Tonight’s very watchable documentary is THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES, a film from the always amusing and oft controversial personality, Russell Brand about the growing disparity between economic classes. Created in collaboration withdirector Michael Winterbottom, the film contains archival footage from the 21st-century recession paired with "comedic send-ups" from Brand, conducted in the financial districts of London and New York. Winterbottom stated that the film explores why "nothing has changed" since the economic crisis in 2008, saying: "It's about inequality and why the one per cent (of the world's wealthy) seem to have so much and the rest of us not quite so much, everyone knows about equality and what's going on in the world, so the idea is to point out the ludicrous extremes of our society."
Reactions to the doco have been mixed, and as a fan I may be biased. With this in mind I instead present to you my favourite on-screen appearances by Brand of late, in no particular order…
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Tonight’s outing, a hilarious, passionate, and empowering look at income inequality, this is Russell Brand in Michael Moore mode, though it has been said that it’s highly unlikely even Moore would draw so much attention to himself. A fine mix of politicised outrage and comedy, Brand examines how bank bailouts a plenty have left the 99 per cent high and dry -taking his message straight to the top as he fearlessly confronts the corporations and political leaders responsible with solid injections of humour along the way.
Brand: A Second Coming
This mockumentray-slash-documentary follows comedian/author/activist/TM practitioner Brand as he dives headlong into drugs, sex and fame in an attempt to find happiness, only to realize that our culture feeds us bad ideas and empty idols. Through the stand up comedy work that has bought him to these shores a few times, Brand explores his own true icons – think Gandhi, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Jesus Christ – and transforms from addict and paparazzi fodder into an unexpected political disruptor and Thinking Woman’s Crumpet.
Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery
Cannabis, booze, acid, speed, coke, crack, heroin... dear Russell took drugs every single day for a large part of his life. At one point he was told that if he continued like that, in six month’s time, he would be dead, in prison, or in an asylum. After numerous stops and starts he finally got clean at the age of 27, the age singer Amy Winehouse was when she died. Amy's death was an unsurprising shock, and the comedian and ex-addict always felt like he could have done something to help. So he made this film, to have a sympathetic look at alcoholism and addiction, a condition that the World Health Organisation regards as a disorder. He purports that drugs and alcoholism are much misunderstood by users, non-users, and the government and that we need to start regarding addiction in all its forms as a health issue as opposed to a judicial and criminal issue.
A Royal Hangover
In this film Brand appears as one of many commentators talking about how Britain has become famous for its ambivalent drinking culture, with no signs of slowing down. Documenting anecdotes from all facets of the British booze battle, from politicians to police; medical specialists to charities; the church through to history and science; addicts and celebrities; with high profile personalities such as Brand and controversial figures such as sacked Government Drugs Advisor Professor David Nutt, the doco underscores the why behind the UK’s increasing thirst for booze.
Katy Perry: Part of Me
Originally concepted as a concert film, pop star Katy Perry’s surprisingly compelling autobiographical documentary covers on stage and back stage moment, including the imminent demise of her marriage to Brand. Without dwelling too much on it, Perry and Brand’s romance is a constant background presence in the film, a ticking time bomb waiting in the wings. It’s interesting to note that although this is Perry’s story, the film is careful to never paint Brand as the bad-guy. Seriously, surprisingly good!