That Thing You Do! vs. Empire Records: Which Is the Better Nineties Music Flick?

Categories: Film

That Thing You Do!, Twentieth Century Fox/Empire Records, Monarchy Enterprises B.V.
That Thing You Do! vs. Empire Records
Whether or not you're a Wonders fan or have been making your own MARC buttons since the first time Rex Manning Day rolled around, you've probably seen — and loved — both That Thing You Do! and Empire Records. 1994–1996 doled out teen-oriented movies that would eventually become cult classics by the handful, with Clueless, The Craft, Clerks, and other coveted titles constantly evading the grasp of eager viewers as video stores couldn't keep the VHS tapes on the shelves. That Thing You Do! and Empire Records made for two of these films, and the number of fans who can recite each flick verbatim has only snowballed in the two decades following their initial releases.

Empire Records turns twenty in 2015 and is in the midst of a three-night birthday shindig at Rough Trade NYC, but the question remains: Is it really that great a movie, and does it pale in comparison with its peers? Here are two essays — one defending Empire's validity as a cult classic, one dubbing That Thing You Do! the superior film — so read on if you're looking for a reason to justify that Guy Patterson bobblehead purchase or your Doc Martens fetish.

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BBQ Films and Rough Trade NYC Toast Twenty Years of Empire Records

via Monarchy Enterprises
Johnny Whitworth and Liv Tyler in a promotional still from Empire Records
Empire Records, the 1995 film about the teen employees of a record store struggling to stay afloat, holds a measly 24 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Created to cash in on the mid-Nineties alt-rock zeitgeist, it flopped at the box office after critics panned it as predictable and fluffy despite a terrific soundtrack and endearing performances from young soon-to-be stars. It was released on the brink of the music industry's collapse. Being doomed to late-night TV rotation seemed a fitting fate.

Gabriel Rhoads muses upon these less-than-auspicious beginnings as he sits upstairs at Rough Trade, the massive Williamsburg indie record store that opened last year. The founder and CEO of immersive film screening company BBQ Films is in the middle of planning the latest chapter in Empire's saga of underdog success: a twentieth-anniversary event celebrating its enduring status as an unlikely cult hit, rescued from obscurity by obsessive music fans who discovered and cherished it over the last two decades. Rhoads and his mostly volunteer crew of movie lovers are transforming Rough Trade into the film's titular location for three nights starting on April 8, the same date on which the movie's story unfolds.

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From John Legend & Common to Lorde, Spin These Best Song Noms & Snubs Pre-Oscars

Categories: Film, The Oscars

John Legend and Common's "Glory" from Selma
The Academy Awards and all the A-list celebrities, red-carpet fanfare, and fabulous after-parties that come with them are exciting, but let's be real. Some of the most memorable moments of the Oscars telecast from years past have seen the nominees for Best Original Song performing their respective tracks. (Adele Dazeem, anyone?) This year is no exception: From Tegan and Sara to John Legend, Common, and Adam Levine, some of music's biggest talents will take the Oscar stage on Sunday. But who should win the coveted award? And why weren't some other undeniably awesome songs nominated? This requires a closer listen.

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All the Movie References in Drake's New Short Film Jungle, Explained

Categories: Drake, Film, Hip-Hop

It's been obvious since 2010, when he rhymed "kosher" with "Ebert and Roeper," that Drake is a cinephile. Indeed, Nothing Was the Same positively bristles with movie references, from Memento to Martin Scorsese — perhaps inspired by his time on Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he worked under the great Bruce McDonald (and was billed as Aubrey Graham). This morning, when Drake unveiled Jungle, a fourteen-minute short film he made alongside director Karim Huu Do and Capote cinematographer Adam Kimmel, its arthouse influences came as no surprise. Here we trace some of the short's auteur inspirations.

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Here's to John Carpenter's Most Horrifying Musical Moments

Categories: BAM, Film

Courtesy of BAM
The only things more feverishly worshipped than John Carpenter's horror movies and cult classics are the soundtracks that go along with them. Carpenter, who scores the majority of his flicks and has penned some of the most recognizable tunes ever to waft through a crowded theater, is big on partnering screaming heroines with stark, minimalist musical scrims, building tension to the point where you can cut his scenes with a knife. (Or stab them, more appropriately.) The iconic piano plinks of the Halloween theme, the dark synths and strident strings from Assault on Precinct 13, the metal edge of Ghosts of Mars — Carpenter spent as much time perfecting the background noise for his creepy, oozy, spattered moments as he did his plot points, and now he's stepped away from the director's chair and into the studio.

