FEATURE: Bunch Of Fives – Five Great Music Films With Memorable Performances | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In 2014’s coming of age musical drama Whiplash, J.K Simmons delivered a career-defining performance as jazz instructor Terence Fletcher. His aggressive and unnerving take on the fictional tutor has raised the bar for the method acting camp, who can only bow to his greatness in the supporting role. As the rooftop cinema screening of Whiplash draws ever near on Thursday 11th August, we look at some of the most memorable performances in music-based films to date.

The Runaways
(Floria Sigismondi, 2010)
This underrated 70s biopic follows a young Joan Jett and her up-and-coming band of punk rockers The Runaways on the road to fame. Kristin Stewart does a solid take on Jett, getting fiery and ambitious at all the right moments, but Michael Shannon well and truly steals the show with a brilliant performance in the role of band manager/record producer Kim Fowley. Shannon plays an excellent eccentric and formidable control freak, waxing lyrical about the band’s potential. He already has quite a scary face, but the actor bares creepy resemblance to the mildly insane, cross-dressing music guru, as he takes claim for the band’s success and jumps about in excitement at his own achievements.

Control
(Anton Corbijn, 2007)
As music biopic’s go, Control is up there with the greatest. Shot in a bleak, industrial black and white filter, the film follows Joy Division’s iconic frontman through his complicated and troubled existence. Starting in the early days where Curtis would spin Bowie records in his bedroom, the movie touches on some of the Love Will Tear Us Apart singers’ most significant moments, including his fractured marriage and almost inevitable suicide. A relatively unknown actor at the time, Sam Riley plays the lead role like no-one else could, strikingly similar in looks and feeling exactly like you’d imagine Curtis to, in an astounding performance. Not one for the faint-hearted.

Straight Outta Compton
(F. Gary Gray, 2010)
Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy E and the rest of the crew rise from the underground hip-hop scene of Compton in this slick, no-shit homage to pioneering gangster rap group NWA. But it’s not just the rappers themselves that are interesting to watch throughout the film’s 2 hour 47 minute running time. Their relationship with domineering manager Jerry Heller produces some of the most fascinating moments of the movie. A short white guy dictating the group’s success at every turn, Heller is played by Paul Giamatti, in a more-than-convincing performance. As Ice Cube breaks from NWA in a feud over royalties, Gaimatti’s Heller becomes ultra competitive and agitated by Cube’s antics and everything gets a little messy, to the point where you don’t know who the good guy is.

Brassed Off
(Mark Herman, 1996)
An all time favourite of this writer, Brassed Off is based on Grimethorpe colliery band as they struggle through the poverty of working class, 80s Britain to the finals of a prestigious music tournament. There are some inspired performances across the board from Ewan McGregor and Stephen Tompkinson, but Pete Postlewaite takes the biscuit playing tough as hell conductor Danny Ormondroyd, who will literally stop at nothing to make sure his band are sounding perfect. Emotions run high throughout, but Ormondroyd is defiant at all costs, a constant beacon of hope in a pugnacious community, trodden-on by Thatcher’s government. Postlewaite manages to balance the innate anger of the character with his unmatched love for the music itself in an often spine-tingling turn. Honestly, it’s great.

24 Hour Party People
(Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
Set in the halcyon days of the Manchester music scene, 24 Hour Party People looks at the rise of Factory Records co-founder and Hacienda brainchild Tony Wilson. An infamously unpredictable character, Wilson is played with a sense of great liveliness and comedic wit by Steve Coogan, who is constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. With his ear for talent and truck-load of celebrity contacts, Wilson helps produce some of the biggest and best acts to come out of the UK: Joy Division, New Order, OMD, Happy Mondays. Coogan spectacularly guides us through the characters’ bad and good (but mostly bad) decisions with a series of narrations and awkward encounters, whilst managing to evoke points of real emotional substance that other actors may have failed to.

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