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The Late Movies: 10 Great Documentaries You Can Watch Right Now (on Netflix)

If you haven't discovered Netflix and its instant streaming feature yet, it's pretty magical. I watch so many more movies now because of it -- and I'm much more quick to turn off the ones I'm not enjoying than I would be if I were renting the movies on physical discs, which means I end up trolling through a lot of crap to find the gems. It just so happens that I love documentaries -- especially dark, gritty ones -- and lucky for me, Netflix has plenty of them. Of the dozens and dozens I've watched all or part of over the past six months or so, I wanted to share the true standouts here.

GOD GREW TIRED OF US
There have been many documentaries about the conflict in Sudan and the many refugees it's produced, especially the (in)famous Lost Boys. This is easily the best of them. A fascinating look at the culture shock some of the boys experience when they come to America -- and how it's a more difficult place to succeed than they had imagined.

WHICH WAY HOME
It follows a group of kids from Guatemala who try to cross into the United States. If you liked Mary Full of Grace or Sin Nombre, this movie is just as gripping -- and it's real.

THE PARKING LOT MOVIE
This surprising little film documents the life of a parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the over-educated grad students, poets and philosophers who bide their time manning its gate. Hilarious, thoughtful, and charming.

SMASH HIS CAMERA
The life and times of the world's first famous Paparazzo, whose shots of Jackie O and Marlon Brando earned him lawsuits, restraining orders and a broken jaw.

MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN
Easily the most heart-rending documentary I've seen in a long time. Three generations of a white farming family in Zimbabwe fight for their land and their lives as Robert Mugabe's thugs try to intimidate them.

KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON
In a series of evocative interviews with rock icon Kurt Cobain, journalist Michael Azerrad captures the late artist's inner thoughts and personal memories about life, music, success and failure. Director AJ Schnack assembled intimate conversations into a poignant portrait of a creative genius and young man in pain. This emotional blend of imagery, music and voice about the infamous and elusive artist is a 2007 Independent Spirit Award nominee.

THE GARDEN
Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy's politically charged, Oscar-nominated documentary follows a group of low-income families struggling to protect a 14-acre urban farm in the middle of South Central Los Angeles from bureaucratic real estate developers. A lightning rod for controversy in 2004, this cause célèbre drew the attention of numerous activists and politicians, including Dennis Kucinich, Joan Baez and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoisa.

CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY
A really insightful and well-made film about the Jack Abramoff scandal -- and Abramoff's life -- which has pretty much convinced me that money -- especially money in politics -- is the root of all evil!

FREAKONOMICS
So much fun! So thought-provoking! Based on the best-selling book, it's divided into chapters, each directed by a different well-known documentary director.

WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP
This is a weird one. Based on the found photography book of the same name, it's an experimental documentary that blends old footage and new -- evocative and dark, definitely a mood piece. Can't find a trailer for it -- just trust me!

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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