Roger Thomas Column: What a year for documentaries

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I cannot remember a year I have been this excited about the “Documentary Features” for the Oscars and all the other film awards. I have not seen all the documentaries, but these are a list of films that I have seen and think each one is outstanding.

I have some films that I like more than others, but all of these deserve attention so I am offering an alphabetical list.

• “Filmworker”: This film tells the story of a man named Leon Vitali who chose to work behind the scenes to make sure that filmmaker Stanly Kubrick got exactly what he wanted in his films.

Roger Thomas

Vitali started as an actor in Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon.” I have seen “Lyndon” a couple of times, but I think I like “Filmworker” more. It is a great story of the making of films.

• “The Final Year”: Yes, this is a political film. It shows glimpses of the last year of the Obama Administration. I found it to be compelling, but I understand that there are two opinions in our country on these kind of issues. If there is a film about the Trump Administration at the end of his service, I will probably watch that one, too.

• “The King”: I am not a big Elvis fan. I know some of his songs and I know his life story somewhat, but I have never thought too much about his life.
“The King” is a film about Presley made 40 years after his death. When the film ended, I had a new appreciation of his life and his work.

• “Mountain”: This is a film filled with beautiful scenery and interesting narration by Willem Dafoe. There are many breathtaking stunts and facts about the natural obstacles some people seek to conquer. I do not want to be there, but I enjoyed what I saw on the screen.

• “Science Fair”: This documentary follows several teenagers who travel to Los Angeles to participate in the International Science Fair. It is impossible to not choose one or two that one hopes will become the winner. I will not reveal for which one I was cheering, but the whole process is great fun and educational. And wow, those science students are brilliant.
• “Tea with the Dames”: This film is a conversation between four of England’s most spectacular actresses: Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Maggie Smith.
All four are charming and insightful about their lives and their careers. There are many reflections and samples of their acting and humor abounds often. Most of all, these four women seem honest about where they are in their life journeys. I found it much more charming than I expected.

• “Three Identical Strangers”: How would you feel if you were almost 20 years old and found out that you have a sibling? Then you find out that your sibling is an identical twin? And to top that surprise, the twins discover that they are actually two of three triplets. Before this film is over, the story will surprise and shock and it will always engage.

• “Who Is Notorious RBG?”: The full title should be “Who Is Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” I would like to meet any of the people on this list, but I think I would most want to meet Justice Ginsburg. I will probably just have to watch her movie again because I doubt we will ever meet. What a great story she has.

• “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”: I grew up with “Captain Kangaroo.” I never watched “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” However, I was charmed by the new film that offers a quick glance of all the wonder this television show held. Fred Rogers is gone, but he will not be forgotten. The truth of his simple lessons will last forever and wherever there is love.
Several other documentary features have some buzz around them, but I have not had a chance to see them. These films might be better than the ones above, but I doubt it. Here are the unseen list: “Free Solo,” “Active Measures,” “Whitney” and “Dark Money.”

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.