The best modern documentaries I have seen (official start year is 1990, emphasis on the '00s). As usual, not ordered.
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|Stinger839's Rating||My Rating|
Home Movie 2001, Unrated)
Sound and Fury 2000, Unrated)
Lost in La Mancha 2003, R)
American Movie 1999, R)
Sketches of Frank Gehry 2006, PG-13)
I met Sydney Pollack when he came to New Orleans to introduce and discuss this film. I actually worked at the mall where the cinema was, and I couldn't work up the nerve to say anything at the screening, but the next morning he came into my workplace and I got a tete-a-tete with someone who was very much an academic guide for film theory and history on top of being a brilliant director (with great taste in what colors to wear).
My Architect: A Son's Journey 2004, Unrated)
Tarnation 2004, Unrated)
Southern Comfort 2001, Unrated)
Paragraph 175 2000, Unrated)
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters 2007, PG-13)
I just plain love this documentary. The production crew delves into the lives of classic video games' top players, centering around a rivalry between the first superstar of gaming Billy Mitchell and an unknown newcomer Steve Sanders for world champion of Donkey Kong, a game revered by regular classic game circuit players as perhaps the most difficult of the classic games.
Slasher 2004, Unrated)
In his first feature on digital film, John Landis tackles something he hasn't before: a documentary.
Metal: A Headbanger's Journey 2005, R)
This is one of my favorite documentaries, not only because I'm a metalhead myself, but because it gives true insight into a large global cultural movement. That this movie was helmed by an anthropologist metalhead increased this full perspective of its subjects. Sam Dunn asks intelligent questions of the "heroes and gods of metal" so that even diehard fans will gain some insight on the art form. Dunn's talent at interviewing also creates some very compelling and full portraits of a spectrum of metal fans themselves. Dunn is also incredibly tactful when dealing with the "bad boys" of metal who just want to curse and fling beer at the camera, or especially the Satanic black metal musicians in Northern Europe (mostly Norway) who advocate violence and have prior committed or advocated terrorist acts of political natures. Overall, Dunn creates a fantastic and extremely informative doc, thorough, and one of the better music docs I have ever seen. This doc works for people completely oblivious to the metal scene as well as the seasoned headbanger. The DVD 2 disc edition is also required to get the best out of this doc. While what had the edited feature stands perfectly on its own and will be enough for some viewers, the extended interviews with metal's legends and revolutionary contemporaries are must-watch for rock fans or musicians.
Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch 1997, Unrated)
All Lynch fans MUST see this. It is a sort of biography of Lynch via most of his major collaborators and mentors over the years talking on Lynch, most taking place with Lynch present and interaction between him and the other subject. These interviews are interspersed between segments of real-time observation of Lynch doing various projects. We get to watch him work on some carpentry, several paintings, a few installations, scoring film with Angelo Badalamenti, and cutting 'Lost Highway'. He returns to the 'Eraserhead' set with all of the original cast to discuss what he still considers to be his most spiritual film.
The Aristocrats 2005, Unrated)
not just a funny film, but an effective documentary as well, this film explores aspects of not only comedy and the comedian's life, it holds a mirror up to society and asks "what's your limit?". The DVD extras are essentially extensions to the film; plenty of interviews to make this a worthwhile rent or buy.
Crumb 1995, R)
The Celluloid Closet 1996, R)
The Kid Stays in the Picture 2002, R)
Word Wars 2004, Unrated)
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control 1997, PG)
I love documentaries like this: pick a few very interesting accomplished people and mix their stories together thematically and visually. This is an interesting glimpse into the lives of four very focused individuals: a robot technician, a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, and a mole-rat expert. The parallels lie in their dedication to their professions, what they are trying to accomplish or demonstrate with their career, how these men have all found themselves in these oddly specific fields for the same central lifelong desire of "what's the world all about?", and how their careers mirror many other interesting philosophical and scientific concepts, such as evolution, our status as "dominant species", passion in life, and the human legacy to the world. You will not regret having seen this superior interview-based documentary.
