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While "The Last Waltz" is usually the critics' favorite rock movie,
"The Kids Are Alright" has always done it for me. Basically, we have a
career overview of one of the greatest rock bands ever, with numerous
characteristics that make it truly exceptional.
Here's what makes this movie really unique: First, it was made by a fan, which gives it a fan's perspective (often more perceptive than a band's own self-image or, needless to say, the perception of a record company employee). But more importantly, the Who, always one of the most "down-to-earth" (and self-critical) rock bands, were willing to co-operate with the filmmaker (Jeff Stein), even going so far as to perform two exclusive concerts for the purpose of filming.
The movie thus comes together as a fan's dream: a comprehensive selection of live clips that span the band's career up to that point (including brilliant early footage and such career-defining performances as Woodstock and the band's appearance on the Smothers Brothers' TV show), along with truly insightful interview footage.
One comes away from this movie with a genuine appreciation for the combination of creativity and humility that really made the Who unique among "superstar" rock bands. Can you imagine Led Zeppelin referring to their own work as crap in the middle of "The Song Remains The Same"? The Beatles created their own career-spanning retrospective 15 years later with "The Beatles Anthology", but that film, made 25 years after the band broke up, seems much more concerned with defining and cementing the band's place in history (especially the McCartney interview segments) than with presenting the band "warts and all".
Even in "The Last Waltz", while much of The Band is somewhat disparaging about their early careers, there is still a real sense that Scorcese and Robertson are attempting to define a historically significant moment in time rather than just capturing The Band as it was (I've read that the rest of the Band members didn't even know Robertson was planning to break up the Band until after the concert!).
By contrast, "The Kids Are Alright" provides us with a refreshingly honest portrait of a band who have always tried to be honest with their fans. By combining the perceptive eye of a true fan with a cooperative band who weren't concerned with protecting (or defining) their "image", we are left with a true rarity: a documentary on a "superstar" that is neither concerned with deifying nor tearing down its subject, but instead gives us a truly satisfying (and entertaining) portrait. Plus, some of the best "70s Arena Rock" ever recorded! All in all, it adds up to a minor masterpiece.
In some ways this is best the movie ever. Errrm... make that one way.
Let me put it this way. If you're as big a fan of The Who as I am, The
Kids Are Alright is as alright as movies get. Director Jeff Stein was
probably an even bigger Who-fan than yours truly, and you get that vibe
from every aspect of the movie: the chosen footage, the editing and the
chosen narrative (or lack thereof) chosen. TKAA is a documentary, but
unlike documentary-makers fashionable today Stein didn't set out to
make his points in a Michael Moore-ish style, with himself as the
narrating voice-over and on-screen interviewer. Stein lets the footage
speak for itself, only slightly suggesting conclusions that can be made
through editing, and only once serving as an off-screen interviewer.
If there is one point Stein tries to make, it is that the Who were the most interesting/wild/intelligent/contradictory/refined/loony/crude Rock 'n' Roll band in the world. And therefore the most fascinating. He didn't have to turn to the viewer and say that in person: the Who themselves are their own best spokespeople. The Kids Are Alright isn't ABOUT the Who, it IS the Who. The a-chronological editing, live as well as mimed performances and contradictory quotes spanning two decades make a rich collage of fifteen years of Rock 'n' Roll mayhem.
Editing was Stein's weapon of choice to make TKAA a double-edged sword. People can try to find a deeper meaning in the director's decisions and/or draw their own conclusions. Or you can just kick back and relax and let it be the ultimate party-DVD. Watching this movie, you really get the sensation of hanging with the Who, addiction, hearing problems, impromptu strip sessions and all. And with Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend around, there's never a dull moment.
This is THE must see rock film. I can't think of any others that compare.
The Stones' `Gimme Shelter' is great for reasons quite different than the
music contained therein (of which the live material isn't very good).
`Monterey Pop,' which features the Who, is certainly my favorite concert
film from the era because of the culture it captured on its frames, as
as the eclecticism. The Hendrix performance alone makes that event
But the `Monterey' film is very passive & observational. In one sense,
is why I adore it so much, in another, more intellectual sense, it is
lacking a philosophy about the material it depicts. I suppose the
is really to document & be intentionally unobtrusive (to the viewers &
actual subjects), which in my opinion is really a type of non-philosophy.
The Kids Are Alright, however, epitomizes a certain condensed, irreverent
and bombastic type of rock and roll that Pete Townshend has always been
ideal spokesman for. This is perhaps the only rock and roll film that is
solely about the raw power and visceral effects of this music. Its primary
goal is to capture that essence and to show you - not tell you - that the
Who were the greatest rock & roll band ever. Of course, this is an age old
debate between Stones, Who & Beatles fans. What's the answer?? I don't
as I love them all, and I really don't care either. The ability of this
to make you forget about those other bands, however, is undeniable. Watch
this film in the proper setting & you'll be convinced, at least for the
moment, that the Who were the best.
