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Top Five Documentaries About Obscure Musicians

Top Five Documentaries About Obscure Musicians

It was a triumphant moment for music when Searching for Sugar Man won the Academy Award for best documentary last month. Yes, it was nice that after decades of anonymity, the subject of the movie, singer/songwriter Rodriguez got his day in the sun. But the award also validated what has, over the last decade, become the most consistently great genre in the world of film, the documentary about obscure musicians.

The story of the Beatles as told in The Beatles Anthology is crafted so well that you realize if the Beatles didn't exist, someone would have had to make them up. But everyone knows the Beatles did in fact exist. The genius of the documentary about the obscure musician is we are not entirely sure if it's made up or not.

If the goal of every movie is to give audiences a suspension of disbelief, the following five (supposedly true) movies are smash successes.

5. Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008) 

This was billed as a real life

Spinal Tap. Anvil is a heavy metal band that trogged through hardship

for three decades. In spite of their awful music you can't help but root

for these underdogs to find success.


4. Searching For Sugar Man

(2012) 

Watching the saga of Rodriguez unfold in Searching for Sugar

Man, it seems impossible that a psychedelic troubadour who could give

Donovan and T Rex a run for their money would go unknown outside South

Africa for forty years. 


To see his recognition makes you melt in a way

Hollywood big budget movies never quite get right. Just delete from

your memory how Rodriguez's sound morphed into the realm of Jimmy

Buffet.




3. Dig! (2004) 
Not sure if this tale of two bands who

tried to ride the wave of alternative music toward mainstream success

should count, since one of the bands (the Dandy Warhols) was well-known

and the other found success after the release of the movie (the Brian

Jonestown Massacare perform the theme music for Boadwalk Empire). But

when Dig! was released, the out of control ego of Brian Jonestown Massacre

singer Anton Newcombe seemed like an attempt at a Saturday Night Live

parody. The scary part is, Newcombe's talent almost legitimizes the

narcissism.


2. Air Guitar Nation (2006) 
Everywhere you look, there

are interesting stories. Even at the US Air Guitar Championships, where

you learn playing the air guitar can be as entertaining and inspiring as

any other instrument. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll raise your hand, devil horns held high.


1. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005) 
If this movie does not bring you to tears, you have no soul. The story

of Daniel Johnston who could have been a musical legend if he wasn't

afflicted by mental illness. As you hear the soundtrack, you see why Kurt

Cobain and Sonic Youth were devoted fans of Johnston. As the years go

by, the promising young man ages, your heart breaks. This

documentary brings up the great question of whether art causes men to

become mad or whether madness causes men to create art. 


Bonus: 
You're Gonna Miss Me (2005)





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