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March 24, 2018

Saturday Evening Movie Thread 03-24-2018 [Hosted By: TheJamesMadison]

Music! Again!

So, AshevilleRobert wrote to me and suggested a thread idea. He wanted to talk about music made by fiction movie bands (there was more to it, but this is what I'm focusing on).

I thought it was a good idea, so here we go!

You've got a movie idea, and it revolves around a band. They need to win a contest, or the girl, or whatever. Mostly, though, they need a song. They could do covers, but that could cost a bit more money than simply writing a new song, so you hire someone to write something. And it had better be good, because if it's not, then the major plot point around that song (playing it for the girl so she falls in love with your main character) could fall completely flat with your viewing audience. Otherwise, you might get this:

No hate on Bill and Ted. Those two will save the future.



Rocking at School

So, you've got a major plot point that needs a rocking song. You've hired the right guy, and he's made the tune. You've hired a real band to play behind over the actors (or you've hired musicians to act, or taught actors to play), and it's time to perform. How do you balance how it plays with an onscreen audience versus the real audience?

Have you ever seen a scene where the audience has some huge reaction to an event, but you just don't get it? The two characters you hate get together, everyone claps, and you're just wishing that they'd die? Or there's a daring escape that looks terrible, easy, and had no real point while innocent bystanders cheer in amazement? That's the sort of reaction that can happen when your music is actually bad, the audience cheers wildly, and you end up looking around you like you've suddenly appeared in an alternate reality.

I genuinely like the movie School of Rock. I think it's a near perfect vehicle for Jack Black's manic energy. It also has a cast of kids that never become terribly annoying. It's an easy and well-told tale that's fun all the way through. In researching this post, I watched the below clip and realized how out of synch I was with the audience. The song is okay, but nothing close to standing ovation:

The kids play well, Jack Black plays with his manic energy, but they don't make up for the fact that song is only okay. In the context of the whole movie, it works a bit better, but revisiting the movie years later, I don't feel the injustice of the kids losing the Battle of the Bands anymore.


When It's Actually Not the Point

It seems that a movie like This is Spinal Tap would be all about the music, but since it's a mockumentary about a failing rock band, the movie's actually about embarrassing the band. The music itself is secondary.

However, that being said, the music is actually pretty good. My favorite thing they did was "Stonehenge". More than the dancing little people and the tiny model descending from the ceiling, I grew up with Jethro Tull in the house and the song is really just missing that flute to fit right in with that discography.


The Audio Booth Scene

I might as well take a moment to talk about a rather cliched scene in movies about musicians. It's the scene where the musician, that no one believes in up to that point, arrives in the recording booth.

The person manning the controls either is actively against them or completely indifferent. The musician starts playing and changes everyone's hearts with the power of song. The only way this possibly works is by the music being really good.

I think it works best in the movie Once, which was a tiny little Irish movie from about ten years ago that ended up making a shocking amount of money, especially when considering its budget. It was made for about $150,000 and made more than $20 million. Part of that was because of the music, which was written by its star Glen Hansard. Here's that scene:

My favorite rendition of this trope is from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Let that speak for itself:


Back to You

So, fake movie bands. Favorites? Favorite songs? Which were the worst? Would we create world peace of they finally made Bill and Ted 3? These are the questions that you must answer in the comments below.


Movies of Today

Opening in Theaters:
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Unsane
Sherlock Gnomes
Paul, Apostle of Christ

Next in my Netflix Queue:
Roger Dodger
Movies I Saw This Week:
Demetrius and the Gladiators (Netflix Rating 4/5 | Quality Rating 3/4) Poster blurb: "Demetrius himself has a very nice journey, but the movie's direction is pedestrian at best, which really holds it back." [Netflix DVD]
Dead Alive (Netflix Rating 5/5 | Quality Rating 3.5/4) "Endless inventive in gory details and kills. An absolutely sickening blast at the movies." [Netflix DVD]
The Disaster Artist (Netflix Rating 3/5 | Quality Rating 2/4) "A miss. Franco is fun as Tommy, but the movie is largely just there without being engaging." [Redbox]
Thor: Ragnarok (Netflix Rating 4/5 | Quality Rating 3/4) "It's only ambition is modest, to entertaining you, and it succeeds." [Redbox]
Robin Hood (Netflix Rating 3/5 | Quality Rating 2/4) "Surprisingly plodding, but the sets are magnificent, the action is fun (when it happens), and Douglas Fairbanks is an absolute joy when he's on screen (which is less than you might expect)." [Amazon Prime]
Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People (Netflix Rating 4/5 | Quality Rating 3/4) "It's first act wasn't terribly engaging, but the psychological horror of the rest of the movie is surprisingly well done." [Amazon Prime]


Contact

Email any suggestions or questions to thejamesmadison.aos at symbol gmail dot com.

I've also archived all the old posts here, by request. I'll add new posts a week after they originally post at the HQ.

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