A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 61 – This is Spinal Tap

This is Spinal Tap – April 30th, 2010

Before I get to the movie, I’m going to review the menu. Seriously. Watch the menu. Or rather, listen to it, because it’s a great bit of extra in-character meta dialogue, with the band talking about the menu and how hard it is to read the name of the movie and discussing the options you have on the screen. For the same reason, watch the movie with the band commentary. They do the whole thing in character and it’s fantastic.

For anyone as yet uninitiated to Spinal Tap, this movie is a mockumentary about a fictitious band that’s morphed through many different styles and, at time of filming, was on a US tour. A disastrous US tour that seems to go wrong at every turn. But it’s also incredibly funny, what with being a parody. This is the movie that gave us great lines like “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” “None more black.” and the whole “These go to eleven,” bit. It’s got more hilarious lines than I can catalog here. And the delivery is half the humor. The entire cast is committed to their characters, from the band to their manager to all the cameos who come in for a scene or two and then disappear. I mentioned the commentary track already, but it really exemplifies the whole spirit of the movie. The illusion is carried and stretched as far as it will go. It’s fantastic.

But also sad too. Maybe it’s just me, but okay, you know that band, The Guess Who? They sing/sang American Woman and No Sugar. They played at the Barnstable County Fair about twelve years ago. We were there and saw the band on the day’s events and headed over to the bandstand to see them. They sang No Sugar and invited the audience to “sing along” with the chorus. No one sang along. That’s where this movie goes. It’s a fake documentary about a fake band, but it’s so easy to see how close it is. I can’t watch it without thinking of the Guess Who and the county fair and no one singing. And I’ve heard, though I forget where specifically, that real bands watching this movie have commented on how it’s actually sadly true to how things can be.

Thankfully, the humor overshadows the reality for me, so I can watch this movie and laugh more than wince. Which is good, because it’s worth watching and rewatching. Hell, it’s worth listening to as well. The songs aren’t any more ridiculous than most of what’s on the radio anyhow.


April 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Spinal Tap

April 30, 2010

This Is Spinal Tap

I’ve always regretted that I didn’t get a chance to see Spinal Tap in concert. They were touring in 1990 to promote their “Break Like the Wind” album and I just never got my act together enough to go see them. But I’d characterize myself as a fan of the band and their music. I had the so called “black album” when I was in college and listened to it all the time. So I’m of two minds about this movie. On the one hand I totally agree with the band in their commentary track on this DVD that Marty DiBergi, the director of this documentary, almost ridicules the band with his treatment. It’s during the “Rock and Roll Creation” number that they point out that DiBergi doesn’t show any of the many times that Derek’s pod DID open. Clearly this tour was a very difficult time for the band, and yet DiBergi chose to highlight all these moments that went almost comically wrong for them.

On the other hand it was through this movie that I discovered Spinal Tap and their music, so it’s not all bad. For all the bits that go wrong for the band there are still some great performances captured here. Sure I’ll admit that when I first saw the eighteen inch high Stonehenge monument flying in from the rafters I laughed my ass off, but the actual number is pretty cool to listen to. It’s amazing number one hit after number one hit. Big Bottoms. Sex Farm. Hell Hole. (Indeed this DVD has the very eighties music video for Hell Hole as a bonus item. It makes me grin.)

It’s also nice to see all these candid moments with the band. It really humanizes them. I mean, you could be intimidated by these people. They’re monsters of heavy metal who have been around since the sixties. Nigel Tufnel. David S. Hubbins. Derek Smalls was even paid tribute to in the liner notes for Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick. And of course there’s their frighteningly tight trousers and their enormous contents. So it’s nice to have this look inside their lives and see what drives the band as real people.

The film may be a joke on the whole, but the band… the band goes to eleven.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment