Telling harsh truths about the music industry, this documentary gives intimate access to singer/actor Jared Leto and his band Thirty Seconds to Mars as they fight a relentless lawsuit with record label EMI whilst recording their third studio album “This Is War.” Opening up his life for the camera during months of excruciating pressure, he reveals the struggles his band must face over questions of art, money and integrity.
20 Feet From Stardom is a movie made with love, and a highly enjoyable take on the compelling yet criminally unrecognized role of backup singers. Like all great documentaries, however, it is is more than its subject matter – it’s also about success, undeserved failure, and regret.
Winner of an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 Academy Awards, the movie itself might just be enough of a compensation to the lack of credit given to the people it portrays.
This movie seeks to expose the secret cabal at the heart of the MPAA rating system. Numerous filmmakers are interviewed about their frustrating struggles to come in under the “R” wire, and the seemingly arbitrary and sexually repressed nature of the decision making process. At the same time the filmmaker is actively working to identify the actual people on the board in charge of enforcing the various nefarious tactics. Although the subject matter is dark and very important, the movie’s style is light and humorous. Note: included are scenes cut from the movies in question, stuff that was deemed too sexually graphic for an “R” rating.
The Centre Will Not Hold explores the life of the famous Joan Didion – professional observer and cultural spectator. The film gives only a small window into the complexity of her mind and the space in which she processes and understands the world, which stems from her capacity to sit above everything that is happening around her and just observe. From writing for Vogue, to war journalism, to her famous novels – from watching a child do acid, to reporting on the first gulf war – Didion is as prolific as she is insightful and majestic in her writing. Throughout the documentary she gives her first hand perspectives on love, relationships, motherhood, and grief – beautifully articulating it as “a place we do not know unless we’ve been there.” A beautiful woman, and an incredible film.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)
When asked to play Andy Kaufman, Jim Carrey decided that he would get into character and never get out, even when the camera was not rolling. This was extremely frustrating to everyone at first, especially the director, who had no way of communicating with Jim Carrey, only Andy Kaufman or Tony Clifton (an alter ego created by Andy Kaufman). At the same time, Carrey had allowed a camera crew to follow him in order to create a behind-the-scenes documentary. The footage was never released because Universal Studios expressed concerns that “people would think Jim Carrey is an asshole”. Jim & Andy is that footage being displayed for the first time since it was recorded 20 years ago, finding Carrey at a very unique point in his life. Sick of fame and almost sick of acting, he displays his true self – an unbelievably smart, fragile, and complex person. His commentary, when it’s not funny impressions, is extremely emotional and grounded – sometimes philosophical. This is one of the best documentaries that Netflix has ever bought the distribution rights for, and certainly a mind-blowing portrayal of a complex mind.
Vivian Maier was a French-American photographer whose art, like many of the greats, only gained widespread success after her death. Most of her life was spent working as a maid for families in Chicago. Her masterpieces were only introduced to the world when the director of this documentary purchased a box of her negatives. This movie is about him trying to put together the pieces and retrace her life by interviewing the people that knew her.
Right from the beginning of this documentary her photos will have you in awe. They gave me chills and made me feel exactly what I needed to feel to understand each photo. Cue Vivian’s unexpected dark side along with really messed up backstory, I was completely absorbed. Interviews, along with Vivian’s own photos and home videos show the complexity and mystery of the artist.