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Archive for May, 2009

Film Review: Anvil

Posted by anandrr on May 11, 2009

I watched Anvil over the weekend. Going into the movie, I had not heard about the rock band, and had no idea what the movie was about. Only the sub-head on the marquee gave me any idea what I was getting into. “This is not Spinal Tap,” it read. But as the movie opened to shots from a rock festival held in Tokyo in the mid-80s where the performers included the Scorpions, Metallica and Anthrax all of whom went on to sell millions of records and also Anvil which went on to oblivion, and then moved to interviews with Lars Ulrich from Metallica telling us how the sound of Anvil was the best sound he’d ever heard and Slash telling us that Anvil practically invented metal, it was hard not to imagine that far from not being Spinal Tap, I had indeed walked into a This is Spinal Tap tribute, another mockumentary only this time the band recedes into oblivion instead of making it big. It only gets worse from here: the drummer is called Robb Reiner, and the equipment that their album is being recorded on has dials that go to eleven. Could I be faulted for thinking that this was not a documentary but a work of fiction?

The story picks up in the present where the principals behind Anvil, Robb Reiner and the lead singer Lips Kudlow (both Canadian Jews one of them with an Auschwitz history concerning his grandfather), are consigned to the dustbin of metal history, both of them in their 50s, the former involved in manual labour of some kind with power tools, the latter a catering service delivery man. They have been together for 30+ years, and still meet to rock together. The documentary follows their story arc over the next few months, and the comparisons to Spinal Tap don’t end. The band goes on a tour of Europe, and their manager can never manage to book their tickets, or get to the railway station on time, or even get to the gig in time. On the tour, they play to a lone rocker sitting in a lazy-boy and banging his head, to a meager 170-odd audience in a venue that can hold a couple thousand, and wait eagerly back-stage to meet with Ted Nugent. Eventually the manager marries one of the band members (and we’re told at the end of the movie is now arranging a tour of the Scorpions and wishes to move on to the opera). But throughout, Kudlow stays optimistic. He throws out such Zen as, “at least there was a tour for things to go wrong on,” and, “at the end of the day after all has been said and done, I can say that all has been said and done.”

And it is that which makes Anvil so likeable and human. Both Reiner and Kudlow have been together for a long time. They agreed when they met as teenagers to keep rocking, and they do keep rocking. They are supported (financially and otherwise) by family most of whom also want them to finally make it big, they are devoted family men, sometimes rockers have to play badminton in the backyard with their little children too you know.

Sacha Gervasi who made the documentary has made a masterpiece of a documentary. You might go in not caring for rock or metal, you might even go in thinking Anvil is a poor poor band, in no way comparable to Slayer or Anthrax, or what have you, but even the most hard hearted person will melt a little by the end. As I read a little about Gervasi, it was quickly obvious where his empathy for the underdog comes from: Gervasi started his career as a musician, he founded a band with his friend, then left it because he thought they had no talent, his band then renamed itself to … Bush, he then became a screen writer and turned down a Warner Bros opportunity to adapt a screen play about a young wizard named … Harry Potter.

But in a real life documentary, there can be no redemption. Life sucks. And Anvil’s does too. The tour of Europe is a disaster. An album is recorded, nobody will distribute it, many days will be spent meeting with record execs and such, but a 50+ year old rocker is an old rocker, whichever way you cut it. The film reaches its slow climax when a tour opportunity arises in Japan butwhen they get to the Tokyo venue, the scene of their last big success 20+ years ago, their show is scheduled for 11:30 in the morning. Will anyone come to a metal show at 11:30 am? We know what the answer would have been if this were a Hollywood fantasy, but how will it play out in real life? We also know that Kudlow won’t much mind either way, but we want him to succeed, we want to will the Japanese to show up for their act.

And ultimately that is why this documentary wins. Two old rockers, their long hair barely covering their bald spots, leading sad lives, and yet continuing to live the dream, and as it happens, still making good music, and we care about them. We want the dream to succeed. This is probably the best documentary you will watch this year. Which means that with Kanchivaram earlier this year, I should probably stop watching movies altogether for the year.

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Like A Rock

Posted by anandrr on May 11, 2009

Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time

— Madonna, Like a Virgin

Mr Pink: “Like a Virgin” is all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The whole song is a metaphor for big dicks.
Mr Blue: No it’s not. It’s about a girl who is very vulnerable and she’s been fucked over a few times. Then she meets some guy who’s really sensitive–
Mr Pink: –Whoa…whoa…time out Greenbay. Tell that bullshit to the tourists.
Joe: (looking through his address book) Toby…who the fuck is Toby? Toby…Toby…think…think…think…
Mr Pink: It’s not about a nice girl who meets a sensitive boy. Now granted that’s what “True Blue” is about, no argument about that.
Mr Orange: Which one is “True Blue?”
Nice Guy Eddie: You don’t remember “True Blue?” That was a big ass hit for Madonna. Shit, I don’t even follow this Tops In Pops shit, and I’ve at least heard of “True Blue.”
Mr Orange: Look, asshole, I didn’t say I ain’t heard of it. All I asked was how does it go? Excuse me for not being the world’s biggest Madonna fan.
Mr Brown: I hate Madonna.
Mr Blue: I like her early stuff. You know, “Lucky Star,” “Borderline” – but once she got into her “Papa Don’t Preach” phase, I don’t know, I tuned out.
Mr Pink: Hey, fuck all that, I’m making a point here. You’re gonna make me lose my train of thought.
Joe: Oh fuck, Toby’s that little china girl.
Mr White: What’s that?
Joe: I found this old address book in a jacket I ain’t worn in a coon’s age. Toby what? What the fuck was her last name?
Mr Pink: Where was I?
Mr Orange: You said “True Blue” was about a nice girl who finds a sensitive fella. But “Like a Virgin” was a metaphor for big dicks.
Mr Pink: Let me tell ya what “Like a Virgin”‘s about. It’s about some cooze who’s a regular fuck machine. I mean all the time, morning, day, night, afternoon, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.
Mr Blue: How many dicks was that?
Mr White: A lot.
Mr Pink: Then one day she meets a John Holmes motherfucker, and it’s like, whoa baby. This mother fucker’s like Charles Bronson in “The Great Escape.” He’s diggin tunnels. Now she’s gettin this serious dick action, she’s feelin something she ain’t felt since forever. Pain.
Joe: Chew? Toby Chew? No.
Mr Pink: It hurts. It hurts her. It shouldn’t hurt. Her pussy should be Bubble-Yum by now. But when this cat fucks her, it hurts. It hurts like the first time. The pain is reminding a fuck machine what is was like to be a virgin. Hence, “Like a Virgin.”

— Opening Scene, Reservoir Dogs

I was doing a brief tour of Indian mythology the other day and was reminded of the story of Ahalya. Ahalya, wife of Gautama the rishi, was supposedly the most beautiful woman of her time (hence the name). But presumably not entirely happy with her relationship with a mere rishi, she promptly fell for the seductions of Lord Indra, the chief of the Devas. Gautama on his discovery of this infidelity, got so enraged he turned Ahalya into a rock, and cursed Indra to have a thousand vaginas all over his body. Ahalya was released from her curse when Lord Rama stumbled on her during his teenage expedition with his brother Laxmana and the sage Vishwamitra.

As I was thinking of this story, the arc of Ahalya from promiscuity to frigidity and then back to life on being touched by Lord Rama, the curse of Indra to be covered by a thousand vaginas (for some reason I had once thought a thousand penises, which gives “Dick, dick, dick, dick…” a whole new meaning) all of this indicates to me that perhaps Quentin Tarantino missed the real meaning of Like a Virgin.

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