Best Documentary Movies of 1987
Metallica - Cliff 'Em All
Originally released as "The $19.98 Home Vid: Cliff 'Em All," Metallica's first video is a tribute to late original bassist Cliff Burton. James Hetfield describes it as "a compilation of bootleg footage shot by sneaky Metallifux, stuff shot for TV that was never used, but we've held onto, home footage, personal fotos and us drunk. But most important, it's really a look back at the 3-1/2 years that Cliff was with us and includes his best bass solos and the home footage and pix that we feel best capture his unique personality and style." 1987.
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
Real-life letters written by American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines during the Vietnam War to their families and friends back home. Archive footage of the war and news coverage thereof augment the first-person "narrative" by men and women who were in the war, some of whom did not survive it.
Chuck Berry - Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll
St. Louis, 1986. For Chuck Berry's 60th, Keith Richards assembles a pickup band of Robert Cray, Joey Spampinato, Eric Clapton, himself and long-time Berry pianist, Johnnie Johnson. Joined on stage by Etta James, Linda Ronstadt and Julian Lennon, Berry performs his classic rock songs. His abilities as a composer, lyricist, singer, musician and entertainer are on display and, in behind-the-scenes interviews, are discussed by Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bruce Springstein, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and others. There's even a rarity for Berry—a rehearsal. Archival footage from the early 1950s and a duet with John Lennon round out this portrait of a master.
Jimi Plays Monterey
It's no exaggeration to say this might be the most intense and groundbreaking 45-minute performance in the history of rock. Jimi Hendrix's debut American set at 1967's Monterey Pop Festival is generally considered one of the most radical and legendary live shows ever. Virtually unknown to American audiences at the time, even though he was already an established entity in the UK, Hendrix and his two-piece Experience explode on stage, ripping through blues classics "Rock Me Baby" and Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor," interpreting and electrifying Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," debuting songs from his yet-to-be-released first album and closing with the now historic sacrificing/burning of his guitar during an unhinged version of "Wild Thing" that even its writer Chip Taylor would never have imagined. Hendrix uses feedback and distortion to enhance the songs in whisper-to-scream intensity, blazing territory that had not been previously explored with as much soul-frazzled power.
Prince: Sign o' the Times
In 1987, to capitalize on his growing success in Europe, Prince toured extensively to promote the album of the same name and sales increased accordingly. However, the United States remained resistant to his latest album, and sales began to drop; it was at this point that Prince decided to film a live concert promoting the new material, for eventual distribution to theaters in America. Featuring the band that accompanied Prince on his 1987 Sign o' the Times Tour, including dancer Cat Glover, keyboardist Boni Boyer, bassist Levi Seacer, Jr., guitarist Miko Weaver, drummer Sheila E. and former member of The Revolution keyboardist Dr. Fink, the film sees the group perform live on stage (although "U Got the Look" is represented by its promotional music video).
The Other Israel
Compiled after 15 months filming and editing, this fast-moving, professional video documentary will give you a unique education on the inner teachings of Judaism and the Talmud. Through the television camera "The Other Israel" takes you where few Christian scholars have gone before.
Santa Cruz Skateboards - Wheels of Fire
Santa Cruz Skateboards video from 1987.
Swimming to Cambodia
Spalding Gray sits behind a desk throughout the entire film and recounts his exploits and chance encounters while playing a minor role in the film 'The Killing Fields'. At the same time, he gives a background to the events occurring in Cambodia at the time the film was set.
The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell
One of the greatest storytellers of our time, and arguably the greatest mythologist, Joseph Campbell spent most of his long, rich career explaining how ancient myths like the Hero’s Journey are relevant to modern life. In understanding the importance of myth as a vital, vibrant source of "mankind’s one great story," Campbell inspired others to embark on a quest for the meaning of myth in their own lives. This biographical portrait, filmed shortly before his death in 1987, follows Campbell’s personal quest—a pathless journey of questioning, discovery, and ultimately of delight and joy in a life to which he said, "Yes."
