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The 10 Greatest Rock Documentaries of All Time, Part 1

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Thursday, Jan 24, 2013

5 - 1

#5 - Anvil: The Story of Anvil

This is the real This is Spinal Tap. All forgotten bands should have fans this devoted. Hollywood screenwriter/director Sacha Gervasi was a roadie for the group back in the ‘80s, and when he went back to investigate the “whatever happened to” aspect of their present state, he was floored. The once mighty metal outfit, name checked by everyone from Slash to Metallica, had fallen on has-been hard times. Hoping for a turnaround, Anvil embarks of a world tour that ends up imploding. Then tensions rise between longtime friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner. Through it all, the dream never dies… and in the end, we’re glad it never did.

#4 - We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen

With the death of D Boon at the tender age of 27, one of the great last hopes for indie rock more or less disappeared without a trace. Even the constantly callbacks by critics, many of whom adored the Minutemen’s rare, revisionist fusion, couldn’t resurrect their funk punk presence. While the group would become a foundation for part of the noxious nu-metal movement in the late ‘90s, their original output was more meaningful than that. This great, great film, filled with rare performances and missed opportunities (both personal and professional), highlights one of the great “should have beens” of all time. It’s moving, and maddening.

#3 - Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

There is a certain amount of misplaced schadenfraude whenever a famous face falls from grace. In this case, worldwide mega-metal gods Metallica discover that their fearless leader, James Hetfield, has headed to rehab to deal with his drinking problems. When he returns, however, he has even more shocking news for the band - he wants an actual life! Filmmakers Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger happened to be on hand to produce a “video album” of the group’s latest release, and captured the clash in all its uncomfortable glory. Metallica eventually came through the period with a new bassists and a clearer corporate construct. Watching them work it out turns a planned promo into one of the greatest rock docs ever.

#2 - No Direction Home

For many, Bob Dylan is a distant memory, a reminder of a time when “music mattered,” when journalists jumped over each other to crown the new king of cultural discontent. Fifty some years later, the “why” has been lost in a whirlwind of jokes and jaded revisionism. Martin Scorsese resurrects Dylan’s mythos, remaking him into a powerful pundit for change within the pop and idol world of early rock and roll. With its combination of old and new footage, interviews and amazing live footage, we watch as a young man from the Midwest turns into a New York coffee house demi-god, then falls when he “goes electric.” It’s a stunning, almost surreal portrait.

#1 - DiG!

Ondi Timoner must have friends in very high places. When she stumbled upon the new psychedelia scene in Portland, Oregon, she also discovered two bands that would change her creative world forever. One was future MTV minions The Dandy Warhols. The other was destined-to-burn-bright-and-then-out basket cases The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Over the course of eight years, she chronicled their unusual careers. The Dandys would end up on a major label, lamenting the loss of their indie spirit. Anton Newcombe, BJM’s creative ‘genius’ would go on to forge musical masterworks in relative obscurity and abuse drugs. Oh, and he would fight with his fellow bandmates as well. As a telling “be careful what you wish for” warning, it’s a solid statement. As a film, it’s fantastic.

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