If fantasy weighs too heavily on you this movie season, escape to reality. Here are documentaries that take you to people and places so interesting, they couldn’t be made up:

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey Leon Theremin invented the electronic instrument that goes “woo-ooo-woo” in horror movies and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”... then, one day in 1938, vanished into a fate stranger than fiction.

Startup.com Before the dotcom era ended, somebody got it all on film—the alliance of frat boys and geeks, the euphoria of paper billions, the collapse of friendships under business pressure, the poignance of realizing that you spent your youth this way.

Crumb Harrowingly hilarious story of the deeply weird underground cartoonist R. Crumb—who, we soon see, is the healthy one in his family.

Dark Days Eye-opening film about—and even partly made by—homeless people who (belying dysfunctional stereotypes) built a genuine community in a tunnel below Penn Station.

East Side Story The true story of Soviet musicals! No, really, a campy and very entertaining look at how Russian filmmakers tried to sneak a little Broadway glitz and decadence past the killjoy Soviet censors.

Mr. Death Genuinely unsettling tale (by Errol Morris, whose The Thin Blue Line freed a Texas death row inmate) of a shockingly tunnelvisioned designer of “humane” execution systems... whose story takes a turn even his clientele couldn’t stomach.


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