* Day dreaming about the feast to come on the day before Thanksgiving, I stumbled on an episode of Nature on PBS about a naturalist who raised turkeys from the moment they emerged from their eggs. You might have flipped past the channel had you been sitting with me, but you weren’t, so I lingered, bonded with the turkeys, and may have wept at parts. My Life as a Turkey recreates a year-long experiment between man and bird that is as beautiful as it is moving. Gorgeously shot, perfectly narrated, and scored with just the right music, the film converts you to instant wild turkey lover. Because you’re the kind of person who thinks, Uh, not in a million years, I’m sharing a link to the 50-minute program. Sweet Pea and Big Boy will win you over or you are dead inside. So, I’ll wait here while you grab a leftover turkey sandwich; come back and we’ll watch it together so I can watch you try not to cry.
* I have two old friends who send well wishes to the other through me, since in a way (after eight years), they know a lot about each other, even though they’ve never met. I go to my friend Sophia’s house for Thanksgiving; my friend Anthony volunteers for mealtime at a homeless shelter, which he’s done for years. This year, I’m at Sophia’s house, post-turkey, warming myself by the fire pit with her family. I go inside for a second where the TV is tuned to the local news doing its yearly story on the volunteers and guests of the shelter. Every year, I kid Anthony that I’ll see his mug on TV, and every year I do, always by chance. This year he’s upstaged by our senator, but not for long. When he flashes on the screen, I call to Sophia in the backyard.
“Come meet Anthony!” I yell.
“Aw,” she says. “Anthony!”
They meet at last.
* Driving home from Thanksgiving dinner, front doors everywhere are open wide, cooling kitchens—windows fogged from turkeys roasting all day. Houses are letting off steam, staving off naps, and pretending it’s early autumn and that the open windows of summer are not yet a memory.
When I told my sister that I was going to see a movie about sheep, she rolled her eyes. Well, she was on the phone, but I could sense it. I have a history of recommending documentaries featuring animals that she thinks are ridiculous but that are actually quirky and moving: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, The Story of the Weeping Camel, Winged Migration, March of the Penguins. And now Sweetgrass that I saw this weekend, which is “a graceful and often moving meditation on a disappearing way of life,” according to Manohla Dargis of The New York Times. Exactly. From a simple scene of sheep shearing to watching a flock of 3,000 woolies traipse to summer pasture, you come to adore the sheep and the cowboy way of life in the disappearing American West. It’s no Avatar, but that’s exactly why you should see it.
Then a friend pulled an Amazon, as in If you like that, you’ll love this:
No Impact Man is a documentary about a family that embarks on a year-long project to live without making an environmental impact. The movie evolved from the clever, informative blog No Impact Man written by a man who believes that efforts like reducing waste and eating sustainable food should not be about deprivation, but about making the world a better place to live, which will ultimately make us happier than all that stuff anyway. I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the entire movie.
It may be tricky to give up toilet paper, but it’s not so hard to bring your strawberry cartons back to the farmer’s market to reuse, or just to start shopping at a farmer’s market, or to eliminate household chemical cleaners, or just to think about each purchase.
Suffice it to say, there are about a million things you can do shrink your impact if you want. Here’s No Impact Man’s Top Ten Eco-Lifestyle Changes to get you started. Or you could just rent the movie for inspiration. It’s a balanced portrayal of the project (they have plenty of critics) and an honest profile of a marriage in the midst of a stressful experiment. Their 2-year-old daughter is perhaps the most natural environmentalist, comfy in her cloth diapers and squealing in delight at the worms in the compost. She didn’t complain about reading by candlelight and taking the stairs; she thought cleaning the laundry by stomping on it the in the bathtub was the most fun a girl could have. Perhaps, then, the key to being a good friend to the planet is to reclaim your 2-year-old self and find joy in the everyday.
Early on in James Toback’s documentary Tyson (yup, it’s about Mike Tyson), I found myself warming to the big galoot. Sure, he was violent, but the poor guy was bullied as a child. He was afraid. Other people hit him. He was a lover, not a hater. All he needed was a hug.
Then my boyfriend reminded me that he went to jail for raping a woman and that he bit a guy’s ear, not once, but twice.
Tyson, who sports a Maori tattoo on his face still looks menacing, but he’s surprisingly self-aware and articulate. Well, maybe more talkative than articulate. Though he did blow me away by using the word “skullduggery.” Who knew Tyson could one-up me in the vocab department?
Anyway, even if, like me, the last thing you think you want to watch is a documentary about an unstable boxer, check it out. It’s a well done, revealing portrait of a man who just wants to be loved. And who occasionally gets angry and bites off a chunk of a guy’s ear.
I watched a documentary about Donkey Kong this weekend. That’s right. I’m sure you’re having the same reaction my boyfriend had when I proposed it.
“Wait, you want us to watch a movie about people who play the video game Donkey Kong?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah, but I read all these reviews that say it’s really good,” I said. “Really.”
He gave me a look that said, Oh, you and your obscure movies. What I must tolerate.
Yeah, it was as weird as we expected, but was also, as the blurb promised, curiously compelling. Apparently, within the already, um, interesting subculture of video gamers is a group that’s hellbent on breaking records, so much so that they videotape themselves playing so that their scores can be verified by a referee. All gamers aim to achieve the highest score possible, I suppose, but these people mean business in a way that says, I will dedicate my life to conquering Kong, even if it means installing an arcade size game in my garage and playing for a billion hours straight till my eyes resemble Super Mario.
Anyway, the story focuses on a nice guy who’s trying to break a 20-year record held by a strange guy who wears skinny ties with American themes and hair straight out of the 70s—a style that prompted my boyfriend to ask four times, Hold on, when was this made?
Whether you’ve ever played Donkey Kong or not, you’ll feel the tension in this movie, evidenced by the fact that said boyfriend paused it when he got up to get some pie because he didn’t want to miss anything. I stifled an I told you so.
Are you one of those people who groan when you hear the word documentary? Well, don’t. There are some good ones out there and I’m gonna tell you about one of them that was even on some guy’s Netflix list titled Documentaries That Aren’t Boring. See, there are two of us who think documentaries are cool.
Long Way Round follows two guys on motorcycles on an ambitious trip around the world. The tag line: 2 guys, 2 bikes, 20,000 miles, sums it up nicely. Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are hilarious guy pals who just want to hit the open road. They kick off their trip in London, ride through Europe, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Alaska, Canada, and across the U.S., ending three months later in New York. Plenty goes wrong.
Watching the guys acclimate to each culture, meeting people and having a hell of a time even when they don’t share a language, are the best bits. The series spans six one-hour segments, so there are lots of these bits to discover. And once you watch one, you’ll soon find yourself in a Long Way Round marathon.