I can watch a movie about pretty much anything, as long as it holds my interest.  But I especially like well-done documentaries; I think because of the way they capture real life and real drama.  Here are some favorites that come to mind (I have a soft spot for films about crazy artistic types):


Roger & Me (1989, D: Michael Moore)

Moore’s generally the guy you think of when you think of documentaries.  He’s done many good ones, but this is my favorite (and his first).  I like how the movie takes a very depressing subject matter (thousands laid off in Flint, MI, due to General Motors closing plants) and makes it incredibly entertaining.  Pat Boone and Bob Eubanks are great.


Crumb (1994, D: Terry Zwigoff)

One of those voyeuristic-type films that you feel you really shouldn’t be watching.  Profiles famed cartoonist/artist Robert Crumb and the few weeks before he and his family move from the states to France.  Crumb himself is beyond weird, but he’s nothing compared to his two brothers.  Great stuff.


American Movie (1999, D: Chris Smith)

Chronicles Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt, who’s the very definition of “minimal talent, tremendous passion.”  You don’t know whether to laugh at or cry for the guy, but you’ll certainly laugh at his assistant/friend, Mike Schank.  Watch as Mark and Mike try to make Mark’s “big” horror movie, “Northwestern.”


Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991, D: Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola)

Now here’s a movie about a director under incredible stress.  It’s about Francis Ford Coppola’s ordeal filming “Apocalpyse Now.”  Numerous budget and shooting setbacks, including Brando wasting days discussing his character while cast and crew sit idly by on the expensive sets.


The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005, D: Jeff Feuerzeig)

Daniel Johnston was an influential songwriter on the early Austin, TX, rock scene – his songs have been covered by many popular bands.  He’s also bipolar and prone to really irrational behavior.  Great tribute to a musician whose mental problems kept him from being a big star.


I Am Comic (2010, D: Jordan Brady)

Yeah, this is on here because I love stand-up (and used to do it).  Partly follows popular 80’s comedian Rich Shyder as he tries to make a comeback and partly gleans insights from veteran comics.  Funny and insightful look at successful and sort-of-successful working comedians.


Grizzly Man (2005, D: Werner Herzog)

No doubt about it: Timothy Treadwell was one crazy mofo.  While in his 20’s, he decided to ditch his privileged upbringing and hang out in the wilderness with huge grizzly bears.  The film shows how he gradually gets more obsessed and unhinged.  Spoiler alert: things do not end well for him and his girlfriend.


My Best Fiend (1999, D: Werner Herzog)

Acclaimed director Herzog’s film about his ordeals working with explosive and unpredictable actor Klaus Kinski.  You never know when Kinski’s going to start screaming or get violent – yet Herzog truly respects his talents.


The King of Kong (2007, D: Seth Gordon)

Who’d think a movie about breaking the Donkey Kong world record high score could be so fun?  A clear-cut hero and villain and real drama and tension…and a lot of laughs.


Capturing the Friedmans (2003, D: Andrew Jarecki)

Creepy stuff here.  The director profiles Arnold Friedman and his son, Jesse, who were convicted of child sexual abuse after several boys accused them of molestation during computer classes in the Friedman’s home.  Lots of different takes on the situation so you’re not really sure what actually happened.


Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008, D: Sacha Gervasi)

I’ve heard this described as “The real-life Spinal Tap,” and that’s pretty true.  In the 80’s, Canadian metal band Anvil was rockin’ the stage with the likes of Metallica and Bon Jovi.  But nobody – including the many famous metal artists interviewed – has any idea why they didn’t achieve fame.  The movie follows the hapless band through a botched tour as they strive to play one more big gig.


Woodstock (1970, D: Michael Wadleigh)

One of the greatest concert films of all time.  It just doesn’t capture the phenomenal music made on a farm in Bethel, NY, over 3 days in August 1969; it captures the whole experience.  Great performers, hippies, and disgruntled townsfolk.


For The Bible Tells Me So (2007, D: Daniel G. Karslake)

Eye-opening examination of how fundamentalist Christians use The Bible to justify rabid homophobia.  Scary, informative, and interesting, with some great interviews with religious parents of homosexual children.


This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006, D: Kirby Dick)

Very interesting, especially to film enthusiasts.  Explains the machinations of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which assigns ratings to movies.  Investigates how the ratings board members are not a terribly educated bunch, and how some are in the pocket of the studios.  FUN FACT: The film initially got an NC-17 rating.


American Dream (1990, D: Barbara Kopple, Cathy Caplan, Tom Haneke, Lawrence Silk)

Intense story of the union strike at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota in the mid-80’s.  Lots of drama, politics and tension – even brother pitted against brother – as the strike drags on and people start losing everything they have.


Best Worst Movie (2009, D: Michael Stephenson)

Michael Stephenson, child actor in 1990’s Troll 2, directs a very fun film about the people behind what many consider to be the worst movie ever – you guessed it – Troll 2.  It’s now a cult classic and has a fairly large following.  Dentist George Handy, the dad in the film, is hilarious as he enjoys his small bit of “fame.”

NOTE: I really enjoy this film, but could only get through about 10 minutes of Troll 2.  Yeesh, it’s terrible.


Shut Up & Sing (2006, D: Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck)

About the Dixie Chicks and how they persevered through the nation’s negative reaction to Natalie Maines’ 2003 onstage comments about then-president Bush.  Makes you appreciate the tenacity of artists as well as the stupidity of a lot of Americans.


Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (2011, Matthew Bate)

In the early 80’s, two young men from Wisconsin decided to move to San Francisco.  They wound up as neighbors to two very angry, drunk and vocal men – Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman.  The young men taped the loud drunken arguments and shared them with friends; the result was a San Fran underground artistic explosion, including comics, CDs, and a stage play based on the conversations.  The film chronicles the two now-middle-aged men as they tell their story and try to track down acquaintances of the now-deceased neighbors.