T.G.I.F. – Ten Music Flicks

After writing about The Boat That Rocked the other day, I thought about other music-related movies that I really enjoyed and found that I had several favorites that I could watch over and over again and enjoy almost as much as the first time. These aren’t concert films – those are obvious repeat performers – but movies about pop music. I’m also focusing on the more modern era (forgive me, Sal Mineo). Plus the movie has to be good (sorry, Tommy) . A few are obvious commercial favorites (is there anyone who doesn’t quote Spinal Tap?) but a couple of these must be off the path; I find most people have never heard of them, let alone seen them.

But hey, that’s a large part of why I do this, to share information about what knocks me out and hopefully expose people to a great band, film or book they might have missed. I highly recommend every single one of these, and hopefully there’s at least one you haven’t seen that you will take a chance on. Enjoy some great movies with great music, whether it’s a library rental, a used copy on Amazon or circling the listing in TV Guide when you see it. Without further ado (you’ve had just the right amount of ado so far, right?) and with apologies to The Committments and The Rutles, here they are in alphabetical order…

Almost Famous : Cameron Crowe drew upon his own story to craft this brilliant peek behind rock’s curtain, from the groupies (sorry…Band-Aids) to the roadies and the madness that is rock’n’roll. Great music and wonderful performances from the leads and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s great turn as Lester Bangs.

A Hard Day’s Night : The Beatles. Need I say more? “I’m a Mocker”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch : Absolutely the best rock opera ever. John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant performance and Stephen Trask’s music are a perfect match, and both the musical and the movie soundtracks could stand on their own as great music. But the film is phenomenal.

The Idolmaker : Ray Sharkey should have won the Academy Award for his performance as a teen idol Svengali. Great performances from Paul Land, Joe Pantoliano and Peter Gallagher.

A Mighty Wind : The Spinal Tap of folk music and another perfect movie from Christopher Guest. Tremendous performances from everyone, but Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as “Mitch and Mickey” were brilliant. How did this song not win the Academy Award?

Rock and Roll High School : The Ramones. Need I say more? “Things sure have changed since I got kicked out of high school”.

Spinal Tap : Absolutely hilarious, with pitch perfect performances from the three leads and an amazing array of bit parts and cameo roles, like Paul Shaffer as Artie Fufkin and Bruno Kirby as the Sinatra-loving limo driver (the extended deleted scenes are priceless). Here’s a song so good I like it even though it’s parody.

Still Crazy : I think the common thread in all these movies is perfect casting. Bill Nighy is wonderful as the fragile lead singer and you can’t go wrong with comic geniuses Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall. But the story is as heartwarming as it is funny and the music is phenomenal.

That Thing You Do : Tom Hanks nailed the screenplay about a one-hit-wonder band and even wrote many of the songs that the other acts in the “galaxy of stars” performed. The main songs benefitted from pop wizards like Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Mike Viola, but the perfect casting was only exceeded by the movie’s heart. One of my favorite films of all time in any genre.

Velvet Goldmine : Glam fans will lap this up – an Eddie and The Cruisers type plot in the world of glitter and decadence, with Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as thinly disguised Iggy Pop and David Bowie plus great performances from Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard.

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6 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music, Reviews

6 responses to “T.G.I.F. – Ten Music Flicks

  1. Bill Mc

    the IdolMaker is without a doubt just a killer film..i have owned the vhs/dvd/ album soundtrack..and you’re right ( as usual) it’s a film that for what-ever reason got lost in the mix, somewhere along the way..a true crime!! and it’s sad to know that the actor who played Tommy Dee ( sorry his name does escape me ) has passed on!..i need to see some of the others you mentioned..and i also really LOVE Almost Famous..peace Mr. B Holmes!

  2. drbristol

    That was Paul Land (I just corrected my typo of “Paul Sand”) but I don’t think he’s dead. His career is, but Land is supposedly running a construction company.

    Ray Sharkey, who played the lead role Vincent, died of AIDS in 1993. (You might also remember him as “Sonny Steelgrave” in Wiseguy – another great performance!). And I did not remember that he did win the Golden Globe as Best Actor for The Idolmaker. Hey, I’m getting old.

  3. Wow, we seem to have the same taste in music flicks. (Though you left off The Kids Are Alright. Then again, it’s not a fictional narrative.)

    Velvet Goldmine has an awful lot of haters, but I agree with you. I think it’s a great film that reveals more of itself with every viewing.

    Hedwig & the Angry Inch is my all-time favorite movie in any genre.

  4. drbristol

    I had a few that I left off – that was one. Also didn’t go to the bio pics like American Hot Wax (great performance by Tim McIntyre as Freed) and The Buddy Holly Story (perfect casting from Busey down to Paul Mooney as Sam Cooke). Good idea for another list, another day.

    I write these pieces off the top of my head (not literally – a cranial arm would make swimming difficult) so I’m sure I missed something. But if so, none of my ten were filler.

  5. Bill Mc

    whoops “my bad”..i had read somewhere that Paul Land had passed some movie data base..i did know about Ray Sharkey…sad..he was incredible in the role!! so mr. Holmes no shout out to Elvis..like King Creole or Jailhouse Rock…2 of mr. Baldwin’s favs…have a great Father’s day my friend! bill3

  6. Major Dude

    Great list. Thought I was the only one who dug “That Thing You Do!”

    A couple I would add…

    “Grace Of My Heart” Gotta love a story about a songwriter who starts out working in the Brill Building, touches the careers of thinly veiled characters of real life musicians and producers, then ends up singing Bacharach.

    “Empire Records” I spent a good chunk of the 80’s working in an independent record store and this movie captures that job perfectly. Fun soundtrack and besides, Rex Manning rocks.

    “American Graffiti” Cliche’ I know but the music, and of course the Wolfman, holds this one night adventure together. This movie also gave us the greatest grocery list of all time: a Three Musketeers, and a ball point pen, and one of those combs there, a pint of Old Harper, a couple of flash light batteries and some beef jerky.
    One of the top 5 movies all time for me.

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