Beach Boys - An American Band / Brian Wilson - I Just Wasn't Made for These Times
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I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, on the other hand, goes more out of its way to show the long dark path of head Beach Boy Brian Wilson. While Wilson is now acknowledged as the Mozart of the late 20th century, director Don Was gives us a stark black-and-white portrait of a troubled artist still struggling to get his life back. His reminiscence of dad Murry Wilson's beatings is chilling, and Wilson is as comfortable as he'll ever be in front of the camera bragging up his drug use ("Cocaine... the works... put me in jail") and randomly quoting Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon. Through it all, Wilson comes across as a complete original, and if the reworkings of his classic songs don't quite match up to the originals, give the guy a break--he just wasn't made for these times. --Kristian St. Clair
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"I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" picks up the story about 10 years later, and focuses on the genius (and genial) composer Brian Wilson, showing his at least partial success in dealing with his personal, emotional, and psychological problems, which had plagued him during the previous two decades as recounted in the "American Band" film. Brian comes off in "IJWMFTT" as much more articulate in conversation than I had expected (he's really pretty articulate by any standard), and his new performances of some older songs are well done and compelling. Interestingly, the footage is almost entirely new, including interviews with family (Carl Wilson, mother Audree, daughters Carnie and Wendy), associates (Van Dyke Parks), and admirers (Tom Petty, John Cale, Thurston Moore, Linda Rondstadt), with almost no archival footage. So, between the two films, you have a history of the band and a portrait of its driving force during its glory years. A great combination.
One additional note: "IJWMFTT" is actually in letterbox in this version, not pan-and-scan. When I first bought this DVD, I was dismayed to see on the back of the box that it said the film had been modified to fit the TV screen, which usually means the letterboxing has been scrapped. I was pleasantly surprised to find when I actually watched the film that while the credits were in "full-screen" (i.e., not letterboxed), the rest of the film was definitely in letterbox. Very nice B&W photography.
1985's "An American Band" opens appropiately enough with footage of Brian Wilson's 1976 birthday party intercut with scenes from an interview done with him from his bedroom, half - dressed, smoking a cigarette. The rest of the film's made up of interviews with the other Beach Boys that are good, though obviously scripted. The real highlight are the concert footage, featuring footage from their European tour that includes an electrifying performance of "Breakaway", not to mention glowing versions of "God Only Knows" and "In My Room", plus rockers like "Barbara Ann" and "Fun, Fun, Fun".
1995's "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" has Brian coming to terms with his troubled life through various interviews with him and several people close to him, including his two wives, his daughters, Van Dyke Parks, and Carl Wilson, his brother who succumbed to lung cancer in 1998. In between are scenes of Brian doing newly recorded versions of "Meant For You", "Do It Again", "The Warmth Of The Sun" (a real surprise for me), "Til I Die", a rousing "This Whole World" as well as a few others.
Overall, these are two finely done documentaries of one of the greatest artists of all time, a group who forever changed the face of music with their surfboards, woodies, girls, pet sounds and good vibrations. Surf's up.
"IJWMFTT" shows a mostly lucid Brian, memory surprisingly intact, talking about his creations. But, the reason to watch this bio are the performances. Hearing Carl sing "God Only Knows" with his brohter and mother was a treat. And listening to Brian's ex-wife talk about "Caroline No" segue into Brian totally nailing the song was great stuff.
The turning point came in 1966, when Wilson essentially replaced Mike Love with Van Dyke Parks as his primary lyricist collaborator after "Pet Sounds". After the resulting "Smile" project was abandoned due to internal strife, the Beach Boys minus Wilson re-invented themselves as primarily a nostalgia band, riding the crest of the wave that had formed under Brian's leadership, but whose new songs were weak imitations at best. Wilson himself never fully recovered from the demise of "Smile", although the recent successful reconstruction of this project has signified a partial recovery of his significant talents.
"An American Band" does its best to sugar-coat the conflicts, and has the look and feel of the "official story" of the band, like a 2 hour press conference in which the facts are sanitized. There are two pivotal moments in this video: one comes when squeaky-clean Bruce Johnston walks towards the camera looking like a televangelist, saying confidently with a straight face "We knew Brian was not going to be around [after "Smile"] but that we had to push on without him" (why?) The other highlight of the film is Brian's amazing solo performance of "Surf's Up" accompanying himself on the piano. "Surf's Up" expands the harmonic horizon beyond even "Good Vibrations", and is one of the most original, most beautiful, pop songs ever written.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
excellent overview of the BBoys with many live versions of their best songsPublished 8 days ago by Jay J. Robbins
Towards the end of the first feature, there is a beautiful scene with the three Wilson brothers onstage in the early 80s. Read morePublished 2 months ago by nancy m
If you're looking for a Beach Boys dvd, this is a good choice. It included everything I wanted.Published 3 months ago by a lesson learned
The best documentary of The Beach Boys to date  -- and it's 30 years old already! They've made others since, but this one is the best.....to me anyway. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Keith Black
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