On Oct. 9, 2004, the Beastie Boys handed out 50 video cameras to audience members at their show at Madison Square Garden, where, after a brief orientation, they fanned out across the auditorium to capture the concert from the fans' point of view.
The result is "Awesome; I . . . Shot That!," a killer concert film, an ecstatic testament to the joys of fandom and a tribute to the democratizing potential of moviemaking technology. With the help of legendary DJ Mix Master Mike, the Beasties -- Adam Yauch (MCA), Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Adrock) -- put on an exhaustive and by all appearances exhausting show at the Garden, performing such throw-down classics as "Time to Get Ill," "Body Movin' " and "Brass Monkey." Wearing green track suits, they're the epitome of self-deprecating irony that, when purveyed with intelligence and chops, transforms into soaring virtuosity.
As infectiously fun as the actual show is, the real spectacle of "Awesome" lies in the work of those 50 amateur cinematographers, who provide some of the film's most felicitous moments: fans singing along with to-the-letter precision to the Beasties' rapid-fire raps; a girl in the audience dancing in unwitting, sinuous sync with one of the musicians on stage; and a recurring joke in which a camera operator tries to persuade his fellow audience members to look like they're having fun "for the DVD."
These moments burst with authentic energy and humor, which is why it's too bad that the Beasties tried to overcompensate for the lack of slickness with way too much editing and cheesy-looking animation effects. Still, such needless bells and whistles aside, "Awesome" is one of those rare films that actually live up to every single word of their titles.
-- Ann Hornaday
Contains profanity, including an unprintable word in the title.