Samsara (2011)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is a collection of awe-inspiring footage shot in 25 countries, over five years, with no dialog. You’ll see everything from man-made and natural wonders to some of the worst places on earth. You also get a wide variety of beautiful creative expression and grim human stupidity. Watch this one big. No phone. No tablet. No laptop. BIG. Samsara is a visual learning experience.

FYI – If you enjoy this film, you should really check out the pioneer of this kind of documentary, Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Also, the people behind Samsara made a very similar film in 1992 called Baraka that’s nearly as good.

Available on Blu-ray from MPI.

Holy Hell (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

The story of an an 80’s New Age cult where the dark truth about their leader gradually reveals itself. This isn’t Jonestown level crazy, but it’s pretty damned compelling. Psychedelic VHS footage abounds! The film takes a while to get to the nitty gritty, but it’s worth the investment of time. I recommend you mute the godawful song at the end.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine (2017)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

I felt the the need to lighten the mood a bit. Back in the ‘90 a friend brought over a VHS tape produced by Big Brother magazine. It included my introduction to Johnny Knoxville, in which the future movie star shot himself in the chest with a bulletproof vest on. They never showed that bit on the MTV.

This documentary has a lot of the same raunchy craziness as Jackass. It is also an interesting perspective on the history of the skateboarding days of the early ‘90s thru to the early ‘00s. If you’re not easily offended, Dumb is a lot of fun.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Becoming Bond (2017)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

This is a very entertaining Hulu original documentary on George Lazenby. It’s a funny look at his becoming James Bond for one film in spite of having zero acting experience. This is NOT a PG rated Bond film, so watch it without the kids around.

FYI – In case you think Lazenby is a one-hit wonder, check out the excellent giallo Who Saw Her Die? It’s available on Blu-ray from Arrow or streaming rental from YouTube or Apple TV.

Not available on Blu-ray.

LA 92 (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

“The most destructive civil disturbance in American history” and this documentary makes that excruciatingly clear. I didn’t watch this for a while because I got it confused with Let It Fall (another very good documentary on this subject). What makes LA 92 exceptional is that the filmmakers just let archival footage and audio tell the story. There is no narration, and thankfully no obnoxious animation. Yes, this is a disturbing experience. It is also perfectly made and essential viewing.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Out of Print (2014)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I bet you’ve noticed I keep mentioning my love for seeing revival film screenings. This documentary will give you a good idea why. It’s focused on the New Beverly Cinema in LA, but talks about revival theaters in general as well. When I visited Los Angeles a couple of years back I got to see A Boy and His Dog there and it was really a special experience. I suggest if you’re ever in that neck of the woods you make time for a night at New Beverly. Between you and me, they won’t give you a hard time if you bring your own booze. Just be discreet. Well, more discreet than me. I was cracking beers like a total jerk. Don’t do that. Thanks New Bev for not kicking me out!

Not available on Blu-ray.

Burden (2016)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

Chris Burden was one of the most notorious performance artists of all time. His later career focused more on installation and sculpture but his work always remained fascinating. I saw a large exhibition of his work at The New Museum a few years back and loved it. Burden is a solid introduction to the artists’ work that I think would appeal to anyone that isn’t easily offended. I refuse to close this recommendation with “Give it a shot.” Nope. Won’t do it.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I saw an exhibition of Szukalski’s work at The Visionary Art Museum many years ago and became an instant fan. This documentary was a treat as I knew very little about the man. Yes, he worked for the Nazis, but I feel he redeemed himself. Even if you disagree with me I feel this is an excellent movie worth watching. I give Struggle my highest recommendation.

Not available on Blu-ray.