'20 Feet From Stardom' is a staggering music documentary.
In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, pundits were divided about which documentary would win the big prize, most predicting The Act of Killing, the innovative, staggeringly powerful exploration of Indonesia's death squads. But anyone who had seen the background singer doc 20 Feet From Stardom knew it was probably more likely to take the award.
Darlene Love in '20 Feet From Stardom'
Not only is the film a hugely crowd-pleasing movie that leaves audiences smiling and tapping their toes in joy, but it has serious subtext as well, examining America's civil rights struggle through the eyes of musical artists. It also makes a potent statement about today's digital, auto-tuned recording industry in which non-singers make records and do their own backing vocals, but neglect to infuse their records with the passion and energy that fills the classic songs of the past few decades.
In 20 Feet From Stardom, the filmmakers and singers recount fascinating personal stories about the making of iconic hits by Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Ike and Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and many more, giving audiences a glimpse behind the scenes of their favourite records of all time.
And even more important is the way the film puts names and faces to the voices that we never knew were all over our our record collections. These women have massive personalities, and they make the film so memorable that in retrospect it seems impossible than any other movie could have won the Oscar on the big night.