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Beyond the Music

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. ThompsonGonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

An excellent crash course on the rock star of American journalism, this documentary provides not only a biography of Thompson, but it places him in the larger context of the society and the time he was a part of. Lengthy sections of the film are devoted to the trajectory of American politics since the Sixties and they are intrinsically important to telling Thompson’s story. There are interviews with an incredibly diverse range of heavy hitters, a testament in itself to the transcendent quality of his work. Any film that can get commentary from both Pat Buchanan and Jimmy Buffett is probably a film worth seeing. And the real glue for me in this film is the music – it is expertly used to enhance the story and set the mood. Gonzo is a fitting tribute to one of the great characters in the pantheon  of American history.

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Easy RiderEasy Rider (1969)

Dennis Hopper’s brilliant film stands today as one of the most sincere and unadulterated portraits of a torn America struggling with its own divisions during the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. Easy Rider is not an easy film to watch – the tension of the time is palpable and essential to the difficult story being told. I usually walk away from it with conflicted feelings, and I’m sure that was the intention. There is probably no time in American history more romanticized than the 60’s. I myself often fall prey to the stylized contemporary portrait of the decade and I think Easy Rider is a good reminder to us all that those years were truly some of the most challenging in our nation’s history.  And musically, the groundbreaking soundtrack is as central to the film’s relevance as the story itself. A true classic.

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