At the Movies: Billy Joel Edition

I swear I was going to go see “Ted,” the raunchy teddy bear comedy by Seth MacFarlane, but the screening was on Tuesday night and after three nights of running around (opera/reggae jam/anniversary dinner and the muny) I really needed a night at home.

The week’s other big movie, “Magic Mike,” was (thankfully) screening on Monday night so I also missed it. Just as well, it’s Joelfest Week — who can think about movies?

So, to keep with the week’s theme, let’s examine the movie/video career of The Man. Don’t worry, this won’t take long.

While many musicians have gone on to successful acting careers, Billy Joel is not one of them. His filmography consists of one movie: “Oliver and Company,” a Disney animated feature in which Joel provides the voice of the dog Dodger (note: Billy Joel plays a dog, not a cat. Need I say more?)

An anthropomorphized version of Dicken’s “Oliver Twist,” no one considers “Oliver and Co.” to be one of the great Disney animated flicks. It was released in 1988, a fallow time for Disney animation — long after the early glory days and right before the rebirth that began with “The Little Mermaid.”

“Oliver” is an OK movie, I haven’t watched it since it came out so it could be worse (or maybe better) than I remember. Joel is fine in the Artful Dodger role and he does deliver the film’s only memorable song — “Why Should I Worry.”

Looking back and seeing Dodger torment that cat makes me appreciate the movie more.

While Joel’s glory days coincide with the rise of MTV and the music video, The Man is not known for his videos. Looking back at his videos on YouTube, it’s clear he didn’t put the effort into it that, say, Michael Jackson did. I doubt you’ll find many Joel videos on any list of The 100 Greatest Music Videos, but I can’t be bothered to check.

The best of the bunch, for my money, is “Pressure.” It’s weird with memorable images and suits the tone of the song. Next up would be a trio of vids from “An Innocent Man” — “Keeping the Faith,” “Tell Her About It” and “Uptown Girl.” That album has taken a bit of a beating around here because the songs are mostly lightweight fluff but they do make for entertaining videos. Whatever happened to Joe Piscopo?

I should also give a shout-out to “A Matter of Trust,” not because it’s a particularly good video, but because if you squint you can see Spider-Man on the poster behind Joel. The worst Joel video? “Sometimes A Fantasy.” Look it up if you don’t believe me. Stay through to the end.

Finally, there are about a half-dozen concert videos in circulation. I own a couple — “Live From Long Island” and “Live at Yankee Stadium.” I recently reviewed his last one, “Live at Shea Stadium,” so check the archives for details. Of the bunch I prefer “Long Island.” “Yankee Stadium” opens with seven minutes of people talking about how great Joel is, and that gets on my nerves. Yes, I know he’s great, that’s why I’m watching. “Shea” has Garth Brooks, so it gets an automatic pass.

“Long Island,” filmed during the Nylon Curtain tour, is Joel in his prime. It’s hard to remember a time when “Piano Man” was played early in the set. And honestly, I’d rather watch Joel in his youth than the bald, chubby man he is now. If I want to see that, I’ll look in a mirror.


One response to “At the Movies: Billy Joel Edition

  1. Checked and there are no Joel videos in the Top 100 (But considering some of the songs that did make the cut, Billy shouldn’t feel too bad.). I thought “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was a great video.

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