Is the Biopic Obsolete?

Biopics, or biographical pictures, were once big business in Hollywood.  With The Story of Louis Pasteur, The Life of Emile Zola and Juarez, Paul Muni cemented his legacy as the biopic’s number one actor.  The same year Muni won Best Actor for playing Pasteur, Best Picture went to The Great Ziegfeld, a biopic of Florenz Ziegfeld, played William Powell.  Of course, the same thing still happens with regularity.  A whopping nine of the last fourteen best actresses (that’s nine for, five against) have won for playing a real-life person.  This year’s Day-Lewis award… sorry, I mean, Best Actor award, went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of the title character in Lincoln.   Biography has always meant two things to Hollywood:  1) Built-in audience and 2) Oscars.  But do we need them anymore?  No, not the way they used to get made, that is.  That kind of biopic is dead and gone or, at least, it should be.  It’s obsolete.

biopic 01

The biopics of yesteryear straight up through the end of the twentieth century followed a basic template.  A few scenes of childhood or young adulthood, followed by a dull parade of events, in order, from said title character’s life.  Think Yankee Doodle Dandy or Night and Day.   In 1944 Wilson, a stodgy biopic of the 28th president, managed to give a small nod to almost every incident in Wilson’s life, as long as it portrayed him in a good light, and when it was over the viewer had no sense they watched a story but, rather, an encyclopedia entry re-enacted for the screen.   Not every biopic was like this but, it seemed, the bigger, more successful ones were.  Long, trudging re-enactments of the subject’s life with little to no imagination or flair.

Even through the nineties, they continued in this mold.  Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin attempts to tell every damn second on Charlie Chaplin’s life, making sure that nothing in particular is covered long enough to build up any interest in the audience.   The movie, while providing a good vehicle for the talents of Robert Downey, Jr, ended up as so many before it, a re-enactment of the subject’s three paragraph entry in Who’s Who of Film.  But not every bio went about the process that way.

From the beginning, there were biopics that handled things in minutia instead.  A small slice of life as opposed to an all-encompassing overview.  Or perhaps just a skewed vantage point from afar.  The Scarlett Empress was never in any serious danger of becoming a stodgy biopic but when Josef von Sternberg has Marlene ride her horse up that staircase at the climax, scaling flight after flight in that glorious, insane ending, it was saying more than anything else, biopics don’t have to be by the numbers affairs.  They can actually be imaginative and beautiful.

In 1970, Patton took only a small portion of General George Patton’s career, a couple of years during World War II, and using only those two years gave a full and rich portrait of the man behind the stars.  Eight years earlier, Lawrence of Arabia had done much the same thing: Isolate but a few years and use those to develop the character and nature of the subject without worrying about covering every famous incident or meaningful event.

biopic 02

By the mid to late nineties, the template was falling apart.  As the age of information moved forward, access to information on anyone and anything grew.  While in 1944 a young person may have “learned” about President Wilson’s life on film, now a film could feel free to focus on an aspect, a single event or, even, weave the character in and out of a fiction, like The Hours.  It was no longer necessary to educate the viewer on the subject (they could do that themselves by Googling the person’s name) and so the filmmaker was freed up to interpret the subject’s life instead or focus on an overview.

The most recent example of this was Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Rather than give us a full account of Honest Abe’s life, the movie presented the topic of the passage of the thirteenth amendment instead, the amendment outlawing slavery.  But by calling the movie Lincoln rather than some more creative or descriptive title of the plot, the movie is saying this is a biopic of the 16th president, not a re-enactment of the fight for the thirteenth amendment.  What it’s saying is if you want to get an understanding of Lincoln, the man, you don’t need to see him as a child or a young lawyer or any of that other standard fare we’ve all seen a thousand times.  No, if you want to understand Lincoln, the man, you need to understand his fight to get the thirteenth amendment passed.  Just like understanding Patton is best suited by showing those two years during World War II or Lawrence by showing his campaign in the desert.

Another great recent biopic was Capote and, coming several years before Lincoln, informed us in much the same way.  That is, it took an isolated event from Capote’s life, his interviewing of the killers featured in his book In Cold Blood, and made that the biography of its subject.  The name of the movie is Capote, not The Killers or The Making of In Cold Blood.  The movie is saying, as Lincoln would follow suit years later, that this is how you understand Capote.  Read his Wikipedia entry all you want but you won’t get the same understanding that you’ll get here.   And that is a magnificent step forward in biographical filmmaking.

biopic 03

From the beginning of the biopic to now, there has always been an uneasy mix of the two styles.  There have been the interpretive biopics (The Scarlet Empress) and the re-enactment biopics (Wilson) but there were many more of the latter in the Golden Age than the former.  From the nineties on, though, the former has taken hold.  Finding out about a famous or even not-so-famous figure is easier than ever:  Turn on your computer or phone and type in their name.  Done.  Who needs a day by day reconstruction of someone’s life when you can call up online in seconds.  A more interpretive biopic can tell us so much more about the person by isolating something important in their life and telling us every bit of it from a different perspective, instead resorting to the same old, dull recitation of the facts.   The old way of making a biopic is dying and let’s do all we can to speed it along to a long waiting grave.  The new way, or the way that’s been around from the beginning but is now in full favor, does something much more extraordinary:  It tells us more by giving us less.  Here’s hoping for much less from here on out.

