Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Real Spinal Tap

October is the hardest month to keep up on my three movies a week schedule. Post-season baseball is a time consuming, and totally enjoyable, few weeks. This year may be the most dramatic yet. Scads of 9th inning rallies, the Red Sox swept, ARod's dominance, all great fun, even when there are four games on in a given day. Still, I managed to squeak in one movie, and what a movie it was.

In the summer, I wrote a post on Spinal Tap, the greatest rock movie this side of A Hard Day's Night. With great anticipation, I awaited the DVD release of Anvil: The Story of Anvil. From what I had read, Anvil, a heavy metal combo from the Great White North that has lingered decade after unsuccessful decade, was billed as a real life Spinal Tap. Could it live up to that praise?

Yup, absolutely. It is a movie of great humor and greater pathos, of ridiculous dream chasing and crushing disappointment. A must see, one of the best movies in years, directed by a long time Anvil fan with affection.

What's great about it are the surprises. Opening with a mid-80's performance in Japan, Anvil seemed to have had a short period of fame, although I can't recall that at all. I guess they're good; I can't tell, but a raft of metal heroes from bands like Metallica, Guns 'n' Roses and others, proclaim Anvil's influential status. Perhaps it's their lead guitarist using a dildo on the strings that put them over the top.

The two constant figures in the band, "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner, are the main characters in the film. The pair have been friends since their early teens and continue to pursue what they see as their rightful place in the rockin' world. "Lips" works a crappy job in a Canadian catering company and Reiner seems to do nothing for a living. He plays drums, he paints. Mid-movie we learn that Reiner's father was a jeweler, so maybe there's some money there.

The connection to Spinal Tap isn't just that both films have a Rob(b) Reiner in them. Anvil goes on a crappy tour of Europe, organized by a bleach blonde Slavic manager/fan who is terrible at her job. Remember the David St. Hubbins' manipulative girlfriend in Tap and you'll know what I mean. Playing horrible little clubs in Prague, getting stiffed on their fees, missing trains, all par for the course.

Kudlow and Reiner, now in their fifties, look and act the part of headbangers of the middle-aged variety. Long hair, leather clothes, the works. Lips goes off on emotional jags of fury, tears, laughter, Reiner is more stalwart. What's sneaky, and very funny to me, is that these guys are both old Jewish guys. To me, that part of the story is hysterical.

Actually, their lyrics are pretty humorous, especially one of their early works about young girls in schoolyards "stroking their beaves." Also, there's a song called "Thumb Hang," about the Spanish Inquisition, that they sing in a kosher deli. It plays exactly like the scene in Spinal Tap when Nigel and David try to recreate one of the first songs.
There's so much more - the devoted fans who know all the words to every Anvil tune, "Lips'" attempt at telemarketing, the big comeback. Anvil: The Story of Anvil - you have to watch it to believe it. Now, back to baseball.

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