Friday, April 15, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Music


What else crawls into your brain so inexplicably and energizes you, inspires you, lifts you to your feet and moves you with dizzying emotions of every sort? Only love, right? Music and love. No wonder the two are so intrinsically tied. Like the dog and the cat they are the best friends of humanity. They are key to our celebration of humanity.

Here are five must-experience celebrations!

a.k.a.: The Boat That Rocked

46. Pirate Radio (2009, UK, Germany, France)
Tom Sturridge, Bill Nighy. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Frost, Katherine Parkinson, Talulah Riley, Rhys Ifans, Rhys Darby, Chris O’Dowd, William Adamsdale, Tom Brooke

I’m sure this is one of the most underrated flicks ever. Its original version disappointed at UK theatres and the edited version performed so-so in America, yet everyone I recommend it to comes back and says, “I loved it!” Conclusion: Yanks and Brits are dead inside! (just kid’n!) Luckily you can catch the chopped scenes on the DVD extras.

I’ve viewed it a half-dozen times and will keep on doing so a couple times a year and I could do this for the soundtrack alone! It’s a jumping thumping mix of sixties pop classics artfully synced with catchy amusing montages and lively scenes around a gaggle of diversely warped and broken radio D.J. characters aboard a historically-genuine pirate radio ship who are idiosyncratically charming and funny as hell.

Stellar cast includes Nick Frost, the late (ever-brilliant) Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy at his best, the vastly underrated weirdo Rhys Darby and an adorable Tom Sturridge as the expelled Potterish nephew who provides the frame of reference for the narrative.

The story is goofy, simple, satirical and at times, touching. It’s messages are few but sincere. It’s a straight-up rollicking celebration of rock and roll’s rebellious adolescence.

Quentin: So... expelled?
'Young' Carl: That's right.
Quentin: What for?
'Young' Carl: I suppose smoking was the clincher.
Quentin: Drugs or cigarettes?
'Young' Carl: Well, both.
Quentin: Well done! Proud of you. So your mum sent you here in the hope that a little bracing sea air would sort you out?
'Young' Carl: Something like that.
Quentin: Spectacular mistake.

Writer/Director: Richard Curtis (Love Actually)
Budget: $50,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.4

47. Footloose (1984, USA)
Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne West, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker

Now what could be better than eighties dancing and cowboy boots! Okay, maybe a lot of things. But this flick wins the award for Best Surprise of a Movie Following its Unintentionally Funny Trailer!

Seriously. Don’t watch the trailer. It really doesn’t do justice to this feel-good classic film.

The lesson here is in the value of music and dance as a necessary celebration of life and though the flick invites accusations of laughable eighties cheese, look a little closer. The soundtrack still holds up today, highlighted by still-popular hits Footloose and Let’s Hear it for the Boy. The story is cute and uplifting and the acting is heartfelt and generally quite good!

Writer: Dean Pitchford (Sing)
Director: Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias)
Budget: $8,200,000
IMDB rating: 6.5

48. The Blues Brothers (1980, USA)
John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway

This film is ridiculous. It’s silly. It’s a Saturday Night Live skit blown completely out of proportion.


It’s the most engaging extended music video ever, and a riotous irresistible and unparalleled celebration of soul and Motown.

I go with the latter.

Every time.

Writers: John Landis, Dan Akroyd (Ghostbusters)
Director: John Landis (An American Werewolf in London)
Budget: $27,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.9

49. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010, Canada)
Documentary with Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson

Confession: I’m a huge Rush fan. And any music fan is going to put a documentary about their fave band on their personal fave-movie list. But that’s not why I’ve included it here. In a yawning landscape of music documentaries, this one is wholly unique.

It’s a high-quality film, very cerebral,  with much participation from the band and deep archival access. And it tells an incredibly unique story; not one of drugs and internal conflict and a rise and fall, but a story of three youth who remained friends for their entire adult lives and accomplished something unparalleled. Three young men who chose a noble path, who never entirely lost their humble priorities and astoundingly, were richly rewarded, certainly within the music business, but much more so, in life.

Even non-Rush fans have borrowed this movie from me and found it highly educational and inspiring.

Writer/Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 8.5

Believe it or not, only two bands in history have produced more gold and platinum records than Rush. They are the Rolling Stones…

…And these guys:

50. The Compleat Beatles (1982, USA)
Documentary with narrator Malcolm McDowell

There have been a lot of crappy little documentaries about the Beatles. I assure you this one is boss!

The approach to this documentary, and the narration, is responsible, sensitive, emotionally provocative and of a full scope. And there is enough archival material to make it work.

Unfortunately, Paul McCartney who has more money than God and comparable influence (yeah, we’re allowed to say that now), bought the rights to this film so as to drag it out of circulation to help clear the stage for his own documentary project which I have no interest in promoting here.

When the VHS copy I home-taped from a 1984 TV airing finally went screwy and unviewable after fifteen years, I continued to play it on occasion just for the unspoiled audio! That’s how much I dig it.

Writer: David Silver
Director: Patrick Montgomery (The Man You Loved to Hate)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 8.2
Trailer:  There were likely none created for this project which was not intended for theatres as far as I know. Here is the first ten minutes of the film. Currently all twelve increments are available on YouTube. It may start off a little awkwardly, but it only gets better:

Short List:
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (2005, USA) Documentary by Lian Lunson

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