Mixed Media

5 Must-See True-Crime Documentaries to Catch After "The Jinx"

| Mon Mar. 16, 2015 10:56 PM EDT

Sunday's finale of the HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst ended with the eccentric protagonist muttering a seeming confession to three murders over the last 30 years.

"What the hell did I do?" Durst said. "Killed them all, of course."

The revelation culminated an eight-year investigation into the life and trials of Durst, the estranged son of a New York real estate dynasty. He has maintained his innocence in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife and was acquitted in the 2001 slaying of Morris Black in Galveston, Texas. But Durst was arrested on Saturday, a day before the finale aired, in a New Orleans hotel after new evidence emerged that law enforcement officials allege linked him to the 2000 murder of confidante Susan Berman. On Monday, Los Angeles prosecutors charged Durst with first-degree murder in California, in addition to weapons charges in Louisiana. 

All eyes will surely stay glued to Durst's case as it unfolds, but The Jinx, a well-paced journalistic masterpiece, is over. The inevitable question for today's budding Sherlock Holmes becomes: What to watch next?

Since True Detective reportedly won't return until this summer, and the second season of Serial isn't out yet, here are a few true-crime documentaries to check out now:

Central Park Five

The 2012 Ken Burns documentary looks into the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. The film, which is on Netflix, takes a look at the case and its aftermath from the perspectives of the accused, whose convictions were later tossed out after a convicted rapist confessed to the crime.

 

Into The Abyss

Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog dives into the aftermath of a triple homicide in the small city of Conroe, Texas as part of a larger examination into capital punishment in the United States. This 2011 doc is still on Netflix.

 

The Imposter

A 13-year-old boy in Texas disappears in 1994, then reportedly resurfaces three years later in Spain. But that's not the whole story. A French con artist tells all in this gripping 2012 documentary, which can be seen on Netflix.

 

The Paradise Lost trilogy

In this three-part series, renowned filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky focus on the infamous case of the "West Memphis Three," a trio of teenagers who were convicted of the brutal triple homicide in 1993 of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The three men were later freed after 18 years in prison. You can find this one on Amazon Prime.

 

The Thin Blue Line

A throwback from 1988, Errol Morris investigates the questionable conviction of Randall Dale Adams, who was wrongly sentenced to life in prison for killing a Dallas police officer in 1976. The film, which is on Netflix, played a role in exonerating Adams a year later.

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Watch John Oliver Explain Why the NCAA Should Stop Exploiting Student Athletes and Pay Up

| Mon Mar. 16, 2015 9:15 AM EDT

The National Collegiate Athletic Association reaps in nearly $1 billion a year in revenue, thanks to an annual onslaught of glitzy advertising campaigns and television deals. Coaches and top executives are paid in the millions, but student athletes return to their dorm rooms with nothing but an education for compensation, "the only currency more difficult to spent than Bitcoin," John Oliver noted last night.

With the start of March Madness on Tuesday, "Last Week Tonight" takes on this very issue, slamming the "illegal sweatshop" nature of the NCAA's non-pay scale. "There is nothing inherently wrong with a sporting tournament making huge amounts of money," Oliver said. "But there is something slightly troubling about a billion-dollar sports enterprise where the athletes are not paid a penny, because they aren't."

Seriously Exciting New Sounds From Brit Band Evans the Death

| Mon Mar. 16, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Evans the Death
Expect Delays
Slumberland

If she'd been around four decades ago, Katherine Whitaker might have become a tender chanteuse in the tradition of Brit-folk greats Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention) or Maddy Prior (Pentangle). But the other three members of London's Evans the Death have different ideas, matching her sweetly melancholy voice to rougher, unlikely textures, producing seriously exciting sounds.

"Terrified" and "Enabler" are grubby, rumbling rock and roll that turns profound unease into an exhilarating raveup, while "Don't Laugh at My Angry Face" captures the tortured howl of grunge without succumbing to tired '90s nostalgia. Even the jangly, more traditional title track boasts enough offbeat touches to feel fresh. While the band may take its name from the gravedigger in Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood," this stellar sophomore album is bursting with noisy vitality.

