Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Musicals to Suit Anyone’s Taste

You wanna party with the coke badger?
Most people, when they think of musicals, imagine animated figures dancing across the screen, or incredibly limber people spontaneously breaking into song. That is not always the case. Traditional musicals are often associated with stage and theater productions. However, with the evolution of music through the decades, traditional song and dance numbers faced the challenge of being able to capture the mood of each style. Sometimes people just want to rock out, or enjoy a show without everything being made aesthetically pleasing to watch. This is Spinal Tap (1984), for example, is a brilliant musical that showcases original songs, in a specific context. The idea of song and dance numbers is no longer a specific criteria for the genre. A film whose plot is centered around musicians and showcases several performances of their original material can be construed as a musical. Below is a list of five non-conventional musicals to suit anyone’s taste. Although, unlike The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), you will probably never see the cast of “Glee” perform these pieces.

5. Phantom of the Paradise (1974) – Dir. Brian De Palma
Capitalizing and satirizing the rock opera craze of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Brian De Palma wrote and directed this contemporary take on The Phantom of the Opera, substituting opera for rock ‘n’ roll. The film combines elements of horror and hilarity, much like The Rocky Horror Picture ShowAt times the zany antics in this film make it seem like an issue of MAD Magazine come to life. Even with an Oscar nomination for composer and star Paul Williams, this film had a hard time finding an audience during it’s initial release. People simply weren’t ready to embrace the absurdity this film has to offer.

4. Fear of a Black Hat (1994) – Dir. Rusty Cundieff
This is pretty much a gangsta-rap version of This is Spinal Tap (1984).  Rusty Cundieff wrote, directed, and stars as the leader of the fictional rap group, N.W.H. (Niggaz Wit Hats). Just like Spinal Tap, this film is presented as a documentary on the aforementioned group. Taking place over the span of one year it chronicles their rise, fall, and reunion as the biggest rap act in the world. It also features several music videos and performances of original songs (also written by Cundieff) that are surprisingly good for the genre. It makes a fine companion to its heavy metal counterpart, displaying all the flaws, philosophies, and exaggerations of rap music.

3. It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004) – Dir. Michael Dowse
Aside from looking like my friend Jay, Paul Kaye does an incredible job as “Frankie Wilde – the Deaf DJ,” in this film about a contemporary Beethoven of the club music scene. Filled with laughs, devastation, and inspiration, this film tells the “true story” of Frankie Wilde, the most brilliant DJ ever to spin a record. The film is presented as a documentary, although much like District 9 (2009), it gradually shifts into the revealing story behind the speculation. Whether you love to dance, or laugh, this rhythmically charged profile will keep you enthralled from start to finish.

2. (Benny, Marty, and) Jerkbeast (2005) – Dir. Brady Hall & Calvin Reeder
If vulgarity is an art form then this movie is a priceless tapestry. Based on an actual public access television show from Washington state, Jerkbeast is a movie that strives to offend everyone who watches it and more or less manages to do it. Brady Hall and Calvin Reeder are masters of the profane universe. Following the misadventures of the worst band in the world, Jerkbeast shows us what the world would be like if any of the women G.G. Allin raped had children. It is the ultimate punk rock movie that only hurts the people who are stupid enough not to get the joke.

1. Forbidden Zone (1982) – Dir. Richard Elfman
As the opening clip below will show, this is not the most politically correct film ever made. However, it does feature Danny Elfman’s first ever film score. Just as his band was transitioning from the theatrical “Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo” to the more commercial, “Oingo Boingo,” Forbidden Zone casts a glimpse as to what their live shows used to entail. Set in the sixth dimension, this film is like a long form experimental film set to music. Fueled by sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, it runs the gamut of creative exploration though music. 

"Jerkbeast" - Comin' to getcha!
Of course, if you're interested in a real life musical tragedy you can always check out RIPHOUSE 151: Could've Been's & Wanna Be's (2008).

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