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AOC Shows Us "How You Win Everything" in Netflix's "Knock Down the House"

"For every 10 rejections, you get one acceptance, and that's how you win everything."

Kickstarter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't a socialist icon in Knock Down the House, Netflix's documentary about four female Democrats running for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.

In fact, "socialism" isn't uttered at all in the 1 hour and 26 minutes of Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick's simple feature; because co-producers Lears, Blotnick, and Sarah Olson present the four grassroots candidates as "regular people taking on political machines," as Lears told HuffPost. In an interview during the early days of her campaign, Ocasio-Cortez summed up the filmmakers' stance: "Basically, what political machines do is suppress democracy." Lears and Blotnick use straightforward camerawork to illuminate the unique obstacles facing women of color in politics, the protected elitism of America's political firmament, and the leaps of faith necessary to challenge the status quo.

popdust "knock down the house" aoc Ocasio-Cortez during her waitressing shiftYahoo

In the wake of Donald Trump's 2016 election, former staffers and supporters of Bernie Sanders formed the political action committees Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. With the goals to reform the Democratic Party and "replace every corporate-backed member of Congress," according to Justice Democrat's website, they supported a record-breaking number of women running for office.

"It's just the reality that in order for one of us to make it through, 100 of us have to try," Ocasio-Cortez tells a tearful Paula Jean Swearengin, the West Virginian who challenged Senator Joe Manchin on the platform against big businesses destroying the health of the working class. Her speeches included the proud proclamation, "I'm a coal miner's daughter, and I'm mad as hell." Swearengin lost her election weeks before New York's 14th congressional district elected Ocasio-Cortez, but footage of all four women detail the year leading up to their election nights. Lears was able to capture the most footage of Ocasio-Cortez, from her early days waitressing and street canvassing for 10,000 signatures in order to get on the ballot to her victory night: a fortuitous circumstance of the filmmaker living in the same city. But each woman was selected by Lears and Blotnick for her charismatic presence, articulation of issues, and soldier-like mindset in the war against corporate interests and self-interested politicians.

In addition to Swearengin and Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela made healthcare her primary issue when she challenged incumbent Steven Horsford in Nevada. In frank interviews, she attributes her motivation to the death of her 22-year-old daughter, who died in 2015 after doctors refused to perform tests that would have saved her life because she couldn't show proof of health insurance. In Missouri, Cori Bush "was not trying to become an activist," but she lived six minutes away from Ferguson, where Mike Brown was murdered in 2014. Bush shared, "Being a woman of color, our image is scrutinized...Basically, you deal with it. The people of my district, this is how we look."

As for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the then-28-year-old reiterates in interviews that the four women's campaigns represent one unified movement for change; she sees herself as being on the "front lines." She says, "I'm from New York, and New York isn't about Democrat vs. Republican. New York is Establishment vs. whatever poor stray cat who thinks you can stand up against them." At one point, she clarifies with her patent directness: "Here's the best part about all of this. We're not running to make a statement; we're not running to pressure the incumbent to the left; we're running to win."

The low budget production is direct and earnest. Aside from well-timed, emotional music cues and a few poignant clips from Vilela and Ocasio-Cortez's home videos, Lears doesn't manipulate the audience. The documentarian also makes the voting public an integral character in the film through powerful close-ups on the faces of concerned community members, the candidates' campaign teams, and anonymous spectators of their speeches. As Ocasio-Cortez shared on Twitter, "At early screenings, even Trump supporters left the film in tears - because it's about the power of everyday people."

Ultimately, Vilela, Bush, and Swearengin share a crushing defeat—one that's immediately tempered by Ocasio-Cortez's victory, which is filmed with organic energy that's somehow lovely, graceless, and ecstatic. Knock Down the House is best described the same way, in that it frankly depicts why tearing down a corrupt political establishment is nearly impossible. Any hope for change is built from the belief that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez shared with her niece in 2017 while they were canvassing on a cold street corner in Queens: "For every 10 rejections, you get one acceptance, and that's how you win everything."


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Netflix's "Ted Bundy Tapes" Leaves Viewers Scared and Confused

The docuseries avoids possible pitfalls of covering America's best known serial killer by deconstructing the culture, politics, and female "groupies" that cultivated the Bundy Effect™.

The Daily World

The most surprising takeaway from Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is how many women still find America's favorite murderer attractive.

Netflix released its latest true crime docuseries on Thursday, January 24: the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution in Florida. The series' main draw is Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth's previously unreleased interviews with Bundy, which were conducted while he was on death row in 1980. The journalists recall their interactions with the sexually sadistic killer during their 150 hours of interviewing him for their 1989 book. "Ted stands out because he was quite an enigma: clean-cut, articulate, very intelligent, just a handsome, young, mild-mannered law student," Michaud says. "He didn't look like anybody's notion of someone who would tear apart young girls."

