Worth Watching Vol. 1

I was one of those weird kids who never had an "I hate school" phase. I hated waking up early to get there, but I loved being at school. I loved learning. I still do, and if I could, I would be a student forever. Since graduating college in spring 2011, my education has been in my hands alone, and so I've made a goal to watch at least 3-5 documentaries every month.

(I'd also love to get my Netflix queue down to a reasonable number, as I have about 200 titles in it and I just watch episodes of Friends and HIMYM that I've seen a thousand times on repeat. The problem is that I so seldom have the time or patience to sit and watch something for the first time, and give it my full attention, generally opting instead to tune in and out of sitcom repeats while puttering around my place, working, stretching, you get the idea. Nothing like writing down a goal for myself to get me to actually do something!)
Here are just a couple of the films and lectures I've watched recently, a sampling of the ones I think are worth checking out:

Ethos. This is definitely not going to be appealing for everyone, but I enjoyed it for the most part. Some things said and discussed in this documentary could give me nightmares. It's a film about economics in America, consumerism and politics, and the marriage of the two that creates a unique and, at times quite scary, economic climate. It's narrated by Woody Harrelson and features directly quoted material from lawmakers and corporate giants past and present. By the film's close, it's clear that it has an "agenda" and it makes no attempt to disguise its goal, how it wants the viewer to change a behavior. Since I happened to already be in agreement with that goal before I pressed play, it didn't bother me. I'd call Ethos informative, but not particularly entertaining.
Netflix rating: 4/5 || My rating: 3/5

Run for Your Life. I've mentioned before that a goal of mine is to run the New York City Marathon. I've grown up right next door to that city, and I love it in a very special way. To run those streets with 50,000 other incredible athletes would be a dream come true. This documentary is about the founder of the NYC Marathon, and his lofty dream to take it from a jaunt around Central Park to a journey through all five boroughs. If you're a runner, watch it. If you enjoy stories of people fighting the odds and making their dreams come true, watch it. If you're a woman, and especially a woman who runs, watch it. Run for Your Life tells the story of Fred Lebow's journey toward the NYC Marathon finish line in every sense.
Netflix rating: 3.5/5 || My rating: 4/5

TEDTalks: Shawn Anchor: The Happy Secret to Better Work. (Included in the TEDTalks "Life Hacks" collection on Netflix.) This brief 12-minute lecture was GREAT. First, Shawn's opening anecdotes and high-energy delivery were entertaining to listen to. Packed in that short video were a lot of informational bits that just... make sense. I kind of feel like I should watch it again, take notes, and place reminders up everywhere. Shawn's advice on how to have a better, more positive outlook which leads to a happier life is not anything groundbreaking or unattainable. It's stuff you can do today, right now, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Anyone should spare 12 minutes to check out this talk.
Netflix rating: N/A || My rating: 5/5

Living on One Dollar
Chris and Zach, international affairs students from middle-upper class American backgrounds, bring two filmmakers along to live for two months in Guatemala on $1 day — the same budget 1.1 billion people around the world are working with.
I almost had to turn this one off several times. Images of the children licking salt from bowls, scavenging for any last bite, hearing a Guatemalan man talk about how the hunger stops them from growing, thriving, even playing... it broke my heart. Of course I already knew that this was going on in the world, and in the past I have donated funds and food to have my small part in relief, but it's not enough. Last January, I made a goal to somehow give back something to someone somewhere every month. And I'm glad that I have been able to follow through, donating funds, clothing, food, and time throughout my community and elsewhere, and I hope to continue doing this for as long as I live. But images like these still made me feel like there was so much more I could do, and to be sure, there is.
This film was eye-opening and saddening, uplifting in parts and devastating in others. It's not easy to watch, but I'm glad I did. (Learn more about the Living On One project and how to support it here.)
Netflix rating: 4.3/5 || My rating: 5/5

Do you have any favorite documentaries you think I should watch? What have you been watching lately?


  1. Gary is a huge fan of documentaries and sometimes I get guilted into watching with him lol!! I'm going to share your list with him and if I had to recommend two it would be: fat sick and nearly dead (about juicing) and then fed up (about sugar and the food industry) both are really good!! xo, Biana - BlovedBoston

  2. We don't watch a lot of documentaries, I had to beg KC to watch Tiny with me. But it's odd, because he loves documentaries and the like, it's all about finding ones we can enjoy together - we did go through a David Attenborough phase, right before he died. But KC is the one that wanted to watch Fat Sick and Nearly Dead (another vote for that one) and it is about so much more than juicing, seriously it is so amazing if you haven't watched it already - it made my meat and potatoes husband want to eat more plants. We also watched Forks over Knives and Food, Inc. I think, I barely remember now. I think I would like to make it a goal to watch one documentary a month.
    Anyway - I am adding all of these to my list, I think the running one would make KC sad, but the others sound good to watch together - Ethos sounds very interesting.

  3. I haven't seen any of these but I love documentaries so I'll have to look out for them. The last one I saw was God Grew Tired of Us- it was really good.

  4. Thanks for sharing this list! I always feel like I never know what to check out on Netflix and with this cold weather we're having in the North East, I'm totally ready to cozy up with some good movies. xoxo, - M @ The Sequin Notebook

  5. I go through documentary phases. It's about time I go through another. I'll add these to my list

  6. I haven't seen any of these so I will definitely add them to my list! I love documentaries and totally agree with you that it's sort of like school for grown-ups. I just really like anything that teaches me something and/or makes me think.
    Some I've seen that I would recommend…Blackfish (about Sea World), Spirit of the Marathon….recently I've been watching a lot of Frontline episodes on Netflix (I watched a couple about wiretapping in the U.S., and insider trading). I also just watched this one called Sexy Baby, which was about the sexual culture in the U.S. and a lot about the sexualization of kids nowadays. I think you'd find that one interesting. Oh and The Bridge was another one I really liked, I don't think it's on Netflix but you can find it on Youtube. It's about people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, so it's pretty dark and heavy and I feel weird saying I liked it, but it was really thought-provoking and really well done.

  7. I was telling my husband a week or so ago that I want to watch some more documentaries! This sounds like a great list!

  8. Thanks for these. I love documentaries but havent watched any in quite some time. Ill have to check these bad boys out!


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