Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies about Making Music


I'm back. 

I hate to say it, but I just had to put down the Thursday Movie Picks for a few weeks. The Halloween themes just didn't happen for me. It's just not my holiday, not my conversation. 

I wanted to come back last week, but I chose to do my own post on spy movies, the most nostalgia-inducing spy movies, the spy movies I felt most timely, that being the James Bond Movies.  

So, it's Thursday, the leaves have fallen here in East Tennessee, and I'm back again (and from here on out) for a bit more of Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. This week, it's Movies about Making Music. 

I could've gone with a number of great movies, but I fear (and know) I've used some of my favorites in other categories. So, I'm going with nostalgia on this one--three movies that touched my heart with stories about lovable people, who make music. 

Here are my picks: 

Mr. Holland's Opus
Dir. Stephen Herek, 1995


Sprawling in scope but tight in focus, Mr. Holland's Opus is one of my happiest movie memories. My Mom took my little sister and I to see it in the theater. I think we went back the next night and saw it again. This is a movie about a man who LOVES music. The man is Glenn Holland (Best Actor nominees Richard Dreyfuss), a classical composer, who, as a newlywed in the early 1960s, finds employment as a high school orchestra and band instructor. Over the course of 30 years, through ups-and-downs, both personally and professionally, he comes to find, not regret in letting go of his dreams, but warmth in knowing that his life itself was a perfect piece of music. The movie is a bit obvious, a bit sappy, but it is a work of love that pays tributes to education and teachers, music and musicians, and, most of all, how all of those things inspire everyday. And the soundtrack is unreal. And the cast is amazing! Look it up. 

That Thing You Do! 
Dir. Tom Hanks, 1996


This gem is what happened when Tom Hanks decided, in the mid-1990s, to try his hand and writing, producing, and directing a movie for the first time. It's the 1960s in Erie, PA, and a local band called the One-ders finds some luck when they lose their drummer (Giovanni Ribisi) to injury and happen upon a local jazz nut named Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott). When he decides to up the tempo on one of Jimmy's (Jonathan Schaech) brooding ballads, everything changes quickly. The One-ders (pronounced Oneders) make a demo and find they have a huge hit (which may be the worst, or best, thing possible, depending on how you look at it). This movie is plain fun! It's worth watching simply for Steve Zahn. He may be the funniest guy alive. Where is he? 

Once
Dir. John Carney, 2006


Oh, sweet beauty! What a simple, lovely experience John Carney's Once is. Struggling Dublin musician Guy (Glen Hansard) meets Girl (Market Irglova) and, over a short period of time, finds himself inspired, in love, and in full swing of making the best music of his life We get to see it all unfold and hear it as well. This is one of those crowd-pleasers that pretty much worked for everybody that year. I even got to see the duo (who fell in love in real life and became the band, The Swell Season) live at Bonnaroo the following summer. A great show! 

Documentary Bonus Pick

Stop Making Sense
Dir. Jonathan Demme, 1984


To see Jonathan Demme's 1984 concert film for Talking Heads is to see the process of making music come alive in real time. It is simply the best concert film ever made, capturing a performance that unfolds slowly, perfectly. The way this show starts stripped down, adding layer after layer with song after song until a musician in David Byrne and his band Talking Heads emerge to the height of their power is just awe-inducing. It made me a true believer in this band and, quite simply, the power of live music once and for all. I never looked back. 

16 comments:

  1. Great picks! I also chose Once, I love it so much. I haven't seen the first two in so long, but I remember enjoying them. Especially Mr. Holland's Opus.

    (ps, you forgot the "l" in "html" in your link on Wander's site)

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    1. Thanks. And Once is sooooo good. I need to watch it again. It's been awhile.

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  2. I haven't seen Once, I've heard good things just haven't caught up with it yet, but I LOVE your first two picks! I put off watching Mr. Holland for a long time because it looked gooey, and to a certain extent it was, but I ended up really enjoying it. Dreyfuss is so perfect in the lead and both Glenne Headley, an underappreciated actress, and Olympia Dukakis match his fine work.

    That Thing You Do! is so infectiously fun, both the movie and the song. The song is a perfect piece of pop, you would think all the times it's played in the movie by the end you would be sick of it, that you're not shows how well constructed it is. Completely agree about Steve Zahn, don't know why he doesn't have a bigger career-he's so likable, and Liv Tyler is so perfectly winsome and delicate. It shows Hanks sharp eye for talent that all the roles are filled with actors so well suited to their roles. I was also delighted to see his Bosom Buddies co-star Peter Scolari pop up in a brief cameo.

