Mike Kueber's Blog

January 3, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #96 – 180-degrees South and Rodriguez

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 9:00 pm
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I saw 180-degrees South because my son Jimmy was streaming it on Netflix.  It’s a documentary (2010) about an adventurer, Jeff Johnson, who attempts to replicate the 1968 Chilean adventure of two adventuring icons – Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins.  These men have become icons, not only because of their Chilean trip, but because they later founded successful businesses that supply adventurers – Patagonia by Chouinard and North Face by Tompkins – and are heavily involved in a huge land conservation project in Chile.

Jimmy loved the documentary because he is attracted to the outdoors and the adventuring lifestyle.  I pointed out to him that (a) many people are interested in Chouinard and Tompkins because their business success gives them credibility and (b) the documentary does nothing to describe why they were able to create successful companies.  Jimmy wants to be an entrepreneur, too, but I worry that he doesn’t appreciate the business fundamentals that separate the Facebooks of the world from the My Spaces of the world.  Being cool might help, but there are millions of Jeff Johnsons in the world, and unless they develop some skills than can be monetized, I suspect the later part of their life is a bit depressing.  When I told Jimmy that, he suggested that I see surfer movie, Endless Summer.  It’s in my queue.

The Rotten Tomato critics rate 180-degrees South at 83%, and the audience is even better at 86%.  Me?  Not so much.  I’m not big on adventuring, and land conservation is not a major interest.  I give it only two and a half stars out of four.

Rodriguez is an Academy Award-winning documentary (2012) about an obscure Dylan-like singer from the early 70s who disappeared for decades until two guys from South Africa in the late 90s decided to find out what happened to him.  The reason for their interest was that, although Rodriguez experienced no success of any type in America, his two albums had become cult favorites in South Africa, almost like the Rocky Horror Picture Show or singer Terry Stafford in Austin, TX.  Despite rumors that Rodriguez had committed suicide on stage or had been murdered in prison, the two South African guys diligently pursued various clues and leads that led them to Detroit and finally a publicity campaign, almost like the one that led the FBI to Whitey Bulger, resulted in a breakthrough.  This story is an example of truth sometimes being stranger than fiction, and the documentary is 10 times more dramatic than the other South African drama – Invictus – with Damon and Freeman that I recently viewed.  Rotten Tomato critics give it 96% and the audience is 93%.  I agree – four stars out of four.


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