Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a documentary about $80 million in forged abstract expressionist art that was sold through a major NY art dealer. If you have little to no interest in art, then this will bore the hell out of you. I found it to be very well made, and engaging throughout. It is mostly one-on-one interviews, peppered with some high quality documentary photos and appropriate video / film footage. Oh yeah and there’s that one element that you’ll see in 99% of contemporary documentaries… the animation. There seems to be a rule that there MUST be at least one section featuring animation in every doc. It’s as if there’s a big scary enforcer that shows up in the editing process and says “I ain’t seen no cartoons in dis here picture yet” while showing the director his bloodstained baseball bat. I get why documentary makers feel it’s necessary, but it’s become a cliche. If you just have to do it, please do something really interesting like the animation in Gimmie Danger. Sorry, I had to get that out. Where was I? Ok, here’s why Made You Look is worth your time: you get to learn about rich and powerful people becoming victims of their own stupidity and greed. Enjoy the schadenfreude my friends.

Not Available on Blu-ray.

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McQueen (2018)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

Nearly ten years ago my partner Suzie dragged me to see Alexander McQueen’s exhibition at The Met in New York. I was not psyched to wait in line for something I wasn’t particularly interested in. Once we got into the show, my feelings quickly changed. I loved what I was seeing, especially the dark influences like Jack the Ripper and Joel-Peter Witkin. I walked out of museum an official Alexander McQueen fan. Suzie and I watched this documentary as soon as it cane out and absolutely loved it. This is obviously a must-see for fashion enthusiasts, and I would recommend this film to anyone interested in art as well. Before I saw that exhibition I didn’t understand the two worlds had such compelling areas of crossover.

Available on Blu-ray from Lion’s Gate.

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Kusama: Infinity (2018)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

Here we have a good overview of the career of influential Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. I thought this doc might be too fluffy as much of her work is bright and polka dot-strewn, but it does not shy away from the artists’ battle with mental illness and other dark corners of her life. Infinity also touches on the many lesser-known ways in which Kusama’s output has made an impact on the history of art. Recommended viewing for those interested in the creative struggle.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Goya’s Ghosts (2006)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Most people missed that the director behind One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest made a very good historical drama revolving around “the father of modern art” Francisco Goya. It stars Stellan Skarsgård, Natalie Portman, Javier Bardem, and Randy “Cannibal Father Knows Best” Quaid. As I often say, it isn’t perfect. However Goya’s Ghosts is a solid choice if you’re looking for a movie off the beaten path.

Blu-ray available from Samuel Goldwyn Films.

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Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-qiang (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a solid overview of one of the more high-profile Chinese visual artists. Guo-qiang is known mostly for his epic firework performances. The movie also covers the artist tackling a major project that challenges him on every level. Sky Ladder is an absorbing documentary that I wish had a slightly longer run time. You won’t hear me say that very often.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Burden (2016)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Chris Burden was one of the most notorious performance artists of all time. His later career focused more on installation and sculpture but his work always remained fascinating. I saw a large exhibition of his work at The New Museum a few years back and loved it. Burden is a solid introduction to the artists’ work that I think would appeal to anyone that isn’t easily offended. I refuse to close this recommendation with “Give it a shot.” Nope. Won’t do it.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I saw an exhibition of Szukalski’s work at The Visionary Art Museum many years ago and became an instant fan. This documentary was a treat as I knew very little about the man. Yes, he worked for the Nazis, but I feel he redeemed himself. Even if you disagree with me, I feel this is an excellent movie worth watching. I give Struggle my highest recommendation.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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