    Stop Making Sense is an inventive choice. Those docs like this and The Song Remains the Same are fascinating peeks behind the scenes.

    There are so many films that fall into this genre I decided to try and find ones that each involved different types of music, classical, jazz, rock and a brass band. My extra stretches the rules a bit because while its not a strict bio it is based on the band whose music is used in the film.

    Humoresque (1946)-Violin prodigy Paul Boray (John Garfield) is scraping by because his temper and impatience with others less talented than he keeps getting in his way. One night performing at a party he meets Helen Wright (Joan Crawford), a neurotic socialite on her third husband who takes him under her wing and turns him into a star at great cost to them both. Amazing music, beautiful noirish photography and perhaps Crawford's career best performance.

    Blues in the Night (1941)-"Jigger" Lane's jazz band is so down on their luck they are catching a lift in a boxcar when they befriend a gangster, Del Davis who happens to run a roadhouse and offers them a job. What seems at first a break is just the start of their troubles. Del's moll Kay takes a fancy to Leo, one of the band members, causing much pain to his wife, the band's singer Character. Jigger tries to distract her but is driven to madness by Kay's cruelty and things only go downhill from there. Atmospheric music drama, not a musical. Good cast including Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson and in a rare acting role future director Elia Kazan as one of the boys in the band.

    Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)-An ambitious young reporter (Ellen Barkin) latches onto the story of the mysterious death of rock legend Eddie Wilson (Michael Pare). Through her research and the reminiscences of former members of Eddie’s band she begins to uncover hidden facts that make her question the known facts of the band’s rise and his demise. A pastiche of the legends of James Dean, The Doors and Bruce Springsteen this rock & roll drama produced a soundtrack album by John Caffrey & the Beaver Brown Band that was far more successful than the movie ever was.

    Honorable Mention-Brassed Off (1996)-The coal miners in a northern England town play in a brass band which is as old as the mine itself. Now when it is faced with closure the band members pull together to offer support and a chance at survival. Great music.

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    1. As usual, I haven't seen any of your picks. Eddie and the Cruisers sounds familiar and seems like the one most up my alley. So glad to hear of your love of both Mr. Holland's Opus and That Thing You Do! They are both just plain good movies. Nothing more, nothing less. And there's something to be said for films like that.

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  3. That Thing You Do! I remember stumbling across that film by accident one day. I haven't seen the other two. I've read and heard how sad Once is but I might seek out the music.

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    1. Once is sad but uplifting as well. So worth watching. The music is phenomenal.

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  4. I still have to see That Thing You Do. I think it is better than I think it is:) Once seems to be getting some love this week and I just re-watched Mr. Holland's Opus. I'll be talking about it tomorrow. It is a feel good movie and I wished I had a teacher like that. As for the girl who played Rowena-I wish there was a person like that at my high school who could sing like that

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    1. Oh and I gave some love to Bond last week...I shall check out your post now:)

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  5. Yes, Yes, and YES! Great picks, man. Mr. Holland's Opus is such a deeply felt film - yeah it's a bit gooey and sentimental, but it does it really well and Dreyfuss and Gleanne Headey make for such a believable husband and wife. Great film about the importance of good teachers and the arts in schools. I picked That Thing You Do! too and DAMN that soundtrack. Steve Zahn is so much fun in it, and Tom Everett Scott as the drummer is great too - where has he gone?

    Once is too fucking beautiful for words. And the stage musical... it is just perfection. Listen to the cast recording. The acapella version of "Gold" is chill-inducingly, heart-stoppingly beautiful.

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    1. Love that you love these picks. So much greatness around That Thing You Do! Just a purely fun movie. A movie I can watch on repeat and have fun with every time.

      Oooh. The stage musical? I almost forgot that was a thing. I will definitely check that out.

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  6. I saw Mr. Holland's Opus years ago, and sadly can't remember much about it. Guess that means it's time for a rewatch. Haven't seen the other two. I see Once is getting all sorts of love today. I'll have to check that out.

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    1. Mr. Holland's Opus is worth watching again. I'm gonna do it myself soon. Once is lovely, man.

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  7. I sadly haven't seen any of those films yet.

    My pick for this category would be the classic film, Almost Famous. The greatest film about music that I've ever seen, & it's definitely in my top 3 favorite films of all time. Love it, love it, love it.

    And one last thing.

    I AM A GOLDEN GOD!

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    1. I would easily have picked Almost Famous. I don't really put in on lists anymore. It is better than lists.

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  8. I love Once and I have picked it at least once before on some other TMP.
    I love that you pick That Thing You Do. It is such a sweet fun movie and that song is just so catchy.

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    1. Thanks. Glad to see some love for That Thing You Do!

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