Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 07/15/06 19:14:56

"Kudos on the slick use of the semicolon. Well played, boys!"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

How can you possibly make the Beastie Boys dull? I mean, come on - “Brass Monkey,” for cryin’ out loud. How does “Brass Monkey” become boring? This movie, that’s how.

The gimmick: hand out fifty Hi8 video cameras to willing fans, set them loose during a Beasties concert at Madison Square Garden (October 9, 2004, for those keeping score), and let ’em film whatever they want, the only condition being that the operators can’t turn off their cameras until the concert’s over. The idea is to create a concert movie that provides the fans’ point of view, going where no concert footage had gone before - unless, of course, you include the shot-by-fans video for Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine.” But we’re talking about the Beastie Boys, and the less said about Bon Jovi, the better.

The mountains of videotape were then combined with more professional close-up footage and edited together under the leadership of band member Adam “MCA” Yauch, ultimately forming the movie with the snappy, fan-friendly title “Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!” (Side note: Yaunch goes by his long-overused cutesy-dopey pseudonym “Nathaniel Hörnblowér,” a character who fortunately goes unseen during the movie. The Yaunch-in-a-big-fake-mustache idea is a joke that wasn’t very good fifteen years ago, and it’s really obnoxious now. But I digress.)

It’s in the editing that the movie destroys itself. In order to compensate for shaky, dark, mostly unusable footage, Yaunch and his crew use rapid-fire cutting, blisteringly fast edits that leave the viewer with little more than a headache. There’s no time given to simply kick back and enjoy the Beasties as a stage act; just when we’re starting to admire Mix Master Mike’s scratching skills, we cut away to some shot of, I dunno, Mike D’s feet. Most shots only last a second or two, and some are even shorter. Only midway through the film does the editing slow down enough for us to relax, but by then, we’ve already started to lose interest. The ugly visual mess we’re handed goes beyond tedious, landing somewhere in the realm of mind-numbingly monotonous.

I’m guessing that Yaunch realized what a dud idea he had as he sank deeper and deeper into post-production. That must be why he struggles to keep the audience’s interest by adding in cheap visual effects, the kind of weak processing trickery any midlevel PC editing software provides. Oh, look, Ad Rock’s suddenly embossed and green! Yawn.

It gets so desperate that we eventually get to see one camera operator’s trip to the restroom, and another’s exit to the beer stand. These asides are meant to be amusing, but they’re really just more acts of wearisome desperation. (And a bad move, too - when your movie audience is this bored, a reminder that they can get up and take a leak is the last thing you want to deliver.)

All of this is a shame, because it’s obvious from the soundtrack that the Beastie Boys put on one hell of a show. There are times you can feel the energy coming from both the stage and the crowd. Had the footage stood still long enough, that energy could have carried through the entire ninety minutes of the movie. Instead, we just get jumbled, endlessly unappealing visual clutter. Unless you’re willing to close your eyes and rock out to the soundtrack only (or unless you want to pop on the DVD and ignore the screen), there’s simply no point in bothering with “Awesome.” Turns out not all high concepts are worth the effort.

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