Oh mamma mia, mamma mia, Queen won’t let me go

Posted: January 6, 2019 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Tonight’s very exciting post is all about – not music in movies, but movies about music!

220px-bohemian_rhapsody_poster

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Starring Rami Malek as Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, Gwilym Lee as guitarist and hair farmer Brian May, Ben Hardy as singing drummer Roger Taylor, Joseph Mazzello as dorky bass player John Deacon, and Branson from Downtown Abbey as Super Bad Gay Dude.

From the moment I saw the trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, I knew I wanted to see it, even though I have never wanted to see Queen.

My enthusiasm waned when I realized no one could make a movie about Queen without including the dreaded music of Queen. I pictured myself wrapped in a ball beneath my seat while the house speakers pummeled me with “I’m in Love with My Car” (“With my hand on your grease gun/Mmm, it’s like a disease, son”) and “Fat-Bottomed Girls” (“Heap big woman, you done made a big man of me”).

But on a rainy night when our only other choice was Mary Poppins Returns, we grimly fastened our safety harnesses, faced the camera, said, “Let’s do this,” and walked in slow motion into the suburban multiplex while cars and helicopters exploded behind us.

(Is there a musical line I won’t cross? Oh yes, and I know exactly what’s on the other side: Close to the Edge, the Yes biopic.*)

Two and a half hours later, we left the theater wrapped in a happy rock-and-roll daze. What a film! Rami Malek, who had barely heard of Queen before he was hired, resurrected Freddie. When people in the far future envision Freddie Mercury (which they will, despite everything I’ve said about him here in the present), they will think of Rami Malek.

I didn’t like how the film played with Queen’s actual history – Freddie didn’t break up the band by being selfish, Freddie broke up the band by being dead – and there were zero mentions of the glam rock and art rock worlds that birthed them, but I still give this film Four Paws Up for its superlative performances, exceptional sound, and riveting scenes that give us a notion of what it was like to be in the band. The recreation of Queen’s set at Live Aid in 1985 was a spectacle on a level with the “Once in a Lifetime” sequence in Stop Making Sense or the chariot race in Ben-Hur.

Can I do the fandango? Yes, but I prefer not to.

I wanted to see Bohemian Rhapsody because I love films about bands. Naturally, I’ve made a list of all the ones I’ve seen (and some I haven’t). I’ve divided my list into four handy categories (with two subcategories). I don’t claim this list is complete – your nominations are welcome, and will be ridiculed.

Note: Documentaries are off-limits. So no mention of the legions of Beatles docs (such as Imagine: John Lennon and George Harrison: Living in the Material World) or the Decline of Western Civilization movies (punk and metal).

Also, I am arbitrarily striking off all the Star Is Born and Phantom of the Opera movies, including Phantom of the Paradise. This is just too much work.

Ready?

Tonight, Category A:

Biopics about The Beatles

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
The ultimate band movie, this one about a day in the life of a band that’s very like but not exactly like The Beatles, played by real Beatles. A Hard Day’s Night will not be equaled until they start making fantasy RPG movies where you can be Paul’s grandfather.

Birth of the Beatles (1979)
This was the first movie about The Beatles after their break-up. The songs were recorded by a Beatles tribute band with contributions from Paul McCartney. I don’t recall this film as amounting to much of anything, but it might be nostalgic to rewatch it. We’re probably better off with the next entry, even though like most people I can only handle a finite amount of Pete Best:

Backbeat (1994)
Young Beatles on a rampage in Berlin. The film is only above average, but the soundtrack – ooh-la-la! Alt-rock musicians covering The Beatles covering black R&B hits. Sweet.

Now for Beatles films I haven’t seen:

The Hours and the Times (1991)
Two of Us (2000)
Nowhere Boy (2009)
Lennon Naked (2010)

There are no Beatles songs on these soundtracks. The first two don’t even have songs, just the music that follows the actors around. The other two have some Lennon solo tracks. I can’t claim I’m in rush to see them.

Where are the Ringo movies??

Subcategory: Biopics about bands based on The Beatles

Head (1968)
Correct me if I’m wrong, Princess Internet, but A Hard Day’s Night and Head are the only movies about a band in which the band is played by the band (The Beatles and The Monkees, respectively). Unfortunately for The Monkees, the distance between A Hard Day’s Night and Head is about as wide as the distance between the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool. A living-room full of stoners would vote to watch Mary Poppins Returns.

The opening track, “Porpoise Song,” is a representative sample of late-’60s psychedelia, but other than that, I recommend you watch The Monkees’ old TV show.

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)
The first Beatles parody. My problem with Beatles parodies is that after I hear the first song, I want the real thing. I’m afraid if tonight I watched All You Need Is Cash, I’d be disappointed.

In our next movies-about-music posts we’ll tackle Biopics about non-Beatles, Totally fictional biopics, and Old biopic crud from Hollywood. Until then, we will, of course, rock you.

The song “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t make sense, but, to be fair, neither does “I Am the Walrus.”

* There is no Yes biopic. I just said that to scare you.

Comments
  1. verian says:

    I saw this on a 10 hour flight to Houston, Texas. I really only had 2 problems with it, one was that if, at any point I thought, “Isn’t Malik doing a good job of playing Mercury’ then I fell out of the film and had a couple of minutes of forgetting what I just thought. It happened several times. The other was that it was all a bit ‘Arent the rest of us lovely, and one of us is a Doctor.’, otherwise, I quite enjoyed it.

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