Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Some early thoughts on the CBGB movie

The "CBGB" biopic makes its U.S. premiere tonight at the Sunshine as part of the CBGB Music and Film Festival. (The movie opens Friday in theaters.)

So far, some of the reviews of the movie starring Alan Rickman as CBGB founder Hilly Kristal haven't been so kind, putting it mildly. (To date, there are four "rotten" reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes.)

At the Voice, Brian McManus turns in a review accompanied by the headline "The Year Punk Bored: CBGB Could've Been Good But..." He writes that the film is "a mostly turgid, boring-as-hell, campy slog that gets more wrong than right."

His conclusion:

The story of Hilly’s historic club is, of course, well-trodden, but likely unknown by many more familiar with the famous logo than the fact that it’s the place The Ramones were first given a platform. CBGB misses the opportunity to educate. But its biggest sin, unlike many who performed there, is that it also misses the opportunity to entertain.

At the Daily News, veteran music writer Jim Farber tries to be diplomatic. He points out the movie's much-discussed historical inaccuracies, such as Patti Smith performing "Because the Night" at least three years before it was written.

His conclusion:

The film is a poorly written, clumsily acted mess.

Yet, in the end, it did my heart good to see it. I thrilled to every fast reference to long-lost and beloved acts like the Mumps, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and the Tuff Darts. More, it was warming to see any depiction of the obliterated New York of old, no matter how vaguely rendered. If, in the end, the movie gets nowhere near its core mission of bringing back punk’s essential passion, it delivers its putrid outlines with loving accuracy.

The most savage review came last Monday via Marc Campbell, the vocalist for the Nails, in a post at Dangerous Minds titled "If You Thought CBGB's Bathrooms Were Full of Shit Check Out the Movie."

Among his many grenades:

• "CBGB really really sucks shit."

• "Fortunately, I can’t imagine CBGB finding an audience willing to spend a dime on this glob of pustulating spit."

• "From a hectoring, shrewish Patti Smith ... to a pathetically sexless Iggy Pop or Lou Reed, looking like a cross between Eminem and the Pillsbury Doughboy, or the tight-ass actress playing Debbie Harry with absolutely no feel for the delightfully clunky, self-aware, sex-kitten charm of the Bowery’s platinum blondie, this movie manages to suck all of the rock ‘n’ roll magic out of every single performer it supposedly celebrates."

The review prompted positive responses about the film in the comments from Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome and founding Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. (Spin covered that here.)

And here's a closing thought about trying to capture all this via a piece on the film in The New York Times yesterday:

"It's virtually impossible to capture a Hollywood version of punk," said Handsome Dick Manitoba, the frontman for the original punk band the Dictators and the owner of a punk bar, Manitoba’s, in the East Village who also works as a satellite-radio D.J. "The only way to do it is with a documentary."



vzabuser said...

I you ever saw "24 Hour Party People" they successfully combined dramatization with documentary. Great idea- worked for this doc about Factory Records, UK.

Anonymous said...

CBGB the movie is a cartoon, and that's about the most the American mainstream audience can handle. They're also not interested in the reality of Rock, but they'll glad eat up the myth of it.

esquared™ said...

It's fitting that this will premiere at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, since this will be a midnight showing soon, alongside The Room, and maybe a quadruple feature with The Canyons and Sharknado, a few y̶e̶a̶r̶s̶ m̶o̶n̶t̶h̶s̶ weeks from now.

[And yes to "24 Hour Party People", or on how I learned the story behind New Order's 12" Blue Monday record and its sleeve (best selling 12" record of all time, but lost money on each copy sold).]

As for CBGB the b̶i̶o̶p̶i̶c̶ Disney movie, this will be a hit to those who enjoyed The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition “Punk: Chaos to Couture”.

g whiz said...

This movie is the equivalent children's book about punk. Look at the weird long haired Ramones and beautiful princess Debbie and the weird Talking Heads and the mischievious Dead Boys. A pop up book would have been better.

Anonymous said...

Didn't these people see "Studio 54"? probably not.

Scooby said...

Saw this last night. Don't really know what to make of it - kinda stunned at how it missed and intrigued at how it tried to explain and give insight. Overall I'd say it was just a modern film in the benign style of modern films - which I guess if you look at the shit that is in the theaters at any time - is just shit.

I did spend time - a good amount of time - at CBs. Spoke with Hilly (great man with a great comforting, wounded persona when I met him), knew some of the door people - explored the place when it was empty the day of the last hardcore matinee. Those walls SPOKE to me - an amazing experience. Was in there from 11AM that day til closing - just soaking it up and enjoying every minute of it.

The film representation was empty Hollywood (and I saw it on Sunset in Hollywood) - the actors, who I don't know if they tried to actually act like the characters they were portraying (David Byrne and the Ramones were the most decent portrayals - kinda) - were just lifeless and pathetic. Faked NY accents REALLY bother me - and they were obvious and omnipresent. Filmed in Georgia with a wrong sidewalk (just fuckin' ODD, sorry) - the light and whole set just didn't pop. The NY footage woven in was sweet.

Whatever - it was some degree of entertainment - I didn't think it was gonna be much and it was just that...
R.I.P. Hilly, CBGB, all the punks that left us...

Gojira said...

Anyone pondering seeing this should just rent Rock 'n Roll High School instead. "Stick it where the monkey puts the nuts!"

Anonymous said...

No Karen!!!
No Dana!!!!!
Ashley Greene as Lisa!!!!!!!

The Philosophical Zombie said...

Actually it's "put it where the monkey puts the nuts."

DK said...

Forget this malarky! You can see real people in the current NYC rock n roll scene right here

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, because everyone expected this movie to be genuine. Everything is just a cheap sacharin imitation these days.

Netflix And Chill said...

Yo guys, chill, it's now on Netflix streaming.

Anonymous said...

Cbgb lab and all festivals anything else related to it stolen by fed reptoid commie maggots who profit off of the stolen backs of real human freedom of expression