Beastie Boys on the big screen

The Niagara Falls Review - - ENTERTAINMENT - STEPHEN RE­MUS

The Film House con­tin­ues its Satur­day night See the Mu­sic se­ries with Awe­some; I … Shot That!, a Beastie Boys con­cert film from their 2006 sold-out show in New York’s Madi­son Square Gar­den.

In con­trast to the slicker-than-grease pro­duc­tion val­ues that now dom­i­nate the con­cert film, Awe­some is a pas­tiche of footage shot by fifty fans scat­tered through­out the arena.

At the top of the film, we see the cam­era team be­ing given brief in­struc­tion on what to do with their lo-fi, Hi-8s, “There’s one hard-core rule, you can rock out, you can do what­ever you want, just keep shoot­ing … Twenty years from now you’re go­ing to be able to watch this and be like, ‘Awe­some; I f----ing shot that!’”

The Beastie Boys lasted 30 years, were in­ducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and sold more than 50 mil­lion records, though few would have guessed that tra­jec­tory when they broke out with their first al­bum,

Li­censed to Ill, in 1986. While an ea­ger market for a white cross-over into the bur­geon­ing rap genre es­tab­lished by black artists was wait­ing for them — Chuck D of Pub­lic En­emy de­scribed them as “the shock of Jackie Robin­son in re­verse” — the Beast­ies had all the hall­marks of a flash-in-the-pan nov­elty. They pre­sented them­selves as frat-boy pranksters and chanted about moms throw­ing out porno mags while

pranc­ing around in af­fected poses on stage with a gi­ant in­flat­able pe­nis. Their first hit, (You Gotta) Fight for

Your Right (to Party!), is an an­them of ado­les­cence that’s about as sim­ple­minded as St. Pa­trick’s Day par­ties in London, Ont. Their se­cond record, Paul’s

Bou­tique, was the sur­pris­ing flip and it charted a new course for the band as well as the en­tire rap/hip-hop genre. It was densely lay­ered with sam­ples, pep­pered with pop ref­er­ences and the threaded word play of the three MCs spun dis­parate im­agery into a cy­clone. More hit al­bums fol­lowed with the Beast­ies stretch­ing be­yond rap­ping and sam­pling into stripped down gui­tar, bass and drums, both foggy in­stru­men­tal ex­cur­sions and adrenalin-fu­elled punk out­bursts.

While the Beastie Boys be­came un­likely states­men of rock, Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch be­gan de­vel­op­ing the band’s video work. An­other al­ter ego was cre­ated to credit his video and film di­rect­ing, Natha­nial Hörn­blowér, a red-bearded, leder­ho­sen-wear­ing char­ac­ter who in­ter­rupted Michael Stipe’s ac­cep­tance speech af­ter the video for the Beastie’s Sab­o­tage was shut out of the 1994 MTV Awards.

It’s Hörn­blowér who di­rects

Awe­some and he man­ages to cap­ture the rush of the Beastie Boys live. Much is owed to the fan-shot footage: no steadicams, dol­lies or crane shots — strictly hand­held is the style they go — and it cap­tures the ruckus this con­cert is.

Com­bined with the coarse-grain footage, Hörn­blowér uses crude ef­fects such as colour-grades and in­ver­sions and of­ten grids si­mul­ta­ne­ous footage to make some­thing like that ’80s sham­poo ad — and they told two friends, and so on, and so on …

The re­sult­ing film is un­pre­ten­tious and dy­namic.

The film is also one of the most amus­ing con­cert films ever pro­duced, filled with quick breaks to shots like a se­nior uni­formed usher check­ing his watch mid­way through the show. There’s also a laugh­able di­ver­sion to the wash­room — they were told to keep the cam­era’s run­ning — and an in­con­gru­ous scene in an el­e­va­tor, Muzak softly piped in. It’s hard to be­lieve that Yauch/ MCA/Hörn­blowér would die of can­cer at 47, only five years af­ter di­rect­ing Awe­some, but as a legacy his film is a sharp-wit­ted, ec­static tes­ta­ment to the en­dur­ing vi­tal­ity of great rock ’n’ roll.


A con­cert film about the Beastie Boys' 2006 sold-out show in New York's Madi­son Square Gar­den is fea­tured at the Film House at First On­tario Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre Satur­day.

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