Invoking the binge-worthy magic.EXPAND
Invoking the binge-worthy magic.
Teague Bohlen

Ten Cringe-Worthy, Binge-Worthy Netflix Documentaries

Don’t let the 70-degree weather fool you: Winter isn’t over. Oh, enjoy your shorts-and-tank-top days while you can, for sure. Take the dog for a walk, check out all the shades of browns in the parks, put those boots away and break out the sneakers. But chances are good that there will come a night or a weekend when winter reminds us here in Denver that it’s not dead yet. And there will come a reckoning.

Fortunately, all you need to do to survive that reckoning is to fire up the Netflix queue and check out some of the stuff — all currently available to stream — that you’ve been missing while you were outside gallivanting in the weird winter (and early spring!) warmth.

1. Holy Hell
There are a lot of cult documentaries on Netflix, but this one has it all: the inside scoop from a former devotee, a cult leader with a hidden past and an abusive and weirdly enthralling present, links to the world of gay porn and fanatic spiritualism, and that curious ability in all of us to sometimes be willfully blind to the very things that are right in front of us. All of that and some seriously spectacular eyelashes — which were clearly the source of the cult leader’s hypnotic power.

2. Men in Rubber Masks
Just the visuals from this movie are worth the price of admission. Watching these “living dolls” dress themselves in latex skins and go through their lives is fascinating — and sort of horrifying, if only in the strictly optic sense. But the real star of the show has to be the young kid who inherited the latex-skin business from his late father who had started it to serve (and profit from) this small-scale obsession for men who want to transition and become women, up to and including skin-deep.

3. Frank and Cindy
This documentary was so influential for its time that it was actually made into a 2015 indie film starring Renee Russo and Oliver Platt as the titular characters. But the original, in all its real-world glory, is still the more effective of the two. Frank is the alcoholic former member of the one-hit-wonder ’80s band OXO (You’ve probably heard that one hit, “Whirly Girl,” even if you don’t remember it by name). Cindy is the OXO groupie that married him for the fame that proved to be fleeting. Fast-forward twenty-plus years, add a documentary-filmmaker son, and it’s pure jaw-dropping magic.

4. A Brony Tale (2014)
The Brony phenomenon has been pretty well documented, and because that initial burst of “What-the-hell?” media attention has somewhat faded, now is the perfect time to enjoy this examination of the men who claim an obsession with My Little Ponies and all its assorted ephemera. It’s a serious and respectful look at a pastime that’s usually afforded neither. Unusual? Sure. But so are the rest of us, right?

5. Love Me (2014)
People have been turning up their noses at the mail-order-bride business for over a century now, but the fact that the industry survives and continues to thrive proves that there’s still an audience for this sort of thing, on both ends of the transactional spectrum. Sometimes funny, often heartbreaking, occasionally outrageous, this look into men navigating the Ukranian marriage-for-hire game says something about the heart, and the difference between what it wants and what it might be willing to settle for.

Read on for more cringe-worthy, binge-worthy docs

6. My Sex Robot
There are people who dream of having sex with robots — not as a substitute for the real thing, but because of a passion for the robot-as-sex-object itself. Some of the subjects of this film are aficionados of the robots themselves; others are the engineers who want to provide said aficionados a target for their affections. Presumably, technology even in this niche area has progressed in the last seven years, but as of 2010, appreciating these sex-robots (both male and female, by the way) required a significant suspension of disbelief. And a good sense of humor.

7. Tabloid!
Finally, a documentary about a woman with some weird sexual predilections. This Errol Morris film focuses its lens on former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney and her lifelong obsession with a teen Mormon boy. It’s your traditional girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy-to-Mormonism, girl-kidnaps-boy-from-mission-abroad-and-makes-him-her-sex-slave. You know: traditional American values. There’s enough crazy in this story to go around; you just have to keep watching, and keep up.

8. Finders Keepers (2015)
Speaking of crazy: This is the story of a man who buys an abandoned storage locker, finds someone’s semi-mummified leg in a barbecue grill, then refuses to give it back when the leg’s original owner shows up to claim it. The argument over who owns the leg takes up most of the movie (and, yes, viewers eventually get to see the leg itself in all its disgusting glory), but the real story is about these two men, both of whom are pitiful figures in their own rights. You might end up siding with one or the other of them about ownership of the leg, but you’ll be rooting for both of them by the end, praying they do better in their respective lives.

9. After Porn Ends (2010)
When people watch porn, it’s a transitory experience. One doesn’t generally think to themselves, “I wonder what that couple I saw in MILF Butts 2 the other night are up to these days?” So the concept behind this documentary is interesting, especially given the rate of turnover in the porn industry itself. This documentary takes a look at how the lives of several porn performers changed — and sometimes didn’t — following their various careers and how they came to a close — usually suddenly, and without a lot of cuddling.

10. Jesus Camp (2006)
There are a lot of frightening documentaries available on Netflix — murder mysteries, disappearing children, stories of the supernatural world imposing itself on ours — but arguably, none of them hold a candle to this film, which spotlights three children attending the Kids on Fire School of Ministry in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota (seriously). Depending on your own religious beliefs, you might be saddened, concerned or outraged by what these kids have been and continue to be taught. Of course, it’s possible that you might think these kids are right, but if that were true, you probably wouldn’t be reading Westword. Or watching Netflix. Or have any interest in factual things like documentaries.

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