I was around 7 years old when the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case became famous. The way I remembered it, an old woman spilled super hot coffee on her lap, sued McDonald’s, and won millions of dollars. I never really thought that much about it and I definitely never thought it was stupid. I guess I imagined that if someone burned themselves badly enough to sue, then it must have been worth it. I think at that age, too, I also thought that if a group of adults (like the court) agreed with the woman, then it was probably correct either way.

Hot Coffee focuses on four different stories on different areas of tort reform, focusing first on Stella Liebeck’s lawsuit against McDonald’s for the coffee. I loved the way the documentary went about telling this story: first they ask a bunch of people what they know about the case, then explain what really happened. Every person they talked to was wrong on some level, usually in major ways. There was a lot of talk of “this old woman spilled coffee in her lap while she was driving and sued McDonalds for millions and millions” kind of stuff. But the documentary quickly points out that all of these ideas about the case have come directly from how the case has been portrayed in the media, not the case itself. Because, to me, the facts make a lot more sense. Stella Liebeck was 79 when she spilled the coffee and was not driving. In fact, she wasn’t even in a moving car; her grandson (who was driving) pulled into a parking space so they could get their orders all organized. Liebeck was taking the lid off the coffee to put cream and sugar in when the cup essentially collapsed and spilled the coffee on her. She had third degree burns that required multiple skin grafts and surgeries and never fully recovered. But then there’s the coffee itself. Per McDonald’s requirements, the coffee was kept at a holding temperature of between 180-190 degrees, hot enough to immediately cause third degree burns on your throat if you drank it. And then on top of that, there’s the suit itself. This is where I was majorly wrong: Liebeck didn’t get millions and millions of dollars from McDonald’s. She won $640,000.

The second story is about a couple and their twin sons. One son was born severely brain damaged from lack of oxygen to his brain, which his mother suspected when she could feel the babies moving less in the days before they were born. Her doctor told her everthing was fine and as a result, one of the twins will need 24/7 care for the rest of his life. They successfully sued the doctor (who had been sued before) for a pretty large amount of money, which was figured out to cover the son’s cost of living for the rest of his life. Instead of that amount, though, they got just barely over $1 million because of a law in their state that puts caps on settlements.

The third story focuses on a former Supreme Court Justice from Mississippi, Oliver Diaz, who was the one political holdout that was against tort reform. He was falsely charged with bribery and all of the procedures involving that kept him out of the office for three years, effectively making him useless as a judge, which is exactly what the big companies that are pro-tort reform wanted.

The third story is on Jamie Leigh Jones, a former Halliburton employee who accused her co-workers of drugging and brutally gang-raping her, before she was locked in a shipping container guarded by an armed guard by her employers after she reported the rape. She could not bring any charges to court because of this arbitrition thing she signed when she was first hired. The arbitrition takes away the possibility of your case being seen or heard by a judge or jury, which seems like it just shouldn’t be legal.

The world of tort reform is huge and one that I knew nothing about before this documentary. That happens so often with good documentaries; they bring you into this world that you probably didn’t even know existed before and shows you just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Parts of Hot Coffee are overwhelming, like how crazy and scary Jones’ situation was. Other parts are sort of boring as there’s a lot of courtroom talk. But overall, the movie did a really great job of making something that seems vague and hard to understand seem very real.


I wasn’t into the idea of watching this movie because I thought most of it would go over my head and that I wouldn’t really care. However, watching it, the film gave me a clear understanding of many famous court cases where individuals sued corporations. The biggest example was the lady who sued McDonald’s for serving coffee that was too hot. I still don’t think I know enough on the subject to talk much about it but I think if you are interested in the subject this movie is completely worth watching.





I expected this movie to be boring so I pushed off watching it for a while. Every time Elizabeth brought it up I would try to suggest something else. This time when she recommended it I felt like I was ready for some reason. It was great. Why did I push it off for so long? Anyway I’m glad I finally saw this film because it’s a great documentary. I also find it interesting that part of it takes place in San Antonio. The other part of this movie takes place in Spain. Most people, like the ones in this movie would not associate the two together. My grandmother is Hispanic, from San Antonio, and very into the Spanish roots of her heritage. The Imposter had so many elements that were already familiar to me. Because of this I found all the characters to be very compelling. I wanted the family to find their lost child and I wanted the guy who was pretending to be the lost kid to just get caught. BUT THEN the movie throws you a curve ball and it has you thinking about all other types of scenarios.

I think this movie was well-shot and intelligent. It helped you understand a very complicated situation.


I have a lot to say about The Imposter, but the more I think about it I think it’s a movie that’s better left without much details given. But I really thought this documentary was incredible. The situation, the people, how everything played out is just so crazy and weird and sad. You really should see this.





