Alan Parker

Angeline Ball and Robert Arkins in The Commitments (1991)

Angeline Ball and Robert Arkins in The Commitments (1991)

  • Born:  1944
  • Rank:  64
  • Score:  554.40
  • Awards:  2 BAFTAs / NBR
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars / 2 DGA / 5 BAFTAs / 3 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films:  14
  • Best:  Midnight Express
  • Worst:  The Road to Wellville

Top 5 Films:

  1. Midnight Express – 1978
  2. The Commitments – 1990
  3. Mississippi Burning – 1988
  4. Evita – 1996
  5. Pink Floyd: The Wall – 1982

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1978 – 2nd – Midnight Express
  • 1988 – 3rd – Mississippi Burning
  • 1991 – 6th – The Commitments
  • 1996 – 8th – Evita

Alan Parker and Alan J. Pakula share more than just first names and initials.  They both made major political films in the 70’s and received numerous nominations (APM and Midnight).  They both remained important into the 80’s, but slid into obscurity in the 90’s.  Parker has made 14 and Pakula made 16 films (14 of which I have seen).  The quality of their output is similar as is the results for their top 5 films and they both had problems putting together back to back great films.  In fact the only director to ever make as bad a film as Road to Wellville sandwiched between two films as good as The Commitments and Evita was when Mike Nichols made What Planet Are You From between Primary Colors and Closer.

Parker has made all sorts of kinds of films but there is no question he is most closely associated with musicals.  His first film was the uneven Bugsy Malone and since then he has made Fame, The Wall, The Commitments and Evita.  Had he only made Phantom instead of Life of David Gale, life would be so much better (and Phantom would have been as well).  Sadly, Parker hasn’t made a film since David Gale, so since I graduated from high school all we have from him is a very good musical (Evita), a disappointing depressing film (Angela’s Ashes) and two truly awful films (Wellville and Gale).

The Commitments – #7 film of 1991

“We skip the light fandango / Turned cartwheels cross the floor / I was getting kind of seasick / The crowd called out for more.”  “That’s all very nice, Jimmy, but what does it mean?”  “Fucked if I know.”

That fantastic exchange between Jimmy Rabbitte and himself in the bathroom mirror sums up everything about this film.  It’s one of the best films about rock and roll and one of the best films about Dublin life and the first of a truly great and under-rated trilogy (the other two were directed by Stephen Frears).  The film, based on Roddy Doyle’s novel (which, like Trainspotting, is actually easier to read if you say the lines out loud) is the story of a small group of going nowhere teens and twenty somethings who follow Jimmy’s advice that soul is at the heart of rock and r0ll and the future of all their salvations lie in the music.  And this is the right film to be made by Alan Parker because of his way with musicals.  The other two novels were better suited to Frears’ style, but there is no one in film today who could have done better justice to this novel.

Are there people in life who never wanted to be in a band?  Who never listened to music and were inspired and wanted to be on stage and pass that inspiration on?  The Commitments recognizes that the most important difference between bands that make it and bands that don’t are timing and luck.  The Commitments have neither.  They have all the infighting that comes with a band and, if you listen, they have all the talent.  But their fighting becomes too much and it’s always a tricky thing when a band is brought together and held together by a manager rather than through sheer talent (the Sex Pistols come to mind).  But I wish I could have been in a band.  Especially this band.