This is Spinal Tap

Michael McKean in Whatever Works

Actor, writer, musician, comedian — Michael McKean seems to have done it all over his extensive career. From his early work in television, including an iconic role as Lenny on Laverne and Shirley, he soon established himself as part of the ensemble responsible for bringing the term “mockumentary” to the masses. Starting with Rob Reiner’s sublime This Is Spinal Tap (which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year), McKean joined bandmates Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and a group of improvisatory geniuses in a string of features that toy with nonfiction filmmaking conventions, including modern classics such as Best In Show and A Mighty Wind. For the first part of our new “Pick 6” series, Nonfics reached out to McKean for a selection of films to recommend to our readers. The goal with this series isn’t to create some definitive, “best in show” list, but to bring to light works that quickly come to mind when artists, actors, filmmakers and programmers are asked to list documentaries that mean something to them personally, crafting a kind of mini-festival or “mixtape” of different tonalities that share one factor: they’re the films chosen by someone pretty remarkable, with a brief commentary about what these films represent for them. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Autobahn in The Big Lebowski

You wouldn’t be able to see them in concert. You couldn’t necessarily find an old favorite of theirs on vinyl or hear their new single on the radio, or download their latest EP as a new discovery. But for the fictional bands of cinema, their music still matters in a deep, powerful way. With the announcement that one of the most famous fictional bands of all time, Jem and the Holograms, is getting the movie adaptation treatment, it’s about time to look at the other fake bands that stepped onto the silver screen before them. Their existence may not be true, but their music is.

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This is Spinal Tap - These Go to 11

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Walter Blanco - Breaking Bad en Espanol

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Scenes We Love: This Is Spinal Tap

One of this week’s big releases (though not so big, according to early box office numbers) is the Tom Cruise led 80s rock opera Rock of Ages, which features a lot of famous people singing and dancing. However, it’s doubtful that Rock of Ages understands some of the intricate rules of being a true rock and roll star. It’s not just leather pants, stuffed crotches and long, greasy hair. It’s not just shouting out hyper-sexualized lyrics. As Rob Reiner’s 1984 fauxumentary This Is Spinal Tap taught us, the devil is in the details. You must be able to turn it up all the way to 11. You must also be able to find your way to the stage… Which brings us to this week’s Scenes We Love entry, in which the boys from Spinal Tap are ready to rock, just not ready to battle the geography of the backstage area. Hello, Cleveland, indeed.

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Over Under - Large

The mockumentary is a relatively recent genre of storytelling whose origins are probably as recent as the last hundred years. And that’s including all stories that could be considered mockumentaries by stretching the definition. The actual term, “mockumentary,” is even newer. By some accounts it first came into use when Rob Reiner used it to describe his 1984 cult classic This is Spinal Tap. Adding a word to the lexicon could be seen as a pretty big accomplishment for a goofy comedy, but, despite its subject matter, the legacy of this film shouldn’t be downplayed. Few movies live on as long and remain as popular as Spinal Tap has. Every few years a new generation of college kids discover this thing, and its legend just keeps growing. Far from being an originator, A Mighty Wind is a later film from the crew of mockumentarians led by Christopher Guest. And despite the fact that it’s full of a lot of good work, it often gets a bad rap. Guest and crew’s previous efforts, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, were so ridiculously funny that A Mighty Wind gets unfairly judged in comparison. And that’s unfortunate for a couple reasons. For one, those first two Guest-directed mockumentaries were such a high water mark for the genre that it was probably unfair to expect them to keep producing at such a level. And secondly, A Mighty Wind goes for funny a bit less that its predecessors, and plays a bit more in […]

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Merch Hunter - Large

This week, in place of the usual triptych of found items and a T-Shirt of the Week, Merch Hunter is dedicated entirely to the mighty tee, the single most versatile member of the wardrobe family. Why 12? Well, science has proven that 12 is the magic number in terms of tee ownership (don’t look it up, it was published in a science journal you probably won’t know of…), allowing the owner to rotate nicely across two weeks, while taking a three day slot for whichever design is the Featured of the Week. After a few months of this rotation, throw in a few wild cards, thanks to supplemental purchase, and you’ll have a winning formula for T-shirt success. And yes, it really should be that mathematical. I seriously had to resist the urge to just make a list of the 100 Star Wars T-Shirts You Need To Own Now, but that will no doubt appear in the future, given how many incredibly impressive designs there are out there (and hardly any of them lining George Lucas’s pocket). For once, my inane wafflings are not needed at all to sell the inclusions below, just look at the pictures and see how many of them you can resist. I’d advise buying them all obviously: but try to only wear one at a time.

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Sacha Baron Cohen

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that would like to lend apologies to those who despise brevity. Tonight’s just not a quantity kind of night. It is, however, a quality kind of night. Quentin Tarantino is now officially on a casting binge for Django Unchained, reportedly signing up Sacha Baron Cohen to play a gambler who buys Kerry Washington as his companion, thus angering the titular slave played by Jamie Foxx. I love it when he plays the villain.

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Criterion Files

Tune into VH1 Classics on any given day, and this is something you’re likely to see: a rock video of a mid-80s hair band playing on a giant stage, complete with sleek cinematography, wide camera angles, and a stadium-sized audience packed to the brim. At first you might be confused, thinking that this is possibly some Whitesnake or Guns N’ Roses song that somehow escaped your memory. But then the music video ends and in the bottom left corner the band’s name comes up. You’ve never heard of them before, and you’ve definitely never heard this song before. Yet this video depicts monstrous popularity that suggests nothing less than massive cultural phenomenon. While it’s possible for a one-hit wonder to develop this degree of renown for a certain frame of time, it becomes something of a schizophrenic moment when you consider that this hit single both inaugurated the now-forgotten band’s moment of popularity and depicted it simultaneously. With so many hair bands, how is it possible that every single one of them sells out stadium-size crowds? The answer, of course, can only be one thing: an association with mass popularity is, for hair bands, only a reality for the privileged few, but for the rest it’s a fabrication that’s all part of the musical aesthetic – it’s what makes this subgenre of rock that’s reliant on spectacle so spectacular. It’s fitting, then, that one of the landmark mockumentaries of American filmmaking chose as its subject a genre that itself relies […]

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Thanks to the talents of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the label “spoof” has lost all respect in the cinematic world. Often credited as “two of the writers of Scary Movie” (both as a joke and warning sign), Friedberg and Seltzer devolved the spoof film using an arsenal of pop culture references, bathroom humor and non sequiturs. Keeping it classy was never the goal. While their rampage through genre and cultural phenomena may never end, spoofing doesn’t have to live with shame either. Plenty of filmmakers have figured out ways to satirize the movie world and tell their own stories at the same time — it’s the movie-going public that’s afraid to use the dreaded s-word. Let’s suck it up and admit the truth: these ten films are hilarious, well-made and spoofs through and through:

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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