21 - The American Nightmare (Adam Simon, 2000)
Craven, Hooper, Cronenberg, Romero, Carpenter. Compacted rage erupting on to the screen. The early 70s saw the rise of a handful of directors whose gruesome, subversive and disturbingly violent films have not only changed the genre forever but were similarly targeted at the nation’s politically potent youth. Adam Simon backs up the filmmaker’s arguments and anecdotes with appropriate clips, then juxtaposes the result with news reports footage for context. If only every history lesson could be that entertaining.
22 - The Aristocrats (Paul Provenza, 2005)
A joke so filthy and disgusting it’s never performed for anyone, a secret handshake among US comedians, that’s ‘the Aristocrats’. Featuring basically every funny person in America from Jon Stewart and Sarah Silverman to George Carlin and Robin Williams (and throwing in some British comedians for good measure) this explores the joke and its history while giving you countless, increasingly disturbing versions. Best bits have master impersonator Kevin Pollack do the joke as Christopher Walken and a Gilbert Gottfried version that has fellow comedians literally falling out of their seats laughing. If you’re into non-p.c. comedy, this was made for you. You’ll probably come up with your own version. I did. And, yes, it’s quite filthy and very disgusting.
23 - Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (Kenneth Bowser, 2003)
Sex, drugs and making movies in the 70’s: Much more charming than the slightly sleazy Biskind book it is based on, this documentary explores the ego trips, backstabbing and petty arguments behind the scenes of that wondrous filmmaking era known as ‘New Hollywood’. No, you don’t get the heavy hitters on camera, but the ‘supporting cast’ of the time – Paul Schrader, Richard Dreyfuss, Cybill Shepherd - proves informative and entertaining enough. Although not too much about the actual movies (check out “A Decade under the Influence” for that) it still makes you want to go out and (re-) watch those awesome Seventies flicks.
24 - Roger & Me (Michael Moore, 1989)
At the time of its initial theatrical release the highest grossing documentary film ever. General Motors is closing its plants in Flint, Michigan, and Flint native Michael Moore wants to find out why. He’s trying to interview Roger Smith, then head of GM, which proves to be quite difficult. Talking to the people in his hometown, documenting both, the now unemployed as well as the arrogance/ignorance of rich folks and corporate spokespeople, Moore gets you on his (and the Flint population’s) side. That he fiddled a bit with reality – the final conversation with Smith actually happened much earlier – is problematic to some, though.
25 - Zidane (Douglas Gordon/Philippe Parreno, 2006)
Seventeen cameras are set around the playing field, entirely focusing on Zidane during the Real Madrid vs Villareal match. He runs, sweats, walks, occasionally talks to himself and tries his best to read the game while Scottish rock band Mogwai deliver an exclusive and superb soundtrack to this ‘real time film’. Admittedly, ‘Zidane’ feels more like an art-installation disguised as a full-length feature, never the less it’s the most honest and hypnotic film about football ever made.
26 - When We Were Kings (Leon Gast, 1996)
It’s the story of Ali fighting against George Foreman in 1973. It’s the story of the stories surrounding that fight. It’s the story of the biggest television spectacle after the Americans made the world believe they’d actually been to the moon. It’s the story of the mega-concert before the fight. And it’s the story about an individual becoming a hero and role model against all odds.
27 - 2 oder 3 Dinge die ich von ihm weiss (Malte Ludin, 2005)
Filmmaker Ludin looks into his family’s history, especially his father’s role as a Nazi ambassador in Czechoslovakia during WW2. Was he just a mid-level functionary, an innocent bureaucrat as Ludin’s older sisters claim? Or was he a war criminal who willingly sent thousands to their deaths? One of the most personal, painful explorations of lies, big and small, that make up family life. Talking about exactly what you usually just don’t talk about, Ludin shows how destructive the Nazi legacy is even today.
28 - Comic Book Confidential (Ron Mann, 1988)
AKA: A brief history of US comic books. Director Ron Mann uses his now trademark technique of combining interviews with animated sequences and documentary material from the time to document the rise of comics, from 1920’s funnies to 1980’s graphic novels. In addition to hearing guys like William Gaines or Stan ‘the Man’ Lee, you’ll also get some fascinating insights into the comic underground (Crumb, Spiegelman). Check out the 50’s intro that has ‘experts’ explaining the destructive power of comic books, corrupting kids, turning them into bloodthirsty deliquents. Very funny.
29 - Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette, 2003)
With this narcisstic and deeply personal filmmaking whirlwind, first time director Caouette not only showed that these days anyone can be a filmmaker thanks to iMovie, but proved himself a gifted visionary of a new cinema as well. Half love letter to his troubled mom, half visual blitzkrieg that reflects on his own life, ‘Tarnation’ is a raw and beautiful avant-garde take on self-destruction and the struggle for peace.
30 - Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the Media (Mark Achbar/Peter Wintonick, 1992)
The film follows the famous linguist/intellectual/political meddler/corporate critic through a huge variation of interviews and public speeches he did in the 80s and early 90s. So it’s basically about Chomsky telling his ideas and views about the world we’re living in for a running time of nearly three hours. Could be pretty dull. But it´s Chomsky, for chrissake. CHOMSKY.