By Robert Ham
Netflix and Hulu are, of course, manna from heaven for both cinephiles and TV binge-watchers alike, but video streaming services can also be of interest to those of us music obsessives as well. To save you some of the grunt work of tracking down concert films and musician documentaries amidst Hollywood blockbusters and 12 seasons of Murder, She Wrote, here’s a look at the most noteworthy music-related titles newly available to stream online.
Good Ol’ Freda – Available on Netflix
There’s no shortage of books and movies that explore the Beatles from a variety of angles, but you’ll never get a more intimate portrait of what went on behind the scenes of early Beatlemania than this charming doc. Directed by Ryan White, the film centers on Freda Kelly, the Fab Four’s longtime secretary who handled every piece of the group’s fan mail through the course of their whirlwind career. Through sending over scraps of Paul’s shirts or locks of Ringo’s hair to desperate fans, she became a trusted member of the band’s inner circle. Freda’s long-withheld stories are the heart of this film, but rock geeks will enjoy the rare look at the business side of what was the biggest band on the planet.
Green Day: ¡Cuatro! – Available on Hulu
This gritty yet fun documentary serves as a companion piece to the (overly) ambitious project Green Day underwent in 2012: releasing three albums – Uno!, Dos!, and Tres! – over the course of three months. Though a bit of a puff piece, director Tim Wheeler’s film does offer a wealth of behind the scenes footage of the punk band throwing themselves completely into the writing and recording of three very diverse LPs, and its fun to see that the camaraderie within the group is stronger than ever. Best, though, are the live performances Wheeler captures, taken from small club gigs where Green Day tried out some of this new material and whetted their fans’ appetites for the upcoming albums.
Chosen as the official film of Record Store Day 2013, this UK documentary attempts to buck the rising tide of music streaming by focusing on, as the title suggests, the glories and struggles of the independently-owned record store. Based off a book of the same name, the film is as educational as it is proselytizing, utilizing some inspiring interviews from the likes of Johnny Marr, Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), Paul Weller and Billy Bragg, who all speak on how their creative endeavors over the years were impacted by crate digging and conversations in their local music shop. Though the film’s message has been undercut this past year by the news of a 32 percent rise in vinyl sales and recent opening of Rough Trade Records in New York, Last Shop Standing could serve as a cautionary tale for those crazy enough to enter the music retail business.