Yayoi Kusama, 89, is the most successful living female artist. Her pieces have fetched up to $7 million and, at any given time, she has handfuls of exhibitions on view at museums and galleries across the world. (Right now: Indonesia, New York, Cleveland and Los Angeles).
Her immense popularity — driven in part thanks to the selfie craze, which has led museum patrons to wait in hours-long lines just for pics inside her Infinity Mirror Rooms exhibitions — came as a shock to documentarian Heather Lenz, who had been following Kusama’s life and career rather closely since 2001 when she started working on a documentary about the artist.
Kusama, who has long battled mental illness and once attempted suicide by leaping from her New York City apartment, continues to live in her native Japan in a psychiatric hospital that is within walking distance of her studio.
Lenz reported that Kusama is aware of the current craze that surrounds her work — and selfies. “Smart phones weren’t around when I started making this film,” Lenz said with a smile.
Unlike sausage, music — at least that of pop giant Ed Sheeran — does improve when you know how it’s made.
The documentary “Songwriter” travels with the musician as he creates his most recent album, “Divide,” writing and recording future hits like “Castle on the Hill,” “Shape of You” and “Galway Girl.”
“Songwriter” follows Sheeran as he and collaborators like Benny Blanco and Foy Vance compose songs, with the setting shifting from a tour bus to a quiet Malibu house, a New York apartment, and the Queen Mary 2.
Single chords evolve into verses and then entire songs as Sheeran creates an album along the journey.
“Songwriter” will be available on Apple Music on August 28.
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.
Is there anyone among us who isn’t familiar with the tragic trajectory of Whitney Houston?
Born to gospel music royalty, a child prodigy whose voice and graceful demeanor propelled her into superstar status as pop’s reigning diva, Houston ultimately died alone in a bathtub at 48, after years of abusing cocaine.
That grievous arc is drawn with intelligence and sensitivity in “Whitney,” Kevin Macdonald’s documentary that portrays Houston as an artist, a cultural phenomenon and, in the end, a victim of unscrupulous and abusive family members as well as a trainwreck-addicted tabloid culture.
Like 2015’s “Amy,” about Amy Winehouse, “Whitney” threatens to be another formulaic rise and fall tale of a little girl lost to her own self-destructive impulses.
But, like that film, “Whitney” transcends the conventions of the form, delivering a powerful reminder of the breathtaking talent she possessed and the monumental future that was squandered on the altar of selfishness and greed.
Many kids who grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in the 1960s and 1970s or many years later in syndication found a sense of joy and perhaps even empowerment from Fred Rogers’ hybrid of entertainment and education presented in an endearingly kind manner.
As adults, they may have relegated the TV show to the annals of childhood memory or aspects of their formative years that need no revisiting. Yet as the world of the 21st century has gotten progressively darker and more cynical and allowed less and less room for innocence, Rogers’ quotes have been popping up via memes intended to offer a coping mechanism in the face of tragedy.
Documentarian Morgan Neville’s new film, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” shines a refreshing light on the work of a man whose mission and messages are revealed to have been not only revolutionary at the time but still highly relevant and remarkably powerful today.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is now playing in select theaters.
Considering the rich musical legacy of the United States of America —arguably its greatest export— our country has pretty crappy music television programming.
While Europe has consistently televised full concerts and live performances in a variety of interesting ways, we have little besides one or two song guest spots on late night TV.
There’s the Super Bowl halftime show (which increasingly features pre-taped music so as to not interfere with the choreography), competition shows like “The Voice” (which reduce music to a crass popularity contest), and the mostly music-less MTV, which…don’t even get me started.
But then there’s “Austin City Limits.”
Since 1974, “Austin City Limits,” or ACL, as its often referred to, has featured some of music’s greatest artists, from country to alternative rock, in full performance for all to see over the course of an hour. That it’s a product of the non-profit Public Broadcasting Service should come as no surprise.
However, rather than being filmed in one of PBS’s Northeastern hubs, it has since its inception been taped deep in the heart of Texas. In fact, Austin’s current reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World” was a tagline widely promoted by the show.
The 2015 documentary “A Song for You: The Austin City Limits Story” looks back at its history on the occasion of its 40th anniversary and is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime and YouTube Red.