Documentaries to watch: Into the Abyss and Being Elmo

I caved and recently returned to using Netflix. I could not resist my queue just sitting there for two years and thinking of how many movies I could watch in that time. Probably not 449, which is the current number of DVDs on the list, but hey a girl can dream, can’t she?
I did just cross two titles, both documentaries, off my list: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey and Into the Abyss.
While I recommend seeing both, definitely watch Into the Abyss first and then take in Being Elmo as a little pick me up.
I like documentaries because they are a film medium where you can learn a little bit about a whole host of topics, stories, and people. For example, Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss explores the intricacies of capital punishment using a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas as the backdrop. Not very uplifting, I know, but after reading reviews and hearing the buzz about the film I had to watch it.
While a tough subject matter, Herzog presents a very balanced view about capital punishment, described in the film’s synopsis as “to explore why people kill and why a state kills.” Herzog even interviewed death row inmate Michael Perry (convicted for the triple homicide) eight days before his execution in Texas and his partner in crime Jason Burkett. Law enforcement, family members of the victims and even people who worked inside the walls of an execution chamber all had their stories told on screen through the documentary and honestly it sent chills down my spine. It’s not something you want to see, but it’s reality and educational.
Just remember, the little known, at least for me, life story of Elmo is not far away. Being Elmo, produced and directed by independent documentary filmmaker Constance Marks, is on Netflix instant if you have that service or on DVD. It is a rags to riches story of a young boy growing up in Baltimore who developed his career aspirations to work with Jim Henson one day from watching Sesame Street. Did you know that that boy, Kevin Clash, is now the senior Muppet coordinator on Sesame Street and the voice behind Elmo? And, he was a puppet in The Labyrinth. Talk about a dream job. The documentary does explore the highs and lows of Clash’s career, which I like because it presents both sides of the story. As far as I can tell, Clash pretty much works all the time and because of that has sacrificed spending time with his family. But as Elmo he also influences the lives of many people, especially children.
It’s too nice of a day to sit inside and watch mooooovies, but on the next rainy one, I recommend these titles.
Happy Sunday!

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