Documentaries - How we rate them
The following points give an insight to how we rate documentaries and some general hints about how a good documentary can be spotted.
Things we like in documentaries
Information --- Hard facts, no emotional bullshit please.
Fascination --- When one of the afterthoughts to a documentary are "The world is an interesting place!", then the movie has definately succeeded.
Logic --- The mechanics of how it's working, why this and that happened have to be explained.
Common annoyances in documentaries
The Messiah --- The host of the show, a thoughtfully walking pseudo-scientist or even worse, a simple journalist is certainly THE most annoying thing to encounter in a documentary. These egomanics confuse documentaries with late night shows or Apple keynote speeches. Go away.
The damn-it-we-have-no-visuals issue --- These are documentaries where the topic might be nice, but really, there is no film material. It's when the writers buried themselves in the archives for a long time and then, oops, forgot that there have to be some visuals as well. Expect a series of stretched interviews and dramatic camera movements through completely boring archives.
The we-don't-know-either syndrome --- Especially with historical films. How do we explain Hannibal's attack on Rome? Get some blurred movie cuts, mix it with dramatic music and have a deep voice talking sincere stuff. Darken the colours a bit and there is no further need to actually explain how the battle went in detail. Instead, the sincere voice intones "...but Hannibal was defeated by the armies of Rome...".