This week, two projects revolving around legendary 20th-century rock figures were streamed, though the topics and projects couldn’t be more different.
First, the documentary “Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliche” will be in theaters nationwide on Wednesday for a one-night-only big-screen event before becoming available for digital rental on Friday. Pioneering punk princess Poly Styrene, the lead singer of British punk band X-Ray Spex, was the first woman of color to front a successful rock band in the UK. His distinctive vocals and delightfully daffy DIY fashion, along with his insightful songs, proved to be an indelible influence on rock and punk music, particularly the later riot grrl and Afropunk movements.
“Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliche” is more than just a punk documentary. It’s an intimate and deeply penetrating portrait of Poly as someone searching for identity through her art, seen through the eyes of her daughter, Celeste Bell, who co-directed the film with Paul Sng. The film is made up of a wealth of archival material, as well as interviews with family, friends and collaborators, as well as Celeste’s own voiceover detailing the experiences of growing up with her mother and later d learn more about her. What emerges is a nuanced and detailed rendering of Poly, who died of breast cancer in 2011, done with care and honesty by her loved ones.
Map Poly Styrene’s influence on punk in other rock documentaries, like “The Punk Singer” (2013) about radical riot grrl, Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna (available to rent on all digital platforms) , and in the fantastic documentary “A Band Called Death” (2013), about the Detroit Afropunk band Death (on Flix Fling, Fandor and Redbox). Poly’s London contemporaries, the Sex Pistols, were featured in their own documentary , “The Filth and The Fury” (2000), directed by Julien Temple (rental on iTunes or Vudu), while Penelope Spheeris captured the live energy of the punk scene exploding in Los Angeles in the early 80s in her classic rock documentary, “The Decline of Western Civilization Part 1”, available for free with ads on Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy and Crackle and available to rent elsewhere.
The other rocker getting a biopic, of sorts, this week is Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee in the “Pam & Tommy” miniseries, which premieres Wednesday on Hulu. The series unpacks the infamous mid-’90s sextape scandal involving Lee and “Baywatch” actress Pamela Anderson, and is based on a 2014 Rolling Stone article by Amanda Chicago Lewis. The first three episodes, which premiere Wednesday (the series will air weekly thereafter), are directed by Craig Gillespie, who tackled another ’90s tabloid controversy in his 2017 film “I, Tonya” (also on Hulu). The series takes a similar energetically irreverent approach in its correction to the record, exploring how the notorious sex tape was made possible by the nascent World Wide Web, revolutionizing internet sex, as well as our cultural relationship with stardom. , and the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry. In the titular roles, Lily James and Sebastian Stan fully inhabit these larger-than-life personalities in truly engaging performances (with the help of hair and makeup, James looks uncannily like Anderson), and their chemistry sizzles onscreen. .
To accompany your viewing of “Pam & Tommy,” check out the Motley Crue episode of the classic VH1 series, “Behind the Music,” available in its entirety on YouTube, as well as Netflix’s silly biopic “The Dirt,” on beginnings of the group. years to come on the Los Angeles hair metal scene, in which Machine Gun Kelly plays Tommy Lee. Anderson’s 1996 sci-fi action film “Barb Wire” is available to rent on all digital platforms, and classic Anderson-era “Baywatch” episodes are also available to stream on Hulu and Premium Video.
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Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.