Velvet Goldmine (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

We agree completely on this one. If you like glam rock, you may enjoy the score enough to overlook the gimmicky structure and slow pace. Anyone else  ... well, you'll have slow pacing, gimmicky structure, and really loud glam rock. 'Nuff said.


Scoop's notes in white:

This is a "fan fiction" chronicle of the glam/glitter rock era with characters that are very similar to Iggy Popp and David Bowie.

The film really has a problem with structure. It begins with somebody leaving little Oscar Wilde on the doorstep of his stepfather's home in Dublin. When the new parents find the swaddled infant, instead of looking down the street for the culprit, they look to the stars, as if Oscar came from the Almighty or aliens. (Like Ziggy Stardust?)

This was promising in a way. I didn't buy into the pseudo-mystical appearance of the baby, but it does make some sense to connect Oscar Wilde with glam rock.

  • First of all, Wilde and Bowie had about the same wardrobe.
  • Second, Wilde was really the first pop star. In his day there were no electronic media, but Wilde became famous by spouting his epigrams and various pithy remarks in Hyde park on Sunday, and in the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the Victorian upper crust. Gradually, he became known as a "star", far more important than his own works. He was more famous for being himself than for writing Dorian Gray or The Importance of Being Earnest. Same is true of glam rockers. They ushered in an era when the rock star was more important than the rock. Everyone knows who David Bowie is, but can you sing one of his songs? Can you even name one? Not many people can.

But the movie dropped the structure and even the thoughtfulness promised by the into, and wandered into a completely new structure. This time, it was Citizen Kane. Seems that the Bowie-like character faked his own murder in a concert 10 years ago, and disappeared completely. An American magazine has assigned a reporter to write a piece commemorating the anniversary of the false assassination, and he is determined to find out where the mysterious star is now. This is done through interviews with the principals, whose stories are then seen in flashback. His ex-wife, his former manager, and so forth. The Citizen Kane parallel goes so far as to have one of the interviewees in a wheel chair.

But the movie didn't really seem to care about that "mystery", and when they finally revealed who he is today, it played to the audience as "so what?", or "who the hell is that"?, or - the worst of all scenarios for a filmmaker - "who cares?" I sure didn't. It also happens that the reporter himself has a direct personal history with Bowie and Popp, revealed slowly in his own flashbacks.

You can see that the entire film is very heavy with structure, and I think that is really more than it can manage.

Are there good points? Maybe. It depends on your point of view. It recreates a very loud, very stylized era with pseudo-songs in the manner of the time. The visuals are often effective (although much too dark for my taste), and the pseudo-glam score is convincing, I guess. The film's intro says it is meant to be played at maximum volume. I think that means that if you like the music and look of that era that you'll probably tolerate the overweight, pretentious, arty structure to get to the musical numbers. I'd probably do that if it were about Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, or some other performer I like, but I don't like glam rock, so this was a real chore. In fact, I may have fast forwarded through this movie more than any other one I've seen since The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. It moves slowly through the musical numbers, often showing the entire song, then it fails to advance the plot after the musical numbers are finished.

If you don't like the music of that era, or if gay/bisexual men turn you off, I'll bet you're just gonna hate this film.


DVD info from Amazon.

  • A loser. No features at all except a trailer.

  • The film itself is an adequate widescreen presentation. It's dark, but I don't know if that's the original or the transfer.



  • Mostly male. Ewan McGregor waves around his light saber and even bends over and spreads his cheeks.

  • Jonathan Rhys-Meyers shows his butt while he and McGregor cuddle together naked.

  • On the distaff side, Toni Collette only showed her breasts in very dim light.

Tuna's notes in yellow:

Velvet Goldmine purports to be an insider's look at the Glam Rock period. A reporter (Christian Bale) is assigned to find the truth behind a faked on-stage assassination and subsequent disappearance of a rock star (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). He first interviews the star's first manager, then his ex wife (Toni Collette).

A whole bunch of alleged music frames the story, which includes his rise to fame, the development of his on-stage bisexual persona, his love affair with another rock musician (Ewan McGregor), his faked assassination, a split from his wife, and his subsequent seeming disappearance. We do eventually learn what finally happened to him.

Note that this film full of 80s rock didn't receive a single nomination for any musical awards, which reinforces my personal belief that nearly no worthwhile music came from the 80s. There were also no nominations for writing or acting. The 80s Glam Rock music scene didn't much interest me when it was happening, and it doesn't much interest me now, 20 years later. The story is slow, the surprise ending telegraphed, and I gained no insight into the industry.

The Critics Vote ...

  • General consensus: About two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4.

  • The film was nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design, and garnered many other award nominations for make-up, costume, and even one for music editing.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6 out of 10. Surprisingly high! 22% of all voters rated it 10/10. Glam rack has its ardent fans, like anything else. Call it a chick flick, kiddie division, because women score it 1.2 points higher than men, with the under-18 set 1.9 points higher
  • With their dollars ... It took in a paltry $1 million at the box, and another half million in the U.K. Maybe some people liked it, but not enough to pay to see it.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoopy says, "It's a C-. Will be absolutely intolerable for anyone who does not love Glam Rock, but watchable for those who do, just because of the musical score. To me it is a one-star movie with three-star production values and some good performers." Tuna says, "This is a D+. If you consider Glam Rock music, you might want to see it, otherwise, there is not much of interest."

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