Now that we’ve all watched every new show on Netflix, people are discovering that most video streaming services are like the basement level of old video stores on those nights when all the new releases were rented out. Thank goodness for documentaries, AKA podcasts with pictures. Here, then, are some hot docs for you to tell your friends you’ve added to your “watch” list and never get around to viewing.
Pretend It’s a Pastry
Oscar-nominated filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan directs and can’t stop himself from appearing in a series of interviews with Art Buchwald, the humorist and long-time Washington Post columnist who died in 2007. In a series of vignettes, the long-dead Buchwald strolls through the U.S. capital, visiting his favourite “haunts,” explaining how to “ghost” a party and sharing anecdotes about government “spooks.” A number of scenes are filmed before a live audience, which is ironic. The documentary title comes from Buchwald’s famous instructions to small children on how to smoke a cigar. In a surprise ending, Buchwald is shocked to learn that he hasn’t been syndicated the whole time!
What Th’? with John Watson
Known for his found footage and chronically late rent payments, independent filmmaker John Watson documents his day-to-day life as well as those of his fellow tenants, capturing their trials, tribulations and surprisingly frequent incidents of getting locked out of their apartments. Watson takes the mundane and makes it mundane with narration. But the viewer finds beauty in the banal in the same way that Watson finds his car keys in the bathroom sink: obviously there the whole time. Part of the pleasure of this docu-series is the wonder Watson finds in everyday things: the way a dog’s bark sounds like “Cap’n Crunch” (but not really); how a can opener can also be used to pound a nail (sort of); and how four years of film school can be profitable (although you still live in a crappy tenement). In short, we get to see the world through the eyes of a man who is truly childlike—namely, he wets the bed. Which he documents.
This documentary about red-green-blue television test patterns is described as “The Queen’s Gambit” of documentaries about red-green-blue television test patterns. What “Bird Box” did for Sandra Bullock in a blindfold, RGB does for red-green-blue television test patterns. If “The Tiger King” were about red-green-blue television test patterns, it would have been exactly like this documentary about red-green-blue television test patterns. “Bridgerton” is nothing like this documentary about red-green-blue television test patterns except for the occasional nude scene.
Who Did This!
A raw and hard-hitting forensic investigation into who is responsible for making the inside of the Colgate toothpaste flip-cap so disgustingly gloopy. The documentary is a captivating study in accusations and denials, though some of us aren’t fooling anyone, Abby! Also features a fascinating sub-plot exploring the age-old question: why are there seven toothbrushes in the cup but only three people living in this house?
In this 2015 film, investigative journalist Max McMackelhone explores the seedy underbelly and the spotty upperbody of Olympic athlete Twizzler addiction. Going undercover as a 16-year-old Romanian female gymnast, the 250-pound McMackelhone does some quick talking to explain his full beard. He soon falls under the tutelage of Dr. Padraig Van Bommel, a Dutch athletic trainer who introduces McMackelhone to radical licorice therapy. Over time, Van Bommel exposes McMackelhone to higher and higher doses of salt in his licorice until McMackelhone is completely and utterly grossed out. In the wake of this documentary, the Russian Olympic team was banned for plying its athletes with performance-enhancing Pull-n-Peels, while McMackelhone went on to win silver in the uneven bars in Rio.
Chronicles the increasingly desperate attempts of a young woman to get mentioned in the column written by her boyfriend’s father. She is ultimately not successful.
Super Suds Me
Comedian Bailey Eisenheimer takes to the street in his mobile bathtub and invites people to scrub his back. Celebrity guests shower with Bailey and make jokes about “getting in a lather” and every possible innuendo related to the word “wet.” While seemingly a crude comedy show, the series becomes a profound commentary on North Americans’ inability to truly communicate, thanks to the entire proceedings being subtitled in Portuguese. Or could just be something wrong with my remote.