Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Doc Talk

Never really been a huge fan of movie reviews, and definitely don't feel qualified to give one, but I'd like to give some thoughts on two documentaries I saw recently. The two docs, "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" and "Grizzly Man", covered completely different topics but examined characters that pursued their passions to extreme yet admirable lengths despite what the world around them thought. Both pieces examined quirky characters that really had little grasp on "normality" as we would define it, yet in both stories the characters had a fervent passion for something, an aspect that many of us lack in our everyday lives. So whereas I initially felt bad for the characters, by the end I was actually envious of their pursuits, a credit not only to the characters, but to the filmmakers as well.

"Anvil! The Story of Anvil", follows the Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, a group that remained in relative obscurity on the heavy metal scene despite inspiring nearly every heavy metal group since the mid-1970s. Through a series of bad management decisions and just plain bad luck Anvil never got the fame their counterparts did, but never gave up on their musical aspirations. We catch up with them 30 years, 12 albums, and 2 beerguts later, and the band is struggling to put food on the table, much less sell out a small venue. You really want to shake them into reality, tell them to give up, but its quickly obvious it's the music that makes them tick, keeps them going. The two original members, frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner have formed this unbelievable friendship and chemistry that somehow has lasted through years of horrible luck musically, and now both dream of fame while leading very un-rockstar lifestyles. Lips has the unmistakable charisma of a frontman and a goofy lovable laugh and smile combination that immediately makes him a fan favorite, yet he doesn't work soldout crowds, he works Meals-on-Wheels delivery vans. He really is the ultimate tragic character, having been in love with music all of his life and having helped so many along the way with a friendly hand just to receive nothing in return. One scene sees him going up to rock legends from all over at a promotional concert and saying hello to his "old buddies" just to get stares of confusion in return, he's been forgotten, faded into rock oblivion. The only person that stands by him through it all is his drummer and best buddy Robb. Robb is much quieter and composed than Lips, which creates a wonderful complimentary relationship,that proves unshakable. They are eternally bound by metal music, and their friendship is a true model for brotherhood. I thoroughly enjoyed their journey through rock obscurity, and even though at times I was angered at the unfairness of their situation, they refused to feel bad for themselves and thus created a really touching documentary about life's sadness and joys.

The next doc I saw was "Grizzly Man", which also examined an unusual character, bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell. This guy spends half of his year in the "human world" as he calls it, and half with grizzly bears in an Alaska state park. He has no wilderness background but still gets closer to the bears than any wildlife expert would dare. The whole piece is based off of video he has taken and his shots are all stunning. He literally befriends nature, living and interacting with foxes and bears in complete human isolation. The man clearly has screws loose, but you can't help admiring his love for these wild creatures. He clearly states at one point that he doesn't belong in the "human world" and it is easy at that point to consider the dude a kook. However, I give him a lot of credit for being self-aware enough to realize where he's comfortable and go for it. Many of us in our lifetime can realize we're uncomfortable or unhappy where we're at, but very few actually do something to fix it. Too many of us sit and settle for the safe route, fearing to risk standing out in a bad way, and effectively, as the old adage goes, clipping our wings. Treadwell knew what he was passionate about and went after it unabashedly. He never apologizes for who he is, and more importantly for what he is not. That in it of itself, makes "Grizzly Man" a worthwhile venture. Some unreal amateur camera work in the last American wilderness doesn't hurt either.

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