Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story
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A feature-length documentary about the sometimes unsettling but always fascinating world of the song-poem industry. In this little known subculture, ordinary people send in their heartfelt, but often bizarre, poems to companies that for a fee turn them into full-fledged musical productions. Advertising in the back of magazines, these companies lure the would-be songwriters with promises of fame and fortune.
This peculiar concoction of American commerce, musicianship, and poetic longing create oddly compelling songs that are unlike anything youve ever heard. Off The Charts: The Song-Poem Story explores the lives and dreams of the songwriters and musicians who operate within this strange world.
Features not-so-famous songs like, "Non-Violent Taekwondo Troopers", "I Am A Ginseng Digger", "Richard Nixon", "Jimmy Carter Says Yes!", "Annie Oakley", and "Hows Everything in Denmark?"
Special Features: * Deleted scenes * Sunburst studio sessions behind the scenes look at the recording sessions * Iowa Mountain Tour Live! a song-poem writer goes on tour * Off The Charts premiere party for the PBS debut * Song-Poems advertisement gallery * Song-Poem variety show "America Sings" a 30 min. infomercial promoting song-poems
In his wildest satirical dreams, not even Christopher Guest could top Off the Charts for sheer folk-art eccentricity. And yet, the creator of A Mighty Wind would find comedic inspiration in Jamie Meltzer's hilarious and sincerely affectionate tribute to the subcultural phenomenon known as the song poem. For over 50 years, a small, strictly amateur music industry has thrived on the fine-print ads that appear in alternative newspapers and music-industry magazines, inviting would-be songsmiths to send in their lyrics (and perhaps even "earn royalties") when their songs--and we use that term loosely--are set to music, recorded by seasoned musicians, and returned to their creators as a kind of one-shot fantasy fulfillment of dreams that will never come true. What drives Meltzer's film is a uniquely American combination of pathos, fringe-dwelling ambition, and free expression by assorted misfits and "regular folk" who seek elusive immortality by turning their lyrical musings into trash-art that's simultaneously fascinating and pathetic. But despite the end-credit claim that not a single hit has resulted from the estimated 200,000 song poems that have been recorded over the decades, Meltzer's not out to ridicule these wonderfully ungifted artists. Instead, Off the Charts gives a memorable spin to the flipside of the American dream. --Jeff ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
- Sunburst studio sessions
- Deleted scenes
- Iowa Mountain Tour Live!
- Off the Charts premiere party
- Song-poem ad gallery tour
- Song-poem variety show: "America Sings"
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Top customer reviews
Buy it and watch it, and then watch it at least 7 more times over the course of the next year. That's what I did after first seeing "Off the Charts" as a streamable Netflix film last April.
I have since screened it for friends and family, all of whom have sat through it stunned and stupefied. Think Christopher Guest, but in association with the term "documentary" instead of "mockumentary." Think of every friend who has ever shown you an original poem and said, "I put my whole heart into this," only to find, upon reading it, that your friend's heart is actually a landfill for all the poetic garbage in the world. Your friend's heart, in fact, is the poetic equivalent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
This is where all the insanely bad, yet insanely (brilliantly?) quotable songs go to die (live?).
"Off the Charts" is only an hour long, but there are extras on the DVD. Those extras most definitely justify buying the DVD, as opposed to simply streaming it online.
Buy this film for yourself. And for the love of all that is holy, buy it for everyone you know who writes dreadful poetry. Put a big "Hint Hint: This is You!" sticker on the outside of the box, and don't hide your glee. After weeping inconsolably for 40 days and nights without properly hydrating and being hospitalized with an IV to maintain his/her body's fluid levels, your friend will thank you for the sublime wake-up call (and go right on writing criminally bad poetry).
How's that for an endorsement?
I have read the book "Songs in the Key of Z" (and highly recommend it), but this film best captures not only the humorous qualities of this musical genre, but also the human side of these aspiring songwriters. It's easy to laugh at a song like "Non-Violent Taekwondo Troopers," "I am a Ginseng Digger," or "Chicken Insurrection," but when you see the people who labored over these misdirected masterpieces, it definitely makes you empathetic to their plight. Particularly brilliant in this film are the interview segments, which highlight these songwriters and the people who actually make the music. Be sure to watch the film with commentary off and then once again with it on to get some additional insight from the filmmakers, and whatever you do, make sure you watch the extras to see the entire live set by the Iowa Mountain Tour (as painful as this may to be), and the discussion of the song-poem classic "The Moon Men," a song with perhaps the most complex yet unfathomable rhyme scheme and meter of any song ever recorded.
This is a wonderful film, and I absolutely recommend it to any audience: it is captivating, humanizing, and uplifting to see the human spirit of these people struggle against obscurity.
A fun film to watch. A sadist may point and laugh, a masochist may see themselves, the ordinary viewer may just wonder at the spectacle, and thrill to the accidental art that is the result.
Most recent customer reviews
It's a half-decent bet, especially if you grew up in the eighties, that if you're aware of the song-poem...Read more