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Staff & contributors

If you grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you may find yourself now humming along: It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine? 

If you did not grow up watching this iconic children’s television program, you may still be familiar with its host, the late Fred Rogers. Rogers was an advocate for empathy and extending kindness toward people of all races, religions, and ages. He never talked down to the neighbors who paid him visits on the show, which aired from 1968 to 2001, even while tackling heavier subjects like grief, divorce, and loneliness.

Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor best captures Rogers’ ability to build communities and make you, the viewer, feel less alone. Through interviews and archival footage, a clear portrait emerges of Rogers’ legacy and singular force of goodwill. Both the documentary and Fred Rogers’ spirit serve as reminders that each of us are worthy of love, exactly as we are.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Al Gore, Ayden Soria, Betty Aberlin, Bill Clinton, Bill Isler, Brian Kilmeade, Christa McAuliffe, David Bianculli, David Letterman, David Newell, Eddie Murphy, Eleanor Way, François Clemmons, Fred Rogers, George Wirth, Hedda Sharapan, Hillary Clinton, Jim Rogers, Joanne Rogers, Joe Negri, Johnny Carson, Josie Carey, Junlei Li, Koko, Lorin Hollander, Lynden Liu, Lyndon B. Johnson, Major Hawbaker Manask, Max King, McColm Cephas Jr., McColm Kona Cephas Jr., Nick Tallo, Robert F. Kennedy, Susan Stamberg, Tom Junod, Tom Snyder, Yo-Yo Ma

Director: Morgan Neville

For those of us who don't lurk on internet message boards and participate in social media culture, a documentary about memes might seem frivolous. But Feels Good Man steers the conversation into one about semiotics: the way images become symbols and can continue transforming—from a harmless expression of the self, into a hateful banner for bigotry, into a cry of protest and freedom. As his Pepe the Frog creation takes on a life of its own, artist Matt Furie attempts to reclaim ownership of it and finds that the relationship between an artist and their own work can be as difficult as any toxic relationship. It's a bleak view of how unfeeling internet culture can be, but it reminds us that we always still have some power to beat the hate.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary

Actor: Adam Serwer, Alex Jones, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Emily Heller, Hillary Clinton, Johnny Ryan, Joy Reid, Katy Perry, Lisa Hanawalt, Logan Paul, Matt Furie, Melania Trump, Mike Majlak, Nicki Minaj, Phil McGraw, Rachel Maddow, Richard Spencer, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert

Director: Arthur Jones

Composed of archival footage of the titular musical legend and testimonials from those who worked with him or whose lives were profoundly impacted by his courage, Little Richard: I Am Everything feels comprehensive but is also oddly lacking. The documentary makes a bold, confident claim: that all popular music today can be directly traced to his work. And when the film lets itself get into full music nerd mode, it's easy to be convinced. But after you accept that perspective on Little Richard, the rest of the movie seems like it's just spinning its wheels, covering key moments in the artist's life and career without really challenging or substantiating long-held ideas about him.

Chief among these is Little Richard's shifting feelings toward his own queerness—proudly expressing his true self one year, then openly denouncing his own homosexuality the next. This subject matter is ripe for difficult but insightful analysis, which the film just never gets around to. It begins to feel like the believes there is no more discussion to be had about him. And that may very well be true; he deserves the flowers that were denied him for so long. But this attitude doesn't necessarily make for the best documentary.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Alan Freed, Billy Porter, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, John Waters, Little Richard, Mick Jagger, Nile Rodgers, Nona Hendryx, Pat Boone, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Valerie June

Director: Lisa Cortés

A fascinating kernel of certainty is padded out with giddy speculation in this documentary about a pair of unlikely art thieves. The facts are as such: 32 years after a $160 million painting by abstract artist Willem de Kooning was crudely cut from its frame in an Arizona gallery, a trio of small-town antique dealers discovered it in Jerry and Rita Alter’s estate sale. The Thief Collector is less interested in the painting itself  — in fact, it's openly dismissive about its artistic value — and more curious about how it fell into the hands of the mysterious couple, who frequently took exotic trips around the world despite their modest teacher incomes.

There are certainly intriguing questions raised by the Alters’ possession of the painting and compelling evidence that places them as the thieves, but this documentary can’t offer any convincing original theses of its own. It does try, by suggesting that the short stories Jerry wrote — about more thefts and gorier crimes — were thinly disguised autobiographical recollections, but it finds nothing to back these theories up except for a few loosely relevant anecdotes from relatives. With too many what-ifs to go on, it all makes for an intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying deep dive.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Glenn Howerton, Sarah Minnich, Scott Takeda

Director: Allison Otto