A couple weeks ago, I bought the latest issue of “Q” magazine (April 2009; the one with Lily Allen on the cover with black leopards), mostly for its listing of “The 25 Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Movies of All Time”. Since I love “Top [increment of 5]” lists almost as much as I love rock and roll related movies, I knew I had to get this issue and check it out. While I’m glad that the list includes under-appreciated masterpieces such as “HEAD” and “The Rutles”, as well as well-deserving popular films like “Almost Famous”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and the immortal “This is Spinal Tap”, some of the inclusions in the list are inexplicable and/or inexcusable. Now, I can handle the inclusion of “The Doors” at #21. I myself abhor “The Doors”, finding it pretentious and, at times, baffling (for one thing, I can’t tell if Oliver Stone is trying to make Jim Morrison look like a hero or a jackass), and furthermore think the title is very misleading. It’s the title’s fault that I erroneously expected the film to be about the whole band and not just the lead singer (perhaps if Stone gave the film an honest title like “The Jim Morrison Story”, “Jim Morrison”, “The Lizard King”, “Mr. Mojo Risin'”, or even simply “Jim”, I may have been able to enjoy the film more and wouldn’t have been left feeling cheated by the lack of importance that Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, or John Densmore have in the film). For all the personal issues that I have with “The Doors”, I can still recognize the film’s merit and understand why other people might love the film so much (I don’t think anyone else could have played Jim Morrison as well as Val Kilmer did. And his singing voice was perfect). What I can’t even begin to comprehend, however, is the list’s #22 entry, “Backbeat”, a film that I griped about in detail several weeks ago (if you missed my rant on “Backbeat”, you can read it here). As with “The Doors”, I honestly did try to look at “Backbeat” as objectively as I could, hoping to find something in it that might warrant its inclusion in this list. But no matter how objectively I try to view it, it still seems mediocre at best. The important characters are uninteresting, the interesting characters are unimportant, and the overpowering romance kills what could have been a powerful story about the tumultuous pre-fame years of a larger-than-life band. The film also suffers from gratuitous love scenes, lame jokes, and unforgivable historical inaccuracies. If there’s anyone reading this who disagrees with me and thinks “Backbeat” has any reason at all to be in the list, please, enlighten me (I’m serious. Feel free to comment. I’d appreciate the input).
Another thing I just don’t get is the inclusion of “Easy Rider” in the list. Yes, “Easy Rider” is an amazing and iconic movie. However, what I don’t get is why it’s included in a list of rock movies, when it is not, in fact, a rock movie. There are no musical artists in the movie, either as characters or as actors (well, Toni Basil’s in it, but this was over a decade before her one hit song, “Mickey”, came out. Back in 1969 when “Easy Rider” came out, she was known primarily as a choreographer. Not that there was anything for her to choreograph in “Easy Rider”). The film isn’t about music in any way, shape, or form. Yes, “Easy Rider” has a killer soundtrack that drives the action in the film. This I am well aware of. But if that’s all it needs to be included on the list, then why is “American Graffiti” not on the list as well? That movie has, arguably, just as good a storyline and soundtrack, and the film’s action is driven at least as much by its soundtrack as is “Easy Rider”. Plus, it has a subplot involving one of the characters meeting the elusive DJ Wolfman Jack and trying to win over the woman of his dreams through the power of radio, which makes it slightly more music-related than “Easy Rider” as far as plot goes. But did “American Graffiti” make the list? No. So what makes “Easy Rider” qualify as any more of a rock film, I’d like to know?
One other thing that really irks me about “Q” magazine’s “25 Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Movies Ever” list is its sexism, however unintentional that sexism might have been. Looking through the list, I noticed that not a single one of these films has a female as a main character (to my knowledge, the one that comes closest to having a female main character is “Almost Famous”, and, although Penny Lane has a more important presence in the film than any other supporting character with the possible exception of Russell Hammond, the film isn’t really so much about her as it is driven by her). Which is a real shame, when you consider that the list neglected “The Rose”, a heartbreaking film starring Bette Midler as the troubled Janis Joplin-based protagonist, but included the aforementioned barely-qualified films “Backbeat” and “Easy Rider”. I’m not saying “Q” intentionally excluded films with female main characters from their list; I’m just saying that there’s at least one film with a female main character that deserves more recognition than some of the films that wound up on the list.
I’m not saying the list is terrible; in fact, I quite enjoyed most of it. What I am saying is that it could have been much better. Which can only mean one thing, of course: eventually, I’m going to have to post my own list of top rock ‘n’ roll films to make up for the “Q” list’s shortcomings. I don’t know when I’ll get around to posting it. It may not be for a couple of weeks; it may not be for another month or so. But I’ve already gotten it into my swelled little head that it’s my duty to present my readers with the “definitive” list of rock-related films, and so it shall be done.