Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Great "Rock School" Review:

This one is posted by Eric Slick for Robin, while she suffers from serious back spasms:
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "So you wanna be a rock 'n' roll star," the Byrds once cheekily sang. In Philadelphia, there's always been more of a path for rocker wannabees: Dick Clark used to plug and pump local talent on "American Bandstand," and now there's a guy in Philly who runs a school in how to become a rock star. The school's a bit unconventional as this kick-ass documentary on the Paul Green School of Rock Music shows. This release from Newmarket Films received a rousing ovation at Sundance earlier this year and such enthusiasm transposes to great word-of-mouth for "Rock School."

Great leaders or teachers know how to push their followers' buttons. Rock School founder Paul Green is a master of inspiration and, as this film shows, manipulation. A tyrant, an egomaniac, a master-blaster, Green essentially runs a musical boot camp. And the kids, who range from 9-17, love it. Green preens, badgers and inspires and at times seems the most immature "kid" in the room. But his musical madness is packed with method: Practice, practice, practice is his dictum. No Juilliard or Berklee instructor demands more. He's a pain in the butt, but the students, for the most part, keep coming back.

In this day of dumbing down and coddling students, it's refreshing to see a teacher push his students to levels of accomplishment they didn't think was possible. Like a piano teacher beginning with Bach and crescendoing toward Liszt, Green insists that they play the classics. In his mind, that means Frank Zappa, whose music degree of technical difficulty, represents to him the
Mount Everest of rock. No strummy three-chord players for Green. Leave that for the garage.

Director Don Argott's filming is attuned not just to the musical dynamics but, better yet, to the personal chords. We come to learn about the school not only through Green's histrionics but through the eyes and ears of five different students. They are a diverse mix, including a clinically depressed loner (Will), a defiant Quaker girl (Madi), 9-year-old angelic/satanic twins (Asa and Tucker) and a virtuoso lead guitarist (CJ).

"Rock School" rips out in the gritty-underdogs-conquer-the-world story progression. In this real-life scenario, Green whips them into shape for a triumphant performance at a Zappa Festival in Germany.

Cinematographer-director Argott has the technical virtuoso of a lead guitarist, while editor Demian Fenton is a combo bass guitarist, drummer with his pulsating pace.

Producers: Sheena M. Joyce, Don Argott; Director/director of photography: Don Argott; Editor: Demian Fenton.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter