Jazz Biopics
March 3, 2004 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Are there good biopics about any of the jazz greats? Or movies focused on the jazz scene? I know there are a ton of documentaries, I'm interested in fictionalized, "shoot the legend" type stuff.
posted by lbergstr to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
'round midnight
posted by holloway at 4:32 PM on March 3, 2004

Bird, a film by Clint Eastwood is quite good, and it isn't even fictionalized.

That being said, round midnight is better.
posted by n9 at 4:39 PM on March 3, 2004

sweet & lowdown
posted by crunchland at 4:40 PM on March 3, 2004

There's Bird, about Charlie Parker (biopic directed by Clint Eastwood starring Forrest Whitaker), Sweet and Lowdown which is fictional, but references real jazz musicians like Django Reinhardt (it's a Woody Allen picture, starring Sean Penn...I didn't love it, but I don't usually love Woody Allen), Round Midnight, which is a Paris/New York, late 50's jazz picture (really good music, and Herbie Hancock is in it..on preview, I see holloway has already recommended it)...further bulletins as events warrant.
posted by biscotti at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2004

I know this isn't what you were looking for exactly, but I wanted to put in a plug for Let's Get Lost a documentary about Chet Baker. It's lowish on details and high on vibe. Very non-documentary seeming. The movie was made by Bruce Weber who is better known as being the guy who made all those smutty-seeming Calvin Klein ads. The music is sweet, the ending is sad, and it feels like one big narcotic hula. I'd try to catch it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:16 PM on March 3, 2004

Lady Sings the Blues

Robert Altman's Kansas City (not a biopic, and not Altman's best, but Charlie Parker is a character)

The Five Pennies (1959, starring Danny Kaye, about Red Nichols)

Louis Armstrong picture currently in production

Bix (I'd never heard of it, but found it under IMDb's "jazz" keyword—you may find some others there)
posted by staggernation at 5:17 PM on March 3, 2004

I'll second Lets Get Lost and throw down for Straight, No Chaser. Both are documentaries but are fantastic and worth a watch. They are shooting the legend. (And Jessamyn, Weber also made a fantastic docu called Broken Noses which you might like if you liked LGL--it features music by Chet).

I'd also recommend Louie Blouie if you can find it. Also a docu but biopic-mixes to it as well. Directed by Terry Zwigoff, who directed Crumb.

Mo Better Blues is no biopic or docu, but it's a jazz-centered movie I like quite a bit.
posted by dobbs at 5:30 PM on March 3, 2004

It is kind of amazing that there have been so few decent jazz films. It's like baseball before Bull Durham.
posted by languagehat at 6:01 PM on March 3, 2004

Here's one guy's list, which seems pretty good.

Also, you said not documentaries, but here's a good selection of those for anybody who's interested.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:02 PM on March 3, 2004

I'll put in another vote for Kansas City. Cyrus Chestnut plays a character inspired by Count Basie, and other well-known contemporary jazz musicians (Joshua Redman, Ron Carter, Christian McBride...) feature as well.

(Holy crap, there's a lot of unnecessary Flash in that Cyrus Chestnut site. A spinning @ sign??)
posted by emelenjr at 5:43 AM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everybody - now I just need to find friends cool enough to watch these with...
posted by lbergstr at 10:33 AM on March 4, 2004

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