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Monday Musings: Netflix and Nil

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I keep the promises I make.

NCAA Football: Duke at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I told y’all.

Hmmm what else can I talk about. I dunno. Y’all want my Netflix recommendations? Last Chance U is awesome. Chef’s Table is way more interesting and mesmerizing than you would think. Actually you know what, I’m gonna stop there because I’ll probably have the opportunity to do an entire article about it later. So stay tuned for that I guess. I dunno. Week 7? Yeah let’s pencil that in. Probably won’t be much going on by then.

- Me, earlier this season

Well, here we are in week 7 and guess what? Nothing is going on. We definitely didn’t play this week. So let’s get into it. These are my favorite documentaries on Netflix.

Author’s Note: If you are so inclined, I do actually talk about Tech football at the end for a while. I just can’t stay away. Please read the Netflix stuff though - I have pretty good opinions.

Chef’s Table

@Cade I know this one’ll make you happy. Chef’s Table is one of those shows that I never thought I’d watch. But one time I just didn’t have anything to do so I flipped it on and holy [Simple Minds] it’s amazing. It’s not a cooking show. It’s something between a human interest documentary and beautiful shots of the most gorgeous food you’ve ever seen. Mesmerizing is really the only word I can use to describe it. The chefs featured are wildly interesting people with some pretty intriguing philosophies and you absolutely don’t need to be a “foodie” to find them fascinating. These are people that have dedicated their entire lives to being a true master of things like bread or cheese. If you want to see people being passionate about something, this is your show.

Aside from the chefs themselves, the food is crazy. This isn’t Triple D (although that also gets the Crees Seal of Recommendation ™) where it’s sloppy burgers and fries. This is the pinnacle of what it means to cook. I really hate myself for how pretentious that sounds, but I don’t know how else to say it. It will make you want to cook better. For some chefs it’s highly traditional cultural food, and for others it’s an avant-garde showcase of creativity. There’s something for everyone.

Last Chance U

This one should be required watching if you like sports, or even just like human interest. I introduced my girlfriend who cares nothing about football to it and she loves it. It’s only a football documentary when it wants to be. The storylines for all the players and coaches are some of the most compelling things you’ll ever see. From the first episode of each season you are deeply invested in each person you get introduced to and desperately want some of them to succeed. At the same time, there are real legit villains on this show. People you watch and think god. I would never want to be on a team with this person. People you watch and think wow. They’re part of the problem. And then there’s a slew of characters in the middle of the spectrum that you can’t make up your mind on. There are players and coaches from each season that I am so conflicted over. It’s a huge part of what makes the show so interesting - they’re not just out to make you like someone or not like someone else. They are just brutally honest about everyone: flaws, positives, and everything in between. Sports aside it’s one of the most powerful human interest stories out there.

The crew on Last Chance U also has an uncanny feel for capturing and showcasing moments. They do such a fantastic job of wrapping you up in a particular scene and the drama surrounding it and then building it up to this pivotal moment that just lingers with you. They capture faces and reactions like no other and are masters at weaving together the music, cinematography, and facial expressions. No spoilers, but there’s a scene towards the end of season two that I honestly still think about because it just hits you.

Come for the underdog redemption stories, stay for the crazy player/coach drama. Stay for the misguided and hypocritical villain coaches. Stay for the coaches who just want to help kids. Stay for the players who are fun and heartwarming. Stay for it all. In one season of Last Chance U (sometimes even in one episode), you will experience the full gamut of human emotions. It’s almost relentless in that way; everything that happens feels like it has so much weight in these people’s lives because it really does.

Wild Wild Country

Wild Wild Country wasn’t even on my radar until a friend told me “you have to watch it, it’s insane”. Well, you have to watch it, it’s insane. In a series of six episodes it chronicles the rise and fall of the Rajneeshpuram cult group as they move to Oregon and do crazy [Sting]. Essentially, they start a war with the locals and things get ugly real fast. The great thing, though, is that the filmmakers don’t really take sides. They interview people on both sides of the conflicts, both within and without of the cult itself and do a fantastic job of weaving this highly complex unclear storyline of events. There’s really no one to root for; everyone involved is essentially bad.

What’s so amazing is that everything is true. You keep thinking there’s no way this was real. It was banaland wild. The story just keeps getting crazier and crazier as it progresses. Ma Sheela is an incredible character that the best writers in the world couldn’t come up with. And some of the former cult members are so normal you can’t help but wonder how in the world they ended up being a part of this. You wonder how any of this could possibly exist.

Wild Wild Country is like a roller coaster that grabs you by the brain and doesn’t stop shaking you. It’ll have you rooting for both sides, hating both sides, being confused by both sides, and questioning that the sides even exist in the first place. There are no dull moments. I found myself watching at the same time as some friends and we were just constantly texting each other about what had just happened or what we thought was about to happen. We were totally absorbed in it.

Icarus

This is one of the more well-known and recommended documentaries out there right now, but I still wanted to include it on this list because of how amazing it is. If you haven’t heard, it’s the accidental story of Russian Olympic doping. The crazy thing is that it doesn’t at all start off as that. The original purpose was an amateur cycling experiment, but the filmmaker, Bryan Fogel, somehow keeps stumbling deeper and deeper into doping until all of a sudden there are implications against Vladimir Putin himself. An hour in you think to yourself wow, how did we get here. “Keeping you on the edge of your seat” is a big-time cliche, but it’s also accurate for Icarus. It really does engage you and fill you with anxiety over what is going to happen next to the subjects.