60 Responses Is the Biopic Obsolete?
Posted By Gene : April 7, 2013 11:28 am

” A few scenes of childhood or young adulthood, followed by a dull parade of events, in order, from said title character’s life.”

That is so true. I saw many of those as a child and just got through watching The Eddie Duchin Story and The Gene Krupa Story. Dull, dull, dull.

Posted By Gene : April 7, 2013 11:28 am

” A few scenes of childhood or young adulthood, followed by a dull parade of events, in order, from said title character’s life.”

That is so true. I saw many of those as a child and just got through watching The Eddie Duchin Story and The Gene Krupa Story. Dull, dull, dull.

Posted By tdraicer : April 7, 2013 12:07 pm

Those of us who are as much (or more) history buffs as film buffs rather enjoyed the old biopics (I’m a fan of “Wilson”) but I still take your point.

Posted By tdraicer : April 7, 2013 12:07 pm

Those of us who are as much (or more) history buffs as film buffs rather enjoyed the old biopics (I’m a fan of “Wilson”) but I still take your point.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 7, 2013 2:01 pm

I am not a viewer of modern films as much as I am of classics, but I did see Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Johnny Cash and Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles and I thought they were fantastic in those roles, Foxx winning Best Actor that year at the Oscars. Also, Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coalminer’s Daughter, and Beverly D’Angelo’s turn in that film as Patsy Cline-all of those movies, the actors gave incredible singing performances.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 7, 2013 2:01 pm

I am not a viewer of modern films as much as I am of classics, but I did see Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Johnny Cash and Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles and I thought they were fantastic in those roles, Foxx winning Best Actor that year at the Oscars. Also, Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coalminer’s Daughter, and Beverly D’Angelo’s turn in that film as Patsy Cline-all of those movies, the actors gave incredible singing performances.

Posted By Emgee : April 7, 2013 4:19 pm

The purpose of classic biopics, was mostly inspirational. Look what made those persons Great and apply it to your own life.
Now we seem to be more interested in what makes famous people tick or how they overcame adversity.
Soon in a cinema near you: Star Time, the James Brown Story. Or how about Voodoo Chile, a life of Jimi Hendrix?

Posted By Emgee : April 7, 2013 4:19 pm

The purpose of classic biopics, was mostly inspirational. Look what made those persons Great and apply it to your own life.
Now we seem to be more interested in what makes famous people tick or how they overcame adversity.
Soon in a cinema near you: Star Time, the James Brown Story. Or how about Voodoo Chile, a life of Jimi Hendrix?

Posted By motown missile : April 7, 2013 5:35 pm

The last biopic I found even remotely entertaining was “Ed Wood”, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still go see one if the subject was someone I’m sufficiently interested in learning about. Still waiting for a better film on Buddy Holly, and who wouldn’t love to see Boris Karloff’s life re-enacted on screen (other than Bela Lugosi, although being dead his opinion shouldn’t matter all that much)?

Posted By motown missile : April 7, 2013 5:35 pm

The last biopic I found even remotely entertaining was “Ed Wood”, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still go see one if the subject was someone I’m sufficiently interested in learning about. Still waiting for a better film on Buddy Holly, and who wouldn’t love to see Boris Karloff’s life re-enacted on screen (other than Bela Lugosi, although being dead his opinion shouldn’t matter all that much)?

Posted By Tom S : April 7, 2013 5:50 pm

The issue I have with a lot of biopics is that they refuse to treat their subjects as characters, people who have a distinct viewpoint and drive story and so forth- so they just kind of wander through one thing after another, until they finish off the checklist and die. How could that possibly be interesting?

Lincoln’s not perfect, but it treats him like a character, someone with a specific goal and an attitude towards achieving that goal- and the Scarlet Empress couldn’t be less interested in the historical Catherine the Great, so it has no issues there whatsoever. I think it’s the same issue as adaptations, where it’s not the idea itself, but the degree of artistic license the filmmakers are willing to take- a human life, like a great novel, is not and can never be a movie in of itself, and if you’re scared to turn it into one, you’re going to wind up with something that just sits around on the screen.

