Fixing Up The DVD Documentary Section


With George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin simultaneously banging their shoes on the G-8 table, we must admit that "the successes of the Reagan Era" are over. Yup, we got us a new arms race. MAD is back in style!

In light of this happy development, it became clear that the organization of the family DVD library was out of whack. Time to reclassify.

That means taking all of those DVDs off the shelf and putting them in categories that reflect Bellum Americanum.

First and most important, the classic Stanley Kubrick film: Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb needed to be placed in the proper category… documentaries. And all this time I thought it was black satire. Well, I was wrong. Now it is nestled in its proper place right next to Nanook Of The North.

This gives me a grand total of two documentaries.

Wait a minute! What was Terry Gilliam’s Brazil doing in the satire section? That doesn’t seem right either. Let’s see, the plot of Brazil has a never-ending war on terror, a delusional elite class, a slaving away middle class and lots of people living in squalor. A centrally controlled over-burdened and inept bureaucracy runs everyone and everything. The Ministry of Information Retrieval spies on, terrorizes and tortures innocent citizens. And then the Ministry "always insists on information retrieval charges." How logical. Make the citizens pay for the theft of their own civil liberties and abuse. There’s nothing but factual information here! Documentary.

Ok, now I have three documentaries.

I took Bowling for Columbine out of the old documentary section and moved it into the "Chuck Heston Comedy" section. When Michael Moore made Columbine he intended it to be a documentary, however anything with Chuck starring in it simply must go into a special place. So, Bowling For Columbine sits next to Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green… that gem may go into the documentary section soon… and Call of the Wild (it’s really not very good at all). Madcap hilarity at it’s finest.

And then there’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Documentary? No! Horror? Yes! It fits in well alongside the original versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead, and my fave, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Oh piffle! The world is so messed up these days Body Snatchers, Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw go onto the documentary shelf too. But Fahrenheit 911 stays put in horror.

Now I have six documentaries: Dr. Strangelove, Nanook of the North, Brazil, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

You ask, but what about the great "mockumentaries?" I speak of Christopher Guest’s classics: Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show and A Mighty Wind. And let us not forget the immortal Rob Reiner masterpiece: Spinal Tap.

Don’t tell me you thought those were satires! Listen, after 26 years in the music bizz I can testify that A Mighty Wind and Spinal Tap are 100% true! The insensitivity of most audiences never fails to amaze me: people laugh at these fine historical records! For shame. I confess to weeping openly throughout both.

Okay, so we can add four more to my documentary section. I’m up to ten now.

Before you try this at home, a word of warning: Pretty much anything that film distributors label as a "documentary" ought to be moved to an entirely new category henceforth to be known as: "Sensationalism and Slapstick" — a kinder, gentler term for "Propaganda." Let’s face it, "Fair and balanced" documentaries haven’t been made since… well, Nanook of the North or Man of Aran.

Come to think of it, these days, there’s not much difference between The Three Stooges and most "documentaries." A skilled director could make a film titled Living History: The Three Stooges Take Over the World using a computer-generated Bush, Cheney and Gonzales in the lead roles. If filmed in 3D and "odorama," filmgoers will get some cool 3D glasses and scratch-n-sniff cards! (These special goodies might just bring back the drive-in theater, which would stimulate the production and sales of American-made automobiles and thus return the US to its former position of respect and envy in the world!)

Hey! I’m getting to work on the script for that baby right away

Contrary to popular conception, documentaries don’t really inform. Essentially they are, unlike the Chartier column, long-winded, one-sided rants. Today’s film school grads are experts at all the tricks of manipulative filmmaking because they grew up in a computerized, televised world. Art has been sacrificed to audience ratings and all that matters is box office.

It doesn’t make any difference whether you are watching a film made by loonies of the left or loonies of the right, there’s gonna be perception management galore. Most of us are not proof against the dark powers of PM, which powers can be difficult for the uninitiated to recognize or to block out. How many times have you seen some piece of hogwash touted as "conclusive proof?" By itself, the phrase "conclusive proof" should tell you that what you just bought were the rights to all of the oil in Iraq.

You’ve got to wonder how often university history professors have their facts questioned by young whippersnappers who lisp, "But Dr. Schnauzer, like that’s not the way it was in the movie." So, let’s not forget the "docudrama" or historical reenactments. These are about as factual as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Hmm… maybe I should move Willy Wonka into the documentary section too? Naw, that’s pushing it. The science to turn a kid into a blueberry has not been discovered… yet. Those scientists probably had their funding cut off. Turning enemy troops into blueberries wouldn’t exactly support the research… or would it?

Rounding out my documentary section to an… uh… uneven eleven is Luis Bunuel’s 1932 "surrealist documentary" Tierra sin pan (Land Without Bread). In Bunuel’s word’s Land Without Bread is the antithesis of film dramas "saturated with melodramatic germs, totally infected with romantic and naturalistic bacilli." Now that’s a documentary! There’s no pretense of objectivity or sentimentality to clutter it up. It is purely agenda driven. Land Without Bread is the Citizen Kane of all modern documentaries.

Just so there is no confusion. Here are my eleven documentaries:

  1. Dr. Strangelove Or How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
  2. Nanook of the North
  3. Brazil
  4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original version)
  5. Night of the Living Dead (original version)
  6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  7. Waiting For Guffman
  8. Best In Show
  9. A Mighty Wind
  10. Spinal Tap
  11. Tierra sin pan (Land Without Bread)

There you go. Reality in the raw! Readers are encouraged to add to this list.

But wait! You ask, what about that heralded French penguin movie, March of the Penguins? Sacre bleu! There are no penguins in France! They were fabricated by capitalist, bourgeois actors in front of a blue screen. It was digitally faked in the studio. I have conclusive proof. Look here! See for yourself!

Elizabeth Gyllensvard contributed to and edited this story.

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