“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”: The War on Sacklers

Nan Goldin lying down in front of a museum as a protest against the Sacklers. Fake dollar bills are stuck to her which read "OXY" instead of "ONE".

Worthless OxyContin-Bucks festoon a possum-playing Nan Goldin at an anti-Sackler protest.

One of my favorite parts of every Academy Awards season is the AMPAS-approved list of documentary recommendations (i.e., the Best Documentary Feature nominations), which for casual dabblers like me helps triage the 12,000 nonfiction productions released through streamers over the past year, at least 11,900 of which were slapped together with all the ethics and dignity of Tiger King. Sometimes I’m familiar with the subject at hand but appreciate a fresh take. Sometimes they’re an educational experience for me as relative ignoramus. And sometimes, as with the case of Laura Poitras’ All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, I walk unprepared into a world wildly distant from my own, and yet I come out cheering.

(Well, “walk” might be an understatement in this case: my son and I sprinted to catch the penultimate showing of this film at one of our local indie cinemas before it vanished from Indianapolis altogether. Expect it on home video in the near future, but in many locales it may be challenging to fill in its blank on your Oscar scorecard before the ceremony.)

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Revue

Ann Cupolo Freeman from "Crip Camp".

Retired social worker and physical rehab specialist Ann Cupolo Freeman, among the many campers who grew up to become activists in Netflix’s Crip Camp.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

In my youth and young-adulthood, seeing any of the Oscar-nominated documentaries before the ceremonies was usually impossible. Or after the ceremonies, for that matter. Streaming media changed the game and broadened access and opportunities for ordinary viewers even before the pandemic turned the convenience into a lifesaver. I’ve yet to enjoy a year in which all the nominees for Best Documentary Short Film or Best Documentary Feature were universally clickable, but the percentages have been generously high. It’s been fun seeing how many I could chase down legally without overpaying for the privilege.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #20: Oscar-Hopeful Documentaries 2020


In a fairer world the stars of Honeyland would be dividing up this year’s Oscars like this, not honeycombs.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch: the past month’s worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. Every year I chase down all the Best Picture nominees whether I want to see them or not, and nearly always catch them all before the big day. (Sole exception in the past twenty years: when Ray was nominated, it was 100% rented out for weeks from every Blockbuster near our old apartment. Yes, it’s been a while.) But in recent times, I’ve also been exploring the fun to be had in chasing down other Oscar nominees for extra credit.

For the second year in a row I decided to see how many nominees I could watch from the Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short Film categories, either free via legal means or via my existing streaming-service subscriptions. Last year I managed to catch nine of the ten nominees on time. The standoffish exception, National Geographic’s vertiginous climb-along Free Solo, aired the following Sunday night once they’d secured their statuette. This year I’ve managed to see eight available out of ten. Of the two holdouts, MTV has their very first nominee St. Louis Superman on lockdown for the time being, with some alleged special presentation in the works TBD; the other, The Cave, is another National Geographic entrant obligated to follow their stingy playbook.

My sincerest gratitude goes out to the rights-holders of the other eight, who actually want their works seen in this critical moment when people are most curious about them. First up are the four viewable nominees for Best Documentary Feature:

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #15: Oscar Quest 2019 Extra Credit

First Reformed.

Ethan Hawke isn’t a big fan of superhero films, but he’s perfectly okay with bold costumes.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch as well as the previous one: the past few months’ worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, except this year I went overboard and decided to see how many the nominees I could catch from other categories, either free via legal means or via existing streaming-service subscriptions. As it turns out, quite a few, mostly documentaries but that’s not a bad thing.

But first, an Original Screenplay nominee I’d been curious to see for a while:

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