Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (Theaters June 6)
Austin Powers star Mike Myers tries documentary filmmaking with a fond look at one of his oldest friends, Hollywood superagent Shep Gordon. Actually, it seems that Gordon is just about everybody’s oldest friend: He’s the ultimate people person, a guy who got where he is by collecting, repaying and cashing in what he calls “coupons” — favors, acts of kindness and professional courtesies. It’s hard to argue with his results: The film spills over with testimonies — funny and poignant — from the likes of Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, Emeril Lagasse, Anne Murray, Willie Nelson and Sly Stallone. There’s also a glittering array of clips of his clients, including Pink Floyd (for nine days) and, in the film’s most touching sequence, the late Teddy Pendergrass. Now retired from show biz and a devoted Buddhist, Gordon is shown relaxing at his Maui home, cooking for his celebrity houseguests. “There’s nothing that I’ve ever seen about fame that’s healthy,” he says. He’s seen a lot, and he should know.
More Documentaries Opening in June:
Code Black (Theaters June 13)
The emergency room at Los Angeles County Hospital looks more like a MASH triage unit than the heart of a big-city medical center, but the doctors and other professionals who work there see its operation as carefully choreographed chaos. In director/physician Ryan McGarry’s frenetic film, we learn that illness or injury is not always the common enemy of doctors and their patients; sometimes it’s the bureaucracy of a health care system gone haywire.
Freedom Summer (PBS June 24)
The entrenched capital of American segregation in 1964 was Mississippi, where white supremacist groups and the state government both violently opposed black voter registration. This American Experience documentary by Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders) tells the story of more than 700 student volunteers who ventured into the belly of the beast, facing deadly violence (including the murder of three civil rights workers) in the name of “one man, one vote.”
Ivory Tower (Theaters June 1)
Is that college diploma worth the paper it’s printed on, much less the tens of thousands of dollars it cost? Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times, Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven) bulldozes through the ivy-covered walls to find answers.
James Thurber: The Life and Hard Times (DVD June 17)
Director Adam Van Doren explores the life and career of one of the 20th century’s most beloved humorists (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, My Life and Hard Times) and discovers the dark side of being funny. The film includes vintage interviews with many who knew or admired Thurber, including Edward Albee, Alistair Cooke and Fran Lebowitz.
We Always Lie to Strangers (Theaters and Streaming June 3)
Branson, Mo., has fewer than 11,000 residents but attracts more than 7.5 million people and $3 billion in tourism every year. The wholesome, God-fearing, patriotism-infused entertainment offered inside the town’s dozens of theaters (more seats than Broadway!) evokes a sense of down-home simplicity. Over a five-year period, however, directors AJ Schnack and David Boone Wilson discovered a deceptively sophisticated — and occasionally contradictory — entertainment mechanism at work.
Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (Theaters, On Demand, Streaming June 27)
On the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, only Osama Bin Laden was ahead of longtime mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who murdered more than a dozen people in South Boston before disappearing into decades of hiding. When the police finally found him, it became shamefully clear that both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice had enabled him. Oscar-nominated director Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) got unprecedented access to prosecutors, gangsters and journalists to tell Bulger’s sordid story.