Life Itself remembers beloved film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert. Known for his wit and candor (in his review of The Human Centipede, he refused to award it any stars at all, saying, “The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine”), Ebert was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer, wrote over a dozen books and was regarded as one of the most powerful critics of all time. Ebert was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, which cost him the lower portion of his jaw. But even when he could no longer speak or eat, he wrote every day, right up until his death in 2013. We haven’t actually seen this documentary yet—it opens on July 4th—but early buzz has been fantastic.
Finding Vivian Maier tells the story of a mysterious nanny who secretly took more than 100,000 photos of people on the streets of New York and hid them in storage lockers. Although she was one of 20th century’s greatest photographers, her work wasn’t discovered until a 26-year-old real-estate agent bought a box of old negatives at an estate auction in 2007. In this captivating film, her story is finally brought to light.
The Queen of Versailles tells the extreme riches-to-rags tale of billionaires Jackie and David Siegel, owners of Westgate Resorts. The film opens with the couple building the largest single-family house in America—a 90,000 square foot palace with 9 kitchens, 13 bedrooms and 25 bathrooms, plus a bowling alley and movie theatre. But over the next two years, they stop construction and put the property up for sale, as their company falters after the economic crisis. The Economist calls the film “an uncomfortably intimate glimpse of a couple’s struggle…What could have been merely a silly send-up manages to be a meditation on marriage and a metaphor for the fragility of fortunes, big and small.”
Alex convinced me to watch When You’re Strange on vacation a couple years ago—and as soon as the movie started, I was hooked. Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, died mysteriously in 1971 at the age of 27—and ever since then, countless books and films have made him out to be a supernatural force: a modern day shaman, a genius poet, maybe even immortal. But that’s why we loved this documentary: It digs beneath the myths to look at the real person. Drawing on amazing behind-the-scenes footage and an intelligent script, the film, narrated by Johnny Depp, takes an honest look at how a shy Navy brat with a taste for brainy books transformed himself into a rock deity in leather pants, and how the journey ultimately destroyed him.
The new documentary Fed Up examines America’s obesity epidemic and the food industry’s role in it. For example, 80 percent of food items sold in America have added sugar—of course, you’d expect candy and ice cream to have sugar, but tomato sauce? Chicken soup? Bread? Yogurt? This topic is near and dear to my heart, as we try harder and harder to keep our children from eating too much sugar during the day. (At Toby’s school, they give the kids birthday cupcakes at 10am! Drives me crazy!). Side note: Check out their two great movie posters.
Thoughts? Any others you’d recommend? I’d LOVE to hear…
P.S. 20 amazing documentaries.