Vincent Price: The Sinister Image
This tribute to Hollywood legend Vincent Price sheds light on his career in film, television, radio and theater, and includes Price's fascinating hour-long interview with film historian David Del Valle. Taking place near the end of Price's career in 1987, the interview illuminates many of the horror icon's experiences. Also included are two complete television shows from the 1950s and '60s, along with "Three Skeleton Key," a 1958 radio drama.
Athens, GA Inside/Out
Led by the success of the B-52's and R.E.M., Athens, Georgia was the most happening music scene in the country by the mid 80's. Following several different bands from different genres, this film paints Athens as a magical artistic environment where bands are not in competition, but co-exist in harmony and share the ideals of the land. Live performances of R.E.M.'s "Swan Swan H" and "Dream (All I Have To Do)" at the Lucy Cobb Institute chapel are included. Also featured are performances and interviews frm the B-52's, Pylon, B-B-Que Killers, Time Toy, Jim Herbert, Flat Duo Jets, Love Tractor, Kilkenny Cats, Squalls and more
Ah, the '80s! A time of hair bands and their ludicrous MTV videos filled with spandex-clad band members and skimpily clad bimbos. Kiss: Exposed returns us to that forgettable era, as Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons show how to desperately try to remain cock rock's elder statesmen. This 1987 compilation serves up several now-hilarious video clips from Kiss's '80s "unmasked" period, including "Tears Are Falling," "Heaven's on Fire," "Lick It Up," and "I Love It Loud." (Count the fires burning in these classic video relics of days gone by!) Also on hand are Stanley and Simmons themselves, looking properly embarrassed as they act out rock's biggest fantasy: lounging by the pool with a bevy of (mostly) bare beauties. The saving grace is the generous selection of vintage live performances: hearing the band do "Strutter," "Detroit Rock City," "Ladies Room," and "Deuce" in its late-'70s prime is worth wading through the outdated '80s-style power pop... if you're a real Kiss fan, of course.
First broadcast in 1987 on the UK's Channel 4, Bombin' is a documentary about Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu nation bringing American hip-hop culture to the UK for first time. The main focus is the graffiti art of Brim and the variety of reactions he is faced with from the British public and press.
Wigstock: The Movie
The original documentary on the Wigstock festival, back in the day when it was a much smaller affair in Thompkins Square Park. A full day of peace, love, and wigs…
The Beer Drinker's Guide to Fitness and Filmmaking
"My father says if people don't come and see this movie, we'll starve," says Tate Sullivan, introducing his father's "The Beer Drinker's Guide to Fitness and Filmmaking." (Send canned goods to Auteur-Aid, care of Fred G. Sullivan, Saranac Lake, N.Y. 12983.) "The Guide" is the Sullivan family album, a grandiose home movie focused on the days and nights, life and times of "Adirondack" Fred. And you thought Molly Dodd was a schlemiel. Fred, the most self-obsessed creature since Garfield the Cat, produces, directs, writes, edits and stars in this offbeat, low-budget work. Fred's four children, Fred's tiresome wife Polly, Fred's business partners, psychiatrist, internist, teachers, neighbors, creditors, sommelier and so forth comment on the 42-year-old ne'er-do-well. -- Rita Kempley, Washington Post, 10 February 1989 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/beerdrinkersguidetofitnessandfilmmakingpgkempley_a09fa8.htm
A series of interviews are conducted concerning people's beliefs towards the possibility of an afterlife. The interviews are filmed against a set of strange backdrops, and are intercut with clips from classic films and a variety of stock footage.
In Bed with an Elephant
This feature documentary provides a gripping retrospective of United States-Canada relationships through a study of successive presidents and prime ministers. Using archival film footage, it demonstrates that Canadian prime ministers, from John A. Macdonald down, all began their tenures by making overtures to their American counterparts. Attitudes and outcomes have varied widely. The almost comic antipathy between Kennedy and Diefenbaker, for instance, is as palpable here as is the folksy camaraderie of Reagan and Mulroney.
