AMY (2015, Asif Kapadia)
Chronicles Winehouse’s enormous talent, shitty fam, joie de vivre, unfortunate susceptibilities and tragically attenuated life in compelling detail. Superb in every respect and mandatory viewing. Fandom strictly optional, which is always the test of a great documentary. I would just say that anyone unlucky enough to have dealt with addiction or lost a loved one to either drugs or ED will find this a fairly harrowing and horribly familiar experience, so please approach with caution. Stunning, tho.
Dior and I (2015 Frédéric Tcheng)
Lovely to look at and smooth as a length of good habotai silk but also verrrry much in line with the fashion industry’s view of itself i.e. hautement expérimentée, exclusivity, bankable tortuousness etc. and therefore not especially interesting in itself beyond the beauteous visuals. There’s still enough here for anyone wanting a gander at Raf Simons, the creative / constructive process and the atelier system, but I was left wanting a bit more substance; a bit of fucking critique wouldn't have gone astray either.
The Emperor’s New Clothes (2015 Michael Winterbottom)
The Russell Brand/Winterbottom antiglobalisation/inequity polemic is a nice place to start for anyone wanting a friendly practical overview of the results of the financial crisis and batshit cannibal capitalism. Even if you personally would like to beat Brand with a studded switch for all his hamfisted attentionwhoring, there’s no point shooting the messenger when the communique is sound. Preaches to the converted but not as bad as we expected; worth a look when you’ve got nothing else on.
All of Me (2014 Alexandra Lescaze)
Witness the Austin chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance’s struggle with the new scope of, and emphasis on, the obesity that is so intrinsic to its members’ identities. A homely, humanist, non-exploitative investigation that allows those living with overweight to voice their own private struggles amid an increasingly confused clamour in the popular media. Everyone should see this for a hundred different reasons.
Artifact (2013 Bartholomew Cubbins)
Much-touted exposé of the financial and legal assaults faced by faux-emo outfit Thirty Seconds to Mars. And virtually everyone else in the commercial music and creative industries. We loathe Jared Leto and don’t give a dry fuck if he’s beggared by Virgin/EMI, but their point stands, it is fairly well delineated here and civilians need to know this shit. Still heavily marred by Leto’s oozing vanity and punchability; generators of intellectual property should probably avoid for the sake of their stroke risk.
The Armstrong Lie (2013 Alex Gibney)
We’ve watched this four times now and are still gobsmacked by both Lance’s brass-necked sociopathy and former fanboy Gibney’s utter blindness to its pervasive monstrosity, but kudos to the latter for outing his own worshipful bullshit. The fascination hinges on Armstrong’s viperish exploitation of seemingly everyone around him vs the public image he was still so able to project, and why so many people were so loathe to accept his reality. You don’t have to follow or even understand team sports to profit from The Armstrong Lie’s mightily valuable insights. As good as it could be given the icky nature of the beast.
That Sugar Film (2015 Damon Gameau)
While That Sugar Film boasts far more Damon Gameau and his lensfucking partner than we were ultimately comfortable with and cribs shamelessly from Spurlock’s Supersize Me, it does manage to communicate many of the problems posed by sugar in the Western diet to the naive audience for which it was presumably intended. Anyone past the WTF how many teaspoons? stage in their journey to enlightenment will probably find it as basic as we did. Highlight: the half-Mountain Dew yokel and his intensely satisfying dental comeuppance (sadists only).
About Face: Supermodels Then and Now (2013 Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
What is it like to be a collection of fetishised angles? To depend on them for financial and psychological security? To be so blessed and inevitably betrayed by that ambiguous currency? About Face won’t change your life but some of these hot bitches drop wisdom we can all profit from. Not as hagiographic nor mindless as we expected.
20 Feet from Stardom (2013 Morgan Neville)
Excellent account of the backup singers’ lot in an industry renowned for its shameless appropriation and cruelty. Extremely well-executed, heaving with righteous archival stuff and affecting reportage from the women in question, so long overlooked and exploited. Highly recommended.
Inside Job (2010 Charles Ferguson)
The definitive OG account of the 2008 economic fuck fest and the astonishingly comprehensive international sleaze that is still romping on unchecked. We don't understand how Ferguson's team got so many of the greedy psychopaths involved to outline their malfeasance on camera but suspect that's just a depressing insight into their smirking impunity. If you are going to sit through any of the numberless post mortems, give Inside Job your iTunes dollar and reward its discipline and daring.