Why a German Court Just Ordered A Vaccine Skeptic to Pay $100K

| Fri Mar. 13, 2015 4:39 PM EDT

Four years ago, vaccine-skeptical German biologist Stefan Lanka posed a challenge on his website: Prove to him that measles is, in fact, a virus. To the first person who could do that, he promised a whopping 100 thousand Euros (about $106,000).

Despite loads of long-standing medical evidence proving the existence of the measles virus, Lanka believes that measles is a psychosomatic disease that results from trauma. "People become ill after traumatic separations," he told a German newspaper.

German doctor David Barden took him up on the challenge. Barden gathered six separate studies showing that measles is indeed a virus. Lanka dismissed his findings.

But today, a district court in southern Germany found that Barden's evidence provides sufficient proof to have satisfied Lanka's challenge. Which means Lanka now has to cough up the promised cash.

This issue has taken on new urgency due to a measles epidemic in Berlin that began in October. Health officials announced last Friday that 111 new cases had been reported in the previous week, bringing the total number to 724. The majority of those affected are unvaccinated; last month an 18-month-old died of the disease.

Lanka said he plans to appeal the court's decision.  

Oklahoma's Football Team Protests the Racist Frat Video With a Moment of Silence

| Thu Mar. 12, 2015 8:11 PM EDT

The University of Oklahoma football team stood arm-in-arm in black shirts Thursday in silent protest of the now-infamous video showing members of the campus Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter singing a racist chant.

Quarterback Trevor Knight posted a statement on Twitter on behalf of the team, urging the university to continue its investigation and declaring that the team would not practice this week. "These types of incidents occur nationwide every single year, and our hope is to shed light on this issue and promote meaningful change at a national level," the statement read. 

While African American students make up only five percent of the university's student population, the perennial bowl contenders represent a high-profile and influential group of mostly black students. Shortly after the video went viral, senior linebacker and captain Erik Striker criticized "phony ass" supporters who cheer for the team while insisting racism doesn't exist. On Monday, highly rated high school football recruit Jean Delance decommitted from Oklahoma, citing the video. Then, on Tuesday, the university expelled two fraternity members and shut down the chapter. University president David Boren told USA Today he expected more students to be disciplined as the school continues to investigate.

Athletic director Joe Castiglione has promised that the athletic department and Boren will meet with the football captains after spring break to discuss the investigation. 

This Fake App Just Summed Up Everything That's Wrong With Silicon Valley

| Thu Mar. 12, 2015 6:08 PM EDT

In Silicon Valley, a group of mostly white, mostly male twentysomethings have built a multibillion-dollar empire of sharing apps: shared housing (AirBnB), shared cars (Uber), shared dog-sitting (DogVacay)…you get the idea. But the so-called "sharing economy" doesn't actually share equally with everyone. One fake app wants to change that.

WellDeserved is an app that helps you "monetize" your privilege—be it racial, gender-based, or socioeconomic—by sharing it (temporarily, of course) with other people. The fictional app was the winning entry at last month's Comedy Hack Day in San Francisco, where creative agency Cultivated Wit challenged contestants to come up with a comedic app idea and pitch it to judges, all in 48 hours.

The app's promo video will make you laugh and cry: A Google employee sells his free Google lunch to a guest for $10, a dude charges a black man $5 to hail a cab on his behalf, and another guy walks a woman home so she won't get catcalled, asking himself, "Why don't I walk with them, spare them the harassment, and charge 'em like five bucks?"

The creators' (fake) plan for making the (fake) app work is summed up perfectly: "Our business plan is that VCs will just give us money. Because this is San Francisco, and we have an idea."

This post has been updated.

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Millions of Americans Don't Have Full Voting Rights. John Oliver Explains Just How Insane That Is.

| Mon Mar. 9, 2015 6:42 PM EDT

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday this weekend, an event that spurred the passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, John Oliver took a moment out during his show last night to remind everyone that nearly 4 million people living in the United States are still denied full voting rights. Why? Because they live in territories.

Coincidentally enough, 98 percent of these residents happen to be racial or ethnic minorities who were once categorized as government-acquired "alien races" and therefore not extended constitutional protections.

