musical movies

The Film Playlist: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Since it’s the week of Halloween, I figured an extra blog post was due. I had to feature a cult classic film that inspired a one-of- a-kind theater experience. Let’s get one thing straight though. I hate musicals. However, I love music. Strange right? Eh, a little. There’s just something I find odd about singing the story of your life instead of just saying it. I’m a bigger fan of having a soundtrack to life. You know, like songs you love just playing in the background? That said, there are a handful of musical films I can tolerate (and maybe enjoy a little bit??). Surprisingly, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) is one of them.

Around Halloween, there always seems to be Rocky Horror events popping up more frequently. Maybe it’s the extremely odd nature of the film, the fact that people like to dress-up as characters from the movie for the events, or that RHPS performances began during the Halloween season, but it’s become a Halloween time tradition. Unfortunately, I never attended a RHPS showing (I have seen the movie though). It’s always been on my list of things to do, but for whatever reason, never worked out. So yes, if I do ever attended, that will make me a “virgin” (seeing the movie in a non-live performance setting doesn’t count). But before I get into these events, it’s best to tell you about the 1975 film starring, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a satirical musical/comedy/horror film that is a tribute to old time science fiction/horror movies. It’s directed by Jim Sharman and based on the 1973 British stage production of the same name written by Richard O’Brien (O’Brien starred as Riff Raff in the film). Sharman and O’Brien actually teamed up to write the screenplay. In the film, a young, recently engaged couple’s (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) car breaks down during a rainstorm. Fortunately, they break down near a castle where they decide to ask for a phone to use to call for help. However, a mad scientist alien transvestite dressed in a corset, briefs, garter straps, fishnet stockings, and platform heels named Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his band of eerily costumed creatures/friends inhabit the castle, which leads the couple to become wrapped up in the ensuing musical mayhem. At the time of release in the fall of 1975, the film was a flop, drawing small audiences nationwide (except at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles). It wasn’t until the film began its midnight showings in the spring of 1976 at the Waverly Theater in New York City that the cult following grew.

At the screenings, the theater manager would play the soundtrack to hype the audience before the movie began which created a fun, care-free, party-like atmosphere. Then, during the film, people began randomly shouting responses to things the characters would say on screen. Audience participation during the movie became the norm. Around Halloween in 1976, people came dressed as characters from the film. It spurred a whole revelation of Rocky Horror regulars lip-syncing the soundtrack before the movie and performing a mini-floor show, much to the delight of all who attended. It became the standard for RHPS screenings.

Now all over the country, and more-so around Halloween, midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show happen on a regular basis almost 40 years after they began. Casts of regular performers dress-up and act out the film as it plays. People shout at the screen, shoot water guns, and throw rice and toilet paper during appropriate parts. There’s also rituals that take place for Rocky Horror “virgins” a.k.a. those who have never seen the RHPS live. The rituals vary from theater to theater but may include dancing the “Time Warp” (it’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right…) or receiving a lap-dance from one of the cast members. All the virgin initiations are in good fun though because that’s what Rocky Horror is about.

The music in the film is typical of musicals, but features somewhat of a glam rock style. Some of the most notable songs include the “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me”, and “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul”. After I first saw the RHPS, I felt like I went through a strange mind blowing experience. It disturbed me a bit at first, but then slowly I became more interested in the songs. I learned how to dance the “Time Warp” and the rest is history. Despite enjoying the songs and catching parts of the movie on occasion, I can honestly say I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety since that first time. It really is that strange and will take a lot for me to watch it again (a live showing would absolutely get me to do it). RHPS is a cult phenomenon though and loved by many. I guarantee there are showings this weekend if you want to check one out. Just search the web. You probably have one near you without even knowing it. Even if you miss out this weekend, there are several places that have monthly showings all over the country. It should be a one-of-a-kind thrilling, chilling, and fulfilling experience.

In case you want to know a few songs before you go, I recommend these (my faves):

  1. Time Warp
  2. Sweet Transvestite
  3. Dammit Janet
  4. Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me
  5. Science Fiction Double Feature
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The Film Playlist: Almost Famous

Yesterday morning I caught part of the talk show Live! With Kelly & Michael. Kate Hudson was a guest on the show to promote her new movie Rock the Kasbah. Every time I see Kate Hudson anywhere, whether it be on TV, in a movie, in a magazine, etc., I always think to myself, “Kate Hudson will never be as good as she was in Almost Famous.” Today was no exception, but it did also give me a good idea for a new blog series. The series will combine two of the topics I cover on this thing. I wish I thought of it sooner. I’m calling it “The Film Playlist.” In the series, I’ll write about movies with music plots. But no musicals! Okay, maybe I’ll throw in a musical or two (cause there’s only two musical films I actually like), but don’t hold your breath. Anyway, to begin the series, I figured I should write about one of my favorite music movies and the inspiration for “The Film Playlist”, Almost Famous.

Almost Famous was released in 2000 starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit. It was written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Crowe won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film. It also featured a bunch of well known and up and coming actors like Frances McDormand, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Zooey Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, Rainn Wilson, Jay Baruchel, and Eric Stonestreet. The film is set in the early 70’s. It tells the story of 15 year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit), who has a strong love for rock music and spends his time writing for underground newspapers. After William is given the chance to cover a Black Sabbath concert by rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), he meets and befriends the mysterious groupie or should I say “Band Aid”, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Her connections with the opening band at the Sabbath concert, Stillwater, and former relations with the lead singer of Stillwater, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), open a door for William. His Black Sabbath article earns him an opportunity with Rolling Stone. After he begs to do the piece on Stillwater and has his wish granted, he is told to travel on tour with the band to get the full scoop on the rock group. The journey he embarks on is truly a coming of age tale filled with sex, drugs, rock & roll, and life lessons.

Four years ago, my friend Caylee, who was my go-to for good music recommendations, told me I should see this movie. At the time, I recently subscribed to Netflix so I put it on my DVD list. I watched and instantly appreciated it. It was a great movie and as I still say to this day, Kate Hudson’s best work. It’s filled with many legendary quotes and memorable scenes, especially the scene where the entire tour bus sings along to “Tiny Dancer”. It’s just a fantastic moment in the film.

Almost Famous is a quality film that surrounds music, the music industry, and the tour life of a 70’s rock band. The soundtrack even won a Grammy. Of course, most of the music is that early 70’s rock & roll era style. On the soundtrack you’ll hear Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, The Beach Boys, and David Bowie to name a few. Sure it’s not my current favorite kind of music but you have to appreciate classic rock, just as you have to appreciate this movie.

Like Caylee did to me four years earlier, I now recommend this movie to all of you. It’s the first in “The Film Playlist” series and a must see for any music lover. I also suggest you “listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you’ll see your entire future,” but only after you check out Almost Famous.

“I always tell the girls never take it seriously, if you never take it seriously you never get hurt, if you never get hurt you always have fun, and if you ever get lonely just go to the record store and visit your friends.” -Penny Lane