I’ve always loved a good documentary, especially at night when I just want to relax. I will pretty much watch a documentary about anything (once, I watched a documentary about the typewriter). But I know that not everyone has the time or the patience to sit through a nine-part Ken Burn documentary. Here is a list of three documentaries ranging in about an hour or two. So grab your popcorn, and let’s begin.
I was already a casual fan of the pop/rock duo Sparks, but after watching the 2021’s, “The Sparks Brothers,” I became an even bigger fan. Director Edgar Wright, through the use of animated shorts and interviews with Sparks themselves, brothers Ron and Russel Mael.
The doc shows the brothers’ eccentric side and how their sounds have evolved since their debut album in 1971. Highlights for me were the parts about their eighth album, “No.1 in Heaven” (1979), and how it would greatly influence the electronic music of the eighties. The doc does not shy away from the highs and lows Sparks has had throughout their career, but shows that the brothers’ dedication to music and moving forward got them through it. The documentary also has interviews with writer Neil Gaiman, musicians Jack Antonoff and Beck “Weird Al” Yankovic and many more, all talking about how much the music of Sparks has influenced them. By the time the credits roll, you will be singing and tapping your feet to “Music That You Can Dance To”.
“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (2021) takes us through the history of the popular children’s educational program “Sesame Street.” As someone who grew up watching “Sesame Street,” it was great seeing how these characters were created (growing up, my favorite character was Elmo).
I also found it interesting how “Sesame Street” has evolved with the times, changing as the audience’s needs have changed. The doc spotlights all the people who have made “Sesame Street” thrive since its debut in 1969. That includes the creators, writers, producers, actors and puppeteers. It was indeed a nostalgic watch for me, and I’m sure it will be for you too.
I have been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut since reading “The Sirens of Titan” (1959) at 15. So, “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” (2021) was right up my alley. The doc uses interviews of Vonnegut, filmed from 1988 until he died in 2007, by Director Robert B. Weide. It also has interviews with Vonnegut’s children and scholars of his work. The documentary has three main stories looking at the life of Vonnegut, the decade-long friendship between Vonnegut and Weide and how Vonnegut’s work has influenced Weide’s own life.
The film shows how Vonnegut’s life would heavily influence his novels, the most well-known being his experience as a POW in Dresden, Germany, and surviving the Allied bombing of the city during World War II. This would be the basis for his anti-war novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” (1969). The interviews with Vonnegut show that he is just human and imperfect like the rest of us. Vonnegut’s black humor shines through, but you can tell he was a man who cared deeply about many things. “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” is a great introduction to his work.
Well, as Porky Pig would say, “That’s all folks!” I hope you enjoy these documentaries like I have and learn something along the way. See you next week!