The 10 Best Music Documentaries of 2016 – Yahoo Music

6. Oasis: Supersonic
The filmmakers of Supersonic took a similar path as Ron Howard’s Beatles doc (more on that later), focusing on the earliest, more euphoric part of the band’s career. Some fans may be surprised that Supersonic cuts things off at two hours, after only having gotten as far as Oasis’s massive Knebworth shows in 1996 at the peak of the band’s popularity. But if ignoring the final 13 years of Oasis’s career makes it sound like the movie is going to be all rise and no fall, never fear: “Foreshadowing” is far too mild a word for how the documentary covers the infighting that’d doomed the relationship of the Gallaghers almost since the younger brother was in the womb. “Liam was always cooler than me,” muses Noel about his singer sibling, in voiceover. “Clothes looked better on him and he had a better haircut and he was funnier. Liam clearly would have liked to have my talent as a songwriter. And there’s not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could rock a parka like that.” As we see 250,000 fans gathered for the ’96 concert that is the movie’s artificially upbeat climax, Noel admits he wishes that’s where the Oasis story really ended: “We should have disappeared in a puff of smoke. But that’s what addicts do — they keep riding till the wheels come off.” As the members’ narcissism is alternately hilarious and alarming, you may feel less nostalgic for the group itself than for the very last days when a rock ‘n’ roll band could matter that much to that many people. As Noel laments, “I have always thought that it was the last great gathering of the people before the birth of the Internet. It’s no coincidence that things like that don’t happen anymore.”
(Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Available for sale and rental on all platforms.)

5. One More Time With Feeling
“What the f*** happened to my face?” Nick Cave asks himself in voiceover as the cameras go in for a severe, austere close-up. The rock cult hero commissioned this documentary by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), but with lacerating self-observations like that, it’s hardly a vanity project. Ostensibly, the movie is covering the making of Cave’s 2016 Skeleton Tree album. But what it’s really about is the musician’s reaction to the 2015 accidental death of his teenage son, although this event is only alluded to in the movie’s first hour and never really explained even in the second. (You’ll have to look up the details on the web, along with any backstory you might require about Cave himself, since the film provides none.) It’s a bracing portrait of grief, coping, and existential despair, in the thin guise of a making-of project. And it’s in 3D! Widescreen black-and-white 3D, the huge camera rig for which we occasionally glimpse throughout the film. The Blu-Ray comes out soon, so if you have a 3D-equipped TV set, get out your glasses… they’ll help mask your tears.
(Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Still playing select theatrical engagements; coming to home video March 3.)

4. We Are X
Every once in a rare while, audiences take a chance on a documentary about a musical subject they know nothing about, most notably with Searching for Sugar Man. This year, at least for those not already in the know about Japanese rock, that opportunity came with We Are X, a look at the metal band X Japan. On paper, some of the more outlandish elements of the group’s story make the film sound like it might be a real-life Spinal Tap. But in more significant ways, their story is a companion piece to the Nick Cave documentary, to the extent that it deals with band leader Yoshiki’s feelings about the deaths of family members and bandmates. “Even though we kind of propped the film up on these pillars of death, these three visits to graves,” says director Stephen Kijak, “it has a full-on triumphant rock concert moment,” in the form of a headlining gig at Madison Square Garden. In that, he says, it’s not unlike his last documentary, Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of: The Boys’ comeback story and X Japan’s saga are “both sort of underdog stories that end with the triumphant retaking of territory.”
(Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Recently in theaters; coming to home video in early 2017.)

3. Mavis!
What a year for soul sisters on film. Besides the Sharon Jones doc (which comes in at No. 2 on this list), we got one on the phenomenal Mavis Staples, and while there is no cancer story or anything half that adversarial to tell, hers is just as compelling. Director Jessica Edwards is determined to focus on this last chapter in Staples’s career, examining how a woman in her seventies/eighties chose to work with talents like Jeff Tweedy and keep herself relevant, even though it’d be easy and worthy to ride on the coattails of the Staples Singers’ career for a remaining lifetime. It’s a tossup as to which is better — the modern-day footage of Mavis appearing at rock festivals, or the invaluable clips from the family act’s heyday as a robed gospel act and then secular Stax standout. As Bonnie Raitt puts it, there was “something sensual about it without being salacious.” Or, as Mavis herself says, digging through old photos with her sister: “We were sexy. We were singing gospel, and we were sexy girls up there.” It still applies.
(Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Available for sale and rental on all platforms.)

2. Miss Sharon Jones!
Director Barbara Koppleman proves that you don’t have to focus on a performer’s earliest years or rise to fame to arrive at a celebratory arc. She captures Jones in the twilight of her life, dealing with the cancer that finally took her in November, finding more to crow about in the singer’s fight for her life than in anything having to do with her career trajectory. But, of course, that’s a pretty amazing story, too, and is touched on in flashbacks, as Jones became an unlikely soul sensation in her forties after spending most of her life believing that musical success did not become her. Many greats left us in 2016, but among them, only Jones got a cinematic testament as loving (and up-to-the-moment) as this remarkable and delightful parting gift.
(Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Available for sale and rental on all platforms.)

1. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years
Martin Scorsese seized on something important when he did No Direction Home, his documentary on Bob Dylan: You don’t have to cover an important artist’s entire career — sometimes it’s the shorter arc that tells a better story. That lesson was picked up by Ron Howard, who knows just as surely as the folks who put together those 1962-66 and 1967-70 hits collection that the Beatles’ career breaks up fairly neatly into two halves, with the first being a much happier one. There’s no Let It Be bickering in this doc, just an inordinate amount of mania as he recaptures arguably the most delirious extended moment of the 20th century, at least this side of V-Day. Actually, there’s a bit of rise-and-fall even in Howard’s truncated narrative, as surviving members Paul and Ringo recall the frustrations of their final touring days in ’66, when being screamed at over inaudible monitors came to feel like mediocrity and mayhem, not magic. But even so, a crawl that essentially says “and then they made Sgt. Pepper” makes for a pretty happy postscript.
(Rotten Tomatoes approval rating: 95%. Available for sale and rental on all platforms.)


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