The holiday season is a time of giving. It’s also a very busy time, and although we may see friends and family at parties and special events, we are often too busy to spend any sizable chunks of time with any one person or group, as we find ourselves spread thin. I want to offer an idea for an inexpensive gift that can remedy that. Why not offer a movie night for January, February or March? A card- homemade or bought- with a note or “coupon” is all you need. You could offer any of the following combinations, or make up your own.
- pizza, a salad and a movie
- a sixpack of microbrew beer, some snacks and a movie
- a nice bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers and a movie
- a pot of soup, some popcorn and a movie
- some gourmet popcorn and a movie
- red wine, dark chocolate and a movie
As you can see, there are many possibilities. Set a timeline for making the date, so it doesn’t just end up being “one of these days, let’s get together”. Agree to get a date on the calendar by mid January. The actual get together can be anytime into, say, March. It is so easy to not get around to stuff. We all say “let’s get together soon”, but time frames can make the difference of making it actually happen, so include them in you coupon. Including an easy dinner in the plan might make it possible to have the movie night on a weekday, because the movie can start while people eat. Winter is a great time for a fun indoor activity.
With that in mind, here is a fun list of music movies I’d like to offer up. I am including some youtube links for trailers and other fun video clips to give you a sense of the movies on my favorites list. If you have other favorites you’d like to share, please tell me about them in the comments section below this post.
- That Thing You Do– I LOVE this movie. It is about a group of teenagers (set in the 60s), who enter and win a school band competition, which leads to a regular local gig, a radio hit, and a crazy ride as they rise into stardom. It does a great job depicting the music business as it was in that time, and the music, costumes, and dancing are all excellent. The actors learned their instruments well enough for the scenes to looks realistic, although I am not sure if it is only them on the soundtrack. The cast includes Tom Hanks, who I think is awesome. He’s also the writer/director. Liv Tyler, daughter of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith plays the girlfriend of the lead singer. Here is one of my favorite scenes, where the band first hears their record played on the radio. Pure joy. Here’s the official trailer.
- Crazy Heart- Jeff Bridges stars in this gem about a country singer-songwriter who struggles with his own addiction and demons as he makes his way from a tough time in his life and career to a comeback and a bright future. It is charming, poignant, sweet, and, at moments funny. Again, with some great music. Jeff, who you may know as The Dude, among other notable characters, followed up this movie by forming a band and expanding on the music they started just for the movie. The movie itself was adapted from a novel, which was inspired by the real life story of Hank Thompson. Hank’s songs include the classics The Wild Side Of Life, and Six Pack To Go. Here’s the movie trailer for this one. After winning an Oscar for this movie, and putting out his record, Jeff appeared on the Colbert Report. They talk about T Bone Burnett, who did the music for the Big Lebowski and Oh Brother Where Art Thou, among many others, and produced the record. They also discussed how much Jeff enjoys the energy of the fans who love the Jeff Lebowski character. I bet you at least know someone who can quote from that movie. The music segment from that show is no longer available, but this interview is really fun. Check that out here.
- Welcome To The Club- Women Of Rockabilly- A really fun movie I stumbled on while tooling around youtube. It traces rockabilly music back before Elvis, beginning with Charline Arthur. “I was considered an outlaw to a lot of musicians and disc jockeys”, she said in a 1986 interview, “..because I wanted to do things MY way. I was a non-conformist. They couldn’t conform me into, mold me into the little cotton dress. I worked harder than Elvis ever thought about. ..hon- I was shakin’ that thing before he was”. It was hard enough for 1950s audiences to accept a young white man singing, playing and moving like Elvis did. It was even harder for them to wrap their heads around a woman doing those things. The rest of the documentary focuses on the lives and careers of 4 other pillars of early rockabilly. Janis Martin- billed as the female Elvis, Lorrie Collins of the Collins Kids, Brenda Lee, and, of course, Wanda Jackson. Each of them encountered resistance for being a girl ahead of their time. It features clips of the music, interviews and historical context. Very fun. Watch it on youtube.
- A Mighty Wind- If you lived through the 60s and had any experience with the folk music community, you will recognize some personality types in this movie. It is part of a long line of great spoofs produced by Christopher Guest that poke fun at some kind of insular community or another. Best in Show, about dog show people; Waiting For Guffman, about community theater. And, of course the classic This is Spinal Tap, which gets it’s own mention shortly. The premise for A Mighty Wind is a reunion concert to mark the death of someone who managed the careers of several (fictitious )folk icons from the 60s, who reunite for the big show. The groups are shown in their rehearsals for the show, interviews about what they have been up to recently, the show itself, and then catching up with them 6 months later. Even if you did not live through the folk music revolution of the 60s, this movie is full of hilarious moments. Although the music is a spoof, it is also very well written and executed. Here’s the trailer.
- This Is Spinal Tap- Definitely a classic, especially for musicians. It is fondly referred to as a mockumentary about an aging metal band called Spinal Tap. The scenes are mostly based on things that actually happened to various rock stars in the course of touring, such as the time when the band gets lost in the hallways between the green room (their backstage resting area) and the stage, just as they are supposed to be starting their show. Certainly some inside jokes here. There is one scene where Christopher Guest’s character is showing off his new guitar amp. All amps have a dial that puts their volume into a scale of 10, with 1 being the lowest volume and 10 being the highest. Large amps with lots of wattage are much louder when set at 10 than small amps. It’s just a matter of scale. For Nigel, the lead singer, this concept is beyond him. He is convinced that his new amp, which goes to 11, is “one louder”. You may have heard musicians use this phrase- “mine goes to 11”. It’s pretty much code for not quite grasping the concept. It’s one of may moments from this movie that we like to quote and laugh about. If you buy the DVD, (or get it out of the library, like we did) there is a section where the band, in character, watches the movie and engages in a running commentary. Very funny. Here’s a preview and review from Siskel and Ebert. You can also watch it directly on youtube.
- Walk The Line- This movie focuses on the early part of Johnny Cash’s career and life, and is a depiction that I think really captures Johnny in all his integrity and imperfection. Reece Witherspoon does a lovely job portraying June Carter, for which she wins an Oscar. I thought Joaquin Phoenix did a great job as Johnny as well, although he did not get the same honor. The movie is based on two autobiographies by Johnny, although it is said to delve much more deeply into some of his personal dark side than his books did. Despite the candidness about his challenges with addiction and family, the movie came across to me as poignant and beautiful. And, of course, full of Johnny Cash music. Here’s the trailer for this one.
Now a few old school classics-
- Singing In The Rain- Lots of catchy tunes, humor, singing and dancing. Are you one of the few who has never seen it? Always fun. Here is a song and dance segment from the movie that will have you singing the hook for days- Good Mornin’. It sets me off singing just to read the song title.
- The Blues Brothers- Always good for another viewing. Here’s one of my favorite bits from the movie, featuring Ray Charles on the Rhodes electric piano, and some great go go dance moves. Oh yeah.
- Some Like It Hot– Super charming and fun. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon try to escape from the mob by dressing in drag and joining an all female traveling band. Mayhem ensues. Also staring Marylin Monroe. Here is just a little window into the mayhem found throughout. So much fun.
What is your favorite music movie?