Pop open the “documentaries” part of your pleasant native streaming service, and a bevy of films about celebrities will greet you. Rockers, politicians, artists, authors, athletes — more and more everybody you’ve heard of has a documentary, and possibly served as a producer on it, too. The attraction of such movies is apparent: For those who like somebody already, you get to listen to them speak about themselves. If you realize you ought to like somebody, you then’ve acquired a fast introduction to set you in your option to fandom.
That’s the attraction of two documentaries launched this week, “The Best Evening in Pop” (Netflix) and “Dario Argento Panico” (Shudder). The primary is a lighthearted have a look at the recording of “We Are the World,” stuffed with archival footage from the precise recording in 1985 and reminiscences by figures like Bruce Springsteen and Lionel Richie. The film sidesteps any actual contemplation of the track itself or its cultural import, however if you wish to hear well-known folks speak about an actual bizarre night time, you then received’t be dissatisfied. (Right here’s our critic’s review.) Equally, “Dario Argento Panico” features greatest as a primer on the Italian horror grasp (director, most famously, of “Suspiria”), supplemented by commentary from figures just like the director Guillermo del Toro; it’s not breaking any floor, however you’ll be taught a factor or two. (Right here’s our review.)
Watching these movies acquired me occupied with celebrity-focused documentaries that go above and past the standard fare. The very best of those motion pictures are inclined to do greater than inform us in regards to the topic — they inform us what the topic means, in a cultural sense. Celebrities, in spite of everything, will not be simply folks. They’re merchandise, packaged for us to devour in some method, and their tales say one thing in regards to the world writ giant.
There are many examples within the historical past of nonfiction movie, however as celebrities, and their groups of publicists and managers, have elevated management over their photos, it’s rarer and rarer to discover a documentary that feels as if it’s extra revealing than concealing. One pleasurable current instance is “Judy Blume Without end” (Prime Video), which locates the YA creator’s significance in, amongst different issues, her fearless angle towards censorship and ebook banning.
Among the best current movies on this style is “Listening to Kenny G” (Max), which weaves collectively interviews with the graceful jazz saxophonist and discussions with followers, haters and critics to think about what his recognition actually means — and, extra broadly, why we like artwork within the first place.
After which there’s the Oscar-winning “Summer season of Soul” (Hulu, Disney+ and major platforms), an actual banger of a live performance movie that makes use of archival footage and commentary not solely to revisit a collection of epochal Harlem live shows from 1969, but additionally to look at their wide-ranging significance to the story of race in America.
With these motion pictures, you get greater than a recounting of occasions or an individual’s life — you get a broader perspective on the world round you. And that’s among the finest duties motion pictures like these can accomplish.