Visitors to this site will know I am a big documentary buff. But 2019 has been a busy year so far and my viewing time has been extremely limited. So I decided to play catch up in one whirlwind week and watch a different music documentary every day.
Documentary #1 (Sunday) Katy Perry – Part Of Me: Part Of Me handicaps to about 60% documentary and 40% concert film. The concert part was much more fulfilling – the footage from the Teenage Dream tour looks incredible for its absurd spectacle. It was surprising how much of the documentary portion focused on the decline of Perry’s marriage with Russell Brand. I suspect Perry herself would now regret how her life story on film was dominated by her divorce. Rating: 4/5
Documentary #2 (Monday) The Rise and Fall Of The Clash – Easily the most disappointing of the documentaries I watched. For one, the title is misleading. There isn’t much discussed in the way of the “rise” of The Clash. (London Calling and Sandinista are relegated to a ONE SENTENCE mention). The focus here is on the band’s breakup. While not totally bereft of interesting information it felt like a largely half baked affair. The Clash deserves better. Rating: 2/5
Documentary #3 (Tuesday) 20 Feet From Stardom – The “unsung hero” music documentary is at this point its own subgenre. Though there is an inevitable overlap in content if you’ve seen enough of them (The Wrecking Crew, The Funk Brothers, The Swampers all have their own) I still found myself fascinated by and interested in the stories of background singers who’d made under appreciated contributions to popular music. For vocalists it’s at once inspirational and cautionary. Rating: 5/5
Documentary #4 (Wednesday) Sound City – Dave Grohl’s first foray behind the camera is the story of a recording studio that became legendary for being the breeding ground for some of music’s biggest album of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. As much as I enjoy watching musicians tell behind the scenes stories I found myself waiting for some sort of payoff beyond “this was a great studio with a one-of-a-kind console.” That came at the end, where Grohl enlisted the likes of Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Krist Noveselic and others to jam on some new tracks at Sound City. Rating: 4/5
Day 5: The Bee Gees – In Our Own Time : Aside from a glaring (though not surprising) omission of the Sgt. Pepper movie the Bee Gees tell their story with honesty and humor that makes In Our Own Time highly enjoyable. Its only noticeable flaw is that all three are never interviewed on camera together. That is the only thing preventing it from being among the very best career spanning docs ever made. Rating: 5/5
Day 6 (Friday) – Pentatonix: On My Way Home – In On My Way Home we see the members of Pentatonix in preparations for and performances from their first major headlining tour. The obligatory bitching about life on the road feels especially trite here but the nerdy charm of the band members ultimately makes this an endearing watch.
Day 7 (Saturday) – New Wave: Dare To Be Different – A recent effort from Showtime which tells of a small Long Island radio station (WLIR) that was monumental in breaking many of the hit songs and artists of the 80s. There’s no shortage of credible accounts, least of which is a personalized show of gratitude from Bono during a 1985 concert. But this story is questionable for a full length documentary and it’s apparent that the makers felt similarly – awkwardly transitioning 2/3rds through into big picture musings about the era to a point where it’s forgotten that the radio station is supposed to be the documentary’s chief subject.
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