|Air Guitar Nation (2006)
Starring: Peter Cilella, Dan Crane, Gordon Hintz, David S. Jung, Zac Munro
Director: Alexandra Lipsitz
“(Air guitar) sounds like a joke, but it’s the kind of joke that, when you tell it a hundred thousand times, you start to forget that it’s a joke, and you kind of believe it.”
– Kriston Rucker
Good ol’ air guitar. Who among us at some point in our lives hasn’t mimed the act of “rocking out” to a kick-ass rock song? You know you look foolish doing it, but sometimes, when the music moves you, nothing feels more appropriate than fingering an invisible set of frets. Given that it’s not exactly the sort of activity that people take seriously (or that most people are comfortable doing in public unless they’re really, really intoxicated), it’s probably never occurred to you that there are those who walk among us who have taken air guitar to the next level and turned it into a competitive exercise.
Yes. Seriously. What’s arguably even more surprising, however, is the revelation that although the Air Guitar World Championships have taken place in Oulu, Finland, on an annual basis since 1996, it was not until 2003 that any sort of organized air guitar competition took place here in the United States. (Frankly, we should be ashamed of ourselves.) Fortunately, this shocking oversight was corrected with the help of Cedric Devitt and Kriston Rucker, founders of US Air Guitar, and before you knew it, we had American representatives ready and waiting to rock the hell out of Oulu.
In 2006, contestant Bjorn Turoque (real name Dan Crane) released his reminisces of life on the competitive air guitar circuit, To Air Is Human: One Man’s Quest to Become the World’s Greatest Air Guitarist, so those who’ve read the book may be under the misconception that this film is simply a rehashing of Turoque’s experiences. While several of the events in which Turoque participated are indeed a part of the focus, “Air Guitar Nation” provides a much more expansive look at those first American competitions – one in New York City, the other in Los Angeles – then follows several air guitarists to Finland.
One might enter into “Air Guitar Nation” thinking that they’re going to get just one long, extended joke. To a certain extent, that’s a valid concern: watching 90 minutes of the various contestants grimace, flail and bound about on stage during their various acts has the potential to get old after awhile. Fortunately, director Alexandra Lipsitz manages to avoid that issue by providing us with the personal side of the people who are on a quest for air guitar glory. Take the great C-Diddy (real name, David Jung), for instance, whose parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer, then only begrudgingly accepted his decision to become an actor. Jung is able to effortlessly slip in and out of his air guitar persona and address the camera as himself. Conversely, though, Dan Crane never really seems to leave his alter-ego behind. Even in the moments where we meet his mother and nana, there’s still always a little bit of Bjorn Turoque coming out in Crane’s words. The coolest cucumber of the bunch, however, is defending champion Zac Munro, who takes a positively Zen approach to air guitar, defining air guitar as a pure art form, one which can’t be commercialized because, well, it’s invisible. (Whoa…)
Of course, it’s pretty much a given that the movie’s soundtrack is loaded to the gills with riff-heavy rock, with classics like Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me,” Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” and David Lee Roth’s “Yankee Rose” all getting major placement. There’s also a brilliant selection that’s handed blindly to the contestants in the World Championship – no one knows in advance what they’re going to be asked play in the final round – and, although it’s easily the newest song in the mix, it’s absolutely perfect for air guitar.
Even if you view air guitar as a ridiculous pastime for stoned-out morons, you’re likely to be fascinated by how serious these people take it. Provided you allow yourself to get caught up in the fun – and, trust me, it’s not as hard as you might think – by the end of “Air Guitar Nation,” you’ll find yourself cheering just as hard as the people in the audience of the Air Guitar World Championships.DVD Review:
There are 37 minutes of deleted scenes, providing extended interview segments as well as longer versions of the competitors’ performances, plus some additional scenes which clarify what happened to the guys after the championships. One of the highlights includes the ridiculously over-the-top sequence of Bjorn Turoque, giddy about his just-signed book deal, in a hot tub with several bikini girls. It concludes with one of the girls drunkenly leaning back into a candle and setting her hair on fire. Nice. The theatrical trailer for the film is also included, but, surprisingly, there’s no audio commentary. Still, with a movie that’s as destined for cult status as this one, count on a fully-decked-out special edition to show up within the next year or two.