Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)? (2010)
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Critic Reviews for Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?
A personal, generous tribute reel designed to keep a musical master's legacy very much alive.
Conventional in style and is likely to mean more to the sadly forgotten musician's fans than to others.
The point of it is not, in the end, to explain him or solve the mystery of his life, but rather to spend time in his company and understand why he is someone to be missed.
There's been so little written about Nilsson or archiving of his work that Who Is Harry Nilsson is a godsend just for bringing together so much rare footage.
Audience Reviews for Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?
So, who is Harry Nilsson? That's a question this informative and breezy documentary seeks to answer, after starting with the tantalizing opening of Dustin Hoffman announcing Nilsson's premature death onstage at a benefit while mentioning the vocals Nilsson provided for the film "Midnight Cowboy." In fact, of all the songs he wrote and sung, Nilsson was best known for "One" which was inspired by of all things a telephone's busy signal and popularized by the band Three Dog Night.(I'm partial to the Aimee Mann version myself.) Otherwise, his friends and loved ones regale with stories of his wild partying while never losing sight of the family he raised. Otherwise, the documentary is too dismissive of his work on behalf of the gun control movement, which Nilsson took up after the tragic slaying of John Lennon.(Nilsson and the Beatles had a mutual appreciation and friendship.) Otherwise, there is much speculation, especially in the sour grapes and amateur psychology departments, about Nilsson not being able to sustain his success. But sometimes there is no easy explanation.
A meticulous, well-made documentary about the late singer-songwriter, though it never quite gets inside his head to explain why he was so self-destructive. It's too bad that more archived conversation footage wasn't available -- the prime resource for Nilsson quotes seems to be a mere phone interview. But actually, the film is overlong in other ways and may fatigue viewers who are not hardcore devotees (personally, I find Nilsson just too cloying to fully enjoy). Interesting revelations for me included learning he was such a happy family man late in life (wow, six kids?) and that he refused to do any full-fledged concerts. For an artist with his Top 40 orientation, that's quite a ferocious stance.
A very interesting look into the life of one of my favorite musicians. Nilsson's life seemed to be unlike anyone other's, including friendships with The Beatles, Robin Williams, and legendary producer Richard Perry. Exploring through Harry's music, accounts from his former friends, and even a voice over narration from Nilsson himself, this proved to be one of the most interesting docs about a musical genius who has passed made.
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