January 24, 2014

20 Feet From Stardom Review

           While the Documentary Feature category isn’t one of the most star-studded or popular categories of Oscar night, there are typically a few good films in the category each year.  Unfortunately, in years past it has been very difficult to get your hands on a ticket to or a copy of any of the nominees.  Luckily, with the rise of instant streaming that isn’t the case anymore.  In fact, four of the five nominees in the category this year are on Netflix Instant right now.  The lone hold out is 20 Feet From Stardom, which can still be rented for a cheap price in places such as Amazon and ITunes.  Of course it turns out that 20 Feet From Stardom is probably the best film of the bunch.  While the other films in the Documentary Feature category cover tough subject matters (even Cutie and the Boxer, which covers the struggles of being an artist in great and realistic detail), 20 Feet From Stardom is just a fun watch that covers an interesting subject matter.

            20 Feet From Stardom is an in-depth look at the impact that backup singers have had on the music industry.  Despite not getting any of the fame nor the money, backup singers have been instrumental in some of history’s most famous songs.  This film makes sure you don’t forget that.  The film is directed by Morgan Neville (a documentarian who works on films dealing with music including producing the Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane).

            20 Feet From Stardom is far from a perfect film (it takes a little too much setup before it really starts to get going and it peaks early enough that the last twenty minutes feel like filler), but it is such an enjoyable film to watch that you can’t help but like it overall.  The subjects that are chosen are interesting, and the way in which Neville reveals their lives comes off as surprising without ruining the impact that these people have had on the music industry.  Neville also does a great job of bringing in celebrity interviews into the film without allowing them to take center stage, which is something so many other documentaries fall victim to.

            Ultimately, 20 Feet From Stardom is a solid documentary.  It may fall to some pacing problems but it counteracts those problems with a great sense of energy and a set of exciting stories about the music industry.


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