“Ninety percent of the time, being in the Eagles was a fucking blast,” says a square-jawed, movie-star-handsome, 64-year-old Glenn Frey in the opening minutes of The History of the Eagles, a two-part, three-hour documentary airing tonight and Saturday on Showtime. Frey delivers the line with the stoned-faced ebullience of an asshole father sarcastically praising his son’s tackling after Friday night’s big game; he’s so stern that the sentiment verges on unintended irony.
The moment sets the tone for the rest of this engrossing, not-quite-forthright “authorized” biography of one of the most popular rock bands in the history of mankind: The History of the Eagles is illuminating, only if you know how to read between the lines.
Back in the ’70s, when the record industry was enjoying the first blush of its big-money salad days, the Eagles typified expertly crafted, universally pleasant, and defiantly crowd-pleasing rock music. And yet, at the band’s core, there was always a pitch-black joylessness. This dichotomy makes the Eagles fascinating, if not exactly likable. Every classic-rock band has a “dark” segment of their narrative arc that arrives once the euphoric effects of fame and drugs wear off, and the reality that you’re still the same fucked-up bunch of people sets in. There’s plenty of that in History, as you would expect from an Eagles doc — as Don Henley says at one point, the in-fighting and money-grubbing that reigned inside the Eagles’ camp was foregrounded into each of their albums. The Eagles chronicled their loss of innocence, song by incriminating song, and listeners used it to soundtrack their own willful self-corruption.
On this Super Bowl weekend, it's only right to make your VOD choices appropriately thematic. Without a football-related offering available, you could do worse than this seven-layer dip of a movie about making a movie about writing a screenplay about making a movie. Colin Farrell is our writer, Sam Rockwell his deranged friend who kidnaps the dogs of rich people to collect ransom, batty Christopher Walken is his partner in crime with a past of his own, and Woody Harrelson is the One Rich Dog Owner He Shouldn't Have Messed With.
Silver: OK, so you’re making your first film. It’s about a legendary recording studio that's hosted such acts as Nirvana, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and Tom Petty, and which has since fallen into neglect due to the digital age. How in the world do you book interviews and get rights to all the music? Well, it helps if you're former Nirvana drummer, current Foo Fighters front man, and go-to Satan for Tenacious D Dave Grohl. Because booking Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Lars Ulrich, and Dave Grohl (wow ... how’d he land that one?) is probably easier that way. But the question of the film’s quality still remains; will Grohl be just another renowned musician stepping behind the camera in hopes of earning their renaissance man/raconteur merit badge? I honestly doubt it. He’s hired some key folks from The Cove, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, and Dogtown and Z-Boys to help him through his rookie effort. So in the end, I’m guessing Sound City is going to be my 2013 Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.