DOC-UARY: 31 DOCS IN 31 DAYS – PART NINE
Reviews by Chris MacKenzie
25. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone – 3.5 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
An all-access backstage pass to the genesis, rise, collapse and rebirth of one of the 80s most original and influential LA bands.
Thoughts: This is a very well-made documentary that puts the band, which I always liked but didn’t know much about, into historical context. From the bussing of school kids to the LA Riots, the story of Los Angeles from the 70s on is reflected time and time again through the band. Beyond that, it is a warts-and-all look at what has become a rock n roll cliche: the story of best friends having their wildest dreams come true, and then watching it all fall apart.
This movie has amazing footage of the band from all eras, and, unlike many other docs I’ve seen, incorporates animated segments/re-tellings in a way that really enhance the narrative. In addition, there are several musical heavy hitters (Perry Farrell, Flea) who are more than eager to confirm that this band was (is?) the real deal.
This film makes the point, and then backs it up well, that musically, Fishbone was “too white” for black audiences, and visually, they were “too black” for white audiences. And while it would be easy to see the latter as the bigger crime, you really get the sense that the band feels more bitter about being ignored by the black music industry for not joining the wave of Gangsta Rap acts that were flooding popular culture. Unfortunately in Fishbone’s case, being original meant being different, and being different doesn’t always translate into huge profits for record companies. Beyond that, being amazing onstage doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to capture that in a studio album. . These are just some of the issues that faced the band as it disintegrated to eventually just include two original members. While there are no hackneyed drug overdose tragedies in this band, there is an amazing story detailed of a botched intervention for one religious band member that resulted in three of the “interveners” being brought up on Federal Kidnapping charges. Now THAT’S rock-n-roll.
Thoughts: In watching all of these documentaries I would be remiss in not viewing something from the political far right. While I do not share those opinions, I thought it worthwhile to see how a usually liberal genre is being used to convey conservative ideals.
This movie felt more like an assassination attempt than a documentary. Filled with “earth shattering” revelations, making this movie just more after-the-fact fodder for those who are already oppose the Occupy movement. This documentary constantly contradicts itself by painting those in the Occupy as both incredibly stupid AND cunningly evil. Eventually you realize this film is several cherry-picked fact-lets presented as a “you decide” documentary.
There are interviews with several people who embedded themselves into the Occupy movement, each has an overeager “I just ran back from the front to deliver this urgent news” breathlessness as they clue us in on what REALLY happened. Good work, boys! (and one lone black lady!)
This movie may best be remembered as the swan song for Andrew Breitbart, the conservative rabble-rouser (oops! Socialist term) who (according to the LIBERAL Mediasnort!) died of a massive coronary right after filming his part in the movie. Any suspicions about his cause of death disappear when you see him in this film and realize he was only in his 40s, yet the dude looks well into his 60s. It seems this film’s only purpose is to terrify people into believing we are nearing the Labor Union/Mainstream Media/NeoMarxist-induced end of days. Unfortunately, your statements don’t become more true the louder you yell them. This film is a polemic diatribe which absurdly purports to give you the whole story by only giving you a very, very small sliver of the story.
Having said that, I will freely admit this movie is very well made. The footage of the protestors, and the way it’s manipulated, makes this feel like a frenetic zombie movie more than a documentary. This “Beware the Undead” theme is reinforced by the ample clips and photos of the near-toxic campsites that sprung up from the Occupy movement. How could any creature born of this morallydevoid muck do anything but rip the flesh off of the America we love? Spooky stuff. The filmmakers attempt to insert some humor, and at one point succeed, by confronting Michael Moore (in a very Michael Moore way) about his vast wealth as he stands in the middle of Zuccotti Park puffing his feathers for camera. This footage is followed by a very grainy shot of Michael Moore’s immense, I mean immense, Summer Home. I thought this was pretty damn funny. Unfortunately, the “Radical Right” still doesn’t get that you catch more flies with comedic honey (Jon Stewart) than you do with incendiary vinegar (Andrew Breitbart.) Sadly, their humor fails when they include WAY too many “dumb answers to a smart question” moments of the Occupiers.
It’s hard to tell if these were included as “gotcha” moments or comedy bits, but either way, they fall well short of even “JayWalking.” In the end, this documentary succeeds in its mission of dramatically “unmasking” a loosely-affiliated group of disenfranchised dirty hipsters. But any fears of those people ruining the “American Way of Life” are a distant second to the story of the people they were protesting against: the unchecked, amoral Wall Street Plunderers who in fact DID ruin the “American Way of Life.” Unfortunately, these filmmakers solely focused on splattering brains without even acknowledging the evil virus that caused this plague.
27. The Billionaires’ Tea Party – 2 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
A “hide your wife, hide your kids” film that hopes to “expose” the radical truth about the Tea Party movement and anyone attached to it. (Sound familiar? See above)
Thoughts: How can something pretend to be the opposite of a thing it is exactly like? Having seen “Occupy Unmasked”, I figured I should watch something a bit more liberal. It was probably a bad idea to watch these back-to-back as this film screams, “Danger! Danger!” just as loudly, though not nearly as well, as “Occupy Unmasked.” Made by some foreign dude, the picture it creates is painted painfully by the numbers. Evidence that Tea Partiers are so fat and lazy they have to bring lawn chairs to rallies? Check! Poorly spelled and lettered signs? Check! Trotting out of the eeevil Koch twins? Yes! Boom! Trifecta!
While I am in no way sympathetic to the Tea Party movement from a philosophical point of view, if I believe they are all butterchinned ignoramuses, then I have to believe that those crazy Occupy kids are all zombies. And I don’t think they’re zombies. On the bright side, this film has my all-time favorite documentary cliche. Whilst we watch a shot of the documentarian driving his rental car through rural America, his voiceover announces, “so I set out to find…” When this phrase is uttered in a documentary, 9 times out of 10, you’re about to watch a stinker.
From there it doesn’t get much better. We are shown a brochure shot of the ritzy hotel where the Koch twins conduct their totally secret meetings (that EVERYONE seems to know about.) The only really shocking thing about the photo was the fact that the resort didn’t look all that nice considering most of the jackasses meeting there are billionaires.
One of the filmmaker’s proudest moments seems to be when he catches a Tea Party Technology Guru (a seemingly glaring oxymoron) suggest that people go online and give BAD reviews for liberal books. What?!?! Oh, thank you for recording this man without him knowing so we can finally see the truth. Get this, the Tea Party’s strategy is to do what every 13-year-old girl on Instagram, every Mountain Dew-addicted fatso on Reddit, and every unqualified documentary reviewer does online - espouse their dumb opinions with little or no interest in hearing any others. This just isn’t earth shattering.
Despite agreeing politically with the filmmaker, his movie is a good example of what’s wrong with political discourse. To him (and the Breitbarts of the world) the only way you could not agree with me is if you are dumb or apathetic. So this viewer will “set out to find” which I am, just not with the help of some foreign dude.
“Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone”, “Occupy Unmasked” and “The Billionaires’ Tea Party” are available on NetFlix.