I loved Joan Jett when I was a kid. I listened to side one of I Love Rock N’ Roll almost every day — often multiple times a day — for more than a year. I turned the volume up on my crappy little radio every time the title song came on Q102 — which at the height of its popularity, was about once an hour.
The collision of simple, classic guitar chords, her tough-girl voice and her sexy, goth-informed visage staring out from the album’s cover left me endlessly fascinated. As a pre-teen, early-’80s suburbanite, I’d never experienced anything like her. (It’s hard to fathom today that she was only 22 at the time.) I imagined myself as the guy at the jukebox she was singing about in the song: “And I could tell it wouldn’t be long/till he was with me, yeah me.”
“Ow!” is right.
Though I didn’t follow her career closely post-I Love Rock N’ Roll — nor did I investigate her pre-solo group, The Runaways, like I did other bands of the Punk-Rock era — I’ve had a soft spot for Jett ever since. Thus I was pretty stoked to check out The Runaways, writer/director Floria Sigismondi’s entertaining, if occasionally clichéd, biopic treatment of the pioneering all-girl Punk/Metal band Jett founded with producer/impresario/world-class oddball Kim Fowley. (Read my interview with Sigismondi here.) (And for further investigation of all things Joan, check out Ammo Books' slick new photo book, simply titled Joan Jett. Edited/compiled by Todd Oldham, the 256-page hardcover glossy features a smorgasbord of vintage photos interspersed with first-person observations from Jett. Good stuff.)
And though Kristen Stewart is probably not worthy, as Kathleen Hanna recently boasted, of an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the iconic singer/guitarist, she does a nice job of conveying the contradictory aspects — the simultaneous presence of toughness and vulnerability — of Jett’s persona. (Not to mention that the 20-year-old actress looks good in Jett’s ’70s-era array of tight-fitting T-shirts and leather pants.) That dual nature is a big reason why she remains so intriguing 30 years after her Runaways breakthrough.
The movie's release is also a good reason to break out my old-school vinyl Joan Jett records — the opening chords of "I Love Rock N' Roll" still instantly take me back to the days of Mario Soto (best Reds pitcher ever!), the Atari 2600 (Combat rules!), Diff'rent Strokes (Dana Plato!) and the one time I broke my step-dad's tennis racket playing air guitar (John McEnroe is still the shit!).
Elsewhere, Cincinnati World Cinema returns to save us from another thin week at the movie house. The locally based group with typically discerning fare presents its annual “Oscar Shorts & More” screenings April 11 (which is sold out), 13 and 14, with a different lineup of programming each night at The Redmoor in Mount Lookout Square.
As one of the stepchild categories that has been pushed out of the Oscar-night spotlight — not to mention that they rarely get a theatrical release —it’s always nice to see this collection of largely worthy films get some programming love. They’re often as good or better than their big-brother feature-length nominees, and this year’s crop of five live-action and five animated films is no exception.
Of particular interest is the Oscar-winning Logorama, a crafty computer-animated satire of corporate America and big-budget, violence-laden Hollywood blockbusters that features a psychotic Ronald McDonald and a foul-mouthed Frisch’s Big Boy. And be sure to catch Nick Park’s A Matter of Loaf and Death, the latest amusing adventure featuring Wallace and Gromit, the handcrafted stop-motion duo who can’t help but get themselves into pun-laden, slapstick-rendered trouble.
Of the live-action offerings, Joachim Back’s Oscar-wining black comedy The New Tenant is pungent fun, featuring a first-rate cast (including Vincent D’Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan, both of whom look even more haggard than usual) to tell the story of an apartment and its connection to a murder, an AWOL wife and a missing bag of heroin.
Go to www.cincyworldcinema.org or call 859-781-8151 for specific screening information and a complete lineup films. Ticket packages range from $10 to $16.
DATE NIGHT — When Tina Fey and Steve Carell aren’t nailing a scene in Date Night, there’s really not much reason to be watching. But when they are, you realize that making a successful Hollywood comedy is sometimes as simple as pointing talented performers in the right direction and getting the hell out of the way. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-
THE LITTLE TRAITOR — Based on the novel Panther in the Basement, writer/director Lynn Roth’s adaptation centers on the coming-of-age tale of Proffy Liebowitz (Ido Port), a difficult 11-year-old boy on the eve of Israel’s statehood in 1947. Alfred Molina co-stars. (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — Jason Gargano (Not Rated.) Not screened for review
THE RUNAWAYS — Music video director Floria Sigismondi trains her eye on the early days of punkish girl rockers as Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) hook up with producer impresario Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) and set the stage for what would become the runaway success of women in the game of sex and Rock & Roll. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at AMC and Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: B