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Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool
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May 15, 2020

#FridayFilms: Movies About Music, Part 1

From documentaries and concert films to animations and musicals, Oklahoma Contemporary share their favorites
Costumed person stands with arms spread like wings, displaying a cape that says "Yankee go home with me"
The rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch follows the transgender star on a cross-country tour. (Photo: IMDB.)

Oklahomans love music and they love movies, and Oklahoma Contemporary staff are no exception. From front-desk staff to the executive director, staff members submitted so many movies-about-music entries we're starting a three-part series to showcase them all. We've got family-friendly animated flicks, live concerts, deep-dive documentaries and a fantastical rock musical. And that's just this week. Plan your next movie night now, and keep your eyes open for future installments!


The Last Waltz (1978) | Documentary, concert film; 1 hour 57 minutes

Filmed by famed director Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz transports you to San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1976 to experience the very last concert performed by The Band (most famous for the song The Weight.) It is full of amazing collaborations with some of my favorite artists from that time. Experience Neil Young, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, and many, many others, along with the great talents of The Band members themselves. (My favorite is drummer and vocalist Levon Helm.) The talent of all performers is stunning, as is the film’s overall cinematography. I strongly recommend this film to anyone who loves classic rock.

Available on: Prime Video

- Katie Long, development officer


Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2019) | Documentary, biography; 1 hour 55 minutes

My husband Heath (an OCU professor of music) and I agree — our top pick is Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, directed by Stanley Nelson Jr. In one word, this documentary is exceptional. The film invites you in with home movies and an extensive photographic view of Miles Davis. His 50 years of legendary music, from jazz to funk, truly make him a master. My favorite part of the film shows him performing in Paris and being treated with the dignity and respect he so deserved at the time.

Available on: PBS, Netflix, Prime Video (and scores 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes)

- Elizabeth Jones, staff accountant


Moana | Animation; 1 hour 47 minutes

A movie that I keep coming back to in this quarantine is Moana. I love this movie because of its amazing songs, beautiful story and vibrant characters. Each person and animal has such a colorful background and role to play. Every time I watch it, I cannot help but sing along to all of the fantastic songs. So, for this week's #FridayFilms, I have to say Moana steals the show for me.

Don’t miss Lava, the short film Disney released along with Moana. It will truly warm anyone's heart during these uncertain times.

Both available on: Disney+, Google Play, Prime Video (Lava also on YouTube)

- Jessye Nicole Green, gallery guide


Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) | Comedy, drama; 1 hour 44 minutes

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I think great movies are less like stories you watch and more like places you visit, and I love visiting Inside Llewyn Davis multiple times a year. It's beautiful and stark and gritty and serene. It has incredible dialogue, unusual characters and addictive folk music. The Coen brothers are some of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, and this is a quieter but no-less deftly executed entry in their impressive filmography.

Available on: Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play

- Dan O’Donoghue, associate director of development


Stop Making Sense (1984) | Documentary, concert film; 1 hour 28 minutes

I went to a lot of concerts when I was in high school and was fortunate enough to see so many great bands that toured in the mid-’80s. We went to the late show at (I believe) Hollywood Theater in Norman to see this, and I was blown away. From the first chord of Psycho Killer with David Byrne armed only with a boom box, an oversized suit and an acoustic guitar through the last note of Crosseyed and Painless with the full band and backup singers, this film delivered great rock and roll and a well thought-out visual component as well. The soundtrack is still in heavy rotation for me.

Available on: Tubi, Vudu, Google Play, Prime Video

- Steve Boyd, exhibits manager


The Secret to a Happy Ending (2009) | Documentary; 1 hour 41 minutes

This documentary about the Drive-By Truckers follows the Southern rock band over several years, with a combination of live footage and interviews with the band and various fans and critics, including Bryant Simon, director of American studies at Temple University. Patterson Hood, one of the Drive-By Truckers’ three singers and songwriters, is the son of David Hood, a long-time studio musician at Fame Studios who played on records from Cher to the Rolling Stones.

Available on: Vudu, Prime Video

David Stevens, Ceramics Program and Studio manager


Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) | rock musical; 1 hour 35 minutes

Meet Hedwig Schmidt, “internationally ignored song stylist,” East German émigré and transgender rock icon. Director-star John Cameron Mitchell and composer-lyricist Stephen Trask launched Hedwig’s story with drag performances in the mid-'90s, which evolved into an off-Broadway show, random city tour and eventually the box-office bomb and cult-movie fave. With demigod ballads and leave-everything-on-the-stage jams, Hedwig rocks and rolls her way through the United States, on the tail of her young love, muse and music-thieving nemesis, Tommy Gnosis. From a star-studded Broadway revival to a Riverdale tribute, Hedwig’s tragic, laugh-out-loud tale of transformation and the search for belonging is surprisingly universal.

Available on Prime Video, HBO GO and HBO NOW

- Lori M. Brooks, director of communications


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