Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 5 Movies That Rock

Yes, I just borrowed a term invented by VH1. A "Movie That Rocks" is a movie that either centers around musicians or music fans or uses music as a lens to examine life. I'm a big fan of this genre, being a musician and music appreciator myself, as well as a cinemaphile. I've seen a lot of "Movies That Rock", and here's my Top 5.

5. Ray - Definitely the best of the music biopic subgenre, Ray is the most honest-seeming biopic of a living celebrity I've ever seen. It is both sympathetic and merciless. Every punch that Ray takes in his life (with the exception of those that are racially-motivated) it seems he deserves. He is portrayed as an unfaithful husband, a drug abuser and a selfish, selfish man. His blindness is not played for sympathy, it is his personal faults that both make us root for him and prevent us from seeing Ray as a vanity piece for an aging music legend. Jamie Foxx's portrayal is incredible - he completely disappears into the role. And the music is, of course, great.
4. This is Spinal Tap - Rob Reiner and what would eventually become the Christopher Guest Gang brings you the single greatest improvised comedy ever. Quotable, innovative and gut-bustingly funny, Spinal Tap reinvented the mockumentary genre. The music is parody, yet quality. Not to mention that, even after the entire viewing public public realized that this was not a real documentary (yes, they did fool some people) people still flocked to record stores looking for "Smell The Glove", and Spinal Tap actually inspired a new generation of over-the-top hair bands. That's a pretty damn big impact.
3. That Thing You Do! - Okay, I know I'm going to take some crap for putting this ahead of Spinal Tap, but That Thing You Do! has a lot of sentimental value to me. I've seen it over twenty times, I've got the damn thing memorized. A playful look at the rise and fall of a band in 1964, TTYD! is a quirky comedy written, directing and co-starring Tom Hanks, with great, era-appropriate songs (the title number written by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne) and a score by the now-legendary Howard Shore. This movie walks the fine line between smart and cute with the grace and agility of Juno or Garden State.
2. Almost Famous - A semi-autobiographical film from writer-director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) about a very young rock journalist touring with a "mid-level band struggling to come to grips with success". A great music film and my favorite coming-of-age tale. Almost Famous is about rock music, but it's also about what it's like to love rock and roll, or at least what it was to be a fan in the late 70s. Witty and emotionally stirring, Almost Famous's status as a cult movie instead of a legendary film is astonishingly unfair.
1. High Fidelity - Shamefully, I left this off my Top 5 Romantic Comedies. John Cusack's portrayal of Rob Gordon, indie-record-store-owner who is clueless over why his relationships always fail. Rob analyzes his life through music. It is the one thing he actually understands, and if you don't then he'll leave you behind. (He's a snob - I can relate.) High Fidelity is very much a romantic comedy, but this movie fits under the "life through the lens of music" category. This is a film for neurotic record collectors. (And most record collectors are neurotic. I should know, I work at an indie record store.) Plus, Jack Black as an obnoxious record geek who's in a band called Sonic Death Monkey.


rrrrrreooow! said...

I am actually surprised that TTYD! (your abbreviation, not mine) is not higher on your list. I would have expected number 1, or at least number 2. I didn't know that you liked Almost Famous that much.

On a different note, all of the rest of these movies rock, except for number 5. I haven't actually seen it, but I don't think it rocks. When I think rock, I think guitar and drums, not piano (not to be offensive to the piano, there is no win here for me). A way to fix this? Put Josie and the Pussycats at number 5! You know you want to...

David L said...

No Walk The Line?
The problem with Ray is that it focuses *too* much on his womanizing and drug use.
Spinal Tap didn't so much inspire a new generation as it did mock the then-current one.