Chasing a Rainbow: The Life of Josephine Baker
The story of Josephine Baker takes us on a fascinating tour of 20th-century race relations on both sides of the Atlantic, yet it leads to no conclusion, and black girls in search of a role-model tend to look elsewhere. Part of her appeal is her startlingly unique appearance. Simply nobody has ever looked or acted like her. She fits no black stereotype. Nor does she look like any recognizable strain of Afro-American. I'd always heard she was half-white, but it seems that her paternity is unknown, and her contradictory claims on the subject don't do much to enlighten us. (We are tempted to imagine quite an exotic mix.) Her origins in sharply-segregated St. Louis, where she is said to have witnessed a lynching, do not seem to have left her embittered. Perhaps she had too much to give. There is a special innocence about that smile, and when she performs her cross-eyed gag, we are lifted into a strange pixie-world, all its own.
Tales of the Brothers Quay
This compilation by the Bother Quay are a montage of several of their short stop-motion films.
A sociolinguistic documentary examining American English dialects and accents and perceptions thereof.
Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend
Her story is well-known - the lonely child who yearned for affection and approval which she finally seemed to find as Hollywood's greatest love goddess. But even though she scaled heights few could even dream of, she was one of the loneliest of stars. And yet, in spite of the breakdowns, the failed marriages, the sordid rumors surrounding her life -- and her death.
Signed: Lino Brocka
Documentary filmmaker Christian Blackwood profiles controversial Filipino director Lino Brocka, detailing his rags-to-riches rise in the mainstream film industry of the Philippines. Primarily using interviews with the effusive director himself, Blackwood allows Brocka to describe, in his own terms, the common thematic threads tying together his work, from his own homosexuality to the political repression suffered by Filipinos at the hands of Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorial government.
Documentary about the Radium Dial Company and the aftereffects experienced by its workers from repeated exposure to radioactive paint.
Hammer: The Studio That Dripped Blood
A retrospective of the films of Britain's Hammer Studios, renowned for making stylish horror films in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Included are clips from Hammer productions and interviews with actors, actresses, directors and producers who worked on these films.
A documentary about the Cuban Revolution's transition into an authoritarian dictatorship, including repression, imprisonment, torture, and execution of political dissidents, while the rest of the world turned a blind eye.
The Ten-Year Lunch
The story of the legendary wits who lunched daily at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. The core of the so-called Round Table group included short story and poetry writer Dorothy Parker; comic actor and writer Robert Benchley; The New Yorker founder Harold Ross; columnist and social reformer Heywood Broun; critic Alexander Woollcott; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber and Robert Sherwood.
Grace Kelly: The American Princess
Documentary - She came from a wealthy and competitive Philadelphia family, but the life of well-brought up society held little appeal for this acclaimed beauty. She left for New York City and worked hard as a model, stage actor and TV player. And then she was discovered by Hollywood. In less than four years she was acknowledged as one of movie's most sought after stars and an Academy-Award winner, playing opposite some of the greatest leading men of her time. Suddenly, like a modern-day fairy tale, Grace Kelly turned her back on it all - to become Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.
The China Odyssey: Empire of the Sun
Documentary about the making of director Steven Spielberg's film Empire of the Sun
Iron Maiden: 12 Wasted Years
A documentary of the band's first 12 years with interviews and live footage.
Who Killed Vincent Chin?
This film recounts the murder of Vincent Chin, an automotive engineer mistaken as Japanese who was slain by an assembly line worker who blamed him for the competition by the Japanese auto makers that were threatening his job. It then recounts how that murderer escaped justice in the court system.
The Maysles' third film about the artists sees them trying to get three projects off the ground: wrapping the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris; wrapping the Reichstag; and surrounding eleven man-made islands in Florida with pink plastic sheets. As the latter is the only one that gets approval, it gets the bulk of this film.
The Way Things Go
Artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss create the ultimate Rube Goldberg machine with a complex imaginative devices that trigger each other for 30 minutes in a domino effect. The film was creating in an empty warehouse and with objects probably found at a junkyard as the creative contraptions fly, burn, roll, walk, melt, pop, push and fall in an endless science project that will mesmerize the mind.
This is a documentary about an unfinished movie. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention try to film the sci-fi epic "Uncle Meat."
The Leading Edge
A bored Colorado ski patrolman comes to New Zealand for the winter season. In between skiing on various North and South Island fields and preparing for the "Ironman' endurance contest, he has a good time with the people he meets. Billy T. James features briefly as an entertainer cum 'fright-a-minute'- aviator. This is a hybrid genre, a semi-dramatized documentary with champion skiers playing themselves.
A compilation of trailers for various horror and sci-fi films, narrated and hosted by Vincent Price.
Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist
This one-hour film, narrated by Actor BURT LANCASTER, explores the lingering effects of The Hollywood Blacklist, which occurred in the late forties and early fifties as part of the Anti-Communist witch-hunts that terrorized the nation. This film is seen through the eyes of the wives and children of the now deceased Hollywood figures whose careers were destroyed when studio bosses, along with guild and union officials capitulated to the demands of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Landscape (for Manon)
A languid, beautifully shot collection of landscapes, edited into a whimsical and touching film.
A documentary short by Les Blank about the beauty of gap teeth in women.
Poetry meets technology in this film about the cycle of the seasons. Narrated by William Shatner, and accompanied by a special digital "surround" recording of Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, the film takes audiences on a breathtaking trip through the eruption of spring, the growth of summer, the harvest and festivity of autumn, and the dormancy of winter. The beauty of the seasons is interspersed with a look at the earth as a planet, the sun as a star, and the human quest to understand the relationship between the two.
The Houses Are Full of Smoke
A powerful three-part documentary studying the US involvement in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The differing factions - Sandinista leaders, Guatemalan campesinos, CIA operatives, Contras and US government apologists - are interviewed and, in the absence of a controlling narration, the audience is encouraged to draw its own conclusions.
Happy Anniversary 007: 25 Years of James Bond
An hour documentary on the history of Bond for the 25th anniversary of the film series.
Beirut: The Last Home Movie
Beirut: The Last Home Movie is a 1987 documentary film directed by Jennifer Fox. It follows the life of Gaby Bustros and her family, who live in in a 200-year old mansion in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. The Bustros family, one of the noble families of Beirut, remain in their ancestral home despite the endless war that surrounds them.
Photographer Bruce Weber profiles boxer Andy Minsker, including his pro career and family relations, and the boys' boxing club Minsker runs.
The Beat Generation: An American Dream
Using original film clips and interviews, this film illustrates the 1950s social movement termed the Beat Generation. Disillusioned with post-World War II America, Beat Generation writers and painters came together because they felt mainstream America was becoming out of touch with humanity and the individual. In their interviews, characters such as 'Allen Ginsberg' , Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso express their disdain for a society that defines success and happiness in terms of superior technology, cars, and clothing. Those individuals discuss the false conventionality of society and the dangerous world of shock treatments and conformity in which they found themselves. Their goal is to redefine this world to reflect the endless possibilities that characterize America.
A documentary on youth gang violence in Los Angeles and the special police detail which is designated to fight it. Nominated for the Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar.
Language Says It All
Language Says It All is a 1987 American short documentary film about deaf children and their caregivers, directed by Rhyena Halpern and produced by Halpern and Megan Williams. The film follows four families as they come to understand their deaf child's need for language. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
No No Nooky T.V.
NO NO NOOKY TV posits sexuality to be a social construct in a "sex-text" of satiric graphic representation of "dirty pictures." Made on an Amiga Computer and shot in 16mm film, NO NO NOOKY TV confronts the feminist controversy around sexuality with electronic language, pixels and interface. Even the monitor is eroticized in this film/video hybrid that points fun at romance, sexuality, and love in our post-industrial age.
A compilation of trailers and previews from classic low-budget sci-fi and horror films.
Gil Cardinal searches for his natural family and an understanding of the circumstances that led to his becoming a foster child. An important figure in the history of Canadian Indigenous filmmaking, Gil Cardinal was born to a Métis mother but raised by a non-Indigenous foster family, and with this auto-biographical documentary he charts his efforts to find his biological mother and to understand why he was removed from her. Considered a milestone in documentary cinema, it addressed the country’s internal colonialism in a profoundly personal manner, winning a Special Jury Prize at Banff and multiple international awards.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Peter Fonda host an examination of the history of decency standards for movies from the early 1920s onwards.