Sheryl Crow came to fame at a peculiar moment in pop culture. Breaking out in 1993 with “All I Want” off her debut album, Tuesday Night Music ClubCrow skyrocketed to pop and rock superstardom in the last era before social media and smartphones made musical artists as ubiquitous in fans’ everyday lives as a weather app. There was still a mystique to being a musical artist, which Amy Scott’s new documentary for Showtime, Sherylhappily wallows in.
With in-depth interviews with Crow and a legion of her colleagues, friends, and contemporaries, Scott (who also helmed the blissful Hal Ashby doc, Thing) explores many avenues of Crow’s career, as well as some of her own personal battles with depression, cancer, and, quite strikingly, sexism. The doc begins with the type of loaded questions that were aimed at female celebrities in the ‘90s, particularly those who tried to control their own careers by becoming producers (in which Crow was a trailblazer), and goes on to track the continued artifice of the entertainment business then and now. But the wealth of home movies and footage that pulls back the curtain on that era, and which have never been seen before, is what gives Sheryl an intimate, conversational charm, even if it is often just as happy to play the hits.
Steve “Spaz” Williams is responsible for the CGI dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Which is to say that, in his own way, Spaz is responsible for the modern digital effects world of blockbusters. Yet until fairly recently this was not common knowledge, even among movie nerds. And that is enough to make director Scott Leberecht’s Spaz documentary a welcome insight into the fast and heady days of 1980s and ‘90s moviemaking, particularly in the realm of digital effects’ bleeding edge.
Leberecht achieves more than just documenting Williams’ accomplishments, however. A special effects man himself, Leberecht provides an insider’s understanding of the rivalries, egos, and politics of this industry, while also having the good sense of knowing his subject well enough to step back and let Williams tell his story, blemishes and all, in his own words. With a rough, laconic disposition and a gaze that can be obliterating, Williams is as asymmetric to his “Spaz” name as “little” would be to describe Shaquille O’Neal. Williams is an artist—very much to a fault—with the energy of a roughrider. But that sense of perfectionism provides Leberecht with a documentarian subject who can be unsparing, even when describing the faults of his own life.
Spaz provides overdue recognition for one of the most pivotal talents in the recent history of cinema, and also essays how undaunted that talent could be, even when it was headed toward a wall.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
The energetic actor, movie star, and meme muse is coming off one of the most lauded performances of his career in Michael Sarnoski’s Pig. He’s by all appearances a healthy and thriving 58-year-old man with nothing but sunny days to look forward to. And yet, his latest and most distinctly Cage-ian film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talentoperates as a sort of midpoint career eulogy.