A Certain Kind of Death 2003, Unrated)
This is a superb documentary, not interested in probing its subjects (indeed no documentarian or film crew member is ever heard from) but instead settles to observe. The people interviewed seem to be allowed a free forum for their thoughts, like the director told them, "just do what you would normally do and help us understand what your job requires you to do".
Paris Is Burning 1990, R)
Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting Identities 2000, Unrated)
Another movie I added. Great doc exploring the lives and thoughts of a range of transgender and transsexual people. As a documentary, very personal and artistically edited (for the better).
Bowling for Columbine 2002, R)
Who the $#%@ Is Jackson Pollock 2006, PG-13)
A transparent look at the art world. Fascinating trucker and treasure hunter Teri Horton stumbles across what she thinks may be a Jackson Pollock, and she has to battle the tastes of art collectors and agents to prove its authenticity. After a long battle with the reigning gods, she enlists the help of an outcast looking to get back in the game and an art authenticator who uses science instead of gut feeling to determine authenticity.
A Very British Gangster 2008, Unrated)
This is one of the best filmed documentaries I've seen since Winged Migration. The shots here make the film appear as a narrative piece, and the film-maker interjects himself just enough to remind us that this is the "cameras allowed" side of these people's lives.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil 2009, Unrated)
Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street 2000, Unrated)
It's not hard for this film to be brilliant. The camera just has to be running on these people, and then it is up to the makers to dig through the three years of footage to compile a coherent story.
Red Without Blue 2007, Unrated)
Very interesting piece about identity and how a family deals with situations that most of society deems "odd" or "too complicated". Biggest plus here is that Claire's transsexualism is not the sensationalized focus of the film as many of its loglines and synopsis report, but rather one more bit in a large patchwork of the subjects' past and current happenings, emotions, and the impact on their closest relationships. This film is centrally about personal identity and the twin dynamic than sexgender and sexuality, which is very refreshing for one like myself who has seen too many films play heavily on the trans component to gain notoriety.
Confessions of a Superhero 2007, R)
Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist 1997, Unrated)
An extremely interesting artist who provides a deep glimpse into the nature of pain. He demonstrates, mostly with his body, the clear, yet often confounding, large gap between unwanted pain and consensual pain. If you've ever been intrigued, excited, or outright confused by masochism, let Bob give you a colorful education on the matter.
Prodigal Sons 2010, PG)
Protagonist 2007, R)
I'm a sucker for a piece like this: the film-maker takes a set of subjects, usually a small amount in the range of 3 to 6 and interviews them all seperately, never has them meet or needs to see them meet, but uses some central theme, some shared condition to unify true stories that one would usually consider to be in totally different worlds from each other. Basically, these films show us the constants of being human and reveal our universal qualities. They place a spotlight at a millimeter distance from the human condition and show it to us.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster* 2008, PG-13)
A good muscled look at the taboo of steroid use and the biggorexic pressures on modern American men. Film-maker is in an ideal situation for doing this project, with two brothers who have used steroids and the film-maker himself having only dabbled with them once and his whole life struggled with the decision of whether or not to plunge in. I think this is just as revealing about widespread cultural hypocrisy as Grass, The Union, Bowling for Columbine, and the works of The Yes Men.
Modify 2007, Unrated)
This Film is Not Yet Rated 2006, NC-17)
The Yes Men Fix the World 2009, Unrated)
These guys always deliver cutting edge political advocacy. Their little bits of imaginary "down time" distract from the overall film (and not in the requisite relief way I'm sure they were aiming for. Still there are plenty of gut-busting and giddying pranks, hard-hitting explications of their actions and exposes of those whom they are targeting, which are all solid and mildly to wildly brilliant.
The Union: The Business Behind Getting High 2007, Unrated)
Cropsey 2010, Unrated)
I Think We're Alone Now 2008, Unrated)
Food, Inc. 2009, PG)