For a few years now, ever since Chris showed me this Youtube short on Dock Ellis, the short was one of my favorite Youtube videos I had ever seen. Animation is played over Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis as he describes the situation leading up to, and then performing, a no-hitter while tripping on acid. It’s super funny and amazing.

So I was excited to watch No No: A Dockumentary, which is sort of an extended, non-animated version of the short. It goes deep into who Dock Ellis was when he was an MLB pitcher and who he was after, along with the context that made him that way. Now that I’m really into baseball, the idea of someone today pitching a game while on LSD just completely blows my mind on multiple levels. It’s so crazy and interesting to watch old baseball footage; players’ bodies are different, their language is different, the atmosphere is different, the attitude is different.

No No does a good job of lending time to the event that gave the movie its name while also making it clear that Dock Ellis was more than just that guy who pitched a no-hitter on acid (though that’s a hard title to beat, I must say). He may not be the most famous ever player in baseball history, but he was certainly important and this documentary does him and his game justice.


I first heard of Dock Elis from this animated short. I loved it and was definitely interested in trying to watch a game where the pitcher threw a no hitter while on acid. I showed Elizabeth this at some point and she and I have gotten really into watching The Orioles these past years so when we saw this on Showtime it was like it was made just for us.

I found the movie to be very interesting. They had some good footage of his career as well as interviews and he really did do a lot in his life. You also find out his skeletons which were very dark at times but as a whole his life seemed nice.

I’m glad we watched this and I liked it but I don’t think it was a great movie. I feel like you would have to be interested in the subject in order to find this movie enjoyable. But I would recommend that shit anytime!

CATFISH (2010)



I definitely thought this move was fake when it came out so I never saw it. I also found out the ending petty quick so it added to not caring about this movie but Elizabeth somehow still didn’t have the end ruined for her so she wanted to check it off our list before it was. I’m glad we watched it because it was far more interesting than I thought. I kind of figured the movie would be over once you actually saw the people on the other side but the fact that the movie kind of turned into a movie just about them rather than the fake relationship, I was hooked.

I think this movie was great and worth watching especially if you don’t know the full story.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I had been wanting to see Catfish for a really long time, mostly because I thought it was a movie that had a giant twist at the end and I was afraid it would be spoiled for me before I could see it. I was sort of right . . . there is a twist, but it was one I already knew about. So it wasn’t 100% the movie I was expecting, but it was still fun to watch.

The documentary follows Nev Schulman, who becomes Facebook friends with an 8 year old painting prodigy, Abby, whom had sent Nev a painting of one of his photographs. Nev becomes Facebook friends with Abby’s family, too, including her mother, Angela, her father, Vince, and older sister, Megan. Then Nev and Megan form an online relationship, which turns romantic pretty quickly. When Nev discovers that some songs Megan sent him, as originals, were actually ripped off from other people’s Youtube accounts, the filmmakers go to Megan and her family’s homes in Michigan to confront them and/or meet the real people in person.

As you probably know or would expect, Nev discovers everything to be a lie. First Megan texts him and says she’s in rehab, then Nev confronts Angela and she tells him that Megan really is in rehab but has been for a long time and it was Angela Nev was talking to the whole time. Later, Nev finds out Megan doesn’t exist and the photos Angela used were of a family friend. Even later, Nev finds out that the pictures weren’t of a family friend, but of a random model that Angela found online. The paintings weren’t done by Abby, but by Angela. And Angela’s life is much sadder than even Nev could have anticipated: she essentially gave up her possible painting career and most of her life to marry Vince, who had severely disabled twin sons from another marriage that needed 24/7 care. She’s quiet and obviously sad and at least a little bit delusional.

You leave this movie feeling kind of bad for everyone: Nev, for being lied to about everything; Vince, for not knowing any of this was going on (plus he thought Nev was buying Angela’s paintings); the model whose pictures were stolen to be Megan; Abby for having a mother that lies and tells people her daughter is a child prodigy when she’s not; and of course Angela, whose life just seems so sad and empty that she had to resort to lying and making up fake identities. Even though everything she did seems super crazy, in a way you can kind of understand it all when you know just how sad her life is.

VIRUNGA (2014)



  • Best Documentary Feature – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara


Virunga is the type of documentary that I almost feel bad about not liking, except it’s not all that good so I mean, that’s really not my fault, right?

