Year 8, Day 128 - 5/7/16 - Movie #2,328
BEFORE: Steve Coogan carries over from "The Trip", and so do two other actors. This time Steve's not playing a fictionalized version of himself, but a fictional version of record producer Tony Wilson.
FOLLOW-UP TO: "CBGB" (Movie #2,204)
THE PLOT: In 1976, Tony Wilson sets up Factory Records and brings Manchester's music to the world.
AFTER: This biopic of the founder of an (allegedly) influential record label traces all of the major British recording acts of the early 1980's to one Sex Pistols concert in 1978, where they were all in attendance - members of Joy Division/New Order, the Buzzcocks, Morrissey, the lead singer of Simply Red, etc. So this punk bad was so important, that nearly everyone who attended that concert (approx. 40 people) immediately either formed a band or was already in a band, and immediately began playing important British new wave, even though that was a punk concert.
Yeah, I'm not buying it. In the first place, the Sex Pistols sucked. The only thing listening to them would cause anyone to do would be to run out and buy some earplug. I've never understood why people think the Sex Pistols were talented, or even count as music - I think their cover of "My Way" was funny, but only because it was so terrible from a music standpoint. And logically, how could any music that was so bad inspire people to go out and create music that was somehow good? Unless everyone at that concert suddenly thought, "Hell, my band's better than THEM!" or "I bet I could get up on stage and be popular, if these wankers can do it!"
I don't mean to sound like an old fart, I like a lot of 80's music, it's the decade I was a teenager, but I followed the American charts mostly. Sure, I knew at the time who the Beatles and Stones were, and by the time I got to college I was appreciating the Kinks and Led Zeppelin, but I never found a place in my music library for Joy Division, the Smiths, the Cure, or Siouxsie and the Banshees, and I can't even stand The Clash - hearing "London Calling" or "Rock the Casbah" is always my cue to change the radio station. So maybe you have to appreciate that style of music first in order to really enjoy this film.
Tony Wilson's character narrates his own story, well, he really claims to only be a minor characer in his own story, but it's a constant case of breaking the fourth wall - the films breaks a lot of conventions, including pointing out the instances where the real founders and employees of Factory Records appear in cameo roles. Well, it's a good thing that they did that, because the audience probably has no idea what they look like, but it still works against the suspension of disbelief. And then in one case, where Wilson's wife is seen having sex in a bathroom with a man named Howard, the real Howard is immediately revealed as a janitor in the room, with the claim that "it didn't happen this way". OK, maybe not, but then why is it being depicted in the wrong way?
I've worked with musicians and composers, getting them to sign contracts for the use of their songs in animated films. With a few exceptions, most I've dealt with prefer to sign a contract that they understand, one that I wrote in plain English, not legalese, that explains simply how much they're getting paid, that the song will be used however the director wants in the film, but they'll retain copyright and ownership of the song, plus receive royalties when the film is broadcast. According to this film, Tony Wilson had similar agreements with his acts, but the problem then becomes that larger record companies and music rights organizations don't consider these to be proper contracts, and they're easily contested as a result, just because they're not 15 pages long and filled with terms that only lawyers understand. Such is the way of the world.
NITPICK POINT: There are a few non sequiturs here that just go completely nowhere. For example, the depiction of a UFO sighting - to what end? And didn't "Velvet Goldmine" use exactly this same plot device, and have it also dropped in with no connection to the film's other events? Who's copying who, and what's up with all the UFO's over Britain? Or are these people so high on ecstasy that they're having mass hallucinations? Similarly, we're led to believe that for some reason, an incident where two future band members poisoned several hundred pigeons is somehow a major turning point in their lives, but HOW? The film never takes the time to explain how this influences anything.
Also starring John Thomson, Lennie James (last seen in "Get On Up"), Shirley Henderson (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Paddy Considine (last seen in "The World's End"), Andy Serkis (last heard in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), Paul Popplewell (last seen in "The Trip"), Rob Brydon (ditto), Ron Cook, John Simm, Peter Kay, Martin Hancock, Sean Harris (last seen in "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation"), Simon Pegg (ditto), Kate Magowan (last seen in "Stardust"), Ralf Little, Tim Horrocks, Danny Cunningham, Chris Coghill, Kieran O'Brien, Raymond Waring, Dave Gorman, Enzo Cilenti, with cameos from Christopher Eccleston (last seen in "28 Days Later...", and the real Tony Wilson, Howard Devoto, Paul Ryder, Rowetta, Mike Pickering and John DaSilva.
RATING: 4 out of 10 demo tapes