MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Filmage: The Story of Descendents / ALL’

FILMAGE

Movie: Filmage: The Story of Descendents / ALL
Director: Matt Riggle, Deedle LaCour
Director of Photography: Justin Wilson
Editor: James Rayburn, Deedle LaCour, Justin Wilson

The guys in Descendents all knew that they weren’t cut out for the glamorous punk rock scene of Hollywood. Hell, the guys were too busy drinking coffee, farting, fishing, and playing mad scientist to worry about styling their hair and getting leather jackets. That didn’t stop them from changing rock music forever.

In spirit of our recent interview with Descendents’ drummer Bill Stevenson, Under The Gun Review has received an advanced copy of Filmage: The Story of Descendents / ALL, to let our readers know what the new documentary is all about. The documentary’s nominations and appearances at film festivals worldwide may speak for themselves, but as a 22 year old writer I’m going to break things down for readers who may not be too familiar with the band and hopefully keep it interesting enough for those who have been raised on them.

The documentary features commentary by Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Chris Demakes and Roger Manganelli (Less Than Jake), Joey Cape (Lagwagon), Greg Graffin (Bad Religion), Fat Mike (NOFX/Fat Wreck Chords) and many more.

Check out below the jump to see the trailer and an insider’s look at Filmage: The Story of Descendents / ALL.

If you are a fan of punk rock but incapable of keeping up with 35 years of lineup and name changes on your own, watching this flick should come in handy for your bank of music knowledge.

Aside from making you feel (somewhat) confident about understanding the history of the bands, Filmage brings you on a rollercoaster of emotions. I personally went from wanting to throw my lamp through my window in angst to pounding my head against the wall in confusion. In the end, it was a feeling of optimism and the thought of “That was kick-ass,” that really concluded my experience.

This documentary addresses many of the simple dichotomies and ironies that many musicians and human beings alike tend to face. Drummer Bill Stevenson is portrayed as an indecisive child who needed a push in the right direction, who ended up defining one of the greatest sub-genres in rock history. Vocalist Milo Aukerman couldn’t commit to either his love for music or science as a career. Within that, he didn’t want his music to become his career, because that took away from its therapeutic value.

Before going deeper into details, here is the current and commonly noted “official” lineup of Descendents:

- Milo Aukerman (vocals)
- Stephen Egerton (guitar)
- Karl Alvarez (bass)
- Bill Stevenson (drums)

The way I’ll approach reviewing this film will be in a series of questions that developed as the movie progressed and I had in my own mind followed by how they were answered. By all means- reading my little synopsis will not do the justice the film does, so make sure that if you care enough to read this, you should be seeing Filmage, or probably buying it and keeping it on your shelf forever.

Who actually founded Descendents?

Descendents started off with Frank Navetta and David Nolte as the founding members, coining the name of the band. Nolte, who later on gained success playing with The Last, left the band soon after, that is where Bill Stevenson and Tony Lombardo came along, joining Navetta.

Why was Milo Aukerman always in and out of the band?

Milo had a constant struggle within himself as to whether or not music or science would be his lifelong commitment. This becomes apparent when you take a look at the years of Descendents release dates and the transitioning of Bill from band to band. When Bill and Milo once again crossed paths during Bill’s years in Black Flag, it became apparent that some songs were best left for Descendents to play. That led to reunion number one. Keep in mind, it was Frank Navetta on guitar and (the much older) Tony Lombardo on bass who recorded Descendents’ groundbreaking debut full-length, entitled Milo Goes To College. It wasn’t until 1987 when the band recorded the studio album called All with the current concrete lineup.

Wait- so how many people were in this band?

The film does a great job at getting to the bottom of this and really making it clear for dummies like myself. They go so far as to use graphics where they scribble out and insert different members as the story progresses chronologically. Descendents have featured eight different individuals between their creation and 2013. ALL have had six. Black Flag, well that’s a whole mess I’m not going to get into, but yes, Bill Stevenson was a member of Black Flag in the early 80s and is currently in a project simply called FLAG.

Why were fans so hesitant to give ALL the attention they deserved?

This one is simply unexplainable, but everyone can admit that they are sometimes biased when it comes to music. I can think of bands that have changed singers that I’ve immediately disregarded. That being said, I know that it’s not a rational approach to picking music. Milo himself expresses his confusion on this matter and his frustration in the success (lack thereof) of ALL in the long-run. His pride in all of Bill’s endeavors is evident. ALL vocalist Scott Reynolds even had a revealing moment, noting that Descendents, for whatever reason, was simply better.

The brainchild of Bill Stevenson, ALL was essentially the Descendents without Milo Aukerman, who was off pursuing his career in science. It’s interesting to see the members and outsiders alike come to terms with the harsh reality that ALL received minimal critical acclaim and a fraction of the attention the Descendents received, and an even smaller fraction of what they deserved.

Where did the Milo logo come from?

When Milo Goes To College needed album art in 1982, Stevenson rapidly approached a friend asking him to draw Milo. The friend, who wasn’t in fact the creator of the Milo stick figure (someone else actually was) roughly sketched up a few versions of it. Just like that, the Milo figure became a piece of punk rock history. Evidently, the original drawing was meant to bust Aukerman’s chops and was a joke within the guys’ group.

There are a lot more questions that should be answered by the conclusion of Filmage, and hopefully not many left unanswered. Looking at the technical side of the film, it came together greatly. The footage is phenomenal and was assembled and edited in a fluent and cohesive way. Whether you’re looking at old images of the guys fishing in California or the heartfelt scene where Bill Stevenson discusses his relationship with his father, you are sure to engage with this film emotionally as well as intellectually.

To learn more about Filmage, make sure to check out the website. Although there is no concrete release date announced, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open because once this hits the public eye, you don’t want to be the only music fan that hasn’t seen it.

SCORE: A


Reviewed by: Derek Scancarelli
To check out his concert photography, seevsee D. SKANK PHOTOGRAPHY.

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  • jeanisdead

    Good review with one factual error: the Descendents’ first album with the current lineup was the “All” album in 1987 (not to be confused with any of the albums by the band All), not “Everything Sucks” in 1996.

  • Derek – UTG Review

    Thanks for that! I need to watch this movie again, although trust me, I don’t mind.