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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones is an excellent and thorough documentary that pulls no punches when it comes to discussing the difficulties faced by this seminal punk band who, while active, never quite got their due. The drug and alcohol habits of some in the band are discussed, as well as the problems in their interpersonal relationships as they persevered in the face of commercial indifference for over two decades. As a testement to the hard work and obstacles this band had to face to be a true original and a seminal innovator of music, this documentary can't be beat, and should be especially enjoyable to punk rock music fans of all ages.
What's the story?
From humble beginnings in Forest Hills, Queens, four misfits start a band, even though none of them are very good on their instruments. But they're determined to make the band work, and through steady practice, discipline, and dedication, these four form The Ramones, and become one of the first and one of the most influential of punk rock bands. (Their self-titled first album is considered essential to any punk music collection.)
This documentary is their story, covering their early shows at the legendary NYC punk venue CBGBs, to their frustrated attempts to break into the rest of the United States in the face of audiences who generally weren't ready and radio stations who wanted nothing to do with them, to the relative successes they found in England, and later, all over the world. The difficulties the members faced in getting along, year after year, are discussed, as well as their frustrations at not being able to find the wider audiences many people believed they deserved.
Is it any good?
END OF THE CENTURY: THE STORY OF THE RAMONES is unflinchingly frank -- as raw and inspired as the music The Ramones made. Archival footage -- photos, interviews, and concert footage -- contrast contemporary takes from those who were around The Ramones as they overcame their own initial musical ineptitude and personality problems to become a highly influential band. The obstacles they encountered and the hard work they applied to earn whatever relatively limited success they achieved is discussed in detail.
In some ways, it's a sad movie. Three of the original members died between 1999 and 2004, and some of their interpersonal problems were never resolved. While a band, they never experienced the tremendous successes of some of their contemporaries (Blondie, Talking Heads) and those they influenced (Nirvana, Green Day). But in the end, this documentary tells a unconventional story of the American Dream -- of working hard to make something happen and not letting anything stand in your way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the challenges in making a documentary like this one. What would be the difficulties in getting the musicians and others to discuss the good and bad of their careers? How would you show how difficult it was being an original band in the mid-1970s versus today?
What are some of the contrasting ways in which different participants see the same events?
What are the challenges of encapsulating a band's 21-year career into a feature-length film?
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