With so many enticing streaming options at our disposal, we asked critics and producers which are some of their favorites. Three documentaries produced by Ellis Goodman were at the top of his own list and they are all currently available on (Amazon) Prime Video. They are: "Louder Than a Bomb," "Mulberry Child" and "Art Paul of Playboy: The Man Behind the Bunny." Goodman, the former chairman of the board of the Chicago International Film Festival, was always interested in the creative side of the entertainment field, but came to it after a full business background in public accounting, the beverage alcohol industry and commercial real estate. He rose in the 1970s to become an investor/manager in the music industry (with the GTO Records label), film production (with J. Lee Thompson's 1978 drama, "The Greek Tycoon," starring Anthony Quinn) and distribution (for Peter Weir's 1975 masterpiece, "Picnic at Hanging Rock," a film Roger inducted into his Great Movies series).
Goodman was also a producer of the Broadway show, “End of the Rainbow,” Peter Quilter's musical dramatization of Judy Garland's final months, which served as the source material for Rupert Goold's "Judy," the biopic that earned its star Reneé Zellweger a Best Actress Oscar this past February. Goodman served as an executive producer on the film, and is currently one of the producers of the new stage production of "An American in Paris."
His numerous published works include two novels (Bear Any Burden and The Keller Papers) and a comprehensive work of journalism, in addition to a blog and various magazine articles, and a compilation of short stories (Bookends) that he is currently completing. Goodman was invested as Commander of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1996, and has served on the Board of American National Bank, The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, The Chicago Sister Cities International Program, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Chicago International Film Festival and Chicago Botanic Garden.
Here are his recommendations...
Now viewers can stream three of the essential films that Goodman helped make a reality, beginning with Jon Siskel's and Greg Jacobs' 2010 prize-winner "Louder Than a Bomb," which explores the lives of four Chicago-area high school poetry teams as they go about competing in the world's biggest youth poetry slam (you can stream it here). Roger awarded the film three-and-a-half stars, writing, "Siskel and Jacobs focus on the performances, which are inspiring and electrifying. Their film left me wondering why American television must be so gutless and shallow. If these kids and others like them were programmed against "America Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars," the shabbiness of those shows would be placed in dramatic contrast. Here are real performers with real feelings and important things to say."
We invited Jon Siskel to Ebertfest with his film and its crew and their exuberance on stage spilled over into the audience. Here's my intro to the screening...
...followed by a post-screening Q&A (with Roger onstage)...
...and some unforgettable performances.
Goodman was an associate producer and executive producer on the film, and had those same roles the following year on Susan Morgan Cooper's 2011 acclaimed documentary "Mulberry Child" (you can stream it here). It chronicles the story of Jian Ping, who grew up in Socialist China and learns to assimilate to a capitalist world when she migrates to the United States, while feeling disconnected to her American-born daughter. In his three-and-a-half star review, Roger hailed the film as "powerful and touching" that tells a universal story about "immigrant parents and children, and how American culture can swamp family traditions, and make parents and children culturally unrecognizable to one another."
ART PAUL OF PLAYBOY: THE MAN BEHIND THE BUNNY
Most recently, Goodman was an executive producer of Jian Ping's own directorial effort, "Art Paul of Playboy: The Man Behind the Bunny," which premiered earlier this year. The film is an exuberant profile of Paul, the founding art director of Playboy who created the publication's iconic bunny logo and served as its visual guru for three decades. According to Frank Scheck's review in The Hollywood Reporter, the film features "snappy narration by Chicago journalist Rick Kogan" while ensuring that Paul and his wife Suzanne Seed remain a dominant presence throughout the film. Paul's "warm personality and sense of humor are on ample display in this engaging documentary that makes a strong case for his influence and importance," writes Scheck. You can stream the film here.