After watching Crazy Heart yesterday I started thinking about some of my favorite music-oriented movies of all time, so here we go.
With Sam Reilly and Samantha Morton
This is a beautiful movie about the epilleptic singer of legendary punk band Joy Division. Shot in stunning high-contrast black and white to match the band’s photographs, it is wonderful to look at. I was unfamiliar with the band beforehand, but developed an admiration for their sound after seeing this film. Reilly is amazing in the movie, looking like a natural in the performance scenes and showing a strong vulnerability off-stage.
Metallica’s 2003 album, “St. Anger,” was a trainwreck of epic proportions, but at least one good thing came out of the whole process: this fantastic documentary. The film chronicles the recording of the record and everything that came along with it. Some of these obstacles included replacing their bassist, rehab for alcoholism, and general dissention and resentment amongst the biggest heavy metal band of all time. I gained a lot of respect for Metallica for being open to disclose so much for the purpose of this documentary.
With Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jimmy Fallon, Zooey Deschanel and Anna Paquin.
This is a fantastic film about a fifteen-year-old rock journalist that gets a job with Rolling Stone magazine to tour with and write about a fictional upstart rock band called Stillwater. It is a movie that perfectly exemplifies the bond between fans and the musicians they listen to, and the love for the music that is shared by both parties. I love this movie and could go on about it for days but I’m going to save my breath for now. You might see a larger article about it on this site in the near future.
With Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon
I’m not a huge fan of country music, but I really enjoy the music of Johnny Cash. After his death in 2003, it was only a matter of time before a movie was made about his life. It could have been a disaster, but they pulled it off very nicely and picked the perfect person to play the “man in black.” Joaquin Phoenix learned to play guitar and sing for this role and sounds great in all of the concert scenes. The thing that really sets this movie apart from a lot of other music biopics is the love story between Cash and June Carter (played by Witherspoon in an Oscar winning role).
With Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer
This is Spinal Tap is a cult-classic mockumentary about a heavy metal band that is completely oblivious to the ridiculousness of their music and persona. Everyone who has seen it has the songs memorized and can quote the many classic lines in the movie (“These amps go to eleven”). Whenever I watch any video from the hair metal era or see those types of bands on some kind of VH1 countdown, I laugh at how accurately the movie portrayed and parodied this short-lived subgenre of music. I’m sure they have all had their “Spinal Tap moments” and can only look back and laugh at the sheer excess that took place in the world of 1980’s heavy metal.
Speaking of Spinal Tap moments, there are plenty of them in Anvil! The Story of Anvil. This is a documentary about a couple of friends who formed a band called Anvil in the early seventies. They made a pact to keep rocking until they ruled the world, and are still working with that goal in mind. They came out about a year before the heavyweights like Metallica and Slayer, but for some reason they never achieved the same type of success as those bands. Now well into their fifties, Anvil is still plugging away. It is a heartwarming (and at times heartbreaking) portrayal of friendship and never giving up on your dreams.
With John C. Reilly, Kristen Wiig and Jenna Fischer
Walk Hard is a brilliant and hilarious parody of music biopics like Walk the Line, Ray and The Doors. John C. Reilly’s performance as Dewey Cox is pure comic genius, and the movie is filled with funny cameos from various actors and musicians. The songs in the movie (as stupid as they are) are even good. As a fan of music biopics, I could have taken offense to some of the jokes but instead I just sat back and admired the greatness of the movie. It was a box-office bomb, but John C. Reilly received a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination for his performance and I think this movie will gain a huge cult following through the years. Indeed, it really is a beautiful ride.