November 08, 2023

Time Flies Tip #4: The Ken Burns Affect

Okay, so you are too sick to stay in school. Yeah, so you are too weak to go to work. That doesn’t mean that you have to halt your education or give up on having goals. When I was glued to the sick bed, I still wanted to make to-do lists, keep my mind active, and feel productive. Enter Ken Burns.

Ken Burns is not just an affect on iPhoto. He is one of the most notable documentary filmmakers of our times. With painstaking detail, he crams a semester’s worth of learning into each of his epic films. Perhaps only a geek like me gets off on the idea of learning the U.S. History that I slept through in high school, but I swear these six, eight, ten-hour films are addictive.

When your mind is too fried to read, or you want a good movie for the chemo chair that is a bit deeper than Hollywood mind candy, check out his movies: The War, Frank Lloyd Wright, Baseball, JAZZ, and more. They are all available on NetFlix, and many public libraries carry them in their DVD collections. Watching a whole season of Project Runway is good fun, but sometimes it is nice to up the brainpower.

Do you have any other great, educational documentaries (by Ken or other filmmakers) to add to the list?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook


  1. Dolemite Says:
    November 12th, 2008 at 6:06 PM

    Great post! I absolutely LOVE Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” but found some of his other work, including “Baseball,” to be a bit slow. And I say that as a big baseball fan.

    My NF queue has been chock-a-block full of interesting documentaries lately, though I don’t know if they are broadly informative so much as singularly entertaining:

    -Gonzo: the Life and Works of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson — soon to be released, title is kind of self-explanatory

    -Bonhoeffer - this plays at arthouse cinemas occasionally, but is also available on DVD. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian German theologian who spoke out against Adolph Hitler and organized the “Confessing Church,” one of the few (one the only?) overt revolts against Nazism.

    -Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains — following his post-Presidential career and his recent world tour

    -Capturing the Friedmans — a very dark tale about the power of accusations and the specter of abuse.

    -Harlan County, U.S.A. — a must-see

    -When We were Kings — compelling and entertaining sports/cultural documentary; it really captures the appeal and charisma of Muhammad Ali.

    There are some really interesting “history of science” docs put out by Nova. Check out “Newton’s Dark Secrets,” about Sir Isaac Newton’s fascinations with alchemy and rather peculiar (from this day and age) biblical interpretations.

Leave a Comment