Binge Guide

What I'm Watching: With Alex Gibney

Academy Award–winning filmmaker tells us what he's watching and recommends a few essential documentaries.

by | April 15, 2020 | Comments

With so many of us social-distancing and staying in, our Watchlists are going to empty out very quickly as we burn through all those “I’ve-been-meaning-to-watch” shows and movies we’ve been saving for a rainy day. To help you find more great content (and some undiscovered gems) to keep you going, we’re turning to the people that make it: the film and TV writers, directors, craftspeople, and performers who, just like you, are stuck home and bingeing like crazy right now.

For our latest installment of “What I’m Watching,” Academy Award–winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) reveals what he’s watching now and recommends some essential documentaries. Gibney’s latest project is The Innocence Files, a nine-episode series now streaming on Netflix about the personal stories behind wrongful convictions overturned through the efforts of The Innocence Project.

Death Is a Woman (1967) 82%


Gibney says: “The first one isn’t a doc at all …. It’s A Woman Is a Woman. It’s a film I was watching while social distancing. I picked it [because] I hadn’t seen it before. [Director Jean-Luc] Godard made it right after Breathless, and it’s an incredible film — so inventive, so full of ideas, so colorful. With a wonderful Anna Karina as the star. Check it out. It’ll infuriate you. It’ll make you howl with laughter. It’s so much fun.”

Critics Consensus: One of the last times Godard could make film paradoxes with glee, A Woman Is a Woman is a mocking, genuine tribute to musicals.

Stream now on Criterion Channel.  

Stop Making Sense (1984) 100%

Gibney says: Stop Making Sense is a concert film, by Jonathan Demme, of the Talking Heads. I was at that concert at the Doolittle Theater in L.A. But this film is maybe one of the best concert films ever made. And just take my advice: put it in, dial it up, and turn it up really loud.”

Critics Consensus: Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense captures the energetic, unpredictable live act of peak Talking Heads with color and visual wit.

Stream now on Criterion Channel or Amazon Prime Video

Stories We Tell (2012) 94%

Gibney says: “This is a magnificent film about where we all come from, and who our parents are, and how that’s different from who we thought they might be — in the deepest sense. A great film.”

Critics Consensus: In Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley plays with the documentary format to explore the nature of memory and storytelling, crafting a thoughtful, compelling narrative that unfolds like a mystery.

Stream now on Tubi (free with ads). Rental and purchase available at various streaming sites: FandangoNowiTunes, Vudu, and more. 

Gimme Shelter (1970) 93%

Gibney says: Gimme Shelter [is] a documentary about the Rolling Stones — a cinéma vérité doc by the Maysles brothers. But there’s a third director here we don’t hear much about: Her name is Charlotte Zwerin. Charlotte was the editor on the film, and she takes this magnificent cinéma vérité look at the Rolling Stones on tour and ultimately the events at the Altamont Festival in California and weaves it into a a murder-mystery. It’s the mystery of a person who was killed, and it’s also the mystery of who killed the ’60s.”

Critics Consensus: Equal parts essential and chilling, Gimme Shelter provides a spine-tingling look at how the Rolling Stones’ music paralleled the end of the counterculture movement.

Stream now on Criterion Collection and Kanopy.

When We Were Kings (1996) 98%

Gibney says: “So this was something where Leon Gast in 1974 was in Zaire while Muhammad Ali and George Foreman were there for their Rumble in the Jungle, one of the great fights in history. Gast was there  to hang out with Ali, and that’s where the most riveting footage comes from is:  as Ali gathers all these kids who are rallying to his side, singing ‘Ali bomaye.’ You see Ali, who had passed his prime as a boxer, but was at the height of his intellectual powers, that is just extraordinary to see now, so full of vitality, such a leader. And then in the fight itself, he wins the fight with his wits, his brain, not his brawn, though he ultimately knocks Foreman out. It’s a great film, and there’s something at the end that’s particularly worth noting now: Ali was invited to the Harvard commencement, and gave a speech, a wonderful speech to the kids about making a difference and then somebody shouted out, ‘Hey, Ali! Give us a poem.’ And Ali thinks for a second, and he says, ‘Me. We.’ At this moment in time, it seems the perfect distillation of social distancing and isolation and how that can lead us to understanding and appreciating the collective.”

Critics Consensus: An engrossing documentary that’s as much about a time and a place as it is about a fight.

Stream now on DirecTV or MaxGo

Looking for more great shows and movies to binge? Head to Rotten Tomatoes’ Binge Central.

Thumbnail images: John Lamparski/Getty Images; Rialto Pictures; Everett Collection; Gramercy Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection; Roadside Attractions/Courtesy Everett Collection; Cinecom International/courtesy Everett Collection

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