Monday, October 26, 2009

Never Say Die

OK I have to admit that that title is an inside joke between Mutt and I... I won't bother to explain it. But it's a good lead-in to some comments I have about Mutt's last post, "Die Trying," which you need to read if you haven't already. (Also, I like way it actually contradicts the title of the very post it aims to draw your attention to, with Spinal Tap-level absurdity, which also makes sense given one of the films he discusses!)

As anyone who's been reading these pages already knows, Mutt has been doing a yeoman's job keeping this thing going while I've just been too busy during the last few months to contribute... surgery for one of my children, and a personal injury for myself, certainly did wreak havoc on my schedule! But both my daughter and I are all healed up (more or less), I am happy to report. I'm going to try my hardest to keep up with Mutt's myriad posts...

The reviews he has posted up recently for Jim Sheridan's Get Rich or Die Tryin' and Sacha Gervasi's "rockumentary" Anvil!: The Story of Anvil really are worth a read. Since I haven't seen the first of those, I'll focus my comments on the second: I think Mutt makes a point about Gervasi's film that's an important one, and not one you're going to get from many - if any! - other film reviews you can read out there online or wherever. Yes, the movie is a celebration of friendship and perseverance, and yes, it is an inspirational real-life story about never giving up on your dream. But it's also, when you really think about it, a movie about gratitude.

Perhaps this is best summed up by "Lips" Kudlow himself, lead guitarist and front man for Anvil, in one of the film's many memorable moments, when he is driving and just musing for the camera about the work he and his band have just put in to record their 13th album (Tap-ishly titled This is Thirteen). He first reflects on their disastrous European tour and says optimistically "Well, at least there was a tour for everything to go wrong on!" And you can tell by the look on his face that he's not just being blind or "in denial;" you can tell he actually means it. The weariness evident on his face shows that it wasn't all fun and games (as if the footage shot by Gervasi along the way hadn't enough!), and that the disappointment Kudlow has experienced has taken its toll on him. But he somehow manages to find a ray of light in the experience anyway.

And then, as Mutt pointed out, he talks with evident pride about the work they've done on the new album, and how fortunate he is to be in a position to record at all. "I'm grateful," he concludes, with a sincerity that cannot be denied. I like how Mutt turned thaat question around on us, the audience: how many of us are grateful for the gifts we have been given? How many have the courage (and it does require courage, oftentimes) to use them, to offer our ideas and expressions to a world that will more than likely reject them because they're not deemed worthy of consumption by the popular masses?

That's the really remarkable thing about this film, that both Mutt and many others have stated - in the beginning of the movie, you're laughing at these guys, their appearance and music and obvious enthusiasm for something that seems, frankly, sort of childish. But as it goes on, and you get to know the people a little bit, deeper and far more admirable character traits emerge. These guys have loyalty. They have passion. They have courage. They have vision. They are willing to accept the risk of failure. They refuse to give up their right to express themselves as they see fit.

But most of all, they have gratitude. They recognize that it's a gift to be able to express themselves in the form of music. They want to revel in the joy of that. And if they can get paid for it, so much the better. But clearly, as thirty-plus years of hard struggle has proven, that's not their primary motivation. If it were, they would have flamed out a long, long time ago.

If you can't find something to admire in that, you ought to be checking your pulse. And that's why by the time Anvil! ends, you're loving every second of the success that they find - however fleeting, however irrelevant as per the shifting standards of popular culture. If movie theaters were bars, there would be raised mugs and shot glasses going up (and down) all over the place in tribute to Kudlow, Reiner and all the other struggling artists out there who manage to find, in their relentless pursuit of perfection in their craft for its own sake, something to be thankful for.

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