Posted By Tom S : April 7, 2013 5:50 pm

The issue I have with a lot of biopics is that they refuse to treat their subjects as characters, people who have a distinct viewpoint and drive story and so forth- so they just kind of wander through one thing after another, until they finish off the checklist and die. How could that possibly be interesting?

Lincoln’s not perfect, but it treats him like a character, someone with a specific goal and an attitude towards achieving that goal- and the Scarlet Empress couldn’t be less interested in the historical Catherine the Great, so it has no issues there whatsoever. I think it’s the same issue as adaptations, where it’s not the idea itself, but the degree of artistic license the filmmakers are willing to take- a human life, like a great novel, is not and can never be a movie in of itself, and if you’re scared to turn it into one, you’re going to wind up with something that just sits around on the screen.

Posted By Marnie Langeroodi : April 7, 2013 5:56 pm

Reblogged this on The Arts and Humanity and commented:
What an impressive range of films discussed. I was interested to read about interpretive versus re-enactement biopics. Greg looks positively on the fact that the former is taking over due to this age of information. Does it matter that over-indulging in one event distorts the essence of the true story? Is the rejection of straightforward truth justified for the creation of meaningful art? It is still the truth… but given a different emphasis… can you say that this is dishonest?

Posted By Marnie Langeroodi : April 7, 2013 5:56 pm

Reblogged this on The Arts and Humanity and commented:
What an impressive range of films discussed. I was interested to read about interpretive versus re-enactement biopics. Greg looks positively on the fact that the former is taking over due to this age of information. Does it matter that over-indulging in one event distorts the essence of the true story? Is the rejection of straightforward truth justified for the creation of meaningful art? It is still the truth… but given a different emphasis… can you say that this is dishonest?

Posted By Nim Kovak : April 7, 2013 11:00 pm

I guess what I care about with bio-pics is that they succeed at conveying what was interesting or great about the person in the first place & why we should care about and value them — & not ONLY focus on their decadence and personal problems etc. …

What I hate most is a bio-pic which takes the attitude of saying : “Oooh … this famous name wasn’t perfect & had human foibles … How shocking!” & then spends two hours on the negative aspects!!! … Annoying enough, the whole bio-pic genre has been badly tainted by the fact that MANY of them take precisely this approach …

Or they’re well-intended but they focus on the wrong elements … For example “Control” was a well-intentioned & well-made film — but as a Joy Division fan I’m interested to know what aspects of Curtis’s personality made his music great … Whereas my interest in his relationship with his wife is moderate at best … But the film is very skewed towards exploring that aspect … Something I’d be more interested in had I known Curtis PERSONALLY perhaps — a very different orientation indeed

Trying to think of a GOOD stab — I personally found the J. Cash biopic to be pretty weak, at least for anyone with a prior love and knowledge of the artist … Or something experimental like 7 actors playing Dylan, though not without some charm, was ultimately quite weak I thought …

Scorsese’s “Aviator” wasn’t half-bad & used the narrow focus idea — although in the case of Hughes, I think that showing him going more & more off the rails as he aged & his OCD got worse etc. would actually be an equally interesting and valid story … (Yes I know that seems to contradict my point above — but here I think you have a rare example where the negative aspect is actually a valuable object lesson rather than just wallowing)

Lee’s “Malcolm X” was better than its reputation by a large measure I’d say, though not without some flaws … But it really succeeded at capturing the key moment of realization that the organization he’d dedicated his life to might in fact itself prove to be his very greatest enemy — & the almost unimaginable levels of paranoia and distress which this brought into being…

I guess what bothers me the most is that we’ll probably never get bio-pics of the people I’d most like to see one of — Sarah Vaughn, say, to give a random example — because the general interest isn’t broad enough to support the budget …

Ultimately, no bio-pic can compare to a great documentary … Just as “The Life & Times of Harvey Milk” is far more important than Van Sant’s nevertheless laudable effort — likewise I can’t imagine any B Marley bio-pic which is in the tubes possibly having the same impact as seeing him in the oncology ward with all of his dreads shaved off in the recent major documentary which played theatrically last year …

Posted By Nim Kovak : April 7, 2013 11:00 pm

I guess what I care about with bio-pics is that they succeed at conveying what was interesting or great about the person in the first place & why we should care about and value them — & not ONLY focus on their decadence and personal problems etc. …

What I hate most is a bio-pic which takes the attitude of saying : “Oooh … this famous name wasn’t perfect & had human foibles … How shocking!” & then spends two hours on the negative aspects!!! … Annoying enough, the whole bio-pic genre has been badly tainted by the fact that MANY of them take precisely this approach …

