Review: ‘Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That!’

To film their Oct. 9, 2004, Madison Square Garden concert, longtime rap superstars the Beastie Boys handed cameras (mostly high-8) to 50 excited fans, who were told "Do whatever you want, just keep shooting." Resulting, awkwardly titled "Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!" has a good sales hook in that shot-by-youse angle.

To film their Oct. 9, 2004, Madison Square Garden concert, longtime rap superstars the Beastie Boys handed cameras (mostly high-8) to 50 excited fans, who were told “Do whatever you want, just keep shooting.” Resulting, awkwardly titled “Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!” has a good sales hook in that shot-by-youse angle. In fact, the final product is highly post-produced, with dynamic editing and much visual gimmickry filigreeing a high-octane set. One of the more exciting feature records of a single-act perf, pic should attract quick theatrical playoff and long-term home play.

After a jokey introductory text scroll and Hendrix-sampling fanfare by ever-impressive turntablist Mix Master Mike, the three Beasties — Mike D (nee Michael Diamond), Ad Rock (Adam Horowitz) and MCA (Adam Yauch) make their entrance in matching green-and-yellow sweatsuits, launching into a roof-raising “Triple Trouble.”

Right away there’s considerable difference between image quality from the various cameras (some DV rather than High-8). Generally, the closer the lenser is to the stage, the better the definition. Shots of the crowd, being underlit, are grainy.

This isn’t good cinematography by any formal standard, as the operators are amateurs; shots frequently bounce to the beat. But the sense of immediacy and excitement is contagious.

Yet, this is far removed from a homevideo. As masterminded by director Nathanial Hornblower (another pseudonym for Yauch) and supervising editor Neal Usatin, the rhythm of the images is as motivating as the thumping music. The B-Boys — not to mention the crowd — are clearly amped by this hometown gig, which ended their “Challah at Your Boy” tour.

Pic’s first section is relatively straightforward, albeit sometimes dazzlingly cut, with the performers’ joyful onstage posturing complemented only by some stage-rear and overhead videoscreens (which deploy hilarious found footage).

There’s a second act of sorts as a five-piece live funk band — the Beasties plus drummer Alfredo Ortiz and keyboardist Money Mark — roll on atop a carnival-float-type ministage.

After this interlude, trio and Mix Master Mike return in T-shirts flagging game names (Scrabble, etc.). Subsequent tunes are much more elaborate in visual terms, with stretches of B&W, solarized images, superimposition, freeze-frames, split-screen, color-keying and the occasional added graphic. (There are also prankish snippets with the lowdown on camera operators as they leave the hall for beer and the bathroom.)

Added visual gimmicky starts to approach overload before the more simply presented encores.

From party anthems to politically charged songs, the group’s sense of musical adventure is well represented, though those disinclined toward hip-hop are unlikely to be converted. Sound recording (pointedly not by the 50 amateurs) and mix is first-rate. Several individual numbers would make for excellent musicvideos.

Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That!

Production

A ThinkFilm release presentation of an Oscilloscope Laboratories production. Produced by Nathanial Hornblower, Jon Doran. Executive producers, Jeff Sackman, Mark Urman, Randy Manis, Daniel Katz. Directed by Nathanial Hornblower.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, Hi-8- and DV-to-HD), 50 fans; supervising editor, Neal Usatin; editors, Michael Boczon, Remi Gletsos; music, Beastie Boys; music mixers, Duro, Paul Hsu; sound (Dolby Digital), Jon Weiner; visual effects, Boczon, Gletsos. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 21, 2006. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Mike D, Ad Rock, MCA, Mix Master Mike, Keyboard Money Mark, Alfredo Ortiz, Doug E. Fresh.
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