Monday, March 3, 2014

Five Movies About Obsessed Band Fans

I want to rock and roll all night and part of every day.

There is no shortage of rock n' roll movies in the last 50 years, but most of them are either biopics or movies about fictional bands playing together and breaking up. It's rare that the movies are told from the perspective of the fans. Here are five movies that attempt to portray how and why we have loved certain bands. Results vary.

1. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) The directorial debut of Robert Zemeckis is designed as a tribute to Beatlemania, following a group of teenagers as they try to get a piece of the Fab Four on the day they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. There's a lot of Zemeckis on display, from the overly busy comic anarchy to the way he attempts to marry fiction with real historical events, though the movie mostly reduces Beatlemania to "screaming." The movie has an enjoyably raucous spirit and some fun moments, but it all becomes numbing after a while.
2. Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) Director Allan Arkush and Roger Corman's New World Pictures gave us the wonderful tribute not just to The Ramones, but to being young and giving the middle finger to authority. The amazing thing about the movie is that it manages to do that in the sweetest, most gentle way -- it comes by its spirit of punk rock rebellion honestly, but we can tell the filmmakers don't really mean it. Sure, they literally blow up the high school at the end (spoiler?), but not because the movie advocates destruction. It's because it's FUN.
3. Detroit Rock City (1999) It's clear that writer/director Adam Rifkin (The Chase, Chillerama) used Rock 'n' Roll High School as the inspiration for his film about four boys desperately trying to see KISS in concert in 1978. Like the band that inspired the movie, Detroit Rock City is crass and vulgar and stupid. Unlike the band, it fails to kick ass. Rifkin gets a lot of the period detail right and his movie certainly has personality and a few inspired beats (in particular a POV shot from inside the mouth of Gene Simmons), but it's genuinely unpleasant -- everyone shouts their lines, the camera gets in too close and it's all too obnoxious and puke-soaked to be anything but off-putting. I'll still watch it again every couple of years because I am incapable of learning.
4. Rock Star (2001) This one might be a stretch, but seeing as it's based on the real-life fan of a real-life band -- Tim "Ripper" Owens, a superfan of Judas Priest who replaced lead singer Rob Halford when he left the band -- it makes the cut. I think the movie is supposed to be about dreams coming true? And maybe the excesses of the hair metal movement? I can't remember. I saw it opening night and immediately forgot it, because Rock Star is that kind of movie. Stars Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston are totally miscast and for a movie about sex, drugs and ridiculous rock n' roll, it's completely bland. Rock Star might as well be a TV movie.
4. I Think We're Alone Now (2008) Here's the only obsessed fan movie on this list that's really real. This documentary about two fans of the pop star Tiffany isn't really about fandom as much as it is about obsession and possibly mental illness; one of the men it chronicles is diagnosed with Aspergers and is very much aware of that fact, while the other is combating issues of sexual identity. None of this is what makes these two subjects mentally ill. No, it is the obsession with Tiffany (who barely appears in the film) that makes them fascinating and potentially disturbed. It has nothing to do with whether or not Tiffany is worthy of this kind of obsession. If it wasn't her, it would be something else. It would be creepy if it wasn't so sad. Or is it sad, if it wasn't so creepy?


  1. NICE! I like Rock Star, but not because it's any good. It's just because I love hair metal and the movie does a nice job of capturing the stupid excess of it all. The dreams come true aspect SUCKS. Think about this: you and I each saw this on opening night in two different parts of the country. One of us actually did play rock music for a live audience. One did not, but sure wishes he had and now plays for an audience of cats, who do not cheer and usually like their buttholes.

    There's also a 2004 movie Australian movie (paging Brad) called Thunderstruck about a group of friends who love AC/DC so much that they vow to bury their dead friend next to Bon Scott. It's like Fanboys with a lot less Star Wars and a lot more "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."

  2. I cannot put into words how much I loved Rock n Roll High School.