The Singing Revolution (2006) Review

Directors: James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty

Genre(s): Documentary, Music

Runtime: 94 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

One of the landmark chapters in the fascinating histories of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) was the Singing Revolution in the late-1980s and early-1990s, whereby the people of those three Soviet-occupied lands campaigned for independence through the power of folk-singing. This documentary covers the struggle for freedom in Estonia, which was peaceful (there would be some bloodshed in Latvia and Lithuania, which is briefly touched on). This is an intriguing and powerful movie that sheds light on a subject that should be better known in, say, the United States.

The thorough The Singing Revolution, narrated by Linda Hunt, provides an interesting overview of Estonian history from World War II on. During that war, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union invaded the Baltic states first (in agreement with the Nazi regime), followed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and then the conflict concluded with the region once again in Soviet hands. As a way of keeping national identity alive, the Estonian people turned to folk songs and festivals.

That being said, this documentary is about more than just singing. It almost feels like a political thriller at times, as it delves into the world of the Estonian independence movement and the Soviet government’s response to it. There’s a tense standoff at a Tallinn (the Estonian capital) broadcasting tower that’s one of the highlights of the movie. The sight of thousands of Estonians singing tunes while waving their country’s flag in the middle of a totalitarian occupation is also inspiring.

Actually, there’s not as much singing as I thought there would be in The Singing Revolution. Still, it’s a must-watch documentary with lots of clips of interviews from the people who lived through those trying times (an Estonian Forest Brother – one of the guerrillas in the Baltic states who violently resisted Soviet occupation during the Second World War and the years following it – even gets his say). You don’t really have the whole picture of what went down during World War II and during the finale of the Cold War until you are familiar with the Baltic states’ roles in those events.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Review

Director: Rob Reiner

Genre(s): Comedy, Music

Runtime: 82 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

According to legend, rock star Ozzy Osbourne thought that This Is Spinal Tap was an actual documentary when he first saw it in theaters. Yes, this rockumentary mockumentary about fictional hard rock band Spinal Tap going on a tour of the United States to save their career managed to fool the Prince of Darkness himself. The film has since then gone down as one of the all-time great cult classic movies.

I suppose one of the reasons (other than drugs, of course) that Ozzy thought This Is Spinal Tap was the real deal was because of how, well, grounded it feels. Yes, it’s a laugh-out-loud-funny comedy, but most of the picture feels eerily plausible. There are one or two moments of unrealistic fantasy, but, for the most part, rockers have found this feature easy to relate to. It really nailed the zeitgeist of 1980s-era rock ‘n’ roll.

The music that Spinal Tap plays is frequently described as “heavy metal,” but I think that the term “hard rock” is more fitting. Speaking of the music, it’s all made-up, but the songs played by the titular band are shockingly good. I mean, they’re completely over-the-top, but don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to listen to the flick’s soundtrack when the runtime is through. To keep things spoiler-free, I’m not going to give away any of the titles of the songs.

This Is Spinal Tap is a searing, yet good-natured, and hilarious satire of clueless rock stars with out-of-control egos. The niche subgenre of the mockumentary would never be the same and many rock bands found a film that both poked fun at and empathized with them. Don’t miss the killer cameo from Fred Willard, who plays a colonel at a military base that Spinal Tap performs at.

My rating is 8 outta 10.