Icarus will leave you questioning a lot of things about “the system”. It definitely brings up more questions than it answers. Grigory Rodchenkov is a wildly enigmatic character, and you have no idea what to think about him as the documentary progresses. At times he’s friendly and respectable, at times he’s slimy and nefarious, and at times he’s extremely vulnerable. He’ll make you wonder how many other people like him exist in every professional sport.

The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young

Aggressive title aside, this documentary made me want to get in ridiculously good shape and do cool things in the woods. The basic premise is this insane race that happens in the middle of nowhere Tennessee where runners do five straight marathons in the mountains with a 60 hour time limit. It’s been run since the 80s, and only 15 people have ever finished. The best words I can come up with are gnarly, wild, and miserable. It’s enthralling to watch. These ultra-runners are some crazy and interesting people, and the guy that runs it all is quite a character himself. There’s not really any drama that happens, it’s actually honestly quite mundanely presented. But at the same time you instantly become attached to watching it. You’re rooting for all these guys to finish the race and marvelling at their insane endurance. If you’re honest with yourself you’re also rooting for mother nature to win.

I think what’s so great about this one is that it’s something no one has ever heard of. These aren’t famous people; they aren’t really even “local celebrity” kind of famous. In a way, they’re total nobodies. The Barkley Marathons are so low key that you can’t really even just sign up to do it; You have to know the secret way to put your name in. It’s so off the map and niche that you can’t help but wonder how many other hidden gems like this exist. It’s like how everyone’s small hometown has these weird festivals and events that only locals really know or care about. And there’s something really homey and comforting about watching something like that.

May It Last

This isn’t actually on Netflix, it’s on HBO, but it’s good enough to include on this list. This is Judd Apatow’s portrait of the Avett Brothers, one of my all-time favorite bands. It follows them as they build their album True Sadness and presents their story of how they rose to fame. The thing that’s most striking to me is how real and normal they both are. If you met Scott and Seth out somewhere you would have no clue they were famous. They are just good, down-to-earth family men from North Carolina. At the same time, they are both incredible artists. Seeing their songwriting process is a surprisingly emotional experience. If you’ve ever thought that artists don’t mean their lyrics, you’re wrong about the Avett Brothers. They truly are singing about their lives and feelings.

You don’t really watch May It Last and think wow I want to be these guys like a lot of other music documentaries; you watch it and think wow I want to be friends with these guys. They’re just so genuine and heartfelt. It really brings the music into a more personal light and makes you feel like you’re right there with them. I came out of it with a newfound appreciation for their songs.

Let me know in the comments if y’all have ever watched any of these and give me your thoughts. Slide in my twitter DMs if you wanna argue about Malik Henry and Coach Brown. Continue reading if you want to feel bad things.

Ugh Fine, Bonus Rant About the Duke Game

I’m not mad about the first fumble. I’m not really even mad about the offense not showing up for most of the game. I’m just...mad. The first half was a slugfest; neither team looked great on offense. When we tied it up going into halftime I thought we really escaped a bad half that could’ve been a lot worse. Midway through the third, nothing changed. It seemed like the first team to blink would be a close loser in a defensive struggle. Well, we blinked. Hard. Actually, I would more describe it as closing our eyes tightly and then refusing to open them because the monsters can’t hurt you if you can’t see them. The first fumble wasn’t that big a deal; we were on our second drive of 40+ yards, so it looked like the offense was starting to find a groove. But then a player falling down leads to a long Duke TD. Okay, fine, they scored first this half. No big deal, the offense will just go back to work. Wrong. A bad fumble by TaQuon and an even worse fumble by Juanyeh ON THE VERY NEXT PLAY put the game out of reach in just over two minutes. THREE FUMBLES ON THREE CONSECUTIVE TOUCHES/PLAYS. That’s worse than in 2016 when we gave up two straight fumble return TDs against Miami (also at home btw). It’s rare that you see such a grand display of shooting yourself in the foot.

I’m at a point where I’m not even sure I want us to be good; I just want us to not self destruct every game. That feels like a good baby step to start at. I’m tired of everything just unraveling before our eyes in what feels like multiple games per season. One game it’s giving up late scores. One game it’s special teams implosions. One game it’s turnovers. It feels like we don’t ever play complete games unless we’re playing teams like Alcorn State or Bowling Green and that’s concerning.

Bonus Bonus Ominous Rant About the Future That Totally Goes Against my Feelings from Last Week I’m Sorry I Guess I Was Wrong

Not to keep feeding the depression train coal (two weeks, two steam locomotive references = bi-winning), but think about where we are right now and what the future looks like. Look at who we have to play every single year. Clemson and uga are going to be national-stage juggernauts for years to come. Miami and Virginia Tech are always going to be good programs that recruit well. Duke is slowly building itself into one through a concerted effort by the school. Pitt is doing something similar. Of those six perennial games, we’re in a position to lose five almost every year if something doesn’t change. Don’t believe me? Look at the trends. We’ve lost four of the last five each to Duke, Clemson, and Miami. In the last five games against those six combined we are 10-20. That’s not great math for a team that’s trying to get a bowl streak back.

I know we aren’t going to get to a place where we can compete with Clemson and uga every year; I’m okay with that. It’s just not who we are. But there is absolutely no reason that we should be 7-13 against those other four in five years. In a time where schools like Bama, Ohio State, uga, and Clemson are forcing others to rise to their level, we are getting left behind by the likes of Duke and Pitt. This year is really starting to feel like a watershed in our modern history. Either we’re going to show that we’re committed to excellence in all aspects of our great Institute, or we’re going to show that we’re fine with the status quo.