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10 Currently Streaming Documentaries You Need to See (Part 2)

1. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Available on Netflix

Lay & Skilling.PNG

Most people know the name Enron.  A lot of people know the name of Enron CEO and Chairman, Ken Lay, who was indicted and found guilty on 10 counts of Securities Fraud. This documentary tells the story of the largest corporate fraud and bankruptcy in American history.  And these guys make the Wolf of Wall Street look like a story of petty shoplifters by comparison. The company generated huge profits from construction of a power plant that was never completed and rolling blackouts and wildfires in California.  You’ll be scratching your head wondering how regulators let this happen and how they got away with it for so long.  It explores the intricacies, complexity, and sometimes simplicity of how Lay and his co-conspirators defrauded shareholders and the public for years.  The amount of hubris and lengths that Enron executives went to to keep the facade going, and the stock price going up while no one from the outside suspected, are fascinating.  This in depth look at the lead up to the house of cards collapsing features former Enron employees and journalists who were instrumental in documenting the energy giant’s downfall as it was happening.

2. Diana: Seven Days that Rocked the World (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes: NR

Available on Netflix

Whether you were glued to your TV watching every update or development of Princess Diana’s death and the days after, remember only bits and pieces, or were too young to Diana Funeralreally know what was happening, this documentary will grab and hold your attention.   I was 9 at the time of Diana’s death so all I remembered was my mom crying and the Elton John song.  I don’t even remember if I was aware of who she was before her death.  This documentary, in painstaking detail, revisits the week following the wreck – from how the situation was handled by her ex-husband and the royal family, how her boys held themselves with such grace and dignity following the loss of their mother, and how Diana’s family handled the loss of a daughter. No matter what you remember or how clearly you remember the tragedy, this BBC doc will remind you of the politics on one end and the human element on the other.  I walked away with an awareness of Diana as a person and the impact on those closest to her more than a larger than life, celebrity and tabloid figure passing.  Also, the British paparazzi, my God.

3. Undefeated (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Available on Netflix

Take the emotions brought on by the Blindside, Last Chance U, Gridiron Gang, and Coach Carter, and combine them.  This is all of those and more, and completely real.  Manassas High School, situated in one of the worst neighborhoods in North Memphis, has never Undefeatedwon a playoff game.  Volunteer Coach and small business owner, Bill Courtney, gives up a third of his life during football season to use football to teach a bunch of kids with no chance about life.  With players going to jail, no parents to make them go to school, no structure outside of football, Courtney has more obstacles than any imaginable situation for a coach. The wins, on and off the field, are few and far between, the thank yous are non-existent.  But Courtney sticks with his boys.  Watch this and you’ll have a new appreciation for everything you have, and hopefully seeing what Courtney does, the sacrifice he makes, you’ll be willing to do more for the less fortunate around you.

4. The Seven Five

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Available on Netflix

If you’re ever feeling downtrodden from hearing about crooked cops or all the deaths at the hands of law enforcement, just throw The Seven Five on and sit back.  At least we don’t all have the cops that Brooklyn had in the 80’s.  The Seven Five is the real life story of the biggest law enforcement scandal in New York history.  As far as crooked cop pieces go, this has just about everything you’d want – drugs, blackmail, murder, hush money exchanged via envelopes under shady circumstances, all kinds of cover ups, double crossing, and basically cops acting as mob bosses to cover their tracks and keep people quiet.  This has almost all of the key members of the story, recounting and explaining the events that unfolded so it’s an incredible retelling of the story and one that you wouldn’t have gotten without all the culprits being willing to play ball, which doesn’t happen often.  In a moment of unintentional comedy, in archival footage of a judge questioning one of the accused officers, he asks “Are you from New York?”  Here’s just a slice of the kind of people characters/accents you’re dealing with throughout.

Do you think it was necessary to ask this guy where he’s from?  Yea, me neither.

5. Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman (2015)

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Available on Amazon Prime

This documentary tells about another side of one of the best known actors of all time. When he wasn’t in front of the camera, he was behind the wheel.  Newman gained interest in racing competitively while training in preparation for the 1969 racing film, Winning.  He started as an amateur driver but spent the latter third of his life turning hisNewman.PNG passion into another profession.  Most people with his level of fame and fortune would have jumped into the fastest, most expensive car, and spent a fortune on to be able to run in the biggest races or just stuck to the celebrity races.  Newman did the opposite, starting in the smallest races in low horsepower cars and spending years working his way up to be able to compete in (and win) races at Le Mas, Daytona, and others.  He became a national championship driver then later raced into his mid 70’s.  The doc features interviews with Newman’s brother, Mario and Michael Andretti, Jay Leno, Tom Cruise, Patrick Dempsey, and several key players from the last 40 years of racing in the US.  You’ll be left with a completely new respect for Paul Newman, not as an actor or even a driver, but as a man.  There is not and will never be another Paul Newman.


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