Real Life

Make a documentary about yourself before you slip this mortal coil. That way you still get the last word.

More than one engrossing current documentary examines an artist who was a chef or writer or performer; a person who left cultural signposts in their wake.

A few of the following subjects are no longer alive but that’s not the case with “Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go With It.”

Moreno talks directly to the camera, providing amusing anecdotes about her career and observations about life. While the documentary easily fits into hagiography territory there are moments when Moreno goes beyond frankness in discussing her life as when she addresses how she viewed her forty-five-year marriage after her husband Leonard Gordon died in 2010.

Moreno was the first Latin actress to win an Oscar® for “West Side Story,” and the doc addresses her appearance in the upcoming Spielberg remake, complete with behind the camera footage. There’s plenty of star power in the talking heads.

The most engaging part of the doc has Moreno candidly discussing her decade long affair with Marlon Brando. They appeared in the forgotten film “Night of the Following Day,” certainly underrated and perhaps unseen nowadays due to its graphic depiction of her character’s heroin addiction.

Moreno is a force to be reckoned with.

“Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go With It,” from Roadside Attractions opens in limited release on June 18.

Never really knew the full story on Sparks, the most British band that was never from the UK. Whatever your preference in classic rock the power of “The Sparks Brothers” is how director Edgar Wright, known for his intensive visual style, propels the story with a solid pace that never leaves the viewer bored. Vintage Sparks clips are mixed with black-and-white talking head testimony from an impressive array of actors, musicians and illuminators of the era. “The Sparks Brothers,” opening in theaters June 18 from Focus Features, takes you to cool places.

Two heavyweights of the literary world are given a fair shake in “Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation.” What better elegy than to be remembered and referred to by one’s first name rather than one’s surname.

Lisa Immordino Vreeland, whose previous docs portrayed the lives of Diana Vreeland, Peggy Guggenheim and Cecil Beaton, helms an above average documentary that combines television interviews and news clips, along with personal archival footage of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. The film easily lends itself to multiple views.

Jim Parsons (as Capote) and Zachary Quinto (as Williams) narrating from letters, writings and interviews give the film an added sense of wisdom.

You are treated to the contrast of the laid back demeanors of the film’s subjects on television with clips of their writings translated into films. Considering that includes everything from “Streetcar Named Desire” to “In Cold Blood,” you realize soon these soft spoken writers understood the pulse of society.

The most arresting part of the film depicts Capote and Williams sparring genially with television hosts like David Frost. The conversation indicates that corporate media of the time walked gingerly though subjects that are today widely discussed.

“Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation” streams via the platform starting June 18.

Morgan Neville previously helmed “Twenty Feet From Stardom” and most impressively (with Robert Gordon) “The Best of Enemies,” winning an Oscar® for Best Documentary for the former.

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” starts out at full jog with Jonathan Richmond singing “Roadrunner” and a montage of the coolness of Bourdain. Once the film starts Neville dissects Bourdain’s to the point we’re seeing how insecure he was at every turn. Despite various non-flattering moments throughout Neville proceeds with respect for the tenets of the subject’s life.

At one point Bourdain swallows the still-beating heart cut with scissors out of a live cobra and yet that was not as unsettling as that scene in the recent Billie Eilish doc where she lets her pet tarantula crawl into her mouth.

Nobody knows what thoughts go on in a person’s head when they commit suicide. “Roadrunner” certainly has moments of speculation but Neville doesn’t obsess on the why.

The gist of the film relies more on feelings of insecurity being dismissed with constant new adventure. Bourdain was a person who had greatness thrust upon him and much of the film shows how he dealt with his newfound celebrity.

Interview subjects include co-workers, producers on his CNN produced show and his second wife who sadly relates how Bourdain asked her to refrain from contacting him via social media.

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” opens in theaters on July 16.


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