1. Amadeus (1984)
SYNOPSIS: Antonio Salieri thinks the music Mozart’s composes is handed down directly from God. He prays he was as good a musician as Mozart so that he can offer the lord praise through composing. But he is slowly being driven mad trying to figure out why God favored Mozart, the vulgar creature, to be his instrument. Salieri’s envy makes him an enemy of God. He is set to take revenge.
REVIEW: Alright, This film is instantly a top favorite film of mine… for years I was trying to figure out what the ninja on the cover was all about and kept putting off watching the film afraid it was the source of that song “rock me Amadeus”… fortunately it is not the source of that song, nor is that song that is associated with the film… I was also worried that this film was a full-blown musical, and it’s not, it’s a dialogue driven story about envy, lust, acceptance, revenge, and the pressure put on us by our fathers. this film is pure gold and am amused to death that it was not on the first list so that I could tell you about it.
2. Stop Making Sense (1984)
SYNOPSIS: Stop Making Sense opens as lead singer David Byrne walks out onto an empty stage holding only an acoustic guitar and a portable cassette tape player. He introduces the first song, “Psyco Killer” by saying “I want to play a tape.” As the show progresses, Byrne is accompanied by the rest of the members of the band as well as some guest performers. Tina Weymouth is the first to appear for the song Heaven. Then Chris Frantz appears for Thank You for Sending Me an Angel and Jerry Harrison for Found a Job. Instruments and equipment are gradually brought out onto the bare stage during the first few songs and the entire group is brought together for the band’s big hit, “Burnin Down the House.” The film offers us a glimpse inside the mind of lead singer David Byrne through the progression of the songs and stage effects. In a self-interview included in the film, Byrne talks about the physicality of music and that it doesn’t have to make sense to the mind if it makes sense to your body. Director Jon Demme’s use of wide angle shots to give the viewer a sense of being in the crowd as they are able to view the whole stage and all of the performers at once. Unlike many concert films and videos, which use more quick-cut editing techniques in an MTV-like fashion, much of Stop Making Sense uses lengthy camera shots to allow the viewer to examine the performances and onstage interaction and the limited amount of crowd shots, which only appear at the end of the film, allow the viewer to make their own judgments about the film. The film is a great look at one of the leading bands in the New Wave movement of the late 70s and 80s and is a must see for any fan of Talking Heads.
REVIEW: “How Did I Get Here” ok, so you may not like the talking heads, but just like the mogwai review a little further down, I do and its great to watch a band come out on stage, rock out, and go home, they never stop, they don’t tell you about how they felt that morning, they just cram as much of tyne music you love into the show and go home. If anything when you are thinking of making your own live concert film use the examples out there take the best ideas and learn from their mistakes.
SYNOPSIS: Director Sam Jones makes his debut by documenting the making of Wilco’s fourth studio Album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. the film takes its name from the Wilco song that is featured on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, this album strays from the Alt-country that made them famous. Jones’ set out to document the process of YHF’s production, as these things often do he unearthed quite a bit more, including band members departing and a record company washing their hands because of poor foresight. This is a true documentary of art versus money-driven media conglomerates.
REVIEW: I am trying to break your heart, this film, its two discs of behind the scenes heart aches and earthquakes, you don’t have to be a Wilco fan to enjoy this documentary, I recommend this film to anyone about to start a band and are heading toward recording an e.p. or album, to see them poor $100,000+ into making an album then getting shafted by your label… ridiculous, this film adds credit to the importance of finding a really great manager, this cd would have never been heard or become the landmark that it is in the indie crowd if it where not for proper and timely decisions by the man who wasn’t attached to every sound bit of the cd, its extremely important to have someone detached to help guide you. it also shows you the living conditions of a musician if you think, “I wanna be with a rockstar” please see this film and know they need your support more than they can support you. the recording of this film was during some of the darkest time for Jeff Tweedy battling pain-killer addiction and going through rehab… I cannot say enough about this film, just know “I am trying to break your heart, but still i’d be lying if i said it wasn’t easy”
4. Ben Harper: Pleasure and Pain (2002)
SYNOPSIS: It details the life and living of one of the most talented artists of this century. From his childhood through the time he realized his talent. This dvd showcases the amazing person and personality that is Ben Harper, match that with the awesome talent of one of the most versatile and incredible bands, Pleasure and Pain is an amazing experience.
