Ahead of Valentine’s this Sunday, I was offered £50 to spend on whatever I liked at Rakuten to create the perfect “Valentine’s night in”. Yes, it’s true, there are some decent perks to this whole blogging malarkey.
Rakuten seem to sell a little bit of everything these days and whilst I could have bought chocolates and Champagne and massage oil and all that usual Cupid-themed gumpf, I went with what I knew would make for the perfect Valentine’s night: A MEGA STASH OF DOCUMENTARIES.
My documentary wishlist is extraordinarily long so I had to prioritise what I really REALLY wanted to get my hands on and I came up with the following seven DVDs, which actually span nine docs as one of them is a box set.
Here’s a bit more about what I picked and what we’ll be watching this weekend…
1. Precinct Seven Five.
This documentary has everything you could ever need for a good storyline: corruption, cops, cash and cocaine. We watched it as soon as it arrived because it looked far too good to save for Valentine’s. And bloody hell, it really IS good. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of my favourite gangster movies of all time. The New York Times called it “the cop version of Goodfellas” and that’s a pretty apt description, as you’ll come to realise once you’ve watched it, loved it and bored everyone you’ve ever met to tears about it.
You must see this.
On the box: “It all began in a Brooklyn precinct known as The Seven Five in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. Brooklyn, NY was the murder capital of America and ground zero for the crack cocaine epidemic. One man led his crew on a rampage through the streets of East New York, robbing dope dealers at gunpoint, stealing countless kilos of cocaine and hundreds of thousands dollars in cash. His name was Officer Michael Dowd, a New York City cop and his arrest in 1992 led to the largest police corruption scandal in New York City history.”
Buy for £7.99 here.
I’d actually seen this a bunch of times when it was first released after Sundance (I became slightly obsessed with inviting people to my house and insisting they sat in silence whilst watching it, because I am a really fun friend) but as ST had never seen it I took the opportunity to snap it up.
Now that Catfish is such a huge TV show it’s easy to forget that it started off as a documentary, but whilst the TV show does spoil the viewing experience a bit (the twists aren’t as twisty when you know the TV show) it’s still a great movie. The authenticity of it will always be hotly debated, but I love this film and I will seemingly never get bored of watching it.
On the box: “In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.”
Buy for £3 here.
We haven’t watched this one yet (or any of the others coming up in this list, given that we are supposed to be saving them for Valentine’s) but I was reminded of this movie by a recent Documentary Club newsletter and I am SO EXCITED TO WATCH IT.
On the box: “Academy Award-winner Errol Morris’ Tabloid follows the much stranger-than-fiction adventures of Joyce McKinney, a former “beauty queen” whose single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams leads her across the globe and directly onto the front pages of the British tabloid newspapers. Joyce’s crusade for love and personal vindication, as illustrated by Morris, takes her through a surreal world of gunpoint abduction, manacled Mormons, oddball accomplices, bondage modelling, magic underwear and dreams of celestial unions. This notorious affair is barking mad. Equal parts love story, film noir, brainy B-movie and demented fairy tale, Tabloid is a delirious meditation on hysteria – both public and personal – from a filmmaker who continues to break down and blow open the documentary genre with his penetrating portraits of eccentric and profoundly complex characters.”
Buy for £4.26 here.
4, 5 and 6. The Errol Morris Collection featuring The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida
I couldn’t not buy this box set as it’s a great price and I’ve always wanted to see these docs. The Thin Blue Line is Morris’ most well-known work and has been billed as “the first movie mystery to actually solve a murder”, so it’s not surprising that it’s getting talked about a LOT at the moment thanks to the world’s obsession with Making of a Murderer on Netflix.
Here’s a lil synopsis of the films in this collection…
The Thin Blue Line: “In 1976 the brutal murder of a Dallas policeman resulted in the arrest of David Harris, a sixteen-year-old who had been bragging about the killing. But when Harris changed his story and identified drifter Randall Adams as the murderer, it was Adams who was convicted and sentenced to death. Reconstructing the murder with film clips, photographs, re-enactments and interviews, this film brings that verdict into question.”
Gates of Heaven: “When financial hardship forces California’s Foothill Pet Cemetery to close its pearly gates, its dearly departed loved ones are relocated to the nearby Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park. During this tense transition, filmmaker Morris meets a collection of eccentric cemetery operators and anguished animal-lovers and elicits a meditation on love and loneliness.”
Vernon, Florida: “For the inhabitants of this Southern town, there’s no place like home – for the rest of us, there’s no place like Vernon, Florida! From the passionate turkey-hunter to the peculiar pet collector, each member of this motley crew has a story to tell. And in the masterful hands of Morris, their obsessions and eccentricities reveal the heart and soul of an unabashedly unique slice of the American pie!”
Buy for £12.99 here.
7. The Imposter
Just read the snynopsis below and you’ll know why this is on my “I MUST WATCH THIS IMMEDIATELY” list…
“In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappears from his home in Texas. Three years later he is found in Spain, disorientated and quivering with fear. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not what it seems. Whilst he bears many of the same distinguishing marks and tattoos, the boy looks decidedly different and now speaks with a strange accent. Why doesn’t the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It’s only when an investigator starts asking questions that this astonishing true story takes an even stranger turn.”
Buy for £7.26 here.
8. Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger
Joe Berlinger directs this documentary about infamous Boston crime boss and murderer James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. Featuring contributions from former FBI agents, victims and victims’ relatives, mobsters and journalists, the film takes a look at the gangster’s trial and examines the evidence that suggests that Bulger was aided by corrupt officials within the FBI and Department of Justice.
What can I say? Corrupt cops make for great documentaries.
Buy for £5.99 here.
9. West of Memphis
Another one for those who are obsessed with miscarriages of justice…
“West of Memphis tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to stop the State of Arkansas from killing an innocent man. Told and produced by those who lived it, Damien Echols and Lorri Davis, the film uncovers new evidence surrounding the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, and exposes the wrongful conviction of three teenagers who lost 18 years of their lives imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.”
Buy for £7.99 here.
Who needs roses and teddy bears, eh?
Thanks Rakuten for letting me make all my documentary binge-watching dreams come true <3