10 New Music-Related Films You Need to See

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You’ve probably seen the trailer for the new Beastie Boys short film all over the web for the last couple of days. The film features music from the band’s new album Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, a roll-call of celebrity cameos, and the, um, intriguing prospect of seeing Seth Rogen play Mike D. It’s one of a slew of most excellent-looking music-related movies that 2011 has to offer. We’ve rounded up a selection of the best films that are out now or have yet to drop.

You wake up late for school, man! You don’t want to go! Or, more likely, you wake up late for work, and the kids need to be taken to school, and… While the days of fighting for your right to party are long gone, The Beastie Boys remain one of music’s most constantly interesting acts. This 30-minute film is being released in May, in conjunction with their new album, which is their first proper full-length (not counting 2007 instrumental album The Mix-Up) for seven years.

When Morphine’s Mark Sandman died of a heart attack on stage in 1999, it put an end to the career of one of music’s most remarkable and unique bands. The combination of Sandman’s two-string slide bass playing and Dana Colley’s baritone sax sounded like pretty much nothing else, and as this documentary promises to reveal, there was also a fascinating story behind the sound. It’ll be playing at film festivals throughout 2011.

Another band richly deserving of some documentary attention are Le Tigre, who, apart from writing one of the single best songs of the 2000s (yes, “Deceptacon”), were responsible for turning gender politics, gay rights, and the riot grrrl philosophy into ideologies that you could dance to. And they were an awesome live band, as anyone who was lucky enough to see them can attest. This film follows them on their 2004-5 world tour, and promises to show the band “confront[ing] sexism and homophobia in the music industry while tearing up the stage via performance art poetics, no-holds-barred lyrics, punk rock ethos, and whip-smart wit.” We wouldn’t expect any less.

Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

And here’s another group who are overdue for a well-researched and well-produced documentary. Along with Native Tongues contemporaries like De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest have long been one of the most likeable and also innovative groups in hip hop, eschewing gangsta dick-waving for intelligent lyricism and genuine positivity. This new documentary — which, for the record, Q-Tip has said he is “not in support of” — played at Sundance earlier this year and will also show at Tribeca, where we’re very much looking forward to seeing it. (There’s no trailer yet, unfortunately.)

This documentary examines the history of Houston music teacher Conrad “Prof” Johnson, who assembled a band of kids from the predominantly black high school at which he taught and turned them int what the film’s press release calls “a legendary funk powerhouse.” Johnson’s kids tore up band competitions throughout the city – Thunder Soul traces the story of the band and brings them together again, 35 years later, to play a tribute concert for their teacher. The film played at SXSW last year and has won a swag of awards since – among other things, it also caught the attention of Jamie Foxx, who threw his weight behind the project as executive producer. As a result, Thunder Soul has secured distribution and should be released in cinemas some time this year.

The history of the downtown New York music scene in the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s has been told and re-told – rightly so, because it was a remarkably fertile period, but even so, it’s kind of been done to death. The film scene that evolved in parallel with the music has been less well-documented, an imbalance that Blank City apparently looks to redress. The film “tells the long-overdue tale of a disparate crew of renegade filmmakers who emerged from an economically bankrupt and dangerous moment in New York history. In the late 1970s and mid ’80s, when the city was still a wasteland of cheap rent and cheap drugs, these directors crafted daring works that would go on to profoundly influence the development of independent film as we know it today.” We’re definitely looking forward to seeing it – it’s screening at IFC in New York at the moment, and at various engagements around the country from May through August.

This film’s premise is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin – film-maker Nick Sonderup set out to see 100 bands in 100 days, mostly in NYC but also for a short sojourn to Paris and London. The film was shot in early 2009, starting with Anthem In at Cake Shop in late January and finishing four months later with a special party at Fontana’s. The marathon led him to reassess his ideas about music, and the results make for interesting reading, as does the “What I Learned” section on the film’s website: Mercury Lounge has shitty beer, Joe’s Pub has good beer, and bands always start late (except in Europe). Given the premise, it’s appropriate that the film screened this year at SXSW, which can very well end up being about 100 bands in six days.

The title isn’t lying. This documentary about The Replacements isn’t really about The Replacements at all – instead, it’s about the whole idea of being obsessed with a band, about how your love for music can influence your ideas and, indeed, your whole life. As such, apparently there’s no footage of The Replacements at all included here. Instead, there’s a whole heap of interview time with fans, other musicians and the director himself. It sounds, well, different.

Sharoooooooon! Ozzy has become more a caricature than a rock star over the last decade. This is, of course, largely due to the decision to let TV cameras into his home, so you could imagine that the idea of another Osbourne documentary wouldn’t necessarily bode especially well for him. But still, beneath the image, there’s a man who’s lived a strange and fascinating life – the fact that he’s even still alive is remarkable enough, and his band basically invented heavy metal. Fingers crossed that this documentary, which is showing at the Tribeca Film Festival, will do its subject justice. (It was previously entitled Wreckage of my Past, incidentally, if you’re wondering about the trailer.)

Pool Party

If you love music and live in NYC, you’ve surely been to one of the free Pool Parties that have become a way of life over the last few summers. This documentary examines how the former McCarren Park Pool – the biggest swimming pool in a city starved of them, and one of 11 built in the Depression era by Mayor Fiorello la Guardia – ended up as the venue where you could see free music and find every NYC hipster in one place. And, yes, there’s lots of live footage from Pool Parties past.