Fred Armisen Shares His Favorite Documentaries to Stream Online


When famous people aren’t giving Nonfics their documentary recommendations directly, they’re using them to guest-curate collections over at SundanceNow Doc Club. And we’re happy to share their lists over here, as we did previously with Susan Sarandon’s.

This month, the documentary subscription service has a trio of comedians taking part. Saturday Night Live veterans Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader have a new series on IFC called Documentary Now! (premiering August 20th), which parodies classic documentaries such as Nanook of the North (see Armisen’s “Kunuk the Hunter” above) and The Thin Blue Line, and if that wasn’t enough of a tribute to nonfiction cinema, they’re also naming and commenting on their picks for must-see titles, all of which can be streamed online via Doc Club.

I’ve decided to let each of them have their own post here at Nonfics to keep their picks all straight. This is Armisen’s (also see Hader’s and Meyers’s). The Portlandia star is known for being a huge music guy and appears in real music documentaries The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead, Revenge of the Mekons and I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco and can be heard in Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980–90), so it’s certainly not surprising that half of his picks are also about music artists.

Here is his statement for Doc Club on the importance of documentaries:

“Documentaries have been in existence since the very start of filmmaking. It’s important for every human to have seen them all. Not just a few, all of them. And also back to back. One right after the other. In one sitting.”

Now here are his three picks with comments, a link to the films’ Doc Club pages (where you can see their full synopses, if still available), and their original trailers (or clip):

Eames: The Architect and the Painter (Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey, 2011)

“I knew so little about this couple before seeing this! I love anything that has to do with people who dedicate their lives to making great things (great art).”

Joe Strummer, The Future is Unwritten (Julien Temple, 2007)

“This film has Joe Strummer talking and singing in it. Anything that has Joe Strummer in it is automatically the best movie ever.”

The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield, 2012)

“I don’t know how this director knew to shoot all of this before any actual drama went down. I can only assume there was some luck involved. A fascinating study on dreams, reality, and optimism. “

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? (John Scheinfeld, 2010)

“Harry Nilsson didn’t do many (or I think any) live performances, so this is a good way to see some of his incredible-ness. There’s an appearance he makes on a late-night Playboy show in the late ’60s, and he sings ‘Good Old Desk.’ A beautiful version, in black and white video.”

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.