Bring up Netflix's streaming service and you think "House of Cards," "Orange Is the New Black" or, if you're old school, "Lilyhammer."
What about the service’s array of documentary film options?
The Netflix lineup is always in flux, but consumers can savor five documentaries available now that are more than worth their while. They might learn something along the way.
- “Paul Williams: Still Alive” – The man who put “The Rainbow Connection” in Kermit’s green lips once occupied a unique slot in popular culture. He appeared in “Smokey and the Bandit” as well as an array of kitschy TV shows above and beyond his stellar songwriting. Then … he disappeared. “Still Alive” shows what happens with a semi-obsessed filmmaker tracks Williams down. What emerges is a fascinating tale of failure, success and a happy albeit subdued comeback saga.
- “FrackNation” – The mainstream media and documentaries like “Gasland” explore the potential dark side of fracking. Phelim McAleer’s documentary tells another story, making it a valuable part of the current energy conversation. The New York Post’s Kyle Smith called the film a “robustly entertaining and informative doc” that debunks “Gasland” as well as its own director, Josh Fox.
- “LIfe Itself” – No matter where you stand on Roger Ebert’s film and ideological legacy, he remains the last nationally celebrated film critic whose life occasionally overshadowed the movies he reviewed. Here’s a celebration of his cultural impact, from his contentious days in the balcony with Gene Siskel to his heroic battle against cancer.
- “Buck” – Meet Buck Brannaman, a true horse whisperer whose work showcases not just the beauty of these creatures but the psychological state of their owners. It’s a spare doc about a fascinating sole, and his life lessons expand far beyond the farm.
- “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” – It’s hard to imagine a better way to view China’s state-sponsored censorship than through the eyes of this unrepentant artist/provocateur. Ai Weiwei’s battles with the government are humorous, painful and indicative of larger issues that remain unresolved. The film’s protagonist is no saint, but his message demands to be heard.