“My Way” – Sid Vicious

Video

Sid Vicious’s biggest musical moment … this is Sid’s infamous punk cover of the Frank Sinatra warhorse, with new filthy lyrics. The video, originally at the end of Julien Temple’s Sex Pistols documentary “The Great Rock n Roll Swindle,” is equally as infamous, with a graphically violent climax that must be seen to be believed. Not safe for work.

Perhaps the best use of this song was over the end credits of Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic “Goodfellas,” a perfect choice that sums up the entire picture.

And … as a bonus … here’s the version of the scene from the 1986 Alex Cox-directed biopic “Sid and Nancy” with Gary Oldman dynamically taking the mic as Sid. While this is not Oldman’s first big performance, it was the one that made him famous.

“Sid and Nancy” (1986) dir. Alex Cox

Video

I saw “Sid and Nancy” in 1986, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day when school is not in session and I was visiting my Dad in Washington D.C. I saw it at the (now defunct) Key Theater, a Georgetown multiplex that showed nothing but art films. I remember this was the first time I had been in Georgetown by myself and was particularly excited because I also managed to find a (then-rare) CD copy of the Dead Kennedy’s “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” at Olsson’s Books and Music (sadly out of business).

Anyway, I was really excited to see this not only because this was a major film about punk history, but was also because it was directed by Alex Cox, who directed one of my all-time favorite films, “Repo Man.” The theater was thoughtful enough to include a very killer punk mix of music before the film started. My verdict of “Sid and Nancy” at the time? I thought it was good, even though I knew a lot of it was bullshit. This film gets a lot of stuff wrong, but it was still damn exciting to watch. This was the first time I had seen Gary Oldman (who plays Sid Vicious) and thought he did a magnificent job. The start of a brilliant career… Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen was also damn good. I’m sorry to see that after an appearance in the Arnold Schwarzenegger / Danny DeVito film “Twins” and a role on the TV show “China Beach” she didn’t do much after that aside from the occasional TV appearance and supporting role. She’s always been memorable in everything she’s been in.

My verdict now? I still think it’s quite remarkable. Yes, it includes a bit too much of Cox quirkiness and while I realize it has even more wrong about the facts than I knew at the time, it still packs quite a wallop. At times, funny and extremely depressing, “Sid and Nancy” is a great rock and roll film, one of the best films ever made about a mutually destructive relationship, and a genuinely thrilling attempt to document the highs and lows of the punk scene in Great Britain and New York City during the late 1970s.

“Basquiat” (1996) dir. Julian Schnabel

Video

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.”