I have been obsessed with biopics ever since I can remember. I even remember liking the 8 hour long movie Ghandi when I was a kid! I loved A Cry in the Dark, Gorillas in the Mist, and Reversal of Fortune. I wanted to see any movie about real people. I also wanted to watch all the TV movies. Melendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills, Sybil, Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, and The Amy Fisher Story were all my favorites. I love Drew Barrymore in The Amy Fisher Story. I watch this movie many times every year. Not sure why. The movie is not the best in the world, and yet I just can't get enough of it. I put it right up there with Showgirls!
But I have also been obsessed with movies about rock stars. I would probably go see a movie about Kenny G if it was done right. The first movie I remember seeing about a rock star was La Bamba. I probably had no idea who Richie Valens was at the time. He was just the "La Bamba" Guy. I was 13 when La Bamba came out but it was one of my favorite movies. I was also obsessed with the Karen Carpenter Story, which was released as a TV movie two years later in 1989. Cynthia Gibb played the lead role. I was a bit obsessed with The Carpenters. I still can't get enough of them. I find it to be the most tragic, depressing pop music ever. It seems like most of these movies all ended up with the star dying an early tragic death. I also loved Selena starring Jennifer Lopez. I was never a fan of her music until this movie, but it is actually Jennifer Lopez's best role and a pretty good movie with Edward James Olmos as her dad. Angela Basset played roles in two of my other favorites. She of course played Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It and Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream. But she didn't stop there! She also played the mom of the Notorious B.I.G. in Notorious. She is for sure the queen of the biopic! She also ventured out into some non-music biopics. She played the wife of Malcolm X in Malcolm X and Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story. And you might or might not also remember her as Cheryl McNair in the movie Challenger from 1990.
My favorite music-related biopic is probably Coal Miner's Daughter starring Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn. It just doesn't get much better than that. Sid & Nancy is also another classic. I can't get enough of that movie and have probably seen it over 30 times. Bravo seemed to play it every night back before reality TV took over the channel. Another one I was obsessed with as a child was Amadeus. Tom Hulce never found another role as good as that one. The Buddy Holly Story might also be the best work of Gary Busey. These roles are a great chance for actors to show off their acting talent. They are not easy roles to fill, especially when the person that they are playing is such a famous person.
Two of my recent favorites are Control about Joy Division -- that movie beautifully captured the feel of the band and the era -- and I also really liked I'm Not There about Bob Dylan. I know everyone was not a fan of that movie. I don't even like Bob Dylan but I loved the movie. Other recent big profile bio-films were Ray about Ray Charles and Walk the Line about Johnny and June Carter Cash. A forgotten classic is Elvis starring Kurt Russell in the movie directed by John Carpenter. I have been looking for this movie ever since my coworker John Garcia told me how great it was. It finally just got reissued on DVD. Another one worth checking out is Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows starring Judy Davis. I love how biopics have to have two names! Judy Davis is amazing in everything. I also really liked Great Balls of Fire when I was younger. It stars Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis and Winona Ryder as his 13 year old wife and cousin. I even like The Doors movie starring Val Kilmer. I think I actually like that movie more than I like The Doors. Diana Ross is also awesome as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. I am sure a lot of people hate these movies. They glamorize aspects of stars' lives and trivalize others. But I still love them. I never think of them as being acurate depictions of these stars lives. These are movies. They are made to entertain. Made to celebrate the lives of these musicians.
Of course, the reason I am getting all excited about biopics is because of the new Runaways movie. I have been excited about this movie since I first heard about it. I love The Runaways and Joan Jett but was never figuring that the movie would be very good. The Twilight movies have kind of ruined Kristen Stewart for me. I did love her in Into the Wild and Adventureland, so I knew she could act with a good script, but those Twilight movies are just so bad! They are hard to look beyond. And I didn't really have much faith in Dakota Fanning. Now that I've seen the film though, I have to say that I thought they were both amazing. The script is based on the book by Cherie Currie, so it really is a story about Cherie and Joan. Cherie Currie gets the most character devolpment. We get to know her mom and dad and her sister and grandma. Even the actors with small parts were brilliant. I loved Tatum O'Neal as Cherie's mom. And Riley Keough was awesome as Marie Currie. I really could have watched a whole movie about the Currie sisters. Scout Taylor-Compton was also great and unrecognizable as Lita Ford. She only had like 3 lines but she pulled off the role fantastically! And Michael Shannon was amazing as always as the creepy Kim Fowley. The movie has its flaws, but I don't need to point them out. It is a movie after all. When you are taking a band that means different things to different people and making an hour and a half long movie about them, there are going to be problems. There are going to be things left out. Still, overall I loved this movie. I thought the set design, costumes and hair were all great. And it really captured the feel of the era, like another great movie, Velvet Goldmine. You felt like you were living in the 70s during this movie. I think Dakota Fanning pulled out the role brilliantly. Cherie Currie wasn't really a musician -- she just got kind of thrown into the band. She portrayed the transition really well. I already want to see this movie again and again, sort of like Sid & Nancy. I don't think I will ever get sick of watching this movie. Go see it you have not already. And go watch some of those old music biopics that you might have missed.
The soundtrack to The Runaways is actually pretty good. It is made up of some songs of the era and some real Runaways songs, but it is mostly Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning singing. And they actually pull it off! But if you are looking to really hear the music, I recommend you pick up a copy of The Runaways Anthology that just got put out on Mercury Records! This anthology is a collection of four albums by the band: Queens of Noise, Waitin' for the Night, The Runaways, and Live In Japan. I also recommend the documentary Edgeplay for a more in depth look at the story of the band.
I still can't believe that Serena-Maneesh is not a more popular group! I thought that they would conquer the world with their last shoegaze masterpiece. Now they are giving it another try with this new album. It really is good stuff. They are another great band from Norway. All the things that you love about Lush and My Bloody Valentine are on this new album.
If you have never owned these Galaxie 500 albums then now is your chance -- all 3 have now been reissued for like the third time! Before Luna, Dean & Britta and Damon & Naomi there was Galaxie 500. This band was brilliant and influenced tons of bands that you know and love. This is Dream Pop!
also out 3/16...
Powers of Audition by Jonas Reinhardt
Mercury Album Anthology by The Runaways
Under Great White Northern Lights by The White Stripes
also out 3/23...
Oversteps by Autechre
Vol. 1 Interpretations by Bird & the Bee
Wondershow Of the World by Bonnie Prince Billy
Head First by Goldfrapp
High Places Vs. Mankind by High Places
In the Court of the Wrestling Let's by Let's Wrestle
Two Thousand & Ten Injuries by Love Is All
No. 2: Abyss by Serena-Maneesh
Vol. 2 by She & Him
also out 3/30...
Good Son (reissue) by Nick Cave
Henry's Dream (reissue) by Nick Cave
Tender Prey (reissue) by Nick Cave
I Will Be by Dum Dum Girls
On Fire (reissue) by Galaxie 500
This Is Our Music (reissue) by Galaxie 500
Today (reissue) by Galaxie 500
Medicine County by Holly Golightly
Unfun (reissue) by Jawbreaker
Yeah So by Slow Club
Vol. 2 by Wooden Shjips