What’s up, docs?

The King of Kong and other docs sauce the competition.

The King of Kong and other docs sauce the competition.

When compiling my list of the top 10 films of the decade, I purposefully omitted documentaries from consideration, mainly because it wouldn’t be fair competition. Documentaries have been kicking the ass of feature films all decade long, and there’s hardly a genre left that they don’t dominate.

While Hollywood has been pushing sentimental dreck like Invictus, documentary filmmakers have reinvented the “sports movie” with films like Murderball and The King of Kong. As the studios have been churning out one dopey, unimaginative biopic after another, docs have been refining the art of personal storytelling (Jim Brown: All-American; The Devil and Daniel Johnston) and elliptical narratives (Standard Operating Procedure).

Even comedies are being co-opted by the docs; the self-obsessed video game champion/sauce salesman/villain Billy Mitchell is funnier than anything Judd Apatow has come up with in years. There is also a slowly growing roster of documentary “stars,” led by Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock and Al Gore.

All that, and there are still some underrated, barely seen gems out there. Here are three of my favorites from the last decade:

Overnight (2003): Although certainly not for all tastes, this jagged, intensely personal look at The Boondock Saints “auteur”-hole Troy Duffy’s meteoric rise and fall coheres into a bare-ass naked portrait of douche-baggery and delusion on the Hollywood fringes.

Home Movie (2001): American Movie director Chris Smith starts with a quirky premise—five people and their wacky houses!—and develops it into a profound portrait of withdrawal, as we realize these dream homes are little more than self-fashioned prisons.

The Order of Myths (2008): One of the great pleasures of documentaries comes from experiencing a part of our culture you didn’t even know existed; Margaret Brown’s wise film about the still-segregated Mardi Gras celebrations of Mobile, Alabama, fulfills on that level and many more.