Ever since the movies started talking, music has been an integral part of the film experience. Now that most every living room is equipped with state of the art high-def flat screens and surround sound , what better way to test out the limits of those speakers than with some choice titles from the Streampix library?
Here’s a gathering of 10 curated titles that range from movie adaptations of hit musicals (“Cabaret,” “Camelot”) to Oscar-winning biopics (“Amadeus”), a cable TV phenomenon (“High School Musical”), documentaries (“Michael Jackson: the Life of an Icon,” “Pardon Us For Living But the Graveyard Is Full”) and even one of the legendary so-bad-you-can’t-stop watching rock flicks of all time (“Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”).
You may now don your Beats by Dre headphones:
“Cabaret”: New to Streampix is this 1972 eight-time Oscar winner, which earned statues for Best Director Bob Fosse, Best Actress Liza Minnelli and Best Actor in a Supporting Role Joel Grey. The adaptation of the hit Broadway musical revolves around a young ingénue who performs in a Berlin night spot known as the Kit Kat Klub in 1931, set against the rise of the Nazis. The famed score by John Kander and Fred Ebb includes MC Grey’s “Willkommen (Welcome)” and the classic title track, belted out by Minnelli. The highlight of the movie, naturally, are the Fosse-choreographed dance set pieces, especially with Liza, in bowler hat and garters, straddling that chair.
“Camelot”: Joshua Logan’s 1967 Oscar-winning screen version of the Broadway hit about King Arthur features Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Frances Nero crooning the classic Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe score, including the famed title song which became the theme for the Kennedy administration in its original theatrical form. The movie won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Costume Design and Music Adaptation (Alfred Newman and Ken Darby).
“Amadeus”: Another Oscar winner, Milos Forman’s lavish 1984 adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s Broadway play about the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri isn’t exactly a musical, though music pays a major role in the telling. F. Murray Abraham earned a Best Oscar nod as Mozart’s arch-enemy, while the movie itself won
Best Picture and Forman Best Director. Tom Hulce played the title role, and look for “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon in a small role as his maid.
“High School Musical”: Disney Channel’s original movie shattered viewing records with its 2006 premiere, and helped launch the careers of stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale, directed by Michael Jackson choreographer Kenny Ortega, who makes sure the many dance sequences snap, crackle an pop. The film also spawned three more sequels, following the principals all the way to college.
“Michael Jackson: the Life of an Icon”: This 2011 documentary features interviews with his mother Katherine, siblings Tito and Rebbie, and even David Gest (who produced), one-time Jacko confidante, and ex-husband of Liza Minnelli, who is always worth a chuckle. Only thing missing is a one-on-one with Dr. Conrad Murray.
“Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”: This notorious 1978 Robert Stigwood-produced, Michael Schultz-directed fiasco based on the Beatles’ famed album is notorious for single-handedly—at least temporarily, that is—derailing the careers of stars the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, along with MGM studios, though there are some notable musical performances by Aerosmith (“Come Together”), Billy Preston (“Get Back”), Earth, Wind & Fire (“Got to Get You Into My Life”) but the movie will probably never live down George Burns croaking his way through “Fixing a Hole.”
“Empire Records”: This 1995 “coming of age” movie directed by Allan Moyle and starring Anthony LaPaglia, revolves around a group of employees of an independent record store who fight a corporate takeover. Talk about your period pieces. It is notable mainly for the presence of a young Renee Zellwegger and Liv Tyler, and a soundtrack filled with mid-‘90s post-punk acts like the Gin Blossoms, the Cranberries, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Evan Dando and Coyote Shivers, who has a small part in the film. Recommended for those who still mourn the demise of vinyl.
“Crooklyn”: Spike Lee’s autobiographical 1994 homage to his hometown is notable for a funk and soul-saturated soundtrack that helps set the story in its time and moves the action along. Starring Alfre Woodward and Delroy Lindo, it tells the story of a school teacher, her stubborn jazz musician husband and the five kids they raise in a tenement in ‘70s Brooklyn. The film includes R&B classics like The Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself,” Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” and the Chi-Lites’ “Oh Girl.”
“Fame”: Composer Michael Gore took home an Oscar for his original score to this Alan Parker-directed 1980 film about students at N.Y.’s School of Performing Arts, featuring Irene Cara, which went on to spawn a hit TV series on NBC and a 2009 reboot. The title track, co-written by Gore with Dean Pitchford, also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, beating out, among others, “Out Here on My Own,” another song from the movie.
“Pardon Us For Living But the Graveyard Is Full”: We will excuse you for never having heard of the subject of this documentary, the Queens-spawned garage-rock practitioners known as the Fleshtones, who emerged from the late ‘70s CGBG scene and are still going strong some 38 years later. This documentary traces the development of the band from their humble beginnings to, well, their humble present-day as perhaps the reigning cult rock group of their day, subjects of not only this doc, but Joe Bonomo’s marvelous 400-page-plus bio, “Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band.”