REVIEW: The primary piece on the disc is the 90 minute documentary Pleasure + Pain which is a surprising, humorous, and entertaining collection of behind the scenes and biographical footage of Ben Harper and his merry band of Innocent Criminals. Be warned, there is a very limited amount of live concert or studio segments in the documentary. However, there are a handful concert, studio, and bootleg tunes on the DVD that can be accessed separately including Faded, Gold to Me, Fight for Your Mind, Waiting on an Angel, I Shall Not Walk Alone, Strawberry Fields Forever, and an excellent version of Give a Man a Home featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama.
5. Get Him To The Greek (2010)
SYNOPSIS: As the countdown to the concert begins, one intern must navigate a minefield of London drug smuggles, New York City brawls and Vegas lap dances to deliver his charge safe and, sort of, sound. He may have to coax, lie to, enable and party with Aldous, but Aaron will get him to the Greek.
REVIEW: what best to say but ridiculously funny, takes a real stab at “recording artists” there is even a moment where he forgets the lyrics to his new hit single he is all proud of. it poked fun at all kinds of good things like how people only want to hear your hit songs, and the ease at which a band manager will pump a performer full of drugs so they are disoriented enough to be a puppet… has a lot of the meats and potatoes of what is happening in a record company, this film came at a great time for me since I’m currently enrolled in a Music Business program with Berklee College of Music. So, when watching this film keep in mind there are many underlying truths to this mess… I like the line “you don’t know what it s like to work for a living” replied with “yeah because I just remembered I became a rock star because I won a lottery”
6. The Rocker (2008)
SYNOPSIS: The Rocker tells the story of a failed drummer who is given a second chance at fame. Robert “Fish” Fishman is the extremely dedicated and astoundingly passionate drummer for the eighties hair band Vesuvius, who is living the rock n’ roll dream until he is unceremoniously kicked out of the band. Twenty years after his rock star fantasies are destroyed, just when Fish has finally given up all hope, he hears that his nephew’s high school rock band A.D.D. is looking for a new drummer. They reluctantly make him the newest member of the band, giving him a chance to reclaim the rock God throne he’s always thought he deserved, and taking the young band along for the ride of their lives.
REVIEW: Don’t call it a come back, Rainn Wilson is hilarious as Dwight in the office… but even funnier as a failed rock star. in the music business you have many career paths and approximately 95% end up failed, it’s what you do a wash out that defines the future of your career… it’s also referenced as a nod to Pete Best (original drummer for The Beatles)
7. Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972)
SYNOPSIS: French director Adrian Maben shot in October 1971 in a vacant, 2,000-year-old amphitheater to accentuate the grandeur and spaciousness of the band’s Meddle era music. This disc contains both a 90-minute director’s cut with interviews as well as the original 60-minute purely concert film.
REVIEW: this was shot as a counter to the Woodstock film era, yes you can have multi-thousand audiences members screaming and shagging, or… you can pry open your soul and hear the haunting effects of David Gilmour’s guitar rebounding off walls that remained silent for approx.. 2000 years. one thing I enjoy watching over and over is the scene when Nick Mason loses a drum stick and flawlessly reaches down and draws another out and lands the strike right in time, truly gifted musicians. great film, the directors cut has some cool tidbits in it, but for the “get stoned” experience watch the original cut and take your poison.
8. Mogwai: Burning (2010)
SYNOPSIS: Shot during Mogwai’s three night residency at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg in April 2009. these creative powerhouses in film and music have come together to produce something undeniably unique and mesmerizing, it grips the audience from the opening note and never let’s go.
REVIEW: I’m a big Mogwai fan, so this review is very jaded. GO BUY THIS FILM. unlike other concert films where they pull you away from the experience with interviews and the bands thoughts on purse poodles and global warming this film does exactly what Mogwai does… focuses in on the music. (now, if you don’t know what a Mogwai is… think of the film Gremlins by Steven Spielberg…. Gizmo = Mogwai)