"It's like if there are people who are sent to this Earth just to show us all what Rock 'n' Roll is, Joan Jett is definitely one of those people."
- Billie Jo Armstrong, Green Day. (85 million records sold)
Joan Jett started the first all-girls rock band, The Runaways, when she was 15 years old. It was 1975, and punk was just reaching California and no one in the L.A. music industry was able to see the girls as anything more than a novelty act, or jailbait, or both.
Two years, three albums, a multi-continent tour later and The Runaways were done. At 17, Joan was considered "washed up" by an industry that didn't even want her in the first place. Except she was just getting started...
Bad Reputation is directed by Kevin Kerslake, who saw success with his last music doc As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM (notable for its very honest approach to rockstar/industry drug use). This time around, Kerslake has his work cut out for him—Joan is still alive, and notoriously close-lipped about her private life.
Much of Bad Reputation is built on other musicians (Iggy Pop, Runaways bandmate Cherie Currie, Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill, and Miley Cyrus—who I maintain is actually punk rock at heart even though her last album was fart-laced Pablum). It's great to hear others talk about Joan's legacy. She was continuously underestimated and/or sandbagged by the rock establishment and had to carve a career out herself (also, Joan produced the Germs' album, which is as punk rock as it gets, and kickstarted Bikini Kill which fuelled the Riot Grrrl movement).
Bad Reputation is an excellent film for anyone not familiar with one of rock 'n' roll's greatest icons. The relationship between Joan and writing/producing partner Kenny Laguna makes for some great moments, but the film is lean on Joan talking about anything but her career, impressive as it is.
If, like me, you're hoping for a ton of old Runaways' concert footage and a window into Joan's soul, this isn't it. If she has anything to say about it, Joan Jett will be remembered for one thing only, rock 'n effin' roll. Bad Reputation is available on iTunes and if you haven't checked Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways flick, it's also worthy. (Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett.)
At the theatres this week the big flick is A Star is Born, a remake of the classic Hollywood love story about a seasoned musician who falls for a young singer who has just given up on her dreams. Cue the role reversals...
Beware, this is a song-and-dance flick (not for everyone). If you're open to that kind of thing, however, know that Bradley Cooper stars (it's also his directorial debut) but all the buzz with this one is about Lady Gaga's performance as Ally, the star that is about to be born.
Gaga wouldn't be who she is if she didn't have a ridiculous talent for show-womanship and a serious stage presence, so it's no surprise she shines in the role of a rising pop star. But few people realized she would be this good—Gaga steals the show, saves the show, and solidifies herself as a real movie star. Looks like awards season talk starts now.
Also opening this week is Venom, a Sony (not Marvel) superhero flick about one of Spider-Man's most brutal villains, a symbiotic alien with a toothy grin and a Gene Simmons' tongue that inhabits journalist Eddie Brock and turns him into some kind of dark anti-hero. The good news is Tom Hardy (Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road) stars as Venom and, by all accounts, salvages a movie that's hamstringed by a PG rating and the fact that comic book villains aren't really nuanced enough to be standalone protagonists (even Alan Moore couldn't pull it off with the Joker in The Killing Joke comic). The bad news is, no Spider-Man.In other news, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead was released 50 years ago this week, reinventing the zombie subgenre and proving to film snobs everywhere that a B-movie horror flick can be as culturally significant as any big studio flick. Half a century later, zombies are shambling around the silver screen and, thanks to smartphone addiction, humanity is almost there ourselves.
B-Grade for life!