Being a big movie nerd, I dig when a decent documentary about how the film industry works comes along. This week's column is dedicated to just such movies.
The Last Mogul (2005, R, Netflix streaming) Here's the story of a Cleveland kid making it big in Hollywood. Mogul is a film about Lew Wasserman, one of the biggest names that ever hit the entertainment industry, and one that many of you have probably never heard of. It's a fascinating doc that tells Wasserman's story -- from growing up on the east side of Cleveland, booking entertainment for local speakeasies, to helping create and running MCA/Universal Studios, and ultimately his demise as a Hollywood power player. Sure, there are some very flowery recollections from those who knew him, but Mogul never shies away from showing some of the darker deals that Wasserman got himself involved in. It's a great watch for anyone remotely interested in how the business end of young Hollywood worked.
Inside Deep Throat (2005, NC-17, Netflix streaming) C'mon, admit it...you all have at least some awareness of what is undeniably the most well-known pornographic film in movie history, Deep Throat. Okay, a little refresher for the prudes out there: Deep Throat, released in 1972, is the story of a young woman who finds her own form of sexual liberation through the art of fellatio. It was also the first adult film to break out from the smutty stigma of pornography, but the film also courted a firestorm of controversy. Inside Deep Throat does a commendable job of detailing the production of the movie and the furor it raised upon its release, covering everything from lead actress Linda Lovelace's accusations of being forced into making the film to the mafia's involvement in the release of the picture. Inside Deep Throat is actually more entertaining than the film it is documenting.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006, NR, Netflix streaming) Have you ever wondered exactly how the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rates movies? I did too, and after watching this documentary about it, I am still confused. Apparently what you do is get a room full of people that know nothing about the art of film making and arbitrarily "recommend" cuts to your film because it has one too many "F" words or a boob in it. Director Kirby Dick's cinematic damning of the MPAA is at times a bit on the snarky side, but along the way it also presents some pretty solid evidence for changing the way films get rated. There's a certain joy to be had in watching Dick attempt to turn the tables on the MPAA, going as far as to hire a pair of private investigators to find the names of the very secretive board members that make up the ratings board, but that isn't the best part of this movie. The best parts of the movie come when Dick supplies concrete facts and figures that do much more to bolster his argument for change to a system that was broken from its inception.
Trek Nation (2011, PG, Netflix streaming) Some people use religion to help guide their moral compass; I use Star Trek. Through the years, there hasn't been a moral issue that Trek hasn't covered, and I have avidly done my best to learn something from every episode, but I never knew much about its creator, Gene Roddenberry. Apparently, neither did Mr. Roddenberry's own son, Eugene, who guides the viewer through this documentary with the twofold purpose of not only explaining the Trek phenomenon, but also to examine where he fits into the universe his father created. The filmmakers here interview numerous cast and crew members, and thankfully, they have much more to say than "Oh, he's just a genius...blah blah blah." Trek Nation gets pretty in-depth into exposing what made (and continues to make) the series tick, but along the way we also get treated to a story of a son rediscovering a father that he never really knew.
Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story (2012, Netflix streaming) And here I thought the James Bond movies were concerned with nothing more than beautiful women, plentiful action, and good martinis. Truth be told, Everything or Nothing exposes many "behind the scenes" antics and fights that went on during the nearly sixty years since Ian Fleming created the character. I started up the film up expecting a white-washed documentary that wouldn't offer up much information, but serve only to promote the brand. Happily, my expectations were way off base. Everything or Nothing wastes no time in jumping right into the complicated world of 007. It helps that nearly everyone involved with the franchise chose to participate in this picture. (Connery does not appear on screen, but we get his side of the story through archival clips.) While Bond himself may be quite suave, the history of his film series has taken some very awkward steps in it's sixty-year journey -- some for the better and some for the worse -- but as this movie shows, not all scars can be covered up by a good-looking tux.