Showing posts with label camp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label camp. Show all posts

Monday, July 2, 2012

movie review: 'rock of ages'

Short version: it's a glorious disaster of a film, both parody and completely straight. There's no surprise this film is failing catastrophically at the box office, and there are some good reasons for that. The leads aren't very good, the songs aren't great, and the storyline is a mountain of cliches - but then again, if you've seen the musical, you'd know with the last one that that's the point. So yeah, it's another 'So Bad It's Good' movie, and... ah, hell, I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun, and frankly, though  I can't see the movie is anywhere close to good, some scenes in that movie are kind of glorious. Plus, Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances in decades.  

Longer version...

Let me tell you a story.

I first got into heavy metal when I was about fourteen, mostly due to the fact that I had heard people had made songs about characters in the fantasy novels I was reading (the Dragonlance series, for those who care). Now since most of this metal was inspired by fantasy, it tended towards the power and symphonic genres, and for the most part, it was cheesy as all hell. I can admit this - bands like Nightwish and Blind Guardian and Kamelot and Dragonforce and Within Temptation have a certain factor of ridiculousness that makes them easy as hell to make fun of. It's an easy joke, and it's one I don't have much of a problem with. Now granted, there will always be stuff that will rise above genre and achieve acclaim, but suffice to say there's a reason why metal is seldom treated with any respect, even in an era where pop, country, and even techno have critical acclaim.

However, the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse often touches on a theme that tends to be unexplored in the discussion of heavy metal, or indeed most hard rock of the past forty years. This theme is simple: that kind of music might be silly or cheesy or a little ridiculous, but if you're the right mindset, it can be epic and powerful and just as moving as the more serious and critically accepted grunge and alt rock most people prefer. The thing is, most people can't get into that headspace, mostly due to their disdain for metal as a 'low' musical genre, or their own pride preventing them from being a part of the 'joke' and potentially being laughed at for the acceptance of actually liking something silly. In fact, you can stretch this general concept to cover a lot of material - the bubblegum pop of the 90s, anything tinged with fantasy or sci-fi, or even musicals.

Continuing my story from above and fast forwarding a few years, I began listening to a lot of musicals in the fall of 2009, and around that time I discovered a jukebox musical called Rock of Ages. It was a musical filled with hit songs from the hair metal era, and I rapidly took a liking to it. What made the musical special - at least to me - was that it seemed to be in on the 'joke' - it accepted the cheesiness and silliness of the hair metal era (doubled by the fact that the songs were in a musical, of all things) and played things for laughs, but it also ran with the fact that in the right mindset, the music was fucking glorious. It didn't matter that Don't Stop Believing or Here I Go Again or We Built This City were overused, corny, and often times a little silly - they were going to play it straight and for the people who could get into it, it would be glorious and epic and fun. Remember fun rock music? It was like that before the early 90s came along and told everyone in the rock industry that they had to be serious, and maybe (just maybe) the simultaneous declines of rock of all striipes on the charts is because nobody is having any fun anymore.

For another example, do you want to know why I find it so damn hard to get into the Foo Fighters? It's because on every bloody track I try to listen to, Dave Grohl and his band aren't having fun - they're being all morose and serious and bitter, because ROCK MUSIC IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. You know, say what you want about Nickelback, but at least the damn band is learning from their post-grunge roots and is trying to add more glorious silly fun to their act (it's what made 'This Afternoon', a late single of their Dark Horse album, halfway listenable). They aren't really succeeding, but at least they're trying.

So now we come to Rock of Ages, the movie, a film set in 1987, the peak of hair metal. The storyline is cliched to the point of ridiculousness - young people trying and failing to make it big in the metal scene - and about the time when everybody begins tuning out or groaning with exasperation, Alec Baldwin (playing Dennis Dupri, the hard-edged bar owner) turns up and ruthlessly lampshades the entire damned movie. At this point, Rock of Ages is sending you a message - even though the movie will continue to take itself seriously, you certainly shouldn't be.