Since I am one of the co-hosts of The Film Coterie it is easy to guess that I am a fan of cinema, but my first love will always be music. I play guitar – poorly, and in public. So when a work comes along that combines two of my passions, I take special notice. For those of you like me, here are a couple titles you may have missed that are worth streaming.
Muscle Shoals (2013) – Muscle Shoals is a documentary about FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios both located in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. However, that sentence does not do this film justice. It is better to simply say that Muscle Shoals is about the origins of music itself, whether that origin is a place, a people or a certain magical lure, or in the case of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a convergence of all three This convergence has produced some of the most important music ever heard. It is likely that if you are a fan of soul music you have heard the heartbeat of Muscles Shoals. It was a place where music was more important than the color of your skin. This is one of my all time favorite music documentaries.
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015) – As the title suggests, this documentary is about one of the most iconic singers of all time, Janis Joplin. Oftentimes documentaries of this nature forget one important thing – the music. Thankfully, this film does not fall into that trap and uses the music to provide insight into Janis. She is also allowed to tell her own story through previously unpublished letters to her parents providing a greater insight into this rock legend. “From the Kentucky coal mine to the California sun” and all points beyond, if you have found yourself singing along with that beautiful raspy voice this is for you.
A Band Called Death (2013) – Before Punk became a thing that all parents hated, there was Death. Sadly Death was ahead of schedule, the band that is. This documentary tells the story of what is likely the world's first punk band. Three teenage brothers from Detroit join together to form a band and promptly develop an entirely new genre of music, in an era dominated by Motown. While this still has the rockumentary feel, it also has a lot of heart. Normally, I might pan such a move, but in the case of a band that has remained hidden for so long, I think it does the both the band and the brothers justice.
Amy (2015) - Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Robert Johnson, and Brian Jones are all unfortunately members of what has been called the 27 Club. In 2011, the 27 Club claimed another member – Amy Winehouse. Regardless of your music taste there is no denying Amy Winehouse’s talent. While she received acclaim for her music, popular culture focused on her spiral downward. Her rise to stardom in an era where everyone records everything gives insight into Amy and Asif Kapadia uses these sources well. For those that laughed at Amy’s portrayal in the tabloids, most will certainly need to reevaluate how they felt about her as the film turns a scornful eye toward her father and ex-husband, and rightfully so. By the end you will simply be asking why no one tried to help.