Or they’re well-intended but they focus on the wrong elements … For example “Control” was a well-intentioned & well-made film — but as a Joy Division fan I’m interested to know what aspects of Curtis’s personality made his music great … Whereas my interest in his relationship with his wife is moderate at best … But the film is very skewed towards exploring that aspect … Something I’d be more interested in had I known Curtis PERSONALLY perhaps — a very different orientation indeed

Trying to think of a GOOD stab — I personally found the J. Cash biopic to be pretty weak, at least for anyone with a prior love and knowledge of the artist … Or something experimental like 7 actors playing Dylan, though not without some charm, was ultimately quite weak I thought …

Scorsese’s “Aviator” wasn’t half-bad & used the narrow focus idea — although in the case of Hughes, I think that showing him going more & more off the rails as he aged & his OCD got worse etc. would actually be an equally interesting and valid story … (Yes I know that seems to contradict my point above — but here I think you have a rare example where the negative aspect is actually a valuable object lesson rather than just wallowing)

Lee’s “Malcolm X” was better than its reputation by a large measure I’d say, though not without some flaws … But it really succeeded at capturing the key moment of realization that the organization he’d dedicated his life to might in fact itself prove to be his very greatest enemy — & the almost unimaginable levels of paranoia and distress which this brought into being…

I guess what bothers me the most is that we’ll probably never get bio-pics of the people I’d most like to see one of — Sarah Vaughn, say, to give a random example — because the general interest isn’t broad enough to support the budget …

Ultimately, no bio-pic can compare to a great documentary … Just as “The Life & Times of Harvey Milk” is far more important than Van Sant’s nevertheless laudable effort — likewise I can’t imagine any B Marley bio-pic which is in the tubes possibly having the same impact as seeing him in the oncology ward with all of his dreads shaved off in the recent major documentary which played theatrically last year …

Posted By Doug : April 8, 2013 2:01 am

“no bio-pic can compare to a great documentary …” too true, Nim, but I think “Patton” came pretty close. As much as it helped us appreciate Patton, it was still George C Scott and Karl Malden up there on the screen,seen in many other roles.
A great documentary that comes to mind is “Straight-No Chaser” with film of Thelonius Monk. Others played his music in the film, but no one else portrayed Monk.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Nelly, Monk’s wife,
is seen bringing coke bottles back from a European tour…for the deposits. They had had many hungry years, and she knew that you don’t throw away money.

Posted By Doug : April 8, 2013 2:01 am

“no bio-pic can compare to a great documentary …” too true, Nim, but I think “Patton” came pretty close. As much as it helped us appreciate Patton, it was still George C Scott and Karl Malden up there on the screen,seen in many other roles.
A great documentary that comes to mind is “Straight-No Chaser” with film of Thelonius Monk. Others played his music in the film, but no one else portrayed Monk.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Nelly, Monk’s wife,
is seen bringing coke bottles back from a European tour…for the deposits. They had had many hungry years, and she knew that you don’t throw away money.

Posted By Emgee : April 8, 2013 5:12 am

Nim, as another Joy Division fan i was amazed to find out he actually HAD a wife. In the dozens of reviews about the band this never came up, and he seemed like the ultimate loner.His complicated personal life had a lot to do with his suicide, so to me that aspect was very revelatory. A good biopic should contain such insights. ( Or is that Insight? Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

As to what makes music great? I’d rather leave that mystery unsolved.

Posted By Emgee : April 8, 2013 5:12 am

Nim, as another Joy Division fan i was amazed to find out he actually HAD a wife. In the dozens of reviews about the band this never came up, and he seemed like the ultimate loner.His complicated personal life had a lot to do with his suicide, so to me that aspect was very revelatory. A good biopic should contain such insights. ( Or is that Insight? Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

As to what makes music great? I’d rather leave that mystery unsolved.

Posted By Drue : April 8, 2013 7:26 am

It may not count as a biography, but I think there is a kind of opposite version of this subject. Ken Burns’ Civil War. I would have never thought that different narrators and a camera panning over still pictures would be riveting, especially over multiple hours, but by gosh it is.

Posted By Drue : April 8, 2013 7:26 am

It may not count as a biography, but I think there is a kind of opposite version of this subject. Ken Burns’ Civil War. I would have never thought that different narrators and a camera panning over still pictures would be riveting, especially over multiple hours, but by gosh it is.

Posted By robbushblog : April 8, 2013 10:50 am

I also dislike the type of biography where they show mostly negative aspects of the subject, for example, Cobb. We all pretty much knew that Ty Cobb was a hateful racist. How about showing us something nice about him?

