These are the three best documentaries I saw in 2016…
1) “Weiner.” The movie is the story of Anthony Weiner’s attempt at a comeback after resigning from Congress because he sent pictures of his junk to several women. As he runs for mayor of New York, we see him trying to convince people to give him a second chance through the ups and downs of campaigning, raising money, and battling the tabloid press (which loves the story of his sexting alter ego, “Carlos Danger”). We’ve rarely seen someone in the midst of a scandal from this point of view. But why would Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, allow cameras to capture the lowest moments of their personal — and his professional — life? In the end — as the negativity about the man and his campaign mounts — even the documentarians can’t believe Weiner allowed them to film all of this. But I’m glad they did.
2) “Where To Invade Next.” The only war in Michael Moore’s new movie, “Where To Invade Next,” is a cultural war, as he travels to several countries to find out what they’re doing better than America so he can bring those ideas home. The irony is that, in many of these nations, the interviewees often tell Moore they got their ideas from the United States Of America. So, while we were being sidetracked by political nonsense and fear-mongering, other parts of the world not only moved forward, but used our concepts to overtake us on the social progress scale.
3) “Life, Animated.” Ron and Cornelia Suskind couldn’t break through their son Owen’s autism. Then, one day, Owen blurted out a line from one of the many Disney animated movies he’d watched over and over again, and that opened the door. Those cartoons (“The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan,” “The Lion King,” etc.) served as a pathway between Owen and his parents. He learned to read from the credits and speak from the dialogue. I’ve never been a huge fan of Disney animation, which tends to be a little too sappy for my taste, but seeing it help Owen — and others in the Disney Movie Club he formed at a school for kids with special needs — is heartwarming.