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Battle Of The Sexes

Tuesday 25 June 2013, 15:58

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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There's a terrific documentary out this week called Battle Of The Sexes - it chronicles a famous tennis match but it's much more than a film about sport. Which documentaries have inspired you?

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    surfwise - is a great documentary quite hard to find tho - it's sold as surfing but it's about family - had me in tears at the end

    i hear 'bones brigade' is good too for skateboarding - i agree senna was amazing

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    Comment number 2.

    Helvetica - Pulling off the unbelievable task of making typography interesting.

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    Comment number 3.

    Beyond the Matt - Made wrestling a guilty pleasure till this day... shhhh!!!

    "Oh my god, its The Rock!!!!!!!!!!"

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    Comment number 4.

    I have to say, despite having no interest in the video game high score scene, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is an incredible documentary in that it's less about Donkey Kong and more about the rivalry between Billy Mitchel and Steve Wiebe and how the game allowed Wiebe to see some fulfilment and recognition in his life and how the underdog is constantly being pushed back by the champions to keep the status quo the same. A story that anyone can relate to, even if you've never heard of Donkey Kong before.

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    Comment number 5.

    You can't be Neutral on a Moving Train.

    Wasn't really interested in Howard Zinn beforehand.

    Not really interested in Howard Zinn now.

    Yet, I've watched the documentary 4 times now.

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    Comment number 6.

    I have wanted to watch Gasland ever since Mark mentioned it in his review of Promised land.

    Page one: Inside the New York Times was great. I also loved The Shock Docterine even though I can't say I wasn't interested beforehand. I have Bill Cunningham New York at home and I just know it's going to be great. I have no real interest in the New York fashion scene but his story seems inspiring.

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    Comment number 7.

    American Movie was one of the driving forces that made me fully commit to focusing on film as a future career, and without it I'm not sure I would have had the conifidence to be taking Film at university this year

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    Comment number 8.

    "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel". There's nothing more inspiring than an underdog who refuses to compromise and eventually wins out. It's so satisfying watching the film tracing Corman's path from script reader to prolific trash movie maker to Oscar winner and mentor of some of Hollywood's greatest directors.

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    Comment number 9.

    'Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner' 3 hours plus of Cineastic bliss. If you love film you'll be riveted by this tribute to the madness in its methods.

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    Comment number 10.

    Despite not having any interest in basketball or having any stake in either of the teams, I found myself watching, and thoroughly enjoying, "30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks". It's just a well-assembled, fun documentary with interviews with lots of colorful personalities, and it was exactly what I needed to pick me up at the end of a rough day.

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    Comment number 11.

    I'd probably cite Jonathan Miller's 'Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief', which 14-year-old me saw on the BBC when it first aired in 2004. Growing up as I had in the kind of family that occasionally attended services like midnight mass and would've ticked 'Christian' on the census form but had no real interest in religious faith, it was quite an eye-opener about belief and disbelief (though it had little affect on how much of either of those I held) and had me fascinated by the subject. Plus, I like to think it's how, after a bit of searching, I came across Martin Scorcese's 'Last Temptation of Christ' - and by extension, Scorcese himself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    For me, it's Man On Wire.

    I couldn't imagine anything more boring than tightrope walking. I still can't. Yet the protagonist has such passion for this totally inane activity that I was swept away with his story. The strange roles of the sidemen, the friendships, relationships and the strains they all bear are brilliantly portrayed.

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    Comment number 13.

    In my life Sharkwater is the documentary which has inspired me the most. Before I watched this I knew very little about the shark finning industry, but this film has led to become an activist against shark finning.

    Your Father's Murderer: A Letter to Zachary is another brilliant documentary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarter, great documentary about something I couldn't care less about. I've watched it a couple of times and I just love the "underdog-taking-on-the-big-guys feeling" of it and it is just filled with warmth. Great documentary about competitions in life, not video games.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I second Beyond The Matt. When I was a kid I loved wrestling so I love that documentary because it shows all my childhood favourite wrestlers at their peak. But its also brilliant because it shows the self destructive side of wrestling. Years of wear and tear of trying to entertain an audience has left Terry Funk a near cripple. And Jake The Snake a crack head. Also the part to do with Mick Foley and The Rock is excellent. Even if you have no interest in wrestling at all. It is a superb documentary

    Also Anvil is a brilliant one because I have zero interest in Thrash Metal but its a excellent view on a band trying their hardest to keep relevant and live their dream.

    Also Grizzly Man is excellent but what do we expect anything less from Werner Herzog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Not exactly a documentary, but when I first heard they were making a film about the creation of Facebook, I was skeptical to say the least, despite being a computer programmer myself. As it turned out, the film was rather good, although it seems to great extent this was achieved by simply ignoring the truth where it was inconveniently uncinematic and replacing it with half naked women and character assassination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I always recommend people to watch the documentary movie about Dean Karnazes called "50/50/50" I think. There may be a more official title.
    Ultimately it's a 2 hour film about a guy who runs 50 marathons, in 50 consecutive days, across 50 states of the US.
    But actually it's about a lot more than that. It's a documentary about the importance of family. It's a documentary about the human struggle and overcoming difficulty. It's a documentary about motivation, and on some level it's a documentary about running.
    Definitely worth watching, but especially so if you're not interested in running in the slightest. Watch out for the pizza scene!!!

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    Comment number 18.

    Late last year i remember seeing the trailer for 'McCullin', i'd never heard of Don McCullin and the trailer made it look like the most unremarkable film ever. Well BLIMEY CHARLIE was i ever wrong, the film turned out to be one the most scathingly anti-war films i have ever seen and one which stayed with me ever since.

    I'm not sure if Swandown would be classed as a documentary, but i found this odd-essy through the water ways of southern England absolutely spellbinding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Anvil: The Story of Anvil

    I was amazed how the life story of a band I've never even heard of could become the most captivating odyssey of hopes, dreams and aspirations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    There are two for me.

    1. Glad Jacob above mentioned an ESPN 30 for 30 special. They are very good. The one that stands out for me was "Catching Hell" about Chicago Cubs fan, Steve Bartman, and how he basically cost the Cubs (his team) a game in the playoffs. Although it was an accident, Bartman was almost killed while being escorted from the stadium and was basically exiled from Chicago. The documentary covers everything that happened to him after the event. Like all great documentaries, it was not really about baseball but about the dehumanizing effects of conformity and groupthink in an angry crowd of people. After watching the film, I used it to teach my college Psychology students about social psychology.

    2. The horse-training documentary, Buck, also really stood out for me. My mom is notorious for suggesting awful movies about horses to me (she cannot get enough horses). When she suggested I watch Buck, I was very skeptical ("Oh, ANOTHER horse movie..."). I would never have thought about how horses are trained, and watching Buck train them in a caring, humane way really captured my attention and amazement. While its not a perfect film, the final scene where Buck tried to train a mentally-challenged, abused horse, is one of the most impressive scenes in any documentary. Once again, this scene was not really about training a mentally-challenged horse, but more about how the horse represented what Buck might have became had he not been saved by memorable, loving people in his childhood.


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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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