Posted By robbushblog : April 8, 2013 10:50 am

I also dislike the type of biography where they show mostly negative aspects of the subject, for example, Cobb. We all pretty much knew that Ty Cobb was a hateful racist. How about showing us something nice about him?

Posted By Gene : April 8, 2013 10:50 am

Nim Kovack:

I am still not able to watch Control. Joy Division was/is one of my favorite bands but the death of Curtis is still too painful.

As to Walk the Line, agreed. Very weak and wholly disappointing. Which I think brings up Greg’s point about biopics. The successful ones focus on a defining moment in the subject’s life that reveals more about them than a linear history can. Phoenix was very good as Cash, and the death of Cash’s brother explained much of his life battles but the film just plodded along with little emotional center.

Posted By Gene : April 8, 2013 10:50 am

Nim Kovack:

I am still not able to watch Control. Joy Division was/is one of my favorite bands but the death of Curtis is still too painful.

As to Walk the Line, agreed. Very weak and wholly disappointing. Which I think brings up Greg’s point about biopics. The successful ones focus on a defining moment in the subject’s life that reveals more about them than a linear history can. Phoenix was very good as Cash, and the death of Cash’s brother explained much of his life battles but the film just plodded along with little emotional center.

Posted By kingrat : April 8, 2013 4:43 pm

As the examples mentioned by other posters show, most of the recent biopics are about entertainers, whereas the old style biopic was about someone who had achieved something in the world of politics or science. LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME would seem like a more important film now precisely because it is about a popular singer, which now feels like the right subject for a biopic for the popular audience.

Posted By kingrat : April 8, 2013 4:43 pm

As the examples mentioned by other posters show, most of the recent biopics are about entertainers, whereas the old style biopic was about someone who had achieved something in the world of politics or science. LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME would seem like a more important film now precisely because it is about a popular singer, which now feels like the right subject for a biopic for the popular audience.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 8, 2013 6:45 pm

Ed Wood is a favorite biopic of mine because it goes for essence without really sticking too close to the truth. It even has completely fantastical scenes, like the Welles encounter, just to add to the feel.

Again, I can get the basic facts from google, I want a biopic to really illuminate me in a more intangible way.

Aviator was pretty good but I didn’t really get much out of it and think the verbal tick that he would go into, where he starts repeating something, was an unnecessary addition. Kind of just making him into a freakshow for the audience rather than a character.

I thought Malcolm X was pretty damn good for precisely the reasons Nim says. It’s one of the better biopics that covers a whole character’s life.

And as far as musicians go, nothing is worse than the old Hollywood method of visualizing greatness by having Strauss hear a bird tweet and then a clock and before you know it, he’s composed On the Beautiful Blue Danube. Ugh, I hate that kind of thing.

Also, I’ve never seen a Beatles or John Lennon bio I particularly cared for. Thought Backbeat was okay as well as Birth of the Beatles but neither was excellent and they could’ve been.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 8, 2013 6:45 pm

Ed Wood is a favorite biopic of mine because it goes for essence without really sticking too close to the truth. It even has completely fantastical scenes, like the Welles encounter, just to add to the feel.

Again, I can get the basic facts from google, I want a biopic to really illuminate me in a more intangible way.

Aviator was pretty good but I didn’t really get much out of it and think the verbal tick that he would go into, where he starts repeating something, was an unnecessary addition. Kind of just making him into a freakshow for the audience rather than a character.

I thought Malcolm X was pretty damn good for precisely the reasons Nim says. It’s one of the better biopics that covers a whole character’s life.

And as far as musicians go, nothing is worse than the old Hollywood method of visualizing greatness by having Strauss hear a bird tweet and then a clock and before you know it, he’s composed On the Beautiful Blue Danube. Ugh, I hate that kind of thing.

Also, I’ve never seen a Beatles or John Lennon bio I particularly cared for. Thought Backbeat was okay as well as Birth of the Beatles but neither was excellent and they could’ve been.

Posted By robbushblog : April 8, 2013 8:14 pm

I love Ed Wood. It is hilarious and is Johnny Depp’s best performance.

My roommate suffers from bad migraine headaches and used to take a certain medication that made her repeat herself. Every time she would repeat herself I would quote DiCaprio from The Aviator “Show me the blueprints. Show-show me the blueprints. Show me the blueprints.” And then I’d laugh at her. I can see your point.

That bird and clock really did inspire Strauss to write On the Beautiful Blue Danube. No kidding. Indeed.

You didn’t like Lonely Boy?

Posted By robbushblog : April 8, 2013 8:14 pm

I love Ed Wood. It is hilarious and is Johnny Depp’s best performance.

