Documentaries

Thought-provoking documentary cinema covering horror, culture, music, sports.

Sunset Strip

Sunset_Strip_documentaryIt’s easy to be suspicious of places like Los Angeles or Vegas, where there’s only one season and dreams go to die.

For as many dreams as LA’s Sunset Strip has fulfilled, it’s crushed that many a thousandfold.

As documentary fare, Sunset Strip is an interesting proposition: charting a course leading back to prohibition, through to Sammy Davis Jr, mobster Mickey Cohen, Hugh Hefner, Jim Morrison and the Doors, the Chateau Marmont and infamously, the glam metal scene.

Now though, it’s somewhere people visit because things happened there, not because things happen there. It has this in common with Vegas, where bachelors recreate the Rat Pack, minus the insouciance. It’s forced and indecorous. And there’s no better examples of this on the Strip these days than the discount metal act, Steel Panther. They’re the hard rock equivalent of a guy dressed like Lincoln telling you about the Gettysburg Address, when you should’ve been there to see Dokken in the year four score and 7.

Sunset Strip does a great job telling you where the stretch has been, but not where it’s going. Of course, it’s possible this is nowhere. Especially the face time given to Steel Panther.

Sunset_StripThe death of Lemmy, a Sunset Strip Rainbow Room fixture, has created a bar stool vacancy for another aging rocker to collect his mail. He’s dead and rock and roll is dead too, far removed from a place of prominence in the popular culture.

Like the passing of time, there’s something sad about nostalgia. And really that’s all that’s offered here.

What makes the Strip special NOW? Where does what used to happen there, happen NOW? Is it destined to be an open air museum like Beale St. in Memphis, haunted by the ghosts of WC Handy and BB King?

The doc really comes alive when we hear about the Hyatt Hotel (or as Ozzy Osbourne calls it, “The Riot,”) where motorcycles were driven down hallways and Led Zeppelin handcuffed groupies to bed posts for days on end. Or when we hear Keanu Reeves speaking wistfully about his time at Chateau Marmont.

The rest is populated by grizzly hustlers, scenesters and old-timers including Mickey Rourke and a greaser buddy who looks like he’s going out to front a rockabilly act. And even carries his own comb.

Nostalgia is ok for a little while, then it’s time to rejoin the here and now. As Lao Tzu said:

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.

*** (out of 5)

Hot Girls Wanted

Hot_Girls_wanted_movie posterParadoxically, you can almost respect people who are ballsy enough to go out on a limb and do things that most people don’t respect. Almost, but not quite.

Hot Girls Wanted shines its POV soft light on amateur adult film stars, and is a documentary so raw at times, it needs lube. 

Miami, unsurprisingly, the ersatz and cultural black hole that it is, is now home to a nascent amateur scene. The film depicts entrants into a business with a shelf life comparable to actual produce (for most girls, after three months in the business “they’re done”).

It’s not surprising then, when later one of the stars describes herself as a “piece of processed meat.”

Like a supermarket, there’s a seemingly endless variety of products, each pretty much the same. Here, they’re young girls and as Hot Girls Wanted points out in the beginning with a dizzying array of thumbnails, in the supply and demand curve of sexual economics, there’s an endless supply.

And it’s definitely hard to tell these widgets apart.

This is compounded by their names, each interchangeable with one another: Stella May, Brooklyn Daniels, Ava Taylor, Lucy Tyler, Ava Kelly…There’s no Eloisa McGillivray or Babette O’Halloran.

Hot_Girls_WANTEDIt’s difficult to keep them straight, but they’re all Id-driven, uneducated, celeb-obsessed and solipsistic, and it’s hard to tell whether they were like this before going beyond the green door or after.

As Hot Girls Wanted progresses, each girl begins to finally distinguish themselves and we learn about their family lives and significant others whose lives are flipped upside down by their controversial line of work.

At first, they insist their milieu is becoming more accepted by the mainstream, but it really hasn’t: witness the furor surrounding Duke’s Belle Knox. But to their credit, the girls here, despite their lack of formal education, are able to provide more insights into the Ivy League adult film star and the world she inhabits than Knox herself.

Stay with this one and you’ll be rewarded, but it’s not so much a cautionary tale of, well, “a piece of tail”; it’s a human story about life’s choices.

***1/2 (out of 5)