Monday, January 4, 2010

La Bamba

Year 2, Day 3 - 1/3/10 - Movie #368

BEFORE: Time for a few real-life stories - some bio-pics about the people who DID make it in the music business.

THE PLOT: Biographical story of the rise from nowhere of singer Ritchie Valens.

AFTER: It's no coincidence that "Fame" is only 1 letter away from "Fate". In last night's film, a drummer broke his arm, which led to him being replaced in a band - and the new drummer played their song at a faster tempo, creating a dance hit. In this film, fate seems to have chosen Ricardo Valenzuela for stardom as Ritchie Valens, but fate also places him on a small aircraft on a stormy night...February 3, 1959, known as "The Day the Music Died". I think someone might have written a song about that - but it's an enigmatic one.

The movie leads us to believe that a simple coin toss determined whether Valens or another musician got on that plane - fate, she's a fickle mistress. The movie also suggests that Valens had a life-long fear of flying, after witnessing a plane crash as a child. But was this really part of his make-up, or just poetic license and foreshadowing by the filmmakers? I hate flying in planes myself - I think we should all boycott them until they're somehow made 100% safe, and this whole terrorism thing blows over, but I seem to be in the minority on this. I do take one round-trip business trip a year, and while I'm on the plane, it's tough for me to NOT think about the plane crashing, unless I'm playing trivia on one of those little screens. And forget sleeping on the plane - if the plane goes down, I want to see it coming, I'd rather not wake up dead...

Anyway, Lou Diamond Phillips plays Valens, and Esai Morales plays his no-good half-brother Bob, who's a drunk, a biker, a drug dealer and an aspiring animator (see, you can't trust those animators, always up to no good...). Joe "Joey Pants" Pantoliano (last heard in "Racing Stripes") plays Bob Keane, the record-industry kingmaker who discovers Valens. Good stunt casting is Rick Dees playing a DJ - and GREAT stunt casting is Marshall Crenshaw as Buddy Holly and Brian Setzer as Eddie Cochran ("Summertime Blues") - hey, might as well get some folks in the movie who can sing...unlike Phillips, who lip-syncs (very well, though) to music performed by Los Lobos, who also have a cameo as the Tijuana band that inspires Valens to record the title song...

The movie moved really slow for me, and there wasn't much joy along the way - honestly, if being famous is this problematic, I don't know why people bother.

RATING: 5 out of 10 bottles of tequila

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