Smells Like Film: Best Music Related Movies

Smells Like Film: Best Music Related Movies

OK, so my internal clock knew it was almost Oscar nomination time (January 25th), and I’m one of those people that still cares (and even throws an Oscar party, where invitees have to bring a dish inspired by a Best Picture nominee – I’m already thinking “True Grits…corny, I know).

I love films, and there are some that are inseparable from the music associated with them. I’ve never been a fan of musicals (I believe they’re the most difficult type of films to do well), but I’ve included a couple.

Just in case you need an inspiration/memory jog, go here.

This is Spinal Tap – it is difficult to say how profound this film has been in ridiculing the music industry, bands in general, documentary filmmaking., and Stonehenge. Hello Cleveland!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – who knew that a musical about a transvestite could be this good! And gummy bears!

30th Century Man: Scott Walker documentary – the first third of the film is essential viewing, 2nd third for frustrated Romantics like me, the last third for fans of difficult listening (me too!)

I’m Not There – a bizarre but fun look at various actors portraying Bob Dylan in different stages of his life (Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, etc.) – plus, really good covers of his songs!

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Gene Wilder will forever be Willy Wonka – shame on you, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton

Oliver (the musical) – Food! Glorious food!

Buena Vista Social Club – Wim Wenders is one of my favorite filmmakers (see below)

Neil Young: Heart of Gold – a quality job of following one of the cornerstones of American music

Dig! – came because of the Dandy Warhols, stayed because of Brian Jonestown Massacre

24 Hour Party People – more enjoyable glimpse into Factory records, Manchester scene, etc.

O Brother Where Art Thou? – even though the soundtrack become an industry unto itself, the film holds up because of it

Stop Making Sense – Talking Heads concert film directed by Jonathan Demme

Wings of Desire – Wim Wenders’ marquee film, with a great soundtrack that is actually essential to the film – PLUS appearances by Nick Cave, and Crime and the City Solution. Not for everyone (my dad never slept better, after watching about 20 minutes) – but it rewards patience.

Movies I had higher hopes for:

Control (Joy Division biopic that offers little insight to band beyond the clichés)

Almost Famous (fun but ultimately not as grand as it attempts to be)


Gene Brunak

Mr. Brunak (as his students occasionally refer to him) is a high school Journalism/English teacher in Portland, Oregon. He subjects his wife, two kids and dog Duff (how nuclear!) to various forms of popular culture; they've expressed their appreciation by offering all the latest personal electronic devices as "gifts".

  • Owen Maercks
    Posted at 08:57h, 08 January Reply

    Nice, and provocative, list. Of course any list like this could be expanded almost infinitely, but a few things left off that immediately come to mind:
    Velvet Goldmine: something of a companion piece to Hedwig, and every bit as good. Gets the short-lived Glam scene just about right (I know; I was there…)
    The Girl Can’t Help It: the best, the most fun, and the best guest shots, of all the first wave of rock’n’roll movies.
    Space is the Place: a sci-fi/blacksploitation parody and star turn for the great Sun Ra.
    Get Crazy: a parody of the Fillmore East scene set on New Year’s Eve that bursts with energy and has a hilarious Lou Reed self send-up.
    Monterey Pop: consistently better performances and more entertaining than Woodstock.
    High Fidelity: just because it gets us vinyl hounds so right.
    Not to mention documentaries! Two that jump to mind are “Nico/Icon” and “Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King.”

  • Gene
    Posted at 21:01h, 10 January Reply

    Thanks for the recs – kind of what I was hoping for, as “Half Japanese” is one that fell of my radar (and that I need to see) – the Sun Ra flick, which I’d never heard of, sounds great, too…

    It wasn’t supposed to be “all-inclusive” – probably should have kept it to my top ten, but stayed with lucky 13…

    Velvet Goldmine had its moments for me, but just didn’t stick (“Hedwig” – for me at least – also benefited from some great original songs, many which ended up on a benefit covers album for the Harvey Milk School called “Wig in a Box”…it has contributions from Spoon, Frank Black and others – and innovative “duets”, like Sleater-Kinney/Fred Schneider, and Yo La Tengo/Yoko Ono)

  • Cory
    Posted at 02:05h, 13 January Reply

    I watched DiG! the other day–I’m doing a post on The Dandy Warhols. Man, Brian Jonestown Massacre was a train-wreck! Made the Dandys look wholesome….

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