Movies that are slightly off.
The Decline of Western Civilization
The Los Angeles punk music scene circa 1980 is the focus of this film. With Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, and X.
Pretty much anyone who was ever into punk rock has some boring story about how it affected them personally. Here's mine (nobody has to read this, but this movie welled up a bunch of old memories and feelings so I feel compelled to exorcise them here):
Last time I saw this movie I was 14 or 15-years-old, sitting on a musty couch with Mary Blackwell in the basement of her aunt and uncles' house in Candler Park. Mary was a senior in high school, and I was a freshman. We met because in some morning period class she would graffiti her desk, and later in the day when the room was used for a completely different class, I would come…
There's a slender thread here, and some would probably say in the DNA of punk itself, of creepy shit like white supremacy, homophobia, and genuinely antisocial and violent behavior (as opposed to the cool kind) that to the movie's credit isn't brushed under the rug but isn't quite the subject of serious exploration either. Contrast that with the often straight-ahead mockery of Part II and you have quite a study in how subtle differences in presentation can make a huge difference in material. It's also a study in how much shittier music apparently got in less than ten years.
"Personally, I've been through one too many youth movements."
As always with concert films, mileage will vary depending on one's connection to the music on display. As someone who, when tasked with writing an 8th grade history report on any era of human existence, chose this very scene, the hardcore punk scene in Southern California at the dawn of the 1980s, this is catnip to me.
As Mike Watt wrote and D. Boon sang as part of the greatest punk band of all time, "We learned punk rock in Hollywood, drove up from Pedro. We were fucking corndogs. We'd go drink and pogo." That is this movie.
It's been years since I've seen this and it's interesting to see which…
The first part of Penelope Spheeris' trilogy of documentaries about L.A.'s alternative music/lifestyle scene has a near mythical reputation - perhaps largely as a result of its rarity - the only copy I've ever seen is a DVD-R taken off a Japanese laserdisc! The Decline Of Western Civilization is very much a celluloid time capsule, capturing as it does a short period between the 1970s and 80s and concentrating on a handful of Los Angeles punk bands, some on the verge of fame within the scene (an early incarnation of a pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag, and another Flag vocalist Keith Morris with Circle Jerks), others more established (seminal L.A. bands X and Fear), and a few destined for obscurity (art…
Look for a big piece on the series in the Globe and Mail.
My band is thinking of doing a bunch of Germs covers, since everyone in the band is so untalented and inebriated that it's inevitable that we'll sound better than the original.
I hate to sound like a professor, but this is "an incredible text." It functions first as an engaging look at a relevant musical scene: it's easy to forget while watching Germs that Pat Smear, who by all accounts including those of your own eyes, could barely play his guitar...would tour with Nirvana and end up as a guitarist for Foo Fighters. Or that X's handsome John Doe would end up with a lovely baritone perfectly suited for MOR alt-country. You get pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag and get to imagine the decades of infighting that "band" (namely, Greg Ginn) has endured since, including - somewhat ironically, given the leftist/anarchist bent of many punk rockers - lots of intellectual property issues.…
Billy Zoom: The Last Sex Icon.
Love the interviews but just not that into those bands so the performance footage goes on too long. I would have loved more talking with audience members!
Weakest of the 3. BR
I still wanna be punk
Es justo y necesario? En verdad es justo y necesario, I Love Living in the City!!!
The BEFORE SUNRISE of musical documentaries.
Proof that I’m old: I spent a good chunk of this movie wishing everyone would get over themselves and shower.
Fascinating look at LA underground punk scene, that lets the bands and the fans speak for themselves. Spheeris does not intrude very much at all on her subjects, and lets the music and the youthfulness of the people involved fill in their own narratives. There are funny moments to be sure, but what comes through most is the disconnection that these kids feel from the world and the city around them. They forge this angry movement with little of the purpose that seemed to be at the heart of the British punk scene, but have much to say about coming from broken families or racially charged communities, or a general malaise that makes them searching for something to feel. But again, the story is shaped mostly by what the subjects say themselves, which is both illuminating or incoherent in equal measure.
I wish there had been more emphasis on the fans. The one segment dedicated to interviews with the kids who turned up to the early '80s punk shows was easily the most compelling part of this legendary doc.
The purposely messy, noisy music gets wearing, and some of the band members (especially Fear) come across like a bunch of poseur dickheads, but its worth it to watch the slam-dancing in the mosh-pit with something approaching nostalgia.
The interviews with dazed, drunken members of Black Flag, X, and the Germs are also quite entertaining. Penelope Spheeris in the extra features comes across as a bit of an idiot, but she proved to be the right person at the right time to interview and capture these bands and this scene for posterity.
A good companion piece to Ugh! A Music War doc.
High-rated movies with very few views. Suggestions are welcome.