Get hyped for the 20th anniversary re-release of the Spice Girls’ Spiceworld this week with this bunch of great movie celebrations of all things that are POP!
A Hard Day’s Night
Yes, it’s the four Liverpudlians who changed the pop world forever. Heck, they pretty much invented it! While they eventually starred in quite a few movies, this is the one that captured the wide-eyed, scream-laden beginnings of what was soon dubbed “Beatlemania” to perfection – just look at the four’s expressions in the opening montage (as paid homage to in the first Austin Powers flick). This also established the Beatles’ off-beat humorous vibe – and Ringo as the perennial fall guy.
ABBA: The Movie
What the Fab Four was to the ’60s, these super Swedes were to the ’70s. Australia was ground zero for mania the likes of which hadn’t been seen since, well, the Bay City Rollers a year or so earlier – but ABBA were actually talented. This flick, via director Lasse Hallström, captures that madness at its height, when Sweden’s biggest export deigned to grace our shores. The Robert Hughes-as-dogged-interviewer plot was super-daggy – so it was actually ever-so appropriate. Now, where’d we put that blue eye shadow?
OK, so it’s more rock than pop, but the vibe is what matters. Being privy to the ride of a wannabe band from nothing to – well, not much more – is only half the story. What counts here are the very real glimpses at the workings of the rock world from the points of view of genuine fans through to those uber-devotees, the groupies. Erm, sorry, we meant “Band Aids”.
A rollickingly Irish take on the whole stardom trip that is probably only rivalled for realism by Almost Famous. OK, so Andrew Strong is a pain in the bum, but at least he can sing. With back-up from real musos plucked from the likes of The Frames and some mob called The Corrs, there’s real musical chops on display to accompany the comedy, too. It’s worth the price of admission for their bouncer-turned-drummer alone – “Sure, he’s a savage. But he’s OUR savage.”
For many, their record collection defines their very existence. Writer Nick Hornby is obviously one of these very creatures, as he nailed it perfectly here. That it stars John Cusack is just a bonus. Obsessively poring over sleeve notes, concocting new and fantastic ways of cataloguing your collection, the association of certain songs with particular people/events and the ever-important ceremony involved with the creation of mix tapes (aka playlists nowadays, we guess) – and the invariable musical snobbery that comes with the territory – all encapsulated in a wondrous celluloid nutshell.
Josie and the Pussycats
These cartoon rock chicks from Archie’s universe were role models to millions (well, at the very least to one of us), so when it was announced they were being all humaned-up we were cautious to say the least. It was a waste of stress, for what resulted was one of the sharpest – and genuinely funny – assaults on modern-day pop marketing which also managed to capture the joys of having your music heard by more than your immediate social circle – but spikily cynically, natch. Du Jour means seatbelts!
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Justin Bieber might have had his lawyers combing every frame of this brilliantly-titled flick – and they’d have had a great time! This ‘popumentary’ tells of Conner4Real, who’s doing the solo thing after boyband beginnings (with requisite post-breakup bitterness). He’s prepping the follow-up to his smash solo debut, Thriller, Also. But could he be in for the dreaded second album syndrome? Packed with serious celebrity appearances and biting throwaway gags, there’s plenty of Josie-esque sharpness going on here. Popstar means aceness!
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
1-2-3-4! With all that being the founders of NY punk and stuff it’s often forgotten that the mucho-magnificent Ramones actually thought they were a bubblegum pop band. How can you not love these guys? Especially when they help rebellious fan PJ Soles take on Vince Lombardi High School’s evil, music-hating regime – with one heck of an explosive ending!
Multitalented director/writer/producer/muso John Carney first amazed us with 2007’s gorgeous musical love story Once, then backed it up with another musical romance, 2013’s Begin Again. He made it three for three with the delightful pop-infused Sing Street. Set in mid-1980s Dublin, it tells of young Conor, who avoids troubles at home by forming a band. Calling themselves ‘Sing Street’ they gradually find a sound, pilfering inspiration from the likes of Duran Duran through to Hall & Oates. Really.
Spiceworld: The Movie
Sure, they were four slappers plus the one in a tracksuit who could actually sing, sure their songs were pretty much rubbish (although some would argue that Wannabe was good for what it was) and sure the film tries to rip off A Hard Day’s Night and fails due to the band members’ utter lack of charisma. However, Spiceworld still has a naïve spunk that unabashedly worships all that is “POP!”, plus it features Richard E Grant. Oh, and the great god Elvis Costello – we’re not worthy!
Australians all let us rejoice, for we’ve always been slappers for a popgasm – just look at the veneration with which Countdown is still showered. Starstruck is our very own marvellously day-glo ode to wide-eyed, stardom-seeking innocence, recycling a fab Split Enz album track (Body and Soul) and putting The Swingers up on the big screen. That the producers thought it a bad idea at the time to put their hyper-hit Counting the Beat in was a teensy bit dumb, but stuff it – let’s bop!
That Thing You Do!
Set in the vaguely more innocent days of the 1960s, with thanks to Tom Hanks’ production company we’re privy to the meteoric rise of fictional band the Oneders (pronounce that as “Wonders” and you’ll not incur their wrath). This film deserves an award simply for the scene capturing the experience of hearing your song on radio for the first time, which is truly, charmingly perfect. That Adam ‘Fountains of Wayne’ Schlesinger (also responsible for much of Josie’s musical goodness) wrote the ace, almost illegally catchy titular song is also one hell of a bonus, as it’s repeated quite a few times.