This month’s recommendations are all Biographical Documentaries
dir. Bobcat Goldthwait – ★★★★½
Barry Crimmins is a very angry comedian, he takes on politics, the government, the church, man’s inhumanity to man, basically all the big issues really with a fire and energy rarely seen and this documentary explains why or tries to. Crimmins was a mentor to director Goldthwait early on in his career and seemingly many other well known comedians but what separates this documentary from being a fawning comedian’s comedian or “this guy should have been bigger” doc is Crimmin’s own story which is equal parts distressing and inspiring.
The structure of the film will probably annoy anyone who knows the story because it waits until near halfway through to get really deep into Crimmins’ issues, but personally I think Goldthwait does a fine job of letting you get to know Crimmins’ persona and external image before letting you get to know what was really going on in his life.
dir. Steve James – ★★★★½
A warts and all telling of the life of Roger Ebert, possibly the world’s most famous film critic ever. You get a full sense of the man, at once incredibly stubborn and opinionated but also caring and open and interested in people, film and culture.
Among the highlights is footage that illustrates just how odd a relationship he had with Gene Siskel, the critic he shared the TV screen with for nearly a quarter of a century and Marty Scorsese trying to muster up some kind words to say about “Beyond The Valley of the Dolls” a film Ebert scripted with Russ Meyer.
dir. Liz Garbus – ★★★½
Nina Simone is a musical icon for some, but sadly there’s a ton of people who only know her music from advertisements which means Liz Garbus’ film is a timely reminder of just how impressive a performer and songwriter she was.
Unfortunately, life was never simple for Simone, she was a woman tormented by demons, the racism she encountered and also the awful domestic abuse she had to deal with from her husband and manager. While the film doesn’t go into every little detail of her life it does hit the most important parts of her career which means the real strength of the film lies with the archive footage of interviews and performances they were able to find and put together.
dir. Beth Aala, Mike Myers – ★★★
The tagline paints Shep Gordon as the man who invented “Sex, Drugs and Rock‘N’Roll” and if you like inside stories of rock music or Hollywood life, then this will be worth your time.
Gordon fell into managing musicians by sheer chance after meeting Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Gordon then went onto manage Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Blondie and Luther Vandross to name a few. The film also details his other work such as producing films (including giving Ridley Scott his big break), being responsible for Guy Fieri (indirectly!) and also his transformation from wild man to zen master.
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