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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Five Best Plus: Fictional Movies with Plots Driven by Real Bands/Artists

Billy Idol in "The Wedding Singer"
courtesy of
Long title for a post, I know. There are plenty of musicals. There are plenty of music documentaries. But how many non-musicals actually have a plot that is somewhat driven by a real band or artist? The movies below are the only ones I could think of (and find through research) where the main story is somewhat driven by a real band or an artist. These films either center around something to do with a real band or somewhere in the film, the movie's plot was set in motion by this band somehow. Again - real bands. I can't say much else. Here they are.

Dazed and Confused (1993)
Artist: Aerosmith

Richard Linklater's plotless tale of the last day of school and the struggles of growing up and having responsibilities is a favorite among college students and pretty much anybody in my age bracket. But through all the smoking and drinking, the major undercurrent of the film is this group's desire to get Aerosmith tickets the next day. In a way, this concert that is only mentioned a few times and never actually attended in the span of the film is the driving force behind all the activities, a lot of the decisions made, and these teenagers' preservation of their youth in their time of trial. It also provides the original necessary plot device to involve the famed Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), who is taking the tally on who wants a ticket. The group keeps getting bigger and bigger and the party keeps getting better. All right, all right.

Detroit Rock City (1999)
Artist: KISS

In probably the most obvious plot-driving example on this list, the Adam Rifkin little-seen gem doesn't just feature the band. It IS the movie.  This film revolves around four 1978 teenagers as they try anything they can to somehow get to a KISS concert. Starring Guiseppe Andrews, Edward Furlong, James DeBello, and Sam Huntington, Detroit Rock City features the four actually playing in their own band (called Mystery) and dying to go see the band that inspired them to become musicians in the first place. It loosely captures that desire to pursue whatever our purpose is at the time when we're teenagers, even if it means lying, cheating, and stealing just to see an arena rock band. Besides - it's KISS. Have some respect.

Saving Silverman (2001)
Artist: Neil Diamond

Oh, this movie is so bad, but I love it so much. Saving Silverman is the story of three friends in a Neil Diamond tribute band. When Darren (Jason Biggs) falls in love with a controlling woman (Amanda Peet), his friends (Steve Zahn and Jack Black) decide to get him back by forcing him to fall back in love with his high school sweetheart (Amanda Detmer). The movie is all over the place, but it features some good Jack Black moments and the great R. Lee Emery in one of his funnier roles. The sloppy story eventually reaches its conclusion, including a nice extended cameo from Neil Diamond himself. It's stupid and it's ridiculous, but it's a lot of mindless fun set to some pretty great tunes.

Garden State (2004)
Artist: The Shins

This may be a stretch, but think about it again. Zach Braff's directorial debut has a great indie soundtrack, all anchored by The Shins. When Andrew (Braff) meets Sam (Natalie Portman) in a doctor's office, she bubbles with personality and asks him to listen to the song "New Slang" by The Shins on her headphones. This sets the relationship in motion, as we see Sam's expression through Andrew's eyes as he gives it a listen. It's short and sweet, but it's surprising how much this moment influenced the rest of the film. Looking back, the film is a bit self indulgent and pretty whiny, but I was 21 when I first saw it and this film (specifically this moment) really stuck with me for a long time. It's not The Graduate, but it did capture some sort of angst I felt at the time.

I Love You, Man (2009)
Artist: Rush

I watched this movie again over the weekend, inspiring me to make this list. One of the better comedies of the past ten years,  I Love You, Man was a broad, though surprisingly honest look at what it means to have a best friend as a guy (I refuse to call it a "bromance"). Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is getting married (to a wonderfully cast Rashida Jones...lucky guy), but has no one to be his best man. He meets Sydney (Jason Segal) at a house showing and his life changes. What unites them so closely? A surreal love for the progressive rock band Rush, who actually makes a cameo in the scene above (it's so uncomfortable to watch this in the context of the film). Besides being another solid step into movie stardom for Jason Segal, I Love You, Man took on surprisingly truthful issues about the male relationship and its comparison to the female relationship.  It's also hilarious, which helps quite a bit.

Well, that's all I've got. Feel free to remind me of some. But, in closing, I give you one of the better - though stranger - cameos from an artist in a film that is mostly about music. Ladies and gentlemen - Bruce Springsteen in High Fidelity.

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