Intelligent Distractions

January 22, 2014


great documentaries to watch

You know that thing where you have ninety gafrillion things going on but your brain still wants to explore other things that have nothing to do with you getting any of those ninety gafrillion things done?

Yes? Come sit next to  me.

Several weeks ago I binge watched Breaking Bad. I recommend this – as long as you recognize you will not be able to focus on anything television related for weeks upon weeks afterwards. Not kidding. This is what happened. I had neither the stamina, the energy, or the empathy to watch any other character-related story. In any storyline, I’d either want to yell, “BITCH!”, Jesse Pinkman-style, or just apathetically figure out the best way for some character to die.

Say my name.

Eventually, I wanted to ease my way back into some interesting TV – and decided documentaries might be a good way to do it. Short(ish), educational, and, hey, if I ever ended up going out again, I’d have things to talk about or share. Bonus. I’m now in a torrid affair with Netflix.

Here are a few I’ve watched recently – some I just needed to catch up on as I missed their release, some I just stumbled upon an found interesting. Maybe you will, too.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs

The century-long legend of luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman is lent some fascination (as if more is possible) by some behind-the-scenes peeks, as well as interviews with designers it launched, retail executives, old and new Hollywood stars, and one, very compelling personal salesperson, Betty, who could have her own documentary after decades of employment. Don’t miss the making of their legendary, artistic Christmas windows.  A little superficial in storytelling, but an easy watch.

The Art of the Steal

I cannot tell you how angry this story made me. The Barnes Collection  holds one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings in the world. The entire world. Created in 1922 by the ever-eccentric Dr. Albert Barnes, and valued in the tens of billions, he and this collection became the center of a political and cultural war in not only Philadelphia, but the world. The intrigue around this chess game of players in politics, the art world, and major charitable foundations, and the grounding question of “What were Dr. Barnes’ wishes upon his death?” make for a story that could have been written for theater, but in real life, is disrespectful and greedy.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Must Travel

If you spend any time around people involved in fashion or cultural pursuits, Diana Vreeland’s name, or quotes show up. Her truly remarkable life is completely compelling as a documentary. A woman who, while not particularly physically attractive, was a force of attraction to some of the cultural and fashion elite – and lived her life out loud. At the helm of Harper’s Bazaar, she transformed the magazine, and the direction of fashion magazines and her vision is still felt to this day. Comparisons between she and Anna Wintour are easy, but easier is to see how Diana set the bar for those who followed her. If ever you needed to choose a spirit animal as a woman – fashion interest or not – Diana is the top of the short list. Watch this one with a glass of wine, or, better yet, a French 75.


This was just fascinating. It follows four men (and their significant others) in their quest to pass the excruciating Master Sommelier exam. If you have any interest in wines, wine history, tasting, or just good, old-fashioned psychology, this is a great watch.  At the release of this film, there were only 197 Master Sommeliers in the world since its inception in 1969. I won’t tell you which of the men passed – you can root for your favorite.

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing

I haven’t yet summoned the courage or focus to read Jobs highly regarded biography, but watching this short film reminded me of why I miss him. Chock full of interviews with those who knew him well, and those that were impacted by him both here and abroad, it is an interesting overview of a man this world was better for having known. The personal insights from competitors, journalists, musicians, artists, and Mr. Wozniak himself makes for an engaging and entertaining 55 minutes. G-d bless, you, Mr. Jobs – you are still terrifically missed.

Have you seen a great documentary lately? What do I need to add to my distraction list? One cannot live on home renovations and decor alone, you know.

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4 Responses to “Intelligent Distractions”

  1. Missy Says:

    I am a docu ho. Have you seen Wild Wonderful Whites of W Virginia? Best ever. (And produced by Hollywood Hoisewife’s hubs)

  2. Micheline Says:

    With all the traveling I did from August to January, I also watched a number of documentaries. I highly recommend:

    Exit Through the Gift Shop. Awesome documentary about street art icons. Surprises included. Will draw you in(pun not intended).

    Happy People: A Year in Taiga. People who are happy living in the far reaches of Siberia. Happy and remote freezing wilderness in the same sentence. Imagine.