The Late Shift: Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!

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Like every other preteen boy with access to MTV, I loved the Beastie Boys.

I have fond memories of crowding around a stereo with my neighborhood friends and memorizing all the words to “Paul Revere” off Licensed to Ill. They were raunchy and hilarious in their early days, which is a perfect storm for dorky kids who are just then discovering what good music is. Even when I was convinced that I didn’t like rap music, I was glued to the video for “Intergalactic” and bore holes through the handful of their CDs that I picked up at The Great Escape.

I suspect that just about everyone in attendance for the Belcourt’s midnight screenings of Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! had similar stories about the Beasties. The question is how that, and nagging sorrowful feelings about the passing of MCA, would translate in the movie theater for this absurd concert film.

The premise of Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! is fairly simple — in 2004, the group played a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. Instead of hiring a famous Hollywood director and choking the Garden with cranes and typical concert film production values, the Beastie Boys bought 50 camcorders and handed them out to a select group of fans. These fans were given one simple instruction: Never stop filming. The resulting footage, along with a couple of professional cameras, was cut into an insane fly-on-the-wall concert film that looks unlike any other.

If we’re gonna be real here — I hate most concert films. For every one I can get behind (Stop Making Sense comes to mind), there are a dozen out there that aren’t worth the DVDs they’re printed on. Concert films tend to be tedious, egomaniacal affairs that treat the subjects like gods and the crowd as a faceless collection of plebes only existing to praise Jimmy Page or who-the-hell-ever is on stage. Just try watching Palladia for a couple of hours and try not to weep from boredom. I dare you.

What Awesome excels at that virtually every other documentary completely ignores is letting little vignettes in the audience play out onscreen. Because regular people are the cameramen and women, they’re not always particularly interested in filming the band. They get bored or distracted. One guy in the back of the balcony desperately tries to hype up the rest of the crowd for the DVD nobody believes he’s shooting for. Another cameraman races to the bathroom between songs. Others scan the crowd for celebrities like Ben Stiller and Donald Glover (who, at this point, is probably only known for that Bro Rape video).

But then the best thing I’ve ever seen in a concert movie happens.

Two guys, realizing the power they wield with the cameras they’ve been handed, decided to abandon their seats and scam their way backstage. While Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA are doing “Paul Revere,” these two knuckleheads are sweet-talking ushers, making their way past security and half-heartedly trying to pick locks until — finally — they emerge backstage and find themselves front row. It was amazing.

The audience at The Belcourt, meanwhile, seemed into it but not sure what to do. I think that if everyone in the theater had been three shades drunker, this flick would’ve popped off into a full-on dance party. You could see folks grooving in their seats and singing along to themselves but no one was willing to take that extra step. Maybe everyone just needed to be drinking more Brass Monkey.

The traditional Brass Monkey is a combination of malt liquor and orange juice. The idea is that you buy a 40 and drink it to the top of the label. Fill it back to the top with orange juice and voila: Brass Monkey. Thanks to pesky Tennessee liquor distribution laws, The Belcourt couldn’t just buy up a bunch of 40s from the nearest Exxon. Instead, we had to settle with a Starr Hill pilsner. It was more Beermosa than Brass Monkey, but hell, we’ll take it. It was surprisingly less disgusting than one might expect it to be.

In the end, I truly liked Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! but I still felt like it’s better served as background music than something you should sit down at watch intently. Which is probably why I was hoping the party would breakout. But alas, it was not to be. Maybe during Xanadu!

Beats and Rhymes:

- I think I missed a bit of the preroll while in line for tickets and a Brass Monkey, but here’s what I caught: a Beavis & Butthead clip featuring “Pass The Mic,” a commercial for Ill Communication, Nathanial Hörnblowér bumrushing the VMAs, Tipper Gore and Jello Biafra arguing about the Beastie Boys on Oprah, a clip from the Money Man infomercial, and the cut-down version of “Make Some Noise.”

- The one thing missing from that list that I would’ve loved to have seen, aside from every Beastie Boys music video ever, was the clip of them playing “Radio, Radio” with Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live.

- The Belcourt announced its slate of midnight movies through the beginning of September. Check out their website for more details on Ghostbusters, The People Under the Stairs, Xanadu and Tron.

In two weeks: Huey Lewis and the News accuse me of plagiarism during Ghostbusters. Who you gonna call?

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