The Ted Bundy Tapes is a self-aware docuseries. Joe Berlinger is clearly conscious of the fact that Bundy is probably the most well-known and exhaustively covered subject in the true crime genre. The basics of the Ted Bundy cautionary tale are now almost cliche: the least likely suspects can turn out to be the worst monsters. As Berlinger noted, "He taps into our most primal fear: That you don't know, and can't trust, the person sleeping next to you. People want to think those who do evil are easily identifiable. Bundy tells us that those who do evil are those who often people we know and trust the most." So in addition to being well-produced, the angle of the four episodes is to deconstruct that signature Bundy Effect™ that altered 80s media, the criminal investigation, and the American psyche.

When a 22-year-old named Lynda Ann Healy disappeared in 1974, the term "serial killer" didn't exist in the American vernacular. By the time two college students were murdered in Florida State University's Chi Omega sorority house in 1978, criminal investigators had identified a pattern to the string of brutal murders that had spanned over seven states. The Ted Bundy Tapes combines archival news footage and interviews with investigators to convey the mass fear that disrupted the 1970s' wave of female empowerment and autonomy. At the same time, class mobility and Republican politics created a decade that was "perfect for [Bundy] because he [didn't] have to be real," as Berlinger pointed out.

Park Record


Despite claiming to be innocent on Death Row, Bundy finally confessed to Michaud and Aynesworth in their exclusive audio recordings. After listening to the excerpts, the erratic confession could've been another one of Bundy's manic, illogical plans to misdirect attention (and postpone execution) by focusing on his 30 victims. He begins the interviews with the same egomaniacal enthusiasm that characterized his court appearance and press conferences: "It is a little after nine o'clock in the evening. My name is Ted Bundy. I've never spoken to anybody about this. I am looking for an opportunity to tell the story as best I can. I'm not an animal and I'm not crazy. I don't have a split personality. I mean, I'm just a normal individual."

But there's another bizarre element to the Bundy Effect™ that's been repeated in cases like the recent family murderer, Chris Watts. Some women who were well aware of Bundy's homicidal and necrophilic urges still swooned over the man. The Ted Bundy Tapes also touches on the strange phenomenon of "serial killer groupies," including Bundy's wife, Carol Ann Boone. Footage of the killer proposing to her while she was testifying at his trial demonstrates her disturbing devotion, which she later proved by "somehow" having sex with Bundy during a prison visit and later giving birth to their daughter. Aside from calling him "kind, warm, and patient," Boone also said in archival footage, "Let me put it this way, I don't think that Ted belongs in jail. I don't think they had reason to charge Ted Bundy with murder."

The Telegraph

In fact, while Netflix summed up the public's 30-year-long fascination with Bundy in a tweet describing him as "charming, good-looking, and one of the most dangerous serial killers that ever existed in America," the most disturbing effect of the docuseries may be a resurgence in women who find him appealing. After its release, "Ted Bundy" became a trending topic on Twitter, with users debating the serial killer's attractiveness. One user called him "the most beautiful psychopath in the world," while another said he looked like "the Joker minus the makeup."



With Zac Efron set to inhabit Bundy in the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the world might have to confront the weird equation of 70s beauty standards and institutional failures that made Ted Bundy a criminal celebrity.

Zac Efron (Left) and Ted Bundy (Right)People


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Dive deep into backstories as diverse as the fraudulent biotech company, Theranos, and as compelling as the Lorena Bobbitt love story: "Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. Girl cuts off boy's penis."

No, we're not fully "post-truth" in 2019.

Understandably, it can seem that way, with Trumpian headlines evoking post-apocalyptic fiction and two new Fyre Festival documentaries already shocking the world with the claim that Ja Rule is still relevant. But that means we're more equipped than ever to face many sides of an issue, with the understanding that everyone sees it through his or her own perspective. As the documentaries slated for release in 2019 showcase, perspective is sometimes altruistic, criminal, drug-addled, or from a nude stripper.

Here are 10 upcoming documentaries that will sharpen your understanding of "truth":

1.Who Will Write Our History (in select theaters, January 27)

WUWM

Within the Warsaw Ghetto, a group of journalists and scholars resisted the Nazi occupation using truth as a weapon. Historian Emanuel Ringelblum, code named Oyneg Shabes, led this clandestine group in their goal "to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with pen and paper." Interviews and archived material are featured, as well as the voices of Adrien Brody and Joan Allen.

2. Rodman (fall, 2019)

Yahoo Canada Style

For the late Penny Marshall's last project, she focused on her friend, the controversial and baffling figure, Dennis Rodman. Marshall's goal was to examine "who Dennis Rodman really was," aside from his eccentric personality and odd friendship with Kim Jong Un. The documentary's comprised of hundreds of hours of interviews with Rodman's friends, as well as Jay Leno, Phil Jackson, and even Donald Trump (conducted before he became president.)

3. Our Planet (Netflix, April 5)

Media Play News

The Planet Earth creators are following up with an eight-part nature docuseries that tackle the issue of climate change. Narrated by David Attenborough and produced in collaboration with The World Wide Fund for Nature, the series will "showcase the planet's most precious species and fragile habitats" throughout 50 countries.

