The second wave of the Commie Plague isn’t over and lots of you are, like me, suffering or recovering from COVID-19. Since you need lots of rest and fluids and nutrition to get through it, you’re probably spending a lot of time on the couch or in bed. While you’re there, you might as well watch some good entertainment. Stephen Kruiser and I did a New Year’s Eve podcast about our favorite entertainment which you can listen to on the replay, and you can see Kruiser’s list below for his top picks.
What I noticed while Kruiser and I were chatting about our favorite shows is that documentaries take up a lot of my focus and there are some great ones out there right now. The following documentaries and docuseries will distract you during plague lockdown and give you something to look forward to while languishing with the Szechwan Shivers. The following are in no particular order.
1. Diana In Her Own Words
I’m a fan of The Crown, a fictionalized history of Great Britain’s royal family streaming on Netflix. What seems obvious though, is that someone (probably connected to the actual Crown) made sure it was sufficiently glowing when it came to depicting the famous royals, save Diana. For Princess Di, they didn’t hold back on the harsh light and insinuated that she was really the problem in the Charles and Diana saga. The storytellers went out of their way to throw as much blame as they could on the 19-year-old girl, who married into the most powerful family on earth, rather than the fact that Charles never loved her and had a mistress from the very beginning. Somehow, they made the viewer feel sorry for the philanderer. Luckily, Diana in Her Own Words exists to dash that narrative to bits. Directed by Tom Jennings and David Tillman, the documentary throws a whole different light on the experience of joining Queen Elizabeth’s clan than we were given in the fictionalized series.
It’s as if Diana knew that one day the family would try to tarnish her memory and she made sure her voice wouldn’t be silenced. Diana willingly recorded the sessions with her voice coach. This casts doubt on the family’s insistence that she intended those recordings to remain private. If that were the case, wouldn’t she have made the recordings innocuous and boring? Instead, the woman the entire world wanted to know intimately, so much so that she was the most hunted person on the planet, told her life story on tape and included salacious details of Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and of the intense sadness and depression she suffered as well as debilitating bulimia she believed was caused by the stress of marrying a man who never loved her. Her story is compelling, and there’s no way she didn’t know the tapes would become public one day.
The nostalgia of Princess Diana and the fairytale wedding I remember watching as a young child should not be missed. What a different experience it was to watch it again while knowing about Camilla and Charles. What seemed a dream was actually a nightmare. It’s a wonderful time capsule of the 1980’s and what was happening in the world at the time. Diana In Her Own Words is a must-see for an eighties kid.
2. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
I avoided this docuseries for a while because I knew it would be dark. But it’s the kind of darkness you have to know about. I had actual nightmares after watching it. Nothing illustrates the detestable state of our justice system better than this film. Directed by Lisa Bryant and based on a book by the same name by James Patterson, and co-written by John Connolly and Tim Malloy, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich follows the unbelievable life and crimes of the sex-trafficking pedophile who preyed on desperate young women from the wrong side of the tracks in what amounted to a giant pyramid scheme of perversion.
What Americans should all witness is how our law enforcement agencies aren’t interested in prosecuting the rich and powerful. The lengths these officials, including some in the FBI and the prosecutor’s office, took to protect the billionaire Epstein from facing any consequences for his well-known crimes will make you sick. But it has to be seen in order to understand how wide the disparity between the elite and powerful and the rest of us is.
3. The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley
Directed by Alex Gibney, the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the giant scam she pulled on the world is riveting stuff. The young dazzling beauty with the strange baritone voice convinced everyone that she had invented a machine that could run all the usual blood tests using only one drop of blood. The trouble was, it was a lie. But that didn’t stop the most wealthy and influential people in America from backing her, from Joe Biden and other prominent politicians to General James Mattis who served on the board of her company Theranos. Her fraudulent tests put actual patient lives in danger.
Much like the Epstein documentary, this film shows how much protection one gets from cozy connections with the American elite. Holmes would never have gotten as far as she did without wealthy benefactors who overlooked red flags because of her Ivy League education and powerful friends. This film is so good that once I hit play I could not turn it off. I found myself watching it on my phone as I prepared dinner or did my chores.
Holmes ended up getting charged with fraud and is awaiting trial in 2021. How she got to that point should not be missed and you can tune in on HBO through Amazon or other digital streaming devices.
4. The Vow
The Vow, also on HBO, tells the story of Keith Raniere and his company NXVIM that ended up being exposed for sex trafficking and exploiting women including at least one who was underage. I wrote a detailed review of this late last year which you can find here. What I found the most intriguing about this docuseries was how so many highly intelligent people were suckered into a cult that was abusing its members.
“We were told that we’d all be receiving an identical tattoo the size of a dime,” Edmondson, whose “master” was Lauren Salzman, writes in her memoir, Scarred. “Instead, we took turns holding each of the other members down on a table as Nxivm’s resident female doctor dragged a red-hot cauterizing pen across the sensitive area just below their bikini line. The women screamed in pain as the smell of burnt flesh filled the air.”
Even after it was discovered that Raniere and his lover, Hollywood starlett Allison Mack, were ritualistically branding women with a soldering iron, many proponents of Raniere’s self-help systems still refused to see the danger. Some are still advocating for his innocence to this day. Raniere and his upper management, such as billionaire heiress Clare Bronfman, have been sentenced to prison time for their roles in NXVIM. Mack is still awaiting sentencing for her role.
5. Jesus Town
Jesus Town, directed by Billie Mintz and Julian Pinder, tells the story of a small Oklahoma town that revolves around its long-running Passion play that tells the story of Jesus’s life and death. The story centers on finding the right actor to play the pivotal main role, Jesus. When the directors choose a veteran player they don’t know has left his Christian faith for Buddhism, drama ensues. Throughout the film, the townspeople come to terms with one of their own leaving the faith and instead of the usual way Christians are portrayed as rigid bigots, the viewer is treated to an honest depiction of good folks struggling with a difficult reality but clinging to the gospel of love. This is a wonderful feel-good film with a surprise ending. I loved it.
6. The Guardians
Directed by Billie Mintz and streaming on Amazon Prime, The Guardians tells the outrageous story of one county’s corruption in Nevada that targeted its seniors for financial destruction and abuse. I have interviewed Mintz on my podcast, “The Fringe,” about this tragedy. The film sheds light on the illegal kidnapping of America’s seniors that is happening by local government agencies. Fortunes are stolen, lives are ruined, and all on the false premise that the government knows what’s best for people in their twilight years. Mintz should win a humanitarian award for bringing this horror to light. Don’t miss this one.
These picks should give you enough content for any plague recovery or lockdown you might be going through. Let me know in the comments if you liked my choices or if you want to add other films to the list!