Handing out 50 cameras to 50 random fans at Madison Square Garden with instructions to go make a movie is an experiment in filmmaking that would surely produce failure more often than success. But this project from an October 2004 Beastie Boys show is the best concert film I can remember . . . although, in truth, many from my youth have been completely forgotten due to my compromised state of mind at the time. Credit for this one should be reserved less for the shooters than director "Nathaniel Hörnblowr," the Swiss chap in lederhosen who burst onto the stage at the 1994 MTV Video Awards to protest an award going to R.E.M. instead of Spike Jonze, who directed the "Sabotage" video. (More on Hörnblowr in a sec.) Naw, that's some old bullshit: the real Awesome director is Beastie Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, and it's his staccato splicing of steady concert footage, identical images shot from various points of view and random goofball video effects that keep you in his pocket for 70 minutes. It's the visual equivalent of a classic Beastie Boys song, which can pull in a mad scratch here, some noise pollution there and solid musicianship at its core—all in support of witty, biting and/or sophomoric banter. If you haven't seen the legendary hip-hop trio live, this is a great introduction, as their stage show would make James Brown wheezy. In one of the film's most revealing backstage segments, these millionaires, dripping in sweat, sprint through the bowels of the fabled arena between songs so they can secretly emerge amid fans who'd watched half the show from the cheap seats. Now, be warned that at times in Awesome, you'll find yourself struggling to make out what exactly is onscreen—at least, that's how it was in a darkened theater. Just go with it, like you did the time you mistakenly heard "I got mad hits like I was Rockaroo." As compensation, the DVD package includes another full-length version of the film shot from alternate angles (and six high-definition cameras), a cappella vocal tracks from the concert, a feature on hidden detours embarked by some shooters and the requisite band commentary. Then comes the icing on the Swiss cake: the hilarious, half-hourish documentary A Day in the Life of Nathaniel Hörnblowr, whose title character bears an uncanny resemblance to Arrested Development's David Cross.
Also recommended this week: Animaniacs: Vol. 1; Chappelle's Show: Lost Episodes; Invisible Man: Season 2; Pinky and The Brain: Vol. 1; The Prisoner Mega Set.
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