Monterey Pop

Michael McKean in Whatever Works

Actor, writer, musician, comedian — Michael McKean seems to have done it all over his extensive career. From his early work in television, including an iconic role as Lenny on Laverne and Shirley, he soon established himself as part of the ensemble responsible for bringing the term “mockumentary” to the masses. Starting with Rob Reiner’s sublime This Is Spinal Tap (which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year), McKean joined bandmates Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and a group of improvisatory geniuses in a string of features that toy with nonfiction filmmaking conventions, including modern classics such as Best In Show and A Mighty Wind. For the first part of our new “Pick 6” series, Nonfics reached out to McKean for a selection of films to recommend to our readers. The goal with this series isn’t to create some definitive, “best in show” list, but to bring to light works that quickly come to mind when artists, actors, filmmakers and programmers are asked to list documentaries that mean something to them personally, crafting a kind of mini-festival or “mixtape” of different tonalities that share one factor: they’re the films chosen by someone pretty remarkable, with a brief commentary about what these films represent for them. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Medium Cool

Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool is a film whose immediacy and docu-realism was all too fitting for an America that could, for the first time, see its wars on television. Shot during the protests and riots that accompanied the Democratic National Convention in August 1968, Wexler’s film seamlessly mixed narrative storytelling and documentary – Medium Cool is a Hollywood-made document of America in ’68 if there ever was one, a stunning portrait of the chaotic state of politics and its relationship to media in one of the most tumultuous years in American (or, perhaps, world) history. But Criterion’s long-anticipated release of Medium Cool isn’t the only A/V flashback to ’68 occurring this summer. Olivier Assays’s Something in the Air reflects on the student protests surrounding the similarly turbulent demonstrations in France in May of that year, while Season 6 of Mad Men has just entered the sweltering summer that will climax in the events in Chicago that August. Maybe it’s Congress’s seemingly eternal bottleneck, or the government’s paranoia-inducing surveillance of the press, or a general aura of well-justified cynicism, but the simultaneously dark and potentially revolutionary years of ’68 seem to demand contemporary reflection, even if it only results in pop culture nostalgia. That said, here’s The Criterion Collection’s archive of films that captured the spirit of the revolutionary times of the ‘60s around the world, all fitting comrades of the brilliant Medium Cool.

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Criterion Files

Tune into VH1 Classics on any given day, and this is something you’re likely to see: a rock video of a mid-80s hair band playing on a giant stage, complete with sleek cinematography, wide camera angles, and a stadium-sized audience packed to the brim. At first you might be confused, thinking that this is possibly some Whitesnake or Guns N’ Roses song that somehow escaped your memory. But then the music video ends and in the bottom left corner the band’s name comes up. You’ve never heard of them before, and you’ve definitely never heard this song before. Yet this video depicts monstrous popularity that suggests nothing less than massive cultural phenomenon. While it’s possible for a one-hit wonder to develop this degree of renown for a certain frame of time, it becomes something of a schizophrenic moment when you consider that this hit single both inaugurated the now-forgotten band’s moment of popularity and depicted it simultaneously. With so many hair bands, how is it possible that every single one of them sells out stadium-size crowds? The answer, of course, can only be one thing: an association with mass popularity is, for hair bands, only a reality for the privileged few, but for the rest it’s a fabrication that’s all part of the musical aesthetic – it’s what makes this subgenre of rock that’s reliant on spectacle so spectacular. It’s fitting, then, that one of the landmark mockumentaries of American filmmaking chose as its subject a genre that itself relies […]

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published: 10.30.2014
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published: 10.29.2014
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published: 10.27.2014
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published: 10.24.2014
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