Twenty years ago this week, on May 22, 1992, Johnny Carson ended his 30-year reign as the host of The Tonight Show. In the newly released PBS documentary Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, we’re pleasantly reminded why, decades later, the prototype Carson set for late-night hosts—trustworthy, likable, neighborly, cool—remains the same. “Johnny was to comedy what Walter Cronkite was to news,” explains Paul Block, a longtime producer on Carson’s Tonight Show.
It started with The Abyss. Then a little thing called Titanic. Then a slew of aquatic documentaries. And this past weekend, the ocean-obsessed life of James Cameron finally culminated when the man climbed into a submarine he helped design and set the world record for the deepest journey into the Earth by a single human being.
And as soon as he breached the surface, the haters were there to greet him. “We should have sent a robot,” they said. Our “expendable robot spawn will win every time,” they said. They’re cheaper, faster, stronger…
But they’re not human. They don’t know fear and they don’t know courage—so we’re calling shenanigans.
Circa 1978, Bruce Springsteen was in a spectacularly tortured place. Fresh off Born to Run and overflowing with material, he had the chance to fully indulge his perfectionist streak. That made for a stew of ambition, insecurity and some spectacularly frustrated band members—and, as it turns out, some pretty good television.
A new Springsteen doc called The Promise is making the rounds at the Toronto Film Fest with archived footage, band interviews and a refreshingly geeky take on the whole affair. Clips are already leaking out at a thrilling pace, showing exactly how wrenching the sessions for Darkness on the Edge of Town really were, with upwards of 70 songs being whittled down to the darkest ten he could produce (at least until Nebraska). It’s a rare creative moment, the kind of thing that makes you glad someone brought a camera along. And if for some reason you don’t feel like trekking out to Toronto, it’ll be arriving on HBO on October 7.
Joaquin Phoenix is finally getting his close-up. The bad news? He seems to have lost his comb.
This is the one-sheet for Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here, the Pennebaker-style document of Phoenix’s public meltdown we were promised from the very beginning. As images go, it’s a pretty good one—selling the glare of stardom and the mumbled, incoherent response at the same time, and wiping away any suspicion that this was all an inside joke. And while we wouldn’t try it at home, this particular beardo look is well on its way to being one of the more iconic faces of the decade.
Concert films are one of the best documents a great band can have—without it, the timeless cool of Robbie Robertson would probably have been lost to history—but for one reason or another, the last decade hasn’t produced very many good ones. Blame MTV or celeb culture or the fact that you can find video of a Radiohead gig on YouTube any time you want, but not too many acts seem interested in producing a Gimme Shelter-style time capsule.
But it looks like The National has a better idea. This Saturday, they’re playing a semi-intimate gig at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and they’ve brought along a little extra help. D. A. Pennebaker, the groundbreaking documentarian and (more importantly) the man behind Don’t Look Back will be filming the gig and streaming the whole thing live to YouTube, where it will live for a month before disappearing from the web forever. Granted, it’s a little early to be planning your Friday diversions—but this one should be worth remembering.
Ad men have been enjoying quite a bit of attention, so the time is ripe for a gushy documentary covering some of the industry’s greatest hits. Who came up with that “got milk” business, anyway?
Art & Copy (via Josh Spear) tracked down the creatives in question—in this case, Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby—along with a slate of other names like George Lois of the famous 60s Esquire covers and Hal Riney of the 1984 Reagan campaign. Together they’re responsible for some of the most iconic images of the past 50 years. We’re thinking of the “I Heart NY” logo, the Energizer bunny, and the more recent dancing silhouette iPod ads…but we’re sure you have a favorite of your own.
It’s not bad as a profile of an industry, and we’re sure there are more than enough outsized personalities to fill up 90 minutes—especially whoever was unselfconscious enough to offer the quote, “we’re doing exactly the same thing as the guys who were painting on caves.”
A master marketer should have known how that was going to sound.
We haven’t been keeping up with Carla Bruni and Nicolas Sarkozy much lately—to be honest, once they got married, we lost the spark—but a lucky documentarian is about to catch us up.
Tomorrow in Paris, the spectacularly fortunate Scottish filmmaker George Scott is premiering an 80-minute documentary on the couple that follows the French power couple from their first meeting through their eventual marriage, with apparently unrestricted access.
Naturally, it’s already tabloid fodder (via The Cut), but the surprising thing is how much access he seems to have gotten. Early reports have him filming the couple nuzzling and taking a tour of the Elysee palace. Anyone hitting the Parisian film festival circuit should feel free to drop us a line, but otherwise we’ll have to wait until it crosses the Atlantic.