Tag Archives: movies

Movies About Musicians

Having just seen (actually for the second time) the made for VH1 movie “Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story” and recently also having watched “Ray” and “The Five Heartbeats” got me thinking about all the movies I’d seen about real or fictitious musicians or singers.

Musical biopics, I suppose they’re called in the trade; biographical pictures that because of their subject matter must include a great deal of music.

So I thought I’d put together a list, and over the next few months I’ll be updating to add comments and ratings to these flicks as a guide to the newly needing to be inspired musicians on my reading list. Because I’ve seen most of these movies, over the years, and found them either inspirational, insipid or in some cases, wildly inaccurate about the way being a musician actually works. No matter, the accuracy, however, it seems that the movie-going public has ALWAYS been fascinated by biographies of musicians, whether they would have them in their homes or not.

So here’s the list:

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Some kinds of closure only come
in story books and movies;
real life rarely turns out quite
so neat and clean:
with one door neatly sliding open
as another firmly shuts;
such coincidence is rare
and far between.

To compress the waiting lifetime
in a moment on the screen,
or a couple hurried pages
seems obscene;
or at least, over optimistic
that the lessons to be learnt
are so obvious
as to be what they seem.

That a random chance encounter
on the escalator down
could result in an epiphany,
is rich;
just more pablum for the masses
who believe in self-help classes
and still fail to understand
that life’s a bitch.

Or that centuries of training
can be quickly overcome,
unspoken prejudice and hatred
swept aside;
just as likely as a fear
of heights or sense of isolation
can be vanquished
by a kiss, or airplane ride.

Some kinds of closure never come
at all, except in bits
and pieces you pick up
each new day:
once you learn your profound losses
are the only thing you own,
and you wouldn’t have it
any other way.

19 SEP 2006

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The Libertine

You cannot win. It seems no matter
which way you progress
(to seek self-sacrifice for good,
or your own happiness),
the world will work against you
to undo what you have done.

It will erode your monuments
and interrupt your fun
with either condemnation
for the talents that you waste,
or horror at the way your talent’s used
beyond good taste.

To wit: should you choose sin
and find yourself in deep debauch,
you’ll be proclaimed a wretched soul
by those who only watch;
and virtue? that’s no better lot.

For should you speak your mind,
those holding power by wrong means
will take offense and find
some cause to treat you with contempt;
and with the line you’ve crossed
will spare no opportunity
to prove themselves your boss.

Perhaps the wisest course to pick
would be: stay underground,
refuse to share your wealth,
let your great talent stay unfound.

The world will think you “normal”,
worthy of no great alarm;
and if you’re lucky, your whole life
will do you little harm.

But then, your only enemy
will be the self you hide:
the talent that you must express,
that will not be denied.

So walk your path. It matters not
who praises which you take.

They’ll use tar to annoint you
for both feathers and the stake;
both ridicule and persecute,
should you step out of line
and either let your talent rot,
or cut an edge too fine
that it offends the sense of those
who claim to be your peers
yet think your life, in either case,
the sum of wasted years.

19 AUG 2006

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The Butterfly Effect

Among the movies recommended by my daughter for weekend and early week viewing: Napoleon Dynamite and The Butterfly Effect.

About ND, I will say this: my daughter thought it was highly amusing. But then again, the beautiful and popular people in high school always think the lives of nerds, geeks, dorks and other assorted social outcasts are funny. In other words, crappy stuff is only funny if it isn’t happening to you. Other than that, the movie was a piss-poor imitation of other movies in which characters with no redeeming virtues complete absolutely no business, learn nothing about themselves and neither arrive at, nor help the audience to arrive at, any kind of epiphany or insight into anyone’s life.

About the Butterfly Effect: I appreciate the premise. But I could not watch the entire movie. It was too graphically violent. And perhaps events in recent weeks in my own life have overly sensitized me to the issues of institutionalization, psychology, severe depression and other various and sundry mental illnesses, but it was a troubling film in that it drew you in, so much so that you cared about the characters and were affected by the circumstances of what seemed a very horrible childhood. And once I was in that frame of mind, I felt blugeoned by the violence. Kids burning dogs. Parents molesting children. Kids beating the crap out of other kids. My brother, who served in Desert Storm, has indicated that since being in combat he has a difficult time watching war movies. Well, I have a difficult time watching mindless violence. Gratuitous violence. Even legitimized violence, such as the premise for the movie Troy (which was also on our rental list) recently makes me nauseous.

Perhaps its just TV. I can’t watch it anymore. It either takes itself too seriously, or not seriously enough. There is no balance. It is a tool for the delivery of advertisements. And frankly, that tool is becoming of less and less use on my personal mechanism. I’m becoming self-winding, so to speak.

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Shakespeare in Love

The flame the muse ignites inside the artist,
who would in service wish themselves consumed,
their dreams the fuel that feeds this beauty’s fire –
how bright are even sparks from this great pyre!

Against such light what chance has meager daybreak,
that would impress by merely ending night
yet fades with such indifference into evening?
‘Tis but an ember to devotion’s glow.

