We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
I've heard my share of great music in movies, bought more than one soundtrack that's introduced me to a band I've grown to love. I've heard songs in a context that makes me think of it in a new way. But sometimes, the band I love doesn't really exist outside the world of the movie. Some bands are too over-the-top, too fabulous, or too truly, truly, truly outrageous to live in the real world. This TOP 7 list is dedicated to Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and now Get Him to the Greek.
Recap: Christopher Guest's mockumentary about a folk reunion concert features many of his regular collaborators, including Eugene Levy as Mitch Cohen and Catherine O'Hara as Mickey Crabbe. They used to be a couple, as well as a folk duo named Mitch & Mickey before a break-up ended their professional and romantic partnerships. Their most famous song, "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" featured the couple sharing a kiss at the end. So the question of whether or not the two will do this on stage after so many years is a mystery to everyone watching, including them. Reason: Despite being in a comedy, and often being ridiculous, Mitch and Mickey are the heart of this film. I watched on tenterhooks, waiting to see if they would kiss or not. Their relationship is bittersweet, their song is saccharine, but what can I say? I love them.
6. The Stains from Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains (1981)
Recap: A very young Diane Lane stars as the lead singer of a proto-riot girl act in this low-budget film. She plays Corinne, a young punk with big dreams who leaves her blue collar town after her band, the Stains, gets a slot opening for a punk band, featuring a young (and thin!) Ray Winstone. Her punk rock style and feminist call to arms win her media attention, and fans, as the tour progresses. Reason: A film before it's time, someone should really remake this; though I doubt they'll find a more commanding leading lady than Lane. As the leader of the Stains, she makes a fascinating and credible frontwoman. The music isn't as memorable as some of the other bands, but few acts have influenced so many real world rockers. The movie isn't perfect, but the Stains are pretty close.
5. Stillwater from Almost Famous (2000)
Recap: When teen journalist William (Patrick Fugit) gets the chance to write for Rolling Stone, he joins Stillwater on the tourbus and learns about life, love and many varieties of drugs. Reason: Again, Stillwater isn't a memorable band for the music so much as for the personalities. Billy Crudup's Russell Hammond is a golden god, and Jason Lee's Jeff Bebe is about done with him. Their offstage antics make them an awesome band to tour with, certainly from William's point of view. Not to mention they have the coolest groupies ever. Just as memorable as the band are the band-aides, who are played by Kate Hudson, Anna Paquin and Fairuza Balk. I'd like to see Hudson do another part that's even close to this awesome.
Recap: Todd Haynes' love letter to glam rock and fandom, Velvet Goldmine tells the story of rockers Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Curt Wilde (Ewan McGregor) as discovered by a journalist, Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale). Slade has a meteoric rise to stardom along with his band, Venus in Furs but meets his match in Wilde. As he produces Wilde's next album, the two embark on a passionate relationship. Reason: This is a love it or hate it movie and I'm firmly in the love camp. One thing I adore is the music. Venus in Furs, at least off camera, is composed of a britpop dream team including Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Suede's Bernard Butler. Their cover of Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire" is amazing. The song is complemented by Haynes' visuals that combine a Bowie-esque vibe with your mom's most fevered imaginings of what a rock and roll hedonism looks like.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Recap: The story of Hansel Schmidt (John Cameron Mitchell) and his transformation into the transsexual rock diva Hedwig. Hedwig tells her story to the audience while playing a gig in the same town as rock star, and former lover, Tommy Gnosis. Reason: Another glam rock inspired band, you can see what kind of music I like. Whether as a musical or film, Hedwig tells a fascinating story through some great music that you leave the theater humming. It's well written by composer Stephen Trask and performed fabulously by Mitchell. This is one of the few musical soundtracks I've felt the need to own, I was singing these songs for days after seeing the movie. And you'd better believe that if Hedwig really existed, she'd be a huge rock star.
2. The Commitments from The Commitments (1991)
Recap: A couple of guys in Dublin (including Glen Hansard of Once!) want to form a band, but unfortunately have no idea how to do it. So they enlist the help of a manager and proceed to bring soul to Ireland. Despite some serious hiccups, including drunk/missing band members and romantic relationships between band members, they manage to make great soul. Until everything implodes. Reason: There's a reason the movie and the band have the same name. Ok, well, yes, it was a book too, but ignore that. It's because the band is amazing. These men bring the soul to Dublin, and the rest of the world as well. The story's good but the band's amazing. I think I learned the difference between recorded music and live music by watching a band play live... in a movie. They made old radio staples like "Mustang Sally" and "In the Midnight Hour" feel contemporary. After the film came out, some of the actors started touring as The Commitments, others went off to form popular Irish acts The Frames and The Corrs.
1. Spinal Tap from This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Recap: The best metal band of all time, Spinal Tap, goes on a tour of the United States and things fall apart pretty much immediately. But the band perseveres-ish, whether dealing with a slightly smaller Stonehenge then expected or a series of imploding drummers. Reason: The best metal band of all time taught the world how to be a band, fake or otherwise. Led Zepplin wishes they rocked this hard. Comedians Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer put on the wigs and pull out the Spinal Tap routine every few years to go on tour. And who wouldn't want to see these classic songs? I fully expect "Big Bottom" to be stuck in my head for days.