‘Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me’ highlights an ignored band

The original Big Star line-up — Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Chris Bell and Andy Hummel — are seen in this picture from the good old days. Credit: Magnolia Pictures
The original Big Star line-up — Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Chris Bell and Andy Hummel — are seen in this picture from the good old days.
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

‘Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me’
Directors: Drew DiNicola, Olivia Mori
Genre: Documentary
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

This is the summer of musicians belatedly getting their due. The background singers in “Twenty Feet From Stardom” were jerked over by callous record execs, parasitic stars and Phil Spector. At least Big Star, the Memphis-based power pop outfit inexplicably ignored during their time, have long been considered major by the music critic cognoscenti and copycat admirers like R.E.M. and the Replacements. They’re such a staple of the Alt-Rock 101 canon that it’s a wonder what audience “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me,” the perhaps tardy official Great Band documentary about them, is for. It’s a purely expository profile film, and as such falls somewhere between Wikipedia page and Rob Jovanovic’s doorstop on the band’s tumultuous history.

Big Star only recorded three albums, meaning the same samples get played over and over and then over again. Of course, there are worse problems to have than repeatedly hearing the opening lick to “O My Soul.” “Nothing Can Hurt Me”’s biggest attribute, apart from the obvious, borderline hyperbolic passion oozing from makers and interviewees alike, is how it takes its sweet time, cramming as much story as possible into the two-hour length.

At least initially, Big Star boasted not one but two geniuses: Alex Chilton, former gravel-voiced teen singer of the Box Tops, and Chris Bell, a brooding, budding master. Rock ‘n’ roll, we’re told, wasn’t doing so hot in the early 1970s. (This isnt’ exactly true, but let’s not ruin a good Lester Bangs rant.) Big Star positioned itself as a retro band that looked back, with legitimately Beatlesesque melodies and harmonies, as well as forward. Hooky rockers alternated with ballads of bottomless emotion, each song instantly gratifying yet, over repeat spins, richly rewarding. Naturally, no one bought their records.

Bell’s split from the band, due in part to ego frustration (the raves they got usually name-checked the more famous Chilton), forces the doc to split in two. One eye stays on the remaining members while the other sticks with Bell, whose solo career was cut short by a car accident. Chilton died in 2010, and was lucky to see the band’s fortunes change posthumously, although he didn’t survive to see what a justifiably fawning nonfiction presentation of their rocky life story looked like. Still, you’ll have to dig into Jovanovic’s book to get more than the little dirt offered here about the hectic recording sessions of the band’s desiccated swan song “Third/Sister Lovers.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.