4. The Edge of Democracy (TBA)

Cinereach

Petra Costa examines the impeachments of Brazil's Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula de Silva. Costa interviewed both to query how and why the leaders polarized the country so severely.

5. This One's for the Ladies (spring, 2019)

Variety

It's Magic Mike but in documentary format. Alright, it also "explores the sexual and social identity of contemporary black America through intimate, eye opening, and often hilarious accounts from women and men who find love and community in the underground world of exotic dancing." But it's mostly Magic Mike in documentary format.

6. Lorena (Amazon Prime, February 15)

Star Magazine

In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt became infamous for cutting off her husband's penis. Her story was tabloid gold and comedic fodder, but this four-part series exposes the marital abuse leading up to the assault. With Jordan Peele serving as executive producer, Lorena is poised to comment on public attitudes toward sexual assault while also acknowledging the absurdist humor America saw in Bobbitt's story: "Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. Girl cuts off boy's penis."

7. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (Sundance, 2019)

RealScreen

Alex Gibney is adding another deep dive into corruption to his already illustrious list of documentaries, including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Featuring exclusive footage from company insiders, Gibney will explore the fraudulent biotech start up, Theranos, and its CEO and founder, Elizabeth Holmes.

8. Cold Case Hammarskjöld (March, 2019)

Doc Society

Mads Brügger tackles the conspiracy surrounding the death of UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, in the 1960s. The first person, expose-style documentary features Brügger and a private investigator going undercover to find that the diplomat's airplane crash was part of a wider scandal.

9. The Great Hack (Sundance, January 26)

IMDB

Oscar-nominated for The Square, filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Kareem Amer examine the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook user data breach. The documentary examines not only what went wrong but the nature of privacy in the digital age and how vulnerable we continue to make ourselves.

10. Hail Satan? (January 25, 2019)

Flipboard

The excitable director Penny Lane combines humor and history in a surprising examination of the new Satanic movement in America. She said, "When my producer Gabriel [Sedgwick] and I started cooking up this wacky (and surprisingly inspirational?!) documentary on the new Satanic movement, we knew the hardest part would be finding the right partners to help us bring it to the public. It's controversial! It's about Satan!"


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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7 Worthy True Crime Shows Coming in 2019

The cycle of true crime is moving from podcasts and documentaries to prime time re-enactments.

CBS News

We've entered the next stage of the true crime phenomenon.

While podcasts like Serial fueled the first wave of investigative content and docuseries like Making a Murderer made true crime bingeable, true crime dramas like Dirty John re-enact criminal plots so bizarre they have to be seen to be believed. 2019 will be flush with new podcasts and docuseries, but Netflix, Hulu, and TNT will also take on the challenge of artfully dramatizing real-life crime stories without looking like Lifetime Movie Network rejects.

Here are 7 true crime series worth giving a chance:

1. Conversations with a Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix, January 24)

PulpNewsMag

Netflix's upcoming docuseries will feature previously unreleased interviews with Ted Bundy conducted during his time on death row. Mixed with archival footage that traces his criminal rise in the 70s, Conversations with a Killer will be released on the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution.

2. I Am the Night (TNT, January 28)

IMDB

Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) helm this period drama about the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, infamously remembered as the Black Dahlia. While the six-episode series takes plenty of creative liberties, Jenkins was close friends with the real-life figure the series is structured around, Fauna Hodel.

3. The Act (Hulu, March 20)

Just Jared

Oscar and Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette will star in the debut season of Hulu's true crime anthology series, The Act. Each season is slated to explore one story that shocked the true crime circuit with its bizarre nature. Season 1 will feature the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard (played by Arquette) by her daughter Gypsy and the lifetime of abuse and manipulations that preceded it.

4. Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix, TBA)

JoBlo

The classic 1987 true crime and paranormal series is being revived by the executive producer of Stranger Things. The upcoming 12-part series will re-enact one real unsolved crime or phenomenon in each episode.

5. Interrogation (CBS All Access, TBA)

GoldDerby

Peter Sarsgaard will star in this nonlinear true crime series that spans over 30 years. The 10 episodes are based on real police interrogations about a young man who was charged and convicted of brutally murdering his mother. The network is concealing the name of the real case the series is based on, but the goal of Interrogation is to turn the viewer into a detective as the crime unfolds.

6. Central Park Five (Netflix, TBA)

Awards Watch

Netflix is taking on this infamous case of five black teenagers falsely accused and forced to confess to the rape and assault of a female jogger in 1989. The four-episode series will feature Vera Farmiga as the lead prosecutor and Michael K. Williams and John Leguizamo as two of the boys' fathers.

7. Uncertain Terms (TCPalm podcast, January 2019)

TCPalm

This new true crime podcast tackles the issue of children who are convicted of murder and the adults they become while incarcerated. Specifically, the podcast explores Florida convicts who have grown up in prison and are facing re-sentencing or release, depending on the details of their crimes, how the victims' families feel, and who they've become.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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