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Music and celebrity are two of the favorite subjects of members of the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so Gaga: Five Foot Two, a compelling Netflix documentary feature about Lady Gaga, one of the most talented and enigmatic music artists of her generation, could wind up in the awards conversation.
It is not so much a “concert doc” as a “collaboration doc,” since Gaga’s management picked Chris Moukarbel to direct and the singer allowed him to follow her around. It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, playing to a packed Princess of Wales Theatre following a live, stripped-down rendition of “Bad Romance” by Gaga herself.
What the film does best is capture many sides of a woman who seems to have many sides — a woman who rose to fame because of her undeniably great voice and in spite of her unconventional looks, and who spent years behaving outrageously (wearing a meat dress, etc.) before reemerging as a class act (dueting with Tony Bennett, etc.) while only growing more popular in the process.
We get to see every-girl Gaga — crying over a breakup, causing a fender-bender, bitching about haters (“If I’ve got a problem with somebody, I tell it to their face”) and even going to Walmart. We get to see funny Gaga — punching back at Madonna (“If I had kept that gap [that she had in her high school yearbook photo] I’d have had even more problems with Madonna”), pondering her future (“I want to become an old rock star lady”). We get to see private Gaga — conducting a meeting while topless in her backyard, crying and “in pain” from a past injury and playing a personal song for her father and grandmother. And we get to see artist-at-work Gaga — rehearsing tirelessly for the Super Bowl LI halftime show, demanding a lot from everyone around her and then — quite literally — rising to the occasion.
The 1991 doc Madonna: Truth or Dare was thought to have come very close to landing a best documentary feature Oscar nom — and it didn’t have Netflix behind it. This year, there are several very good music-related docs out that are worth keeping an eye on. Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal‘s powerful Whitney Houston doc Whitney: Can I Be Me is one of them, and now there’s also Gaga: Five Foot Two.
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