It's Oscar season again, and this Sunday night the film industry honors the best of the past year in cinema. This year's Best Picture nominees are Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter's Bone. Admittedly, Rocks Off has only seen half of the list, with four of them eluding us, but we're sure Netflix will remedy that in a few months.
Musical biopics are our favorite types of movies, not just the ones with Oscar noms to their credit. The Doors, La Bamba, Control, and 24 Hour Party People are just a few that come to mind that were never up for any any gold guys. Steve Coogan deserved a nod for his turn as British scene luminary Tony Wilson in Party People, and Lou Diamond Phillips did some of the best work he will ever do as Ritchie Valens.
We culled together our favorite musical biopics that were either nominated for Best Picture or one of the acting categories, plus a few others that we couldn't leave off a proper Oscar list. It still pains us to remember that Jeff Bridges' Bad Blake from Crazy Heart doesn't count as a real singer, or that the cast and crew of Almost Famous didn't win a "Most Awesome Movie Evar" trophy in 2001.
Coal Miner's Daughter: Sissy Spacek's role as Loretta Lynn garnered her not only a Best Actress nomination but also a win. She sang all of Lynn's songs on the soundtrack, and the film featured Beverly D'Angelo as Patsy Cline, Levon Helm as Lynn's father, and even Ernest Tubb as himself.
Sweet Dreams: Jessica Lange (meow) took a stab at Patsy Cline in this 1986 biopic, which was largely shunned by the Cline family. She did get a nom for Best Actress, up against Whoopi Goldberg, Anne Bancroft, Meryl Streep (of course). They all lost to Geraldine Page in The Trip To Bountiful.
Walk the Line: Reese Witherspoon won Best Actress for playing June Carter Cash in this 2005 Man In Black biopic, but Joaquin Phoenix lost to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's utter transformation in Capote.
La Vie En Rose: Marion Cotillard stole the show, and the Oscar for Best Actress, in 2008 for her performance as iconic French singer Edith Piaf.
Ray: Jamie Foxx almost outdid Ray Charles himself in 2004's Ray. The film helped get Charles' name back into the national conversation and ushered along Foxx's own musical career.
The Buddy Holly Story: Gary Busey lost the Best Actor race to Jon Voight in Coming Home the year that this Buddy Holly biopic was released, but the film did win Best Score. Busey's Holly is fiery and unforgettable.
What's Love Got To Do With It?: This film firmly cemented Ike Turner's rep as the major asshole he was during his marriage to Tina Turner. Shorthand for beating your wife became "Going Ike" in some circles. Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett were both nominated for Oscars they didn't win, but their Hollywood bankability soared.
Amadeus: Milos Forman's biopic of the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was masterful, with every major role glowing with praise. The original rock star murder scandal was brought home for '80s audiences by Tom Hulce as the title character and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri. According to imdb.com, Mel Gibson, Mick Jagger, Sam Waterston, Mark Hamill, and Tim Curry all auditioned for the role of Mozart.
I'm Not There: It took five men and one women to play variation's of Bob Dylan for this 2007 quasi-sorta Dylan biopic. Fanatics will understand the references and vignettes, but casual fans will be left stumped. Funny enough, Cate Blanchett was the only one who got an acting nomination with a Best Supporting Actress nom for her turn as the spry and angry Dylan-type from the Don't Look Back era.
Shine: The image of Geoffrey Rush smoking and stuttering as David Helfgott in 1996's Shine is indelible, and he rightfully won the '97 Best Actor statue for the manic role. The film also reintroduced the world to Armin Mueller Stahl, whose career would blow up in Shine's wake.
Lady Sings the Blues (Billie Holliday)
The Jolson Story (Al Jolson)
The Pianist (Władysław Szpilman)
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The Glenn Miller Story (Glenn Miller)
Bird (Charlie Parker)