|Awesome: I... Shot That! (2006)
Starring: The Beastie Boys
Director: Adam Yauch
There are rumblings – evil, nasty, horrible rumblings – that the Beastie Boys are ready to call it a day. Observed from an unbiased perspective, this probably isn’t a bad idea (see, even from an unbiased point of view, the news is still hard to take): their first album came out 20 years ago, which is practically the Paleolithic era in a genre that gladly and frequently eats its young. No other hip-hop act has come close to maintaining success half as long as the Beasties. Well, not anyone who lived to see half of the albums that were ultimately credited to them, anyway. Best to bow out while they’re still on top, if they must.
If this indeed the Beastie Boys’ last hurrah, then “Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That!” (the naughty word was deleted out of the title for obvious reasons) is a hell of a sendoff. The band played a show in October 2004 at Madison Square Garden to a packed house, and along with the band’s own film crew, the Boys handed out 50 cameras to people in various parts of the audience to document the event from every imaginable angle. The result is exactly what you would expect, with some severely blurry long shots (good thing they had the regular crew as a backup), but what the amateur cameramen lacked in technique, they made up for with some astonishing candid moments of the crowd.
Let’s just say one thing right up front: Mix Master Mike, the band’s DJ, is quite possibly the best DJ on the planet. He doesn’t just cut his records: he shreds them, and beginning with the second song of the night, “Sure Shot,” he starts using different songs entirely as the beat track in the second verse (in this instance, the new backing track was Public Enemy’s “Rebel without a Pause”). The set list is a good one and covers all of their albums – in one of the bonus features, it is suggested that their set lists are chosen by a cat – and includes two mini-sets of the Beasties in full band mode so they can chill out to “Ricky’s Theme” or let it rip on “Sabotage” (the entire main floor becomes a giant mosh pit on the latter). Celebrities are all over the place, including DMC and Ben Stiller, but the only one that joins them onstage is Doug E. Fresh, who does a vintage beat box routine on “Time to Get Ill.” Flava in ya ear, yo.
The direction by Nathaniel Hornblower (a pseudonym for Adam “MCA” Yauch) goes a tad overboard, throwing in some rudimentary bullet-cam shots and unnecessary psychedelic-tinged splashes of color, and it’s unclear whether the vibrations “recorded” by the cameras during “Paul Revere” are legitimate. The really fun parts are the shots of the crowd, from the security guard bobbing his head to the beat to the scores of people singing along with every word (one cameramen even tapes his trip to the bathroom mid-show, while another one squishes the band members with his fingers, “Kids in the Hall”-style). Most refreshing are the number of attendees who are dancing; no one dances at concerts anymore, but the fans here are literally breakdancing in the aisles. Imagine, then, what those fans did when the band suddenly appeared in the upper deck to sing “Intergalactic,” literally in some fans’ faces.
“Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That!” is a unique twist on a concert film, especially for a hip-hop concert, which are traditionally not terribly exciting to watch to begin with. While the world in general, and the world of hip-hop in particular, would be a slightly sadder place without the Beastie Boys, they have left behind something truly special to remember them by.
A bone-dry audio commentary by the band, two “Big-Time Hollywood Trailers” (they’re the same thing, but one of them says “fuckin’” while the other one doesn’t), and two highly amusing featurettes. The first, “Never Stop Rapping Yet,” features shots of fans all over the world expressing their love for the Beasties, many of whom are dressed in character (lots and lots of “Sabotage” look-a-likes). The title comes from a fan at a show in Germany, but it actually sounds like he’s saying “Never stop rapping, nyet,” like a Russian would. The other featurette, “Enter Jerome Crook’s Angry World,” follows the band’s tour manager, who spends half the time punching the camera and the other half insulting whoever’s closest. Funny stuff. Lastly is a “hidden detour” sequence, where objects will pop up onscreen and if the viewer presses Enter, they’ll be taken to the view of one of the 50 cameras in the audience.