Its mad destructive urge will turn to kindling
all thoughts that wander from its candle point,
transforming those who seek it into marytrs
soothed only by the balm of its scorched hands.

The ardor of this radiant connection,
one soaked with inspiration’s kerosene,
the other wisps of smoke that feed on love,
cannot be comprehended from without.

Against such heat what show make giant bonfires,
their Beltane furnace lit for merely hours,
when lifetimes come and go in the brief instants
that muse and artist meet and share their souls?

12 FEB 2005

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Bonzo’s Bedtime

I don’t want to say anything about Ronald Reagan. I have kept my mouth shut for two days now on the subject. But amidst the feeding frenzy on both the left and right that still is going on (the left to destroy the mythos by rediscovering history, and the right to destroy history by rediscovering the mythos), I feel it necessary to interject a little something.

First: Ronald Reagan was a man I appreciated as an actor only slightly more cardboard than Rock Hudson, whose prediliction for sentimentalism turned my stomach. As an actor, he lacked the physical charm of Burt Lancaster, the inner struggle of Gary Cooper, the sense of irony of Gregory Peck, the intelligence of Cary Grant, and the heroic flaws of John Wayne. And yet, he tried to emulate each one of their personas at one time or another.

Second: The Reagan I knew as a politician was an old man. Older than my father. And as a result, a man of a different time. The great tragedy of the Reagan years, in my opinion, is that we as a nation in the 1980s felt it necessary to rely upon someone who was so obviously out-of-step and out-of-touch with the realities of life in the 1980s. For some sad, crazy reason, our national nostalgia wanted to forget the seventies (and by extension, the sixties) and return to Ozzie and Harriet land. Well, this was the man to get us there, McCarthy witchhunts and all. We (well, actually my parents generation) asked for it, and he delivered. The fact that what we asked for wasn’t really what we as a country needed was not necessarily Reagan’s fault — he was simply reading the script that the majority of the audience he could see beyond the footlights wanted him to read. That’s unfortunately how democracy works … as George Carlin once pointed out, the sad fact is that our elected leaders and representatives really are the best that we can do. They embody what is both best and worst in each of us. And in the “greed is good” generation of the 1980s, that worst turned out to be pretty bad, while the good seemed sentimental and trite. That describes the 80s, doesn’t it?

Third: Anyone who says that Ronald Reagan, regardless of what he may have done as “leader” of our democracy, deserved a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s, is an asshole. Fuck you for even thinking that. And my deepest condolences go out to Nancy and the kids, both for having to live through the twilight hell and having to live through the circus now, and for the great hole in their lives once filled by a large, charismatic, sometimes humorous and often opinionated individual who is now gone, regardless of how you think he played his roles.

Fourth: On a personal note, the affect Reagan had on my life in the 1980s is observable by two simple facts. That during his Presidency, I was required to register with Selective Service. It was my impression at the time that he was responsible for that; and that I would likely be required to participate militarily at some near term juncture in the jungles of south and/or central America fighting to maintain some fascist-friendly ally of the American industrialists to whom the Republican party owed allegiance. And second, my first opportunity to participate in the government of this county, through the process of voting once I turned 18, was an opportunity to cast a vote against Reagan. I did so.

Fifth: Ronald Reagan was just a man. Nothing more, nothing less. Not a great villain, not a saint. If you’re sitting around either reading endless blog stories about him, or writing them, you survived both his time in power (which was, actually, pretty brief and more than a decade ago) and are likely to survive his legacy. Not so for Bonzo the Chimp, who died first.

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Charlie Bucket vs. Veruca Salt

Did you ever notice something very strange about Disney’s (OK, so maybe it’s not Disney’s, but it’s the classic one starring Gene Wilder as Wonka) version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? You know, of course, that the whole idea for getting kids to watch the movie is so that they think “I should be more like Charlie Bucket, huh…” and the world somehow becomes a better place (with equal rights for little people, too). However, it seems like most of the kids my daughter’s age (15) picked Veruca Salt as their role model rather than Charlie Bucket. Granted, it could be worse … I don’t think I could afford to feed Augustus Gloop, all of Violet’s gum-chewing would drive me crazy, and the cable bill for Mike Teevee … astronomical. But I was thinking … why Veruca? Why all of the I WANT IT NOW, and I’m so deprived and I deserve everything and you’re no good if you don’t get it for me and I shall whine and whinge and cry and cajole and beg and in general make your life a living hell if I don’t get my way?

Walt Disney has done this to us, folks. Veruca is the only child in the ENTIRE movie that gets a song-and-dance number to herself. She’s the only one who’s physically fit, not covered with dirt, and dressed to reflect any kind of fashion trend. Charlie has to sing covered with dirt, with either his mother or his grandfather. Both Violet and Augustus would have to sing with their mouths full. And Mike? He’s too wrapped up in a world that no longer exists (who plays cowboys and colored people nowadays). So Veruca it is.

Disney has made all of us parents think we should be Willie Wonka, and has given us a grain of Salt to take with that dream-tonic.

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