"Alien races can't understand Anglo-Saxon principles?" Oliver asked. "I find that condescending and I'm British. We basically invented patronizing bigotry!"

As Oliver goes onto further explain, it gets even worse for American Samoans, who are the only people born on U.S. soil but denied citizenship. Last month, Mother Jones published a report detailing the Obama administration's fight to continue denying citizenship to American Samoans using a century-old racist law to justify their case.

Oliver also summed up everything stupid about Daylight Saving Time in 3 minutes:

John Coltrane for Experts

| Mon Mar. 9, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The John Coltrane Quintet Featuring Eric Dolphy
So Many Things: The European Tour 1961
Acrobat

So many "things" indeed! This intriguing four-disc collection of concert performances from November 1961 features six different renditions of the standard "My Favorite Things, each running 20 to 29 minutes, along with more compact versions of "Blue Train," "I Want to Talk About You." and other Coltrane favorites. These previously bootlegged concerts were taken from radio broadcasts and suffer slightly from thin sound, but are more than listenable. If So Many Things isn't for beginners, it's great extra-credit listening: With multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy briefly in the lineup, Coltrane was pushing his tenor and soprano sax chops into new territory, leaving behind traditional melodies and song structures in a restless search for fresh ideas and approaches—a quest he would continue until his death in 1967. The harsher extremes of his final years are yet to be reached, and there's a mesmerizing, meditative quality to the music throughout that's dreamy, yet subtly urgent.

This NRA Tweet Is So Tasteless and Awful That It Makes Me Want to Vomit

| Thu Mar. 5, 2015 8:10 PM EST

Good afternoon.

How are you? How are you feeling? Are you feeling good? Are you, by chance, feeling too good? Are you flying too high on borrowed wings? Maybe you need a bit of a punch in the stomach to bring you back down to Earth and remind you that in life there are hills and valleys; that this vacation on Creation is, well, not all champagne and strawberries. I guess what I'm asking is, would you like to feel nauseous? You look to me like you might like to feel nauseous. C'mon! A little nausea never hurt anyone! It builds character!

Let's get nauseous!

This comes via the New York Daily News, which doesn't mince words:

Hitting a new low in its disgusting war against gun laws, the National Rifle Association on Thursday went after Gabby Giffords with a personal attack mocking her 2011 shooting dismissively.

Have a nice day.

Instead of Tackling Its Rape Problem, India Just Banned a Documentary About It

| Wed Mar. 4, 2015 2:44 PM EST
In New Delhi, women participate in a candlelight vigil at the bus stop where, two years ago, a woman boarded the bus where she was gang-raped. Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.

Citing fears its broadcast would lead to "public outcry," an Indian court issued an order yesterday blocking the country's media from airing a documentary centering on the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman that occurred on a New Delhi bus.

The BBC documentary, titled India's Daughter, features an interview with one of the six men accused of the crime, in which he repeatedly blames the victim for fighting back while she was raped. Mukesh Singh spoke to British filmmaker Leslee Udwin from prison, where Udwin says he appeared like "a robot" during the 16 hours the interview was conducted.

"You can't clap with one hand," Singh says in the film. "It takes two hands. A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good."

Rajan Bhagat, a spokesperson for the New Delhi police, told AFP that police officials were concerned the "very objectionable interview" could incite violence.

"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal," Singh says in the film.

"We have only seen the promotional parts of the film. Based on that we took the matter to court because we felt that it will cause likely apprehension of public disorder," Bhagat said.

The brutal 2012 incident shocked the international community and prompted mass demonstrations in India. Over weeks of protests, advocates called for reform and increased protections for women in a country where sexual assault is perceived as a source of shame and often leads to more restrictions for women.

But the controversy over India's Daughter demonstrates the country remains divided over the issue of sexual assault and how to move forward. India's parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu slammed the documentary as an "international conspiracy to defame India." In its Tuesday order, the court echoed these concerns and said the film violated Indian law preventing "intent to cause alarm in the public."

Udwin has asked the Indian prime minister to lift the ban. The film premieres on BBC Wednesday evening.