musical

The Film Playlist: School of Rock

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a solid 7th period Algebra class. My teacher was in his 20’s and an alumni of my high school, so he made at least one class in our transition to a new school pretty relaxed. I learned a few things in his class, all unrelated to math. I found out what it was like to live in NYC and work on Wall Street (his former profession before he became our Algebra teacher), that Pat’s makes the best cheesesteak in Philly (this was a lie because they don’t), and that School of Rock was a great movie (based on his and a fellow classmate’s recommendation). Out of those few things the most useful to me was that School of Rock was indeed a great movie and a must-see for any music lover.

Directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood and Dazed and Confused), School of Rock was released October 3, 2003. It was the highest grossing musical comedy of all time until recently when Pitch Perfect 2 surpassed it this year. The movie stars Jack Black as rock singer/guitarist Dewey Finn, who gets kicked out of his band, No Vacancy. With no job and no way to afford rent for the apartment he shares with his friend and former band mate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White, also writer of the film), and Ned’s girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), Dewey poses as a 4th grade substitute teacher at a prep school to make some money. The school’s principal, Rosaline Mullins, who Dewey befriends to earn the job, is played by Joan Cusack. After Dewey hears his class during their music lesson, he concocts a plan to transform the class into a band to compete at Battle of the Bands and win against No Vacancy, who is also competing. He assigns the class (starring a young Miranda Cosgrove as one of the students) various roles either in the band or as stylists, roadies, groupies, production team members, security, or managers, and preparation for the event takes over normal class time. Obviously his plan is destined for struggles along the way, but through everything, he teaches the students some important life lessons.

The film features a stellar classic rock soundtrack with an original song and AC/DC cover (“It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll)”) played by the cast. Linklater actually searched for and cast young, talented musicians to play the roles of the kids in the band. The soundtrack also features songs by Led Zeppelin (who rarely distribute the rights to their songs for use in film or television), Stevie Nicks, The Who, The Doors, Cream, The Black Keys, and The Ramones. Many other classic rock songs by bands like AC/DC, Deep Purple, and The Clash are featured in the film as well.

After seeing School of Rock, I purchased the movie to add to my collection, since I enjoyed it so much. It became a movie night film I would turn to time after time (whether that be by myself or with friends). I even downloaded the original song “School of Rock” or “Zach’s Song” as they say in the movie. It’s still on my iTunes to this day. The film was a great ode to music, specifically rock n’ roll, and taught us all how to “stick it to the man”. The Film Playlist series wouldn’t be complete without it, despite it being just an average, funny, music oriented film. For any music fan, it’s worth checking out though, even if you only want to learn Dewey’s rock n’ roll handshake. Let’s rock, let’s rock. Today.

(** If you have seen the film, check out this amazing 10 year reunion performance of “School of Rock” from the cast.**)

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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