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Top Picks: A documentary about a sushi restaurant, Johnny Carson, and more

Kids try out narrating nature documentaries, Karmin irresistably covers R&B and hip-hop hits, and more top picks.

May 3, 2012

"Summer Pasture" on Independent Lens.


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Hip-hop or hip-pop?

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If you avoid contemporary R&B and hip-hop music like the plague, we have a proposition: Check out Karmin on YouTube and get back to us. The fabulous-looking, immensely skilled duo of Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan – recent grads of Boston's acclaimed Berklee College of Music – have been burning up the YouTube bandwidth with irresistible covers of R&B hits by Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj for the past year or so. Now the soon-to-be-married sweethearts greet May with an infectious new album of seven original songs called "Hello."

Kids say the darndest things

Sonorous voice-overs by a serious adult narrator, such as David Attenborough, have become de rigueur for nature documentaries, so it's even more hilarious when 4-to-7-year-olds take turns as readers for BBC America's "Planet Earth" series. Great moments include a male narrator who exclaims "Awesome!" when a bear starts to eat a fish and a younger participant who wrestles long and hard to put her headphones on. Check it out at

Dreaming of sushi

The "world's greatest sushi chef" is 85 years old. His 10-seat restaurant in the basement of a Tokyo office building has a three-month wait for reservations. The beautiful documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows Jiro Ono and his small team of sushi perfectionists from preparation (his apprentices massage octopus meat for 40 minutes before serving) to presentation (he stands over patrons as they eat). Ono's passion for sushi inspires a curious mix of admiration, pity, and, of course, hunger. Don't see this movie on an empty stomach.

Wagner at the movies

If you like your opera traditional but yearn for movie theater treats, then you'll welcome Robert Lepage's new production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen as well as "Wagner's Dream," a new documentary chronicling this ambitious new staging. Staged at The Metropolitan Opera, the series will begin May 7 with the documentary and continue on May 9 with "Das Rheingold," the first opera in the cycle. For more information, go to

Here's Johnny

PBS's "American Masters" takes a look at comedic icon Johnny Carson – Johnny Carson: King of Late Night – on the 50th anniversary of his taking over "The Tonight Show" and the 20th anniversary of Carson's retirement. It includes 45 original interviews with those involved with the show and stars Carson, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Mel Brooks, and others. Premières May 14.

Old world meets the new

Summer Pasture, a lyrical but poignant documentary about a young Tibetan family's encounter with modern life and harsh choices, airs on PBS's "Independent Lens" May 10. The film, a collaboration between American and Tibetan filmmakers, follows a young nomadic family of yak herders who must decide on the best future for their infant daughter in the face of a changing world.


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