« Tinker Tailor Soldier Dead Spy in a Bag | Home | Dark Shadows and 70's horror camp »

May 5, 2012


MCA's other hugely successful career

Adam Yauch at Tribeca Film Festival

You can look at Facebook, Twitter, and all global media to witness the explosion of love that poured out yesterday when the news hit that MCA had died of cancer. We all love The Beastie Boys, and it seems like hardly anyone knew how sick Adam Yauch really was, or that he was in serious decline. I can't think of another recent death that my generation felt this personally.

Beyond his Beastie status, Yauch was also a major force in indie film. In just four years his distribution company Oscilloscope Pictures (a division of his larger company, Oscilloscope Laboratories that also produces movies and music) has put out a whole lot of awesome movies, including some of the best things I've seen in recent years.

Here's the whole list of movies they put out--highlights include Exit Through the Gift Shop, Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, Treeless Mountain, Dark Days, The Messenger, his own directorial debut Gunnin' For That #1 Spot, and Bellflower. I haven't seen that last one, but this EW article includes an interview with the writer/director of Bellflower, who spent time with Yauch last year when the movie was coming out:

I've hung out with him a couple of times. He's awesome. He took me to go meet Jack White when I was in Nashville. I was like, 'What the hell has my life come to? This is crazy!' Adam, oddly, has a lot in common with me. When I met him he was like, 'Were you one of those kids who used to make bombs?' I was like, 'Yes. This one time I almost blew my friend up.' And he was like, 'I did the same thing!'

When Criterion released a DVD anthology of Beastie Boys videos (with many directed by Yauch under the name Nathaniel Hornblower), Adam Yauch listed his Top 10 Criterion Collection movies, with funny non-sequitur commentary that almost (but not quite) hides the fact that he was a major movie buff.

Also related to his film career, here's a funny, goofily defensive proto-Borat attack letter he wrote as Hornblower to the NY Times in 2004 in response to their review of the B Boys' "Ch-Check It Out" video. This letter's having a second life since yesterday; the Times reviewer, Stephanie Zacharek, tweeted that he was right.

Here's MCA crashing the VMA's in 1994 when "Everybody Hurts" won best video instead of "Sabotage". He's in character as Nathaniel Hornblower, Swiss filmmaker, both pre-empting and outdoing Kanye and Sacha Baron Cohen. He comes on at 2:48.

categories: Celebrities, Movies, Music
posted by amy at 11:46 AM | #

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Would you say all the movies you mentioned above are worth purchasing? I'm so out of the loop when it comes to contemporary stuff that I feel like I should check them out.

Posted by: Tim