penguins.) In the end, however, cold isn’t really a dynamic villain. It’s kind of a one trick pony.
Then again, March of the Penguins made a gazillion dollars, despite being as boring as watching leg hair grow.
I think I’ve lost my train of thought. . .
Anyroad, CPO is proud to present you with
Great Villains of Documentaries
The Employees of Enron
The Film: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
It’s hard to watch this documentary and not want to go get these guys. It makes you want to look one of them up in the phonebook, drive to his house, beat the crap out of them, and move to the next name on the list. You know, like the end of Jay and Silent Bob? Enron was maggoty with these greedy sociopaths, creatures with no regard for the law or the well-being of their fellow man.
What they should be beaten with: claw hammers.
The Hells Angels
The film: Gimme Shelter (1970)
The Hells Angels demand a place on this list; they kill a man during this documentary. An 18 year old pulls a gun out during “Under my Thumb” and is subsequently stabbed to death by an Angel. Still, the Hells Angels manage to evoke a bit of sympathy and to have a cool heel vibe about them. They weren’t trained for this sort of thing, and the event was a total clusterfuck (they’re almost the prototype for Abu Ghraib soldiers). You got a bunch of hippie losers messing with your bike. it’s hot and gross. It makes sense that you’re gonna be a little testy. Maybe you’ll punch out Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane. These things happen. Plus, the guy did pull a gun on an infamous motorcycle gang. Does that really sound like a good idea?
What they should be beaten with: penguins. (I don’t want to piss them off, and I’m hoping to start a gang war between bikers and penguins.)
The film: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Billy Mitchell is cut from the same cloth as the villain of every sports movie. You know the type, right? It’s as though he were set out to destroy the Mighty Ducks or the Bad News Bears or whatever ragtag group of misfits who got in his way. He’s talented, he’s in the judge’s ear, and he’s cowardly. Mitchell even dresses the part of the villain, complete with slicked-back hair.
What he should be beaten with: Bottles of his own hot sauce
The film: Street Fight
In this criminally under-seen documentary, incumbent mayor Sharpe James pulls every dirty trick in the book to get re-elected mayor of Newark. He intimidates, he distorts the truth, he flat-out lies, he breaks the law, and he plays the race card. It’s the toughest and meanest election imaginable, especially considering that the race is between two black Democrats.
What he should be beaten with: The law. Sharpe James currently faces about 8 years in prison, and there is still another trial to go!
The Catholic Church
The film: Deliver Us From Evil
This documentary tells the story of prolific pedophile priest, Oliver O’Grady. He may have molested hundreds of children. Whenever whispers of child-rape broke out over his parish, the church merely moved him to a different community. Molestations of little boys were ignored; molestations of little girls were somehow less than ignored.
What it should be beaten with: Critical thinking.
The film: No End in Sight
There is something infuriating about the glib and jocular press conferences of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This anger is exacerbated when clips of these press conferences are juxtaposed with the destruction of the Cradle of Civilization, the suffering of Iraqis and American soldiers, and untold deaths.
What he should be beaten with: A pillowcase full of oranges. Then he should go hunting with Cheney. After that? He should go for a ride with Ted Kennedy.
Well kids, enjoy your holiday. Feel free to chime in via email or comments below.