Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Best Documentaries of 2004

I have no idea if anyone really gives a rat's you-know-what, but in response to a request on this site (can you believe it? I've been requested to actually do something and it doesn't involve pulling my car up to wait for my Burger King special order), I am offering my picks for Best Documentaries of the Year that Was 2004. Once again, in ascending order ...

5. DiG!
Ondi Timoner
chronicles two Sixties-flavored alt-rock bands, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, in this unvarnished look at the ascent of the Warhols' Courtney Taylor-Taylor and simultaneous disintegration of the BJM's self-destructive mastermind, Anton Newcombe. A fascinating glimpse at the car wreck that passes for rock 'n' roll. For more, here's a review from Slate.

4. Control Room
This documentary of Al-Jazeera fudges some when it comes to the obvious ideological bent of the Arab world's answer to CNN. Still, this work by top-notch documentary-maker Jehane Noujaim is an important balance in a post-9/11 political climate that has all but demonized the controversial TV news network. For more, check out this feature in Senses of Cinema.

3. Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore's savage, bitterly funny anti-Dubya screed has as much to do with documentaries as shrapnel has with salad dressing, but it still ranks as a brilliant piece of propaganda. Yes, it indulges in specious conspiracy mongering, but its in-your-face images of war's atrocities are also an important reality reminder. In a divisive political year, "9/11" was a passionate rallying cry for opponents of the war -- even if, in the long run, it didn't change a thing. The Philadelphia Inquirer offered this insightful critique.

2. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry
Obviously created to bolster the senator's ill-fated bid for the White House, this is nevertheless an intensely involving and powerful telling of Kerry's Vietnam War heroics and subsequent anti-war activism. Regardless of what you thought of Kerry as presidential candidate, this George Butler-directed documentary should have been required viewing in light of the outrageous lies spewed by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The Washington Post offers this review.

1. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
What a terrific surprise this movie was. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky ended up with unprecedented access to the weird, dysfunctional and endearing world of perhaps the planet's best heavy metal group. From therapy sessions with a touchy-feely "performance enhancement" coach to James Hatfield's post-drug rehab transformation, this is the best kind of documentary, one that set out to be one thing but instead stumbled upon a wonderful slice of humanity. Slate's fawning review is right on-target.


At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Chase! Now I have some new documentaries to add to my 'must see' list. I agree with the #1 spot. The movie was a total surprise to me and really changed my view of music bands. Hope to hear more reviews from you in this area. Where would you place SUPERSIZE ME?


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