`The Kids Are Alright' is not an entirely professional job. Scenes sometimes present themselves through hatchet editing & sloppy placement. It is non-chronological and choppy. Interviews range from nonsensical to pretentious. In the case of Keith Moon, we believe that he never took anything seriously and appears to be caught consistently interchanging the personalities of entirely different people. Roger Daltry has surprisingly very, very little to say. John Entwistle - not as surprisingly - has even less to say & remains in the shadows throughout. But what would otherwise be considered technical movie shortcomings are exactly what the Who excel in; the texture of this film is much like the Who's music itself and therefore highly appropriate. This is why we're only treated to flashes of seriousness before the façades are dropped and the kinetic circus begins anew. While bits & pieces of the Who dynamic can perhaps be articulated, the band's aura existed first & foremost in their music and physical energy (there is a great clip of Townshend patiently listening to the intricate analysis of his music by a German television rock critic. After the critic finishes his exhaustive treatise, Townshend mulls over his possible answer for a moment & finally responds, `yeah.'). The intellectualism, rebellion, trendiness, wildness and downright punk-ishness of the Who is all captured here in its full Moon Era glory.
I would definitely encourage younger music lovers & musicians to watch this, draw comparisons & ponder the direction rock and roll has taken. Is the Dave Matthews Band our generation's answer to the Who? If it is, please wake me when the funeral for rock has ended so we can start over again, thank you very much.
Until just recently, I didn't realize that the `Baba O'Reilly' and `Won't Get Fooled Again' performances were Moon's last with the band. The director actually had the Who perform these especially for this film as he was unable to find `definitive' versions of the songs in the Who film archive. They are indeed amazing.downright sizzling, actually. Quintessential Who.
This film came out shortly after Who drummer Keith Moon's death and as such,
is a hybrid between a tribute to his work with the band and what it was
probably originally intended to be, a collection of performances and
material showcasing their development through their first quarter-century.
There are some great live performances here: including a smashing live version of the extended Won't Get Fooled Again', stuff from the sixties' German pop show Beat Club, and many more. There are interviews (including the famous one with Russell Harty from the mid-seventies), and other bits and pieces put together. This was always the definitive line-up of the band, when their songs had spirit and their performances were technically accomplished with a touch of humour.
This 2-disc DVD is an absolute essential for any Who fan and perhaps
the only documentary film ever made that captures the essence of
rock'n'roll's importance to youth culture. Its brilliance largely
belongs to the irresistibly appealing personalities and unparalleled
live performances of the Who, but can also be partially attributed to
director Jeff Stein, who was a nineteen year-old fledgling photographer
and Who freak in 1978 when he persuaded the group to front him the cash
to make a movie. What results is a warts 'n' all portrait of the most
honest, inspired, and inspiring of rock's superheroes.
The film begins with the now-infamous performance of 'My Generation' on the Smothers Brothers show and never slows down. Included are hilarious outtakes of staged antics originally intended for a Monkees-style TV show that never aired, a wonderfully irreverent segment featuring John Entwistle using gold records for target practice on the lawn of his estate, priceless video and still photography of Keith Moon at his hotel room-smashing best, and vintage interview material with Townshend, charting his development from insolent young mod (at one point, when asked to comment on the relative quality of the Beatles' music by a smug British TV host, he refers to the Fab Four as "flippin' lousy") to a soul-searching artist trying to find meaningful space for himself in a form he fears he has outgrown. There are liberal doses from 'Tommy' and 'Who's Next,' but equal attention is paid to the group's early mod years and their more radio-friendly late-seventies era releases. Included in its entirety is the group's performance of 'A Quick One' from "The Rolling Stones' Rock 'n' Roll Circus," a TV show produced by the Stones which was never aired due to the Stones' opinion that they had been badly upstaged by the Who (only a fragment of the same clip was featured in the theatrical release of the film due to copyright restrictions). Surprisingly absent is any material from 'Quadrophenia,' an unexplained omission but one that doesn't really glare given that the footage is not arranged chronologically.
None of the Who's studio releases ever equaled their brilliance onstage, and Stein loads the film with impossibly hot concert footage, including mind-blowing performances (some borrowed from the Woodstock film) of live staples 'Young Man Blues,' 'Pinball Wizard,' 'See Me Feel Me/Listening to You,' and 'Sparks.'
Indirectly, 'The Kids are Alright' is also a cautionary tale: we see Moon transformed in a mere ten years from a lean young prankster into a bloated caricature of himself (Moon died shortly before the film was released; his last performance with the group was the concert at Shepperton Studios staged for the film at Jeff Stein's request). We see Townshend joking about his hearing loss and struggling with his fear of growing old and irrelevant. Entwistle dryly remarks, 'I'm too old to enjoy my money;' Roger Daltrey dismisses the cultural importance of rock music, stating flatly that 'it doesn't stand up.' Townshend confesses his frustration at the pressure he feels to satisfy the expectations of the group's army of frenzied fans. By the end, the group seems weary of itself and its overblown reputation.
