1. Living in the Material World: George Harrison
Director: Martin Scorsese
Sure we love the Beatles, but then there’s the dark horse George Harrison, the man who emerged as a brilliantly enigmatic songwriter and became known as the quintessential reductionist guitar player. His post-Beatles release All Things Must Pass rivals Plastic Ono Band as the best post-Fab Four record and his notable solo career and much under-appreciated musicianship have been long overdue for a closer inspection. As we mark the 10-year anniversary of his death, the Scorsese-directed biopic will shed light on what made his musical contributions so significant. Look for new interview footage from remaining Beatles McCartney and Ringo, as well as unreleased material that Olivia Harrison pulled from George’s archives.
Directors: Danielle McCarthy/Drew DeNicola
The greatest band to fly under the radar produced three of the most brilliant pop albums of the ’70s and have been a critical favorite for decades now. Sadly, the attention for this groundbreaking band has come in the wake of the death of lead singer/songwriter Alex Chilton and original bassist Andy Hummel last year. Big Star re-defined and re-contextualized the gargantuan pop brushstrokes of the Beatles into grandiose and perpetually melancholic pop masterpieces that went on to influence ’80s college rock titans R.E.M. and the Replacements, who would later release the song “Alex Chilton” in honor of his influence. The documentary will cover the inspiring and tragic story of Big Star, as well as their enduring legacy, culminating in footage from the tribute shows that took place shortly after Chilton’s death last year. Long time producer and mentor John Fry of Ardent Studios has been acting as one of the executive producers of the documentary.
Director: Gorman Bechard
Speaking of the Replacements, a much-needed documentary on the band is on its way this month, as the film will have a premiere in Tampa at the Gasparilla International Film Festival. Strangely, the film will feature no music or imagery from the band, but instead will rely on a host of influential musicians, actors, fans, and journalists who will share their reflections and obsessions. The Minneapolis based-quartet from the ’80s married punk debauchery with bristling folk-pop and in the process almost single-handedly birthed the indie rock movement in the decade to follow. Albums like Let It Be and Tim are now considered bona fide classics and Paul Westerberg’s songwriting prowess has won him countless devotees, including filmmaker Cameron Crowe who featured Westerberg’s music prominently in his film Singles.
Director: Danny O’Connor
One of British music’s most unlikely success stories, Creation Records became the flagship for ground-breaking independent music in the ’80s and ’90s. The film presents founder Alan McGee as he traces the story of the label from their early days of working with notables such as My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, and Jesus and Mary Chain, up through the commercial and critical breakthrough of the bombastic and comicly arrogant Oasis. Upside Down gets it’s North American Premiere at this month’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin.
5. Happy: The Story of Keith Richards
Director: Johnny Depp
It’s been nearly 15 years since Johnny Depp has ventured beyond acting to direct a film, but his love for Keith Richards is drawing him back into the director’s chair. With momentum behind Keith’s story, being fueled in part by the release of his 2010 autobiography Life, the 66-year-old guitarist will spill more on his legendary rock and roll indulgences and contributions to his fellow Pirates of the Carribean cohort. Depp described the film to EW as a cross between “The Godfather and a painting by Italian artist (Michelangleo Merisi da) Caravaggio.” With a Rolling Stones reunion tour planned this year, as well as Depp’s numerous film projects in 2011, it might be some time before we know what that actually means.