Documentaries are usually not my first film genre of choice, but I do believe that some are really worth watching, if only to jar us from our usually preserved cocoons of complacency and get us to think about the real life tragedies going on around us. In the last five years, there have been a handful of thought-provoking and powerful documentaries (An Inconvenient Truth, Born Into Brothels, The Fog of War, and Fahrenheit 9/11 come to mind) that should be on everyone’s Netflix queue.
And there are those less ambitious documentaries that are satisfied in entertaining its audiences by offering them a brief but often shocking glimpse into someone else’s life. They might be the equivalent to the fast food of documentaries, but can amuse nonetheless. And today, I’m going to recommend such a film.
This is the first documentary that I’ve ever watched, and it changed my life forever (and, apparently, started my flair for drama). I remember sitting up late, past my bedtime, watching this film with my older sister, mouth agape, and drinking in every glamorous black and white tidbit that my eleven-year-old brain could handle. The movie in question? Madonna: Truth or Dare.
Back in 1990, Madonna was at the height of her twenty-odd year career. This was the Madonna of long, blonde extensions and pointy bustiers, the Madonna who made “Vogue” a worldwide sensation, the Madonna fresh off an Oscar win for her song, “Sooner or Later.” This was the iconic Madonna that I had come to idolize.
Truth or Dare is a candid and frank look at Madonna as she completes her Blond Ambition Tour, and incorporates behind-the-scenes footage with live concert footage to paint a small but poignant portrait of one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Through this documentary, the audience is privy to the many faces of Madonna: she’s temperamental, brash, emotional, caring, passionate. We also see a driven, scrupulous perfectionist who goes through bouts of self-doubt and loathing, and finally start to understand why she’s the successful career woman that she is today.
The documentary doesn’t shy away from controversy, and neither does Madonna. During the Toronto leg of her tour, she decides to perform a simulated masturbation scene despite the fact that she could land in jail. And in Italy, she’s forced to cut two shows after strong disapproval from the Pope. Is Madonna an artist who won’t back down from her convictions, or just another celebrity living off the highs of controversy? Truth or Dare doesn’t attempt to answer this question for us, but it does give us a better glimpse into the thought-processes of a woman whose ambitions have propelled her to where she is.
But there’s a softer side to Madonna, and we see these in brief flashes as she interacts with her father and brother, dancers, and personal assistant. And then there’s the other stuff, like her relationship with Warren Beatty, her two-year-old crush on Antonio Banderas, the Kevin Costner dis that was long overdue, and her fancy party tricks with a glass water bottle.
Now that I’m older, Truth or Dare doesn’t seem as provocative as it once seemed. But marveling as the young ones go crazy over Hannah Montana IMAX concert movies, and then thinking about the impact Truth or Dare had on me, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. ¤ C.Ho.
Feeling kinda lazy on a Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in front of the TV flipping the millions of channels, waiting for something to wow me. By chance (and luck) I landed on the Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing documentary. Both my sister and my brother raved about the movie and suggested that I watch it. Since my brother and sister aren’t country music fans, I figured that the movie was more than a glorified music video.
Shut Up & Sing traces the turmoil that the Dixie Chicks experienced after Natalie Maines (the lead singer of the group) made a comment about President George W. Bush at a concert in London, England. She said, “I’m embarrassed that the president is from Texas.” Those few words landed the trio in biggest backlash known in history. Every major media outlet picked up the story and the three ladies from Texas quickly became the most hated entertainers in the United States.
In the beginning of the film, directors Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck showed happier times before the unfortunate incident. The Dixie Chicks were selling out concerts, their fans loved them, and their music ruled the airwaves. In the next few scenes – immediately after the infamous comment – the trio received bags of hate mail, death threats, their CDs were destroyed and their music was no longer welcome on country stations.
Watching these three women go through this ridiculous ordeal made me have the utmost respect for them. They were unfairly crucified in the media, especially when other entertainers have made worse comments about the president. Although they were obviously affected by the backlash, they continued to make music, live their normal lives as mothers and wives, and tried to make sense out of the situation.
I loved that the other band members (Emily Robinson and Martie Maguire) stood right by Natalie’s side, even when times got dangerous. It would have been so easy for the group to break up and go their separate ways. But instead, they showed true friendship and loyalty and stood firmly by Natalie and her comment. ¤ Michelle