What Happened, Miss Simone? – Nina Simone is one of the most mysterious, ethereal singers of all time. Her music has an almost spiritual quality, especially some of the early 1960s recordings like “Sinnerman” and “Strange Fruit.” As talented as she was, Simone was also beset by demons that left her alienated from friends and family as she moved from America to Europe while also battling an abusive spouse and the crackdown against African-Americans in America in the face of the civil rights movement. “What Happened, Miss Simone?” is a film that captures a full portrait of this one-of-a-kind woman.
The History of the Eagles – This might just be the greatest music documentary of all time. Directed by Alison Ellwood, “The History of the Eagles” tells the full story of the most commercially successful American rock band in history. The documentary is broken up into two parts with the first and far more interesting half dedicated to their heady rise and inevitable combustion, and the second recounting their solo years before ultimately reuniting. It’s a story like no other told in the frankest terms possible.
20 Feet from Stardom – As the name suggests, “20 Feet from Stardom” tells the story of the people onstage who make the rest of the band look incredible. I’m talking of course about the backup singers. Directed by Morgan Neville, this film, which took home the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards, profiles the lives and trials of those figures we hear but rarely ever pay attention to onstage.
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – A portrait of one of the true titans of country music, Glen Campbell, as he embarked on one final tour after discovering he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a tough watch for anyone who knows someone who’s been afflicted with this catastrophic disease, but Campbell handles it with the same grace, humor, and grit that endeared him to millions of people around the world throughout his lengthy career.
Gaga: Five Foot Two – Documentaries about pop stars that go beyond fan service propaganda are exceedingly rare. It’s one of the reasons that “Gaga: Five Foot Two” is so compelling. Rarely do we ever really get to see the physical and mental toll it takes to roll out a new album and prepare to perform in front of more than 100 million people at the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Lady Gaga allowed the cameras to film her every move as she did just that for an unflinching and uncompromising look at what it’s really like to be an artist of the highest level in the 21st century.
See the 15 other best music documentaries on Netflix at Uproxx.
In the opening moments of the hilarious and heartbreaking HBO documentary, “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind,” David Letterman recalls being awestruck when he first saw Robin Williams perform in Los Angeles when they were both fledgling stand-up comedians during the 1970s.
“It was like observing an experiment,” Letterman says. “All I could really do was hang onto the microphone for dear life. And here was a guy who could levitate.”
Directed by Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”), the two-hour film is an enticing invitation to explore, in a fresh light, the various components of Williams’ comedic genius.
What exactly was it that fueled the bountiful imagination, magnetic charisma and rapid-fire riffs of one of our most beloved entertainers? And what kind of pain was all that revved-up merriment often masking?
Ultimately, Zenovich’s biographical portrait can’t answer all our questions. How could we ever fully understand the iconic star who shockingly took his life in 2014 at the age of 63? But it succeeds in at least drawing us closer.
“Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind” premieres tonight on HBO.
In January, episodes of Steve James’ docuseries, “America to Me,” opened the Sundance Film Festival’s Indie Program and represented the new program’s first major sale ($5 million). Now Starz has released a trailer for the ten-part look inside an affluent-yet-segregated Chicago public school.
James — whose features have earned him Oscar nominations in the documentary (“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”) and editing (“Hoop Dreams”) categories — spent a year embedded inside Oak Park and River Forest High School, a scenic institution with benevolent teachers, every amenity imaginable, and one disquieting drawback. White students’ test scores are climbing while black students’ have stagnated.
While black staff members are anxious to address the chasm, the majority of the school’s board is white and appear unconcerned.
Thus a rift emerges among the same academic leaders trying to reconcile their students who refuse to commingle in the cafeteria, let alone on the cheerleading team.
“America to Me” premieres Sunday, August 26 on Starz.
Thirty-two years ago, Robert Swan made history as the first person to walk to both poles. Even as a young man, these grueling expeditions took a harsh toll on his body. Passing directly beneath the hole in the ozone layer, Swan’s face became badly burned and his eyes even changed color.
But the Arctic explorer now says that all of that physical duress pales in comparison to the agony of watching his son go through the same experience 32 years later.
This past winter, after years of preparation, Robert Swan set out to trek the 600 miles to the South Pole again — this time, with his 24-year-old son Barney by his side. And this time, with an additional challenge built in: they would survive exclusively off of renewable energy.
It was a “swan song” with a very important goal. If the father-son team could get by on renewable energy in the harshest environment on Earth, then people in the comfort of their own homes could do it too.
The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has been named the best documentary film festival in the world by Film Daily.
The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival might still be new, but it’s quickly rising to become one of the most well-respected and thought-provoking festivals in the world.
Curating features from the world’s biggest and most prestigious global showcases, the Melbourne Doc Fest provides a leading platform for the most inventive creative nonfiction films of today. In fact, Film Daily made it their top pick due to the festival’s consistently extensive program.
For 2018, this includes unique pop culture cuts such as: “Takao Goutsu’s Living the Game,” following various eSports personalities as they battle it out on Ultra Street Fighter IV over the course of a year; timely geopolitics pieces like Thor Neureiter’s “Disaster Capitalism,” unveiling the seedy underbelly of the global aid and investment industry; and dazzling portraits of mesmerizing cultural troubadours like Sophie Fiennes’s “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,” David Austin’s George Michael “Freedom,” and Kieron Walsh’s “Anjelica Huston on James Joyce: A Shout in the Street.”
The festival attracts top tier talent while maintaining its unique independent spirit, making it a must-attend event for cinephiles everywhere.