Nevertheless, the film ends on a note of triumph, with a manic encore at Shepperton of "Won't Get Fooled Again," climaxing with a slo-mo shot of Townshend leaping and then sliding across the stage on his knees, followed by an end-credit coda of "Rock is Dead (Long Live Rock)". The DVD set includes director commentary, a recent interview with Daltrey, Who trivia quizzes, and isolated tracks of John Entwistle's extraordinary bass work on several classic tunes.
Definitive evidence of the Who's stature as one of the most influential and inimitable of the titans of rock. Anyone who loves the power and energy of a live rock performance will come away from this film slack-jawed and looking around for a guitar to smash.
The Who are many things- loud, sometimes hilarious, and even an influence to most of the rock following it (including Punk), but what they are ultimately are amazing. In they're time with drummer Keith Moon (and even a little afterwards), they created some of the best stuff to come from a guitar, synthesizer, drum, harmonica, etc, etc. And this documentary follows that spirit in showing the groups most famous hits including "Baba O'Reiley", "I Can't Explain", "Who Are You" and "Summertime Blues" among a whole bunch. In these songs and inbewteen them the Who explain the inspiration for they're hits, they're hilarity (seeing Keith Moon for no reason starting to strip is dead pan), and how they replaced the broken guitars. Excellent in nearly ever way, shape and form, right up there with Woodstock and Spinal Tap. A+
TKAA is a great mix of live and lip-synched performances, interviews and
funny clips. The perfomances are stellar, particularly "Baba O'Riley" and
"Won't Get Fooled Again". The Who are presented wonderfully here, all four
getting their own moments.
The undisputed star of the show is drummer Keith Moon. His interview with Ringo Starr is hilarious. Pete Townshend is runner up, shown in all of his bitter youth glory. Roger Daltrey is given time during the perfomances to show himself off as a wonderful lead singer and the essense of the Tommy character. Only bassist John Entwistle is short changed, given very few moments on-screen. Yet his line about being too old to enjoy his money is classic. A must see for any rock fan.
Jeff Stein's 'TKaA' introduced me to the dysfunctionally co-dependent family
that was The Who in their more-than-full-volume, willfully insane glory days
of Keith Moon. Their balls-to-the-walls, ear-shattering, finger-slashing,
skull-splitting, hammers-of-hell, power-plus-volume blues-based rock & roll
put their contemporaries deservedly to shame (Townsend didn't pull punches
in his criticism) and set a high bar above all that wreckage which their
successors have yet to reach.
It doesn't cover all of The Who's KM-era music (Quadrophenia, Who by Numbers) nor does it dig up the worst/best of the dirt (Daltrey repeatedly KO'ing a whiney Townsend over the years) but it captures as only a fan's we're-not-worthy devotion can the band's intense, sometimes-paranoid craziness as well as their self-knowing, self-mocking intelligence about their craziness -- and their true worth in the annals of rock & roll. Stein deserves a spot in Cleveland right next to them.
Maybe being such a fanatic of the Who I'm downright dogmatic in my beliefs that this is a great 70's rock film. The performances are exciting. Pete Townshend dishes out philosophy of rock music that only he can. The editing is quick so the movie never drags(i.e.The song remains the same) Many of the scenes are downright funny. Not only is it a movie that shows how talented the Who were as a band. It shows they could put on a great performance off stage as well( such as being interviewed) It's probably one of the very few rock movies from the 70's that has charm. Even though I do think it helps to be a big fan when watching it. But I think that's true of any rock movie or concert video.
Well, I've been sat here for the last five minutes thinking what I
could write about the Greatest Rock 'n Roll band in the World, or more
to the point, one of the best Rock Documentaries to come out of the
Seeing The Who live only four time's since 13th July 1985 to November 10th 2000. The original line up would have been great, but time and history say different.
This is where Jeff Stein has a wonderful idea (the film was being made when Keith was still very much alive, but as reference to today's generation) if you can no longer go to the mountain, then he has brought it to you, enter stage right, The Kids are Alright, 109 minutes of pure Rock 'n Roll documented history.
The film start's of with some fantastic black and white footage (the early gigs must have been out of this world) of one of the hardest working bands to come out of the Sixties and to continue to World domination, a cliché I know, but it works.
Interviewing them must have been a night where you earned your money, poor Russell Harty, (in case of Keith Moon break the glass).
The 1970's tracks see them develop into a real tight outfit, if not a "little older" , performing most of their classics without fault. Jeff Stein has done a great job of bringing together this visually collective musical collage to a wider audience. I say lets turn the record over and begin side "B"...
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