It covers both the attempts to conserve and exploit Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I think that’s the most comprehensive description, but the subject matter is way too big for this documentary. There’s a real lack of focus; first it’s all about gorillas, then it’s all about an evil corporation, then more about gorillas, then war, evil corporation, etc. etc. It just doesn’t flow well and seems disjointed. The problem is that the struggles here are very real and important, and it’s clear that the filmmakers are trying to put a spotlight on these issues, but there’s just too much. It almost feels like Virunga has ADD; it’s not like it’s super fast-paced, but as soon as the movie follows one path, another one sneaks up and we go down that path, maybe coming back to the first one, maybe not. Also it probably doesn’t help that I think gorillas are really scary and I was waiting for someone’s face to get eaten the whole time. But either way, I hope the rest of the Oscar documentaries are better.


This movie was disappointing in a very similar way as a lot of documentaries we’ve watched. There seemed to be a problem with focus. While watching this film you go through so many different stages you kind of forget how everything fit together in the first place. The movie begins with wildlife preservation and ends with wildlife preservation but all the stuff in between points you down way too many roads.

Like 20 Feet From Stardom I felt like Virunga needed more of a direction. Throughout the story you are kind of following four different individuals that are fighting to protect the park all in different ways. And because there are so many people it’s very easy to lose focus on what situation we are following at a certain time. They Follow the head park ranger Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, a gorilla carer André Bauma, chief warden Emmanuel de Merode, and a French investigative journalist, Mélanie Gouby. That’s a lot of people, especially if you aren’t quite sure what their jobs really are.

I’m not sure if this is how it was filmed but it also seemed like each person they followed were filmed very differently. It seemed like the movie was mixed with real footage of events the movie discusses, but some of the scenes felt very fake and staged. Like every scene with the French journalist. Maybe I missed something and there was an explanation for this but it made the whole movie feel off.

I think this movie was made for a great cause but I think the movie itself had some problems. It should have just focused on the gorilla carer and the park ranger at most. This is the first documentary we’ve watched for this Oscar year and I really hope it’s uphill from here. And that too many aren’t overly depressing.




I love For All Mankind because if someone asked me what kind of movie I would want to see about the US space program, this is exactly what I would come up with.

For All Mankind has no central narrator and no “host,” it sets up the movie with some simple text about when the space program started, along with clips of the famous Kennedy speech that includes him saying “But because they are haaaaaaaaaaard,” in that super Kennedy voice that just cracks me up. Anyway, everything here is archival footage; we don’t even see any interviews or anything. From start to finish, the first trip to the moon is presented to us exactly in the way that it was captured. We see the anxious men in NASA directing the seemingly less anxious men in space. Sometimes the dialogue was a little hard to hear because it’s literally given to us through the transmissions that they were using themselves. But you don’t really need to hear every little thing because For All Mankind is gorgeous.

This movie does a lot to show how the astronauts felt, particularly that they couldn’t stop looking at earth once they were away from it. Some of the shots are just incredible; we’ve all seen pictures and video in various form of what the earth looks like from space, but these included details like being able to see the flames from African tribes spotted throughout the continent. We’ve also all seen videos and pictures of astronauts floating around in their ships, but this includes things like them explaining how you poop in space and listening to the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme while they travel through space.

The most incredible footage, though, comes from their time on the moon. Like everything else, we’ve all seen photos and videos of the moon and of especially the first walk on the moon. But this went beyond that; you really see the moon here, the entire landscape and vastness of it and how amazing and also terrifying it really is. It looks like you’re watching something not real and knowing that you are is kind of mind-blowing.

Everyone needs to see this, whether you’re particularly interested in space travel or not. It’s just too important.


This movie was great! It was interesting to see footage from the astronauts of the first moon landing. I don’t really have much else to say. I think if you are interested you should definitely check this out because of its importance to history but it’s more of a journal entry than a movie, I think.


Ortiz Boston Bombings


Watching David Ortiz In The Moment not long after Bobby Fischer Against the World sort of proved to me that I can be biased for or against documentaries based on the subject. David Ortiz in the Moment had a lot of the same issues as Bobby Fischer Against the World, namely that there was not one negative thing said about David Ortiz. But I still liked it more because it was about baseball. So sue me!

I really wasn’t familiar with David Ortiz before this except for his name, but I’m always trying to learn more about baseball and all the players, especially if it’s not related to The Orioles because in general I only really care about them. But I try to branch out!

This was interesting, but don’t expect any hard-hitting journalism here.


This was interesting just to know more about David Ortiz but again there was absolutely nothing negative about him in this whole film. When I think of David Ortiz I just think of an arrogant guy who destroys phones in dugouts like a child. This documentary made it sound like he’s a living god, it was just kind of annoying. It was nice knowing a little bit more but this felt like watching a WWE documentary, it was just so obviously produced by the people it was on. Not really worth watching but I hope this gets us to watch Ken Burns’ Baseball.