Carpenter's first solo album, Lost Themes, drops February 3, and the record capitalizes on all of the sonic hallmarks we've come to expect from the champion of terror. The Brooklyn Academy of Music will be celebrating the work of Carpenter all month, showing several titles spanning the length of his career, for its John Carpenter: Master of Fear series, starting with Halloween February 6. (Carpenter was scheduled to sit down with NPR's Brooke Gladstone at BAM to chat about all things Lost Themes, Michael Myers, and more, but the event has been canceled.)

We've compiled a list of our favorite Carpenter music moments, so just avoid saying "I'll be right back!" when you run off to grab your headphones.

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10 Music Urban Legends Scarlett Johansson's Lucy Gets Wrong

Categories: Film

YouTube Screen Capture
Lucy, I Remember Lucy
Today, Friday, July 25th, sees the release of the new sci-fi action film Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson. But despite the awe-inspiring special effects, this high octane thrill ride is facing quite a bit of criticism for basing its entire premise around the entirely untrue myth that "Humans only use 10% of their brain." As anyone with a passing understanding of the mind will tell you, the human brain serves a spectacular amount of functions, and the idea that only 10% of it being realized is silly, especially considering how the slightest of damage to the brain can have catastrophic consequences for an individual.

See also:

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Jean-Claude Van Damme's Finest Musical Moments

Categories: Film

Robbin Cresswell via Wikimedia Commons
If the world seems like an all around better place of late, it's because last week a new Jean-Claude Van Damme film, Welcome to the Jungle, was released on DVD. Yes, the sultan of splits is crescent-kicking back into our hearts with a new cinematic treasure, this time a comedy. (We hope that the inevitable Van Damme musical isn't that far behind.) In celebration of this release, those of us in the Van Damme Nation proudly bring you Jean-Claude Van Damme's finest musical moments.

See also: Six Reasons Employers Should Hire Touring Musicians

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Stones Throw Records Tells Its Story in New Doc Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton

That thing where one extreme is so extreme it fully transcends to the opposite end of the spectrum. Hip-hop heavyweight Stones Throw Records is so painfully nerdy, the hard plastic lattice of back-, back-room crates comprises its backbone. Its earnest ambition erupts so untarnished the label warps itself into the audio equivalent of the iron-livered dude with perfect hair who never looks dumb in his leather jacket.

Filmmaker Jeff Broadway scraps and stitches together the label's winding, often dark history in Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records. The documentary pays close attention to label head Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak, pictured above), the mysterious, brilliant dude behind the movement -- and all those stacks on stacks on stacks of wax.

See also: MUST OWN: The Jesus Lizard Book

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Jason Sebastian Russo & Tara Autovino Need Your Help "Getting the Fuck Out of Brooklyn"

Guiding Light
Living with your significant other can be nice and and again, but imagine going on tour with them? Yes, as in, bringing whatever crap you deal with at home and loading it into a compact car, traveling throughout this great country, and praying it doesn't end in separate plane tickets back to New York.

Alright, so we're being a bit cynical, but that reality is what makes this story we're about to share even more incredibly lovely.

Filmmaker Tara Autovino (Ultimate Christian Wrestling, For A Swim With The Fish) and her boyfriend Jason Sebastian Russo (Hopewell, Common Prayer, and Mercury Rev) will be departing fairly soon on a month-long tour. The duo, who live together in Williamsburg, are embarking on a 10,000-mile journey, and will be recording their adventure every inch of the way. The project will culminate in a film and album titled Guiding Light.

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Dirty Girls: How a Bizarre 1996 Film About Santa Monica Punk-Feminist Eighth Graders Became a YouTube Sensation

Categories: Film, YouTube

Still from Michael Lucid's Dirty Girls
By Jennifer Swann

In high school, Michael Lucid was an artsy, friendly kid who floated around from one campus clique to the next. "I was more approachable and kids felt comfortable talking to me," he says of his time at Santa Monica's Crossroads School, where he graduated in 1996.

Because Lucid was likeable and trustworthy, his teenage peers granted him the kind of insider access into their lives that most filmmakers only dream about capturing on film. Filmmakers like Larry Clark (Kids, Wassup Rockers), Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen) and Penelope Spheeris (Decline of Western Civilization, Suburbia) all launched their careers by making films that depicted the harsh realities of American teenagers' lives, but Lucid had an advantage over all of these filmmakers: he was himself a high schooler when he shot his gritty, painfully intimate documentary Dirty Girls, which has now become an instant cult sensation ever since it was uploaded to Youtube this month.

See also: Q&A: Amy Klein, a/k/a Amy Andronicus, On Her Many Side Projects, And Why "Feminism" Is A Dirty Word

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