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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Awesome, I F***ing Shot That" (2006)

Why have concert films and rock documentaries grown in popularity over the past year or so? Since covering the Sundance Film Festival this past January, seeing Dave Chappelle’s Block Party as well as Neil Young: Heart of Gold and the Coachella documentary, I have grown used to the idea of sitting in a darkened movie theater to watch a concert performance. It has become a regular occurrence and I’m rather intrigued by the resurgence. I hope it continues. Of course, in order for a concert film to be successful, it should somehow answer this question: Why is this concert worth my extra attention? Why not just give it to the fans on DVD?

In the case of the Beastie Boys’ Awesome, I Fucking Shot That, the concert itself seems secondary. The gimmick this time lies in the chosen aesthetic. This time, the fans get to make the DVD themselves (sort of). For this film, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch enlisted over 30 fans to help shoot their 2004 concert at Madison Square Garden. The mini-cams were handed to the fans who were spread throughout the arena getting just about every perspective you can imagine. This has never been done before. It’s a damn good reason to show this concert film in theaters.

Unfortunately, it remains For Fans Only. Understand, I am not a big fan, which I know will illicit the response, “Well, that’s why you don’t like the film.” This is inaccurate. I am a huge U2 fan, but I have also written a review for their concert documentary Rattle and Hum and have pointed out its many, many flaws. It’s not very good. I also found their recent DVD release (Vertigo, Live From Chicago) a headache-inducing, over-edited chore. So, you see I am just as critical of my favorite band’s concert footage I am anybody else.

Awesome, I Fucking Shot That has moments of brilliance. The opening scroll is one of the funniest I’ve ever read. Some of the shooters have their own running joke throughout the film. One even takes a break during the concert to relieve himself. A few cameras are shot by professionals and giving some of the most beautiful shots ever seen in a concert film (although, the shots themselves only last a couple seconds). The concert itself is full of energy. The Beastie Boys—now either in their forties or fast approaching—show no signs of slowing down at this stage in their career. Since being a U2 fan, I always hope bands or artists who play arenas will use the entire space to their advantage while trying to make the audience in on the show. There should always be a way for the artists to break down the boundaries between them and their audience. The Beasties do this late in the show, but they should do it more.

The problem with the movie exists in its execution. I’ve never seen a concert film as over-edited and hard to watch as this one, at least not since David Byrne’s Between The Teeth (again, I’m a huge fan of his). There seems to be a cut every two or three seconds, sometimes as many as three per second and while some of it is stylish and innovative, much of it feels draining on the senses. I have been told by fans that the cuts are where they should be, that they are in sync with the rhythm of the music. They have also said that if I knew the music ahead of time, I would know and understand that. Fine. But I don’t know the music. I know the Beastie Boys tend to rap about important issues, but what good is their message if I can’t understand them? Without the essence of their music to focus on while the editor cuts ferociously between 40 cameras, I’m completely lost.

But the fans seem to love it, so take this review for what it’s worth. If you’re looking to get initiated, I doubt this will be the best way in. The movie succeeds in being an innovative and, at times, entertaining gimmick, but as an overall experience, I found little to enjoy. At best, it helps the Concert Film genre thrive. It tries things that haven’t been tried before, which is reason enough to keep making these films. Yet, at the same time, there is still something to be said for simplicity and keeping the cameras out of the way of the performance. Talking Heads didn’t need endless cuts to convey the energy of their Stop Making Sense tour. They had the energy and the cameras simply sat back and showed they had it. The Beastie Boys have it too, but now they seem to have too much of it.

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