Oscars: 9 Docs That Go Behind the Scenes of Artists Who've Rocked the Culture for Decades

Norman Lear Just Another Version of You - Publicity -H 2016
Courtesy of Sundance

Norman Lear, Robert Mapplethorpe and Sidney Lumet are among the subjects of various awards contenders about creation and creators.


As stylish and as sprightly as its subject, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You serves as a heartfelt homage to the showrunner of such TV classics as All in the Family and The Jeffersons. What Lear did for TV in the '70s, the late Sidney Lumet did for cinema, directing socially incisive films such as Dog Day Afternoon — which he discussed in an interview (taped before his death in 2011) as part of director Nancy Buirski's profile By Sidney Lumet. Brian De Palma sat with filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow for a similar interview in De Palma, an overview of the suspense auteur's career. Equally revered was writer-director Nora Ephron, whose life gets a heartfelt airing in Everything Is Copy, directed by her son, The New York Times reporter Jacob Bernstein, and featuring interviews with such Ephron collaborators as Meryl Streep. In contrast to these Hollywood tales is Cameraperson, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson's personal and poetic look at her work on docs in such places as Iraq and Darfur.


Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, HBO's bad-boy bio-doc on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, is a lot like his artwork — simultaneously tasteful and profane. Tasteful, too, are the portraits of Greta Garbo, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson by photographer Harry Benson, renowned chronicler of The Beatles' 1964 U.S. tour and the subject of Harry Benson: Shoot First.


Tom Hanks and songwriter John Mayer are among those who take a stand for the typewriter in California Typewriters. Author: The J.T. LeRoy Story is about the hard-luck scribe adored by celebs and literati in the early aughts — until his memoirs were revealed to be pure fiction, all created by a woman named Laura Albert.

This story first appeared in a November standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.