22nd Annual Reel Music Festival
dir. Various
Fri Jan 7 - Sun Feb 13
Guild Theater
Whitsell Auditorium

With documentary films and popular music as disparately prevailing obsessions in my life, I'm easily engaged in any marriage of the two. But when faced with daunting marathons like Portland's annual Reel Music Festival, one must challenge one's self to become slightly more discerning. Following are a smattering of the films piquing the Mercury's interest in the coming weeks.

Miles Electric: A Different Kind Of Blue (Friday, Saturday)

Yes, Miles Electric is yet another Miles Davis movie, but before you get all hot and bothered, note that this one centers itself around the Miles in the Bitches' Brew/Isle of Wight era--in which Davis essentially created jazz fusion--for better or (probably) worse.

Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues (Sunday)

Morgan Neville, director of the brilliant Muddy Waters: Can't Be Satisfied, takes on another implausibly worthy musical figure in Honky Tonk Blues, an exploration of the brief and tortured life of Hank Williams.

Fallen Angel:Gram Parsons (Tuesday)

Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons examines the intangible brilliance of the recently re-lionized Byrd/Flying Burrito Bro Gram Parsons. Parsons constantly dodged fame throughout his all-too-brief life, preferring heavy substance consumption and rolling with the Stones to stardom.

Jandek On Corwood (Jan 13, 14)

A masterful documentary about the sub-legendary outsider musician Jandek. A brilliantly meditative work, Jandek On Corwood compellingly paints several suggestive portraits of an artist who, in spite of releasing 38 records since 1978, remains shrouded in self-propagated anonymity.

Betty Blowtorch (And Her Amazing True Life Adventures) (Jan 14, 15)

Following the tumultuous trajectory of L.A.'s Betty Blowtorch for two years--nearly the entire duration of their career--filmmaker Anthony Scarpa captures the highs and fatal lows of the band's unfortunately brief existence.

Rock Around the Clock/ Don't Knock the Rock (Jan 22)

A restored version of Fred Sears' 1956 classic, featuring Bill Haley as the first rock star lead in a film--followed by its sequel, featuring Little Richard.

Bruce Haack: The King of Techno (Jan 23)

An anomaly in the history of electronic music, Bruce Haack is best remembered these days either for his 1970 electropsyche concept record Electric Lucifer, or as the weird electronic musician who somehow made it onto Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The hour-long doc The King of Techno tells his vivid story.