A Few Other Recent Oscar-Worthy Music Films

If these movies were all nominees, this is the film I'd hope Tom Hanks or some other A-lister would announce as an award-winner. It's a little older than the films on this list, released in 2012, but is so well done I had to include it for anyone who has simply browsed past it on Netflix.

The synopsis: a band of three Detroit brothers eschews the R&B vibe of their hometown and the black community in favor of rock and roll.The music they created has been deemed early punk rock by some listeners, since it preceded bands like Ramones and Sex Pistols. Music dignitaries like Henry Rollins and Alice Cooper, a heavy influence on Death, make appearances in the film and bolster the argument.

In this day and age, it's almost ridiculous to hear record labels once feared attempting to successfully promote a band called Death. The band's leader, David Hackney, is a study in misunderstood creative genius, and what sometimes happens to misunderstood geniuses. There's a sort of struggle Hackney has with his religious faith and what he's doing creatively that would later be mimicked by another, much better-known genius named Prince.

But at its core, Death is a story of family, one that begins with jam sessions in a cramped bedroom at the Hackney home and has endured to today, thanks to this film and a new generation of Hackneys who perform the Death songs -- which, everything else aside, are damn good.

When they first became part of our consciousness, people who cherish self-expression everywhere were outraged by the imprisonment of the Russian activists who call themselves Pussy Riot. Thousands of miles away, we knew the plot line to their story, but this HBO documentary introduced us to the women who were brave enough to take on Vladimir Putin.

The best thing about the film, in my opinion, is how it transforms the story of a movement into something more personal. We learn who these women are and what moves them, as their story is an ongoing one. Whatever their political ideologies are can be set aside to focus on who they are individually. By showing us the lives these women lead, we see real people under duress, not just faceless revolt against political injustice.


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