Films that could wind up on the Oscar short list are opening this week
The last week of July brings the release of a slew of new documentaries, including two of the best reviewed films of the year: Listen to Me Marlon and Best of Enemies.
July 29 [New York]; July 31 [LA]
>Listen to Me Marlon Filmmaker Stevan Riley creates a fascinating and immersive "self-portrait" of the great Marlon Brando, through previously-unheard audio recordings which the actor made for self-hypnosis and self-motivation. Riley went so far as to recreate Brando's home [which was torn down after his death] in London to situate the voice in its original environment. Trailer here
July 31 [New York, LA, Toronto, Vancouver]
>Best of Enemies directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville [20 Feet From Stardom] and Grammy winner Robert Gordon. A documentary about the intellectual fisticuffs [which nearly turned into actual fisticuffs] between conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and leftist Gore Vidal, who squared off on television over the summer of 1968. The film argues their memorably erudite and vitriolic debates changed American political discourse. It certainly produced more insults per minute than a Don Rickles routine.
Variety calls Best of Enemies "thoroughly engrossing and surprisingly entertaining." Trailer here. Full release schedule here.
July 31 [New York, LA]
>I Am Chris Farley directed by Brent Hodge and Derik Murray. It's been more than 15 years since the untimely death of comedian Chris Farley. His comic brilliance and self-destructive tendencies are remembered by the people who knew him best: his brothers, and fellow SNL cast members and alums including Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Kevin Nealon, Dan Aykroyd and David Spade, with whom Farley made a couple of very funny movies, Black Sheep and Tommy Boy.
The doc premieres August 10th on Spike TV, followed immediately by release on VOD. Trailer here
>Call Me Lucky directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. The standup comedian trains his camera on a fellow practitioner of the craft, Barry Crimmins, a performer whose dark past inspired him to become an advocate for abuse victims. The films includes interviews with some of comedy's best-known talent including Steven Wright, David Cross, Margaret Cho, Patton Oswalt and Marc Maron.
Goldthwait says his late friend Robin Williams gave him the money to fund the project. The film premiered at Sundance and has won awards from the Boston Independent Film Festival, the Chicago Critics Film Festival and the Boulder International Film Festival, among others. Trailer here
August 14 [New York, LA, Seattle, Minneapolis]
>Meru directed by Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi. The second climbing-themed documentary to come out in recent months, after Sunshine Superman. The Shark's Fin on Mount Meru in Northern India is considered possibly the most difficult peak to ascend in the world, harder even than Mt. Everest in the opinion of many experts. This documentary shows the attempt by a trio of friends -- including Chin -- to summit Meru in 2011.
Meru includes extensive interviews with Jon Krakauer, author of the Everest disaster bestseller Into Thin Air, breathtaking imagery and terrifying audio of avalanches. It may scare the hell out of anyone afraid of heights.
Expands to Boston, Berkeley, Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego August 21. Full release schedule here. See trailer here.
>What Happened, Miss Simone? directed by Liz Garbus. Streaming currently on Netflix. A fascinating look at the supremely talented and deeply troubled singer Nina Simone who ranks among the most gifted recording artists of the 20th century. Trailer here
>Amy directed by Asif Kapadia. The film about the late singer Amy Winehouse is among the most buzzed-about documentaries of the year, winning strong reviews from Variety and Vanity Fair, among others. But the Winehouse family isn't pleased, releasing a statement "dissociating" itself from the production, which the family calls a "missed opportunity." Trailer here
>3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets directed by Marc Silver. A riveting film that takes viewers inside the trial of Michael Dunn, a white man who shot an unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis, at a gas station over a dispute about loud rap music. Silver incorporates jailhouse phone conversations between Michael Dunn and his then fiancée which shine a stark light on the corrosive and deadly influence of unconscious racism. Trailer here
>Cartel Land directed by Matthew Heineman. The filmmaker risked his life to put viewers in the middle of Mexico's hyper-violent drug wars. When he wasn't dodging bullets in Michoacán, Heineman was busy documenting the activities of an armed group of Americans patrolling the Arizona side of the border. The film won directing and cinematography honors at Sundance.
>BatKid Begins directed by Dana Nachman. There is viral and then there is viral. Nachman's film takes us back a year-and-a-half to the story that became a worldwide phenomenon-- San Francisco's embrace of "BatKid," five-year-old cancer patient Miles Scott. The city, in combination with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helped make Miles the Dark Knight for a day, fighting crime and bringing joy to people around the globe. Trailer here
>A Murder in the Park directed by Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber. The story of Anthony Porter, an inmate on Illinois' death row who won freedom through the intercession of the Innocence Project. The film raises uncomfortable questions-- did the Innocence Project try to falsely blame someone else for the crime, and was Porter really guilty? Trailer here
Matt Carey has written and produced multiple documentaries for CNN and contributed to CNN.com, TheWrap and Documentary magazine. He is based in Los Angeles