“The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound” (1966) dir. Andy Warhol / Paul Morrissey

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Here is some classic footage of the Velvet Underground jamming out circa 1966, courtesy of Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey. Considering that very little footage exists of this seminal band … and the fact that both Warhol and Morrissey thought enough to film this … makes this essential viewing. Put your shades on and groove, baby!

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The Warhol Party Scene from “The Doors” (1991) dir. Oliver Stone

Drug freakout scenes are one of my favorite cliches in movies.  My all-time favorite drug freakout scene (with the exception of Helen Hunt trying to fly in the 1982 CBS TV-movie “Desperate Lives”) is this scene from Oliver Stone’s “The Doors.”  With the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin” playing in the background, Val Kilmer’s Jim Morrison takes a walk on the wild side with all kinds of Andy Warhol characters from Tom Baker (played by Michael Madsen), Warhol (played by Crispin Glover), Nico (played by Christina Fulton), and some unnamed Warhol assistant (played by Oscar winning 70s singer/songwriter Paul Williams).  Seeing this on home video doesn’t compare to seeing this film on a huge screen with booming stereo sound back in the day.  The wobbly, boat-in-a-tsunami camera movements are much more intense and caused me to have a major headache when I saw this in a theater.

“Basquiat” (1996) dir. Julian Schnabel

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One of the best films about an artist’s life I’ve ever seen, as well as being one of the coolest films I’ve ever seen about any subject, “Basquiat” is a biopic chronicling the fast times and short life of legendary 1980s postmodernist/neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat created some brilliant (and highly commercial) art and also ran with a lot of famous people (Andy Warhol, Madonna, Keith Haring) back in the day. However, personal demons and drug abuse wound up getting the better of him and Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988.

Jeffrey Wright does a terrific job in the lead role as Basquiat and leads an all-star cast that includes David Bowie as Andy Warhol, Gary Oldman playing a character based on director/artist Julian Schnabel, Michael Wincott as critic Rene Ricard, Dennis Hopper as art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, and Christopher Walken, Courtney Love, Claire Forlani, Benicio Del Toro, Tatum O’Neal in supporting roles.

“Basquiat” also boasts one of the coolest soundtracks of any film, featuring the Pogues, Public Image Ltd., Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Charlie Parker, Melle Mel, the Modern Lovers, and Peggy Lee among others.

This was director Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut, a career that has led to great films such as “Before Night Falls,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and “Lou Reed’s Berlin.”

“Work” – Lou Reed & John Cale

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From Reed and Cale’s song cycle about Andy Warhol (“Songs for Drella”). A really funny and moving song about Warhol’s work ethic. Favorite lyrics: “Andy said a lot of things … I stored them all away in my head … Sometimes when I can’t decide what I should do,
I think what would Andy have said … He’d probably say ‘You think too much … That’s ’cause there’s work that you don’t want to do.'”

“Candy Says” – Lou Reed and Antony

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A wonderful and lovely cover of the Velvet Underground’s song about Warhol superstar Candy Darling. From the Julian Schnabel-directed film “Lou Reed’s Berlin,” in my opinion, the DEFINITIVE version of this song. Dedicated to the Westboro Baptist Church, who have made two appearances in my area (one near my house, the other near my workplace) in the past few months.