Viewers might think Les Blank's film A Poem is a Naked Person is solely about legendary piano player Leon Russell as he is featured prominently in the title and cover design. But the documentary is more an artifact capturing Oklahoma folk culture in the early 1970s. More specifically, it captures the hot hypnotic mess of hippie blues and booze that orbits Leon Russell, which may have caused Russell and Blank to argue about its release.
Director Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox is a must-see movie for food enthusiasts. Ila, played by the stunningly beautiful Nimrat Kaur, is a lonely housewife in Mumbai, India who desperately wants to please and attract her emotionally distant husband. Every day she takes great efforts to prepare his lunch in a unique (at least in our western culture) stacked tin lunchbox which is picked up by a local delivery system and brought to him at work.
Bridge of Spies is one of the better realistic spy movies out there. It is a movie made with the care that was used in making films in the time it's story is set. The 1960's was a gorgeous era in the world of film with bright saturated colors from the use of Technicolor and actors dressed in the glamorous fashion of the time, all of it an excellent distraction from the Cold War that was in full swing.
Danny Garcia begins following and filming The Clash after their manager, Bernie Rhodes, has lifted the band to the heights of commercial success. Rhodes is ferociously competitive, blinding him to the idea that there is no place for success as he imagines it for The Clash. They’re part of, and play to, an angry underclass. They’re searching for an authentic voice (and find it, early on). But by the 1980's they’ve become stadium rock, their image looks bought not made, Mick Jones quits listening, quits collaborating, and Joe Strummer has a crisis of conscience.
What I love about James Ponsoldt’s film is the focus on big ideas presented through dialog and their inevitable courting of philosophy. Dramatizing an interview between Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace, The End of the Tour follows the author as he promotes Infinite Jest.
Any film about a musician who tragically dies early is bound to be sad, but nobody’s story is only sad. Filmmaker Asif Kapadia weaves together testimonials and footage, creating a documentary that ultimately supports not only Amy Winehouse’s music but also her unique swagger.
Al Carbee’s entire home and its many ramshackle additions are filled with Barbies situated within dioramas - environments rich with every conceivable option for the doll. Filmmaker Jeremy Workman is responsible for bringing Carbee’s work to our attention. He frames Magical Universe in such a way that the artist’s eccentricities are accentuated for effect rather than in support of his art, yet over time (filming lasted 10 years) their relationship becomes increasingly tender, almost symbiotic.
I've been sitting on this review for months, unable to express my feelings for this movie. I watched all of the originals, I remember when Max was a cop, I know who runs Bartertown, and I was incredibly leery of rebooting an old property like that. Except this isn't a reboot. It's just a story in the mythology of a man named Max in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And it is, start to finish, incredible.
In Montage of Heck, filmmaker Brett Morgen uses personal sketchbooks and videos of Kurt Cobain's, and combines them with animation that matches Cobain’s own aesthetic. There’s also footage of Nirvana and interviews with family, but what carries the film is the access it gives viewers to Cobain’s tumultuous life and unique genius.
Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles is known for treating his subjects with distance, allowing them to show themselves in ways that make us forget that they’re being filmed. In Iris, at the age of eighty-eight Maysles films Iris Apfel, herself also at a late age. Candid and at home in front of the camera, she appears to us as if nothing is staged or otherwise manipulated.