The Best and Worst of Sundance 2015 (Documentary Edition)

Still image from "Best of Enemies"


6. Call Me Lucky

Barry Crimmins was one of the best stand-up comedians you probably never heard of, the godfather of Boston’s fertile comedy scene, doing hard-edged political commentary in the brick-wall, airplane-food-joke era of the 1980s and 1990s. This documentary portrait by friend and fellow comic Bobcat Goldthwait (proving himself as adept at non-fiction filmmaking as narrative) would be interesting enough if it were just a snapshot of that era and Crimmins’ place in it, but he goes much deeper than that, into the personal tragedy that turned his subject from a comedian and commentator to an activist and advocate. It’s an unpredictable and invigorating film, both rabble-rousing and moving.

5. Best of Enemies

In 1968, to offset budget concerns limiting the possibility of customary gavel-to-gavel coverage, third-place ABC News took a different approach to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions: ten nightly debates between conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. and his liberal counterpart Gore Vidal. The results were a series of encounters that were sharp, rowdy, and nasty — thrilling to watch, but a worrisome harbinger of where politics (and television’s coverage of it) were going. The picture moves fast without skimming, zipping through time and filling in blanks, revealing the unexpected similarities behind the personas. The highlight, of course, is the notorious moment when it got ugliest — but directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville push past that, to the considerable, and psychologically complex, aftermath. Smart, thorny, expert documentary filmmaking.