My roommate suffers from bad migraine headaches and used to take a certain medication that made her repeat herself. Every time she would repeat herself I would quote DiCaprio from The Aviator “Show me the blueprints. Show-show me the blueprints. Show me the blueprints.” And then I’d laugh at her. I can see your point.

That bird and clock really did inspire Strauss to write On the Beautiful Blue Danube. No kidding. Indeed.

You didn’t like Lonely Boy?

Posted By Doug : April 8, 2013 8:33 pm

I liked “Walk The Line” well enough, though for me Phoenix was the weakest component. Reese Witherspoon made the picture work.
But don’t listen to me-I thought “Walk Hard-The Dewey Cox Story”
was hilarious; I think Johnny Cash would have preferred it to Walk The Line.
Also have some love for “Grand Theft Parsons” which featured not one bird tweeting moment.

Posted By Doug : April 8, 2013 8:33 pm

I liked “Walk The Line” well enough, though for me Phoenix was the weakest component. Reese Witherspoon made the picture work.
But don’t listen to me-I thought “Walk Hard-The Dewey Cox Story”
was hilarious; I think Johnny Cash would have preferred it to Walk The Line.
Also have some love for “Grand Theft Parsons” which featured not one bird tweeting moment.

Posted By Pat Turman : April 8, 2013 10:03 pm

You’re right, Doug. WALK HARD is hilarious. And it doesn’t just spoof the Cash biopic. It spoofs ALL musical biopics released in the last few decades: RAY, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE, THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, and of course most obviously WALK THE LINE. But be warned: It’s a Judd Apatow movie so expect a lot of vulgarity, nudity , and scatology in between the clever, insightful, & incredibly funny meta-jokes. Plus John C. Reily is great as well as the music.

Posted By Pat Turman : April 8, 2013 10:03 pm

You’re right, Doug. WALK HARD is hilarious. And it doesn’t just spoof the Cash biopic. It spoofs ALL musical biopics released in the last few decades: RAY, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE, THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, and of course most obviously WALK THE LINE. But be warned: It’s a Judd Apatow movie so expect a lot of vulgarity, nudity , and scatology in between the clever, insightful, & incredibly funny meta-jokes. Plus John C. Reily is great as well as the music.

Posted By Doug : April 8, 2013 10:17 pm

Pat, towards the end of Walk Hard, even though it was a spoof and all, didn’t you start cheering for Dewey to get his life together and find a happy ending?
Jewel yodeling “Walk Hard” with Jackson Brown and Lyle Lovett during the tribute- priceless.

Posted By Doug : April 8, 2013 10:17 pm

Pat, towards the end of Walk Hard, even though it was a spoof and all, didn’t you start cheering for Dewey to get his life together and find a happy ending?
Jewel yodeling “Walk Hard” with Jackson Brown and Lyle Lovett during the tribute- priceless.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 8, 2013 11:32 pm

Another Walk Hard fan here.

Rob, there’s a clock? I was just making that up. Really. Wow. Wave of the future. Wave of the future. Wave of the future. Wave of the… sorry.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 8, 2013 11:32 pm

Another Walk Hard fan here.

Rob, there’s a clock? I was just making that up. Really. Wow. Wave of the future. Wave of the future. Wave of the future. Wave of the… sorry.

Posted By robbushblog : April 9, 2013 1:56 am

Yes! There was a clock. And the very distant ringing of a telephone. Strauss was so inspired that on the same day, he wrote “Chantilly Lace”.

Walk Hard was a really fun spoof. And the music was actually well done. I bought the soundtrack.

Posted By robbushblog : April 9, 2013 1:56 am

Yes! There was a clock. And the very distant ringing of a telephone. Strauss was so inspired that on the same day, he wrote “Chantilly Lace”.

Walk Hard was a really fun spoof. And the music was actually well done. I bought the soundtrack.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : April 9, 2013 9:24 am

Second City TV did a spot on parody of the mushiest of all the Bio pics,The Babe Ruth Story,with John Candy playing a very short tempered Babe….even though i haven’t seen it in over 20 odd years,just the memory makes me chuckle

Posted By DevlinCarnate : April 9, 2013 9:24 am

Second City TV did a spot on parody of the mushiest of all the Bio pics,The Babe Ruth Story,with John Candy playing a very short tempered Babe….even though i haven’t seen it in over 20 odd years,just the memory makes me chuckle

Posted By swac44 : April 9, 2013 9:35 am

Funny that I’m reading this after a hoax story about Clint Eastwood directing a biopic about Canadian troubadour Stompin’ Tom Connors, starring Australian actor Bryan Brown, spread like wildfire over the internet.

Well, the Canadian internet, anyway. Seems it was an April Fool’s Day story that didn’t get noticed until a week later, even though the idea of Bryan Brown trying to get a Maritime accent by studying with a linguist in Toronto (sure to upset East Coasters) and, most telling of all, the casting of country star Shania Twain as Connors’ wife, should have given the game away off the bat. Not to mention, who would bankroll an Eastwood biopic about a guy that no one outside of Canada had ever heard of?

Maybe if they’d said that Norman Jewison or Atom Egoyan was going to direct it, they could have gotten away with it…

Posted By swac44 : April 9, 2013 9:35 am

Funny that I’m reading this after a hoax story about Clint Eastwood directing a biopic about Canadian troubadour Stompin’ Tom Connors, starring Australian actor Bryan Brown, spread like wildfire over the internet.

Well, the Canadian internet, anyway. Seems it was an April Fool’s Day story that didn’t get noticed until a week later, even though the idea of Bryan Brown trying to get a Maritime accent by studying with a linguist in Toronto (sure to upset East Coasters) and, most telling of all, the casting of country star Shania Twain as Connors’ wife, should have given the game away off the bat. Not to mention, who would bankroll an Eastwood biopic about a guy that no one outside of Canada had ever heard of?

Maybe if they’d said that Norman Jewison or Atom Egoyan was going to direct it, they could have gotten away with it…

Posted By Jennifer : April 10, 2013 12:58 am

I very much enjoyed Pride of the Yankees and Sergeant York. Both of these movies focused on the relevant things that made these men stand out rather than showing bits and pieces that were neither here nor there. Well, not many bits and pieces anyway.

I’m surprised that nobody here has yet to mention the most glaring (in my mind) quality of classic biopics, and that is that they’re mostly untrue. Case in point: The Buster Keaton Story. Keaton himself said it was garbage but let them make it for the money. If I remember correctly the movie had possibly four things in it that were accurate- he drank too much, he was called Buster, he was in movies, and he wore a hat.

The studios and press protected celebrities and made up stories about them to the point that people really didn’t know much about contemporary celebrities/heroes of that time. Nowadays, the information is readily available and overly reported. We would never buy a biopic about, for instance, Liza Minnelli that didn’t include the fact that she married multiple times, she married gay men, and she battled addictions. We all know that. If they made a classic style biopic about her it would focus on her relationship with her mom and trying to get out of her shadow. If she had more than one marriage in the movie it would only be two and the divorce from the first husband would be because she was too focused on her career. And, because she’s a woman, they wouldn’t mention addiction at all.

In my opinion that is a good reason that the classic biopic is gone. When I sit down to watch a movie about someone’s life, I at least want what IS portrayed to be true or close to it.

Posted By Jennifer : April 10, 2013 12:58 am

I very much enjoyed Pride of the Yankees and Sergeant York. Both of these movies focused on the relevant things that made these men stand out rather than showing bits and pieces that were neither here nor there. Well, not many bits and pieces anyway.

I’m surprised that nobody here has yet to mention the most glaring (in my mind) quality of classic biopics, and that is that they’re mostly untrue. Case in point: The Buster Keaton Story. Keaton himself said it was garbage but let them make it for the money. If I remember correctly the movie had possibly four things in it that were accurate- he drank too much, he was called Buster, he was in movies, and he wore a hat.

The studios and press protected celebrities and made up stories about them to the point that people really didn’t know much about contemporary celebrities/heroes of that time. Nowadays, the information is readily available and overly reported. We would never buy a biopic about, for instance, Liza Minnelli that didn’t include the fact that she married multiple times, she married gay men, and she battled addictions. We all know that. If they made a classic style biopic about her it would focus on her relationship with her mom and trying to get out of her shadow. If she had more than one marriage in the movie it would only be two and the divorce from the first husband would be because she was too focused on her career. And, because she’s a woman, they wouldn’t mention addiction at all.

In my opinion that is a good reason that the classic biopic is gone. When I sit down to watch a movie about someone’s life, I at least want what IS portrayed to be true or close to it.

Posted By Doug : April 10, 2013 5:51 am

Happily, it’s been so long since the Hank Williams movie “Your Cheatin’ Heart” came out that I don’t remember much, except knowing that Hank Jr. sang the songs.
That movie must have been in the same league as the Buster Keaton bio Jennifer mentioned, which I didn’t know existed.

Posted By Doug : April 10, 2013 5:51 am

Happily, it’s been so long since the Hank Williams movie “Your Cheatin’ Heart” came out that I don’t remember much, except knowing that Hank Jr. sang the songs.
That movie must have been in the same league as the Buster Keaton bio Jennifer mentioned, which I didn’t know existed.

Posted By robbushblog : April 10, 2013 9:42 am

Night and Day is a prime example of an untrue biopic. Of course, how were they going to make a movie with Cary Grant as a gay songwriter back then? I’m sure De-Lovely was somewhat more truthful.

Posted By robbushblog : April 10, 2013 9:42 am

Night and Day is a prime example of an untrue biopic. Of course, how were they going to make a movie with Cary Grant as a gay songwriter back then? I’m sure De-Lovely was somewhat more truthful.

Posted By swac44 : April 10, 2013 9:56 am

Just watched the Sean O’Casey biopic Young Cassidy, in which he becomes the fictionalized “John Cassidy”, and it also has that episodic flow of most such films from the time, but it’s also got a strong Rod Taylor performance, authentic Dublin locations, Jack Cardiff’s direction (which means the visuals are strong, even if he’s not technically the cinematographer), and the lovely young visions of Julie Christie and Maggie Smith. The portrayal of “The Troubles”, as they call the Irish fight for independence, isn’t as strong as it could be, but there’s still lots to enjoy here.

Now I just wish that John Ford’s (who was supposed to direct Young Cassidy originally, but dropped out due to illness and stayed on as producer) 1936 adaptation of O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, set during The Troubles would see the light of day, I’ve seen the play live in Dublin, but never the movie, but it was for RKO, so I imagine it’ll turn up on TCM one of these days.

Posted By swac44 : April 10, 2013 9:56 am

Just watched the Sean O’Casey biopic Young Cassidy, in which he becomes the fictionalized “John Cassidy”, and it also has that episodic flow of most such films from the time, but it’s also got a strong Rod Taylor performance, authentic Dublin locations, Jack Cardiff’s direction (which means the visuals are strong, even if he’s not technically the cinematographer), and the lovely young visions of Julie Christie and Maggie Smith. The portrayal of “The Troubles”, as they call the Irish fight for independence, isn’t as strong as it could be, but there’s still lots to enjoy here.

Now I just wish that John Ford’s (who was supposed to direct Young Cassidy originally, but dropped out due to illness and stayed on as producer) 1936 adaptation of O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, set during The Troubles would see the light of day, I’ve seen the play live in Dublin, but never the movie, but it was for RKO, so I imagine it’ll turn up on TCM one of these days.

Posted By DBenson : April 10, 2013 2:56 pm

Always enjoy the cheesy biopic moment where the hero brushes off some stranger and another character says, “Do you realize who that was? That was (most famous person of that period)!”

Posted By DBenson : April 10, 2013 2:56 pm

Always enjoy the cheesy biopic moment where the hero brushes off some stranger and another character says, “Do you realize who that was? That was (most famous person of that period)!”

Posted By swac44 : April 10, 2013 3:48 pm

There was a moment like that in Young Cassidy, where W.B. Yeats shows up for a minute to let our hero know he’s on the right path with his writing, never to be seen again.

Posted By swac44 : April 10, 2013 3:48 pm

There was a moment like that in Young Cassidy, where W.B. Yeats shows up for a minute to let our hero know he’s on the right path with his writing, never to be seen again.

Posted By swac44 : April 11, 2013 9:54 am

Correction: Yeats does show up again at the end, to give O’Casey/Cassidy another pep talk. That’s what I get for posting before I’d finished the film.

On another note, saw 42, which might confuse a lot of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans, but is in fact the new Jackie Robinson biopic. It’s pretty traditional in its storytelling, never gets anywhere near as grim as Cobb, but I liked it better than The Babe with John Goodman as Babe Ruth. I didn’t love it though, many of the dramatic scenes had an inert/been-there-done-that feel to them, and the film only came alive when the action was taking place on the ball field, or in the intimate moments between Jackie (Chadwick Boseman) and his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie), who are both thoroughly charming and believable. Harrison Ford gives a broad, old-school performance as Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, but I liked it, and he seems to be enjoying himself in a role for a change.

Posted By swac44 : April 11, 2013 9:54 am

Correction: Yeats does show up again at the end, to give O’Casey/Cassidy another pep talk. That’s what I get for posting before I’d finished the film.

On another note, saw 42, which might confuse a lot of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans, but is in fact the new Jackie Robinson biopic. It’s pretty traditional in its storytelling, never gets anywhere near as grim as Cobb, but I liked it better than The Babe with John Goodman as Babe Ruth. I didn’t love it though, many of the dramatic scenes had an inert/been-there-done-that feel to them, and the film only came alive when the action was taking place on the ball field, or in the intimate moments between Jackie (Chadwick Boseman) and his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie), who are both thoroughly charming and believable. Harrison Ford gives a broad, old-school performance as Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, but I liked it, and he seems to be enjoying himself in a role for a change.

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