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Best Music Documentary Produced by Coloradans Denver 2010 - Wesley Willis's Joy Rides

Chris Bagley and Kim Shively befriended Wesley Willis when he briefly made Denver his home in the early part of the last decade. Fortunately, they had the foresight to shoot footage of the legendary artist and songwriter as he charmed everyone he met. Culled from five years of meticulously edited footage, including interviews with Willis's family and friends in Chicago and elsewhere, Wesley Willis's Joy Rides tells the story of an extraordinary creative mind that would not be hampered by any ailment. Replete with animations of Willis's artwork, this documentary brilliantly portrays an unlikely rock-and-roll hero in loving detail.

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Tony Shawcross
Tony Shawcross

Of course "Best Music Documentary Produced by Coloradans" doesn't have a lot of competition this year, but for what its worth, I want to add that this is one of my favorite docs of all time (and I watch more docs than any healthy being should).The production quality is very high, and more importantly, it gives you a loving look into the complex-mind of a man so many of us knew only superficially. In the few shows I saw while he was alive, I dismissed many of his ramblings and rants and chalked him up as a big package of innocent-but-insane entertainment with a trademark head-butt cherry on top. This film digs so much deeper and does not allow the viewers to see Wesley as a freak-show or single-serving performer existing only to entertain you or laugh at. It provides insight into the mental turmoil that was expressed clearly though a a vocabulary Wesley invented to express his bright "joyrides" and darker "hellrides" and "demons". Like poetry that only reveals deeper meaning once you get to know the author and their history, this film makes it clear that this man was not a mumbling moron, but a talented artist with a complex mind. Like my other favorite denver-based music doc, Friends Forever, the film takes an artist who may first appear as a jester, but reveals the guru inside with a deeper look at the wisdom their life and their story has to offer.You can buy the DVD from their website: wesleywillissjoyrides.com (its more expensive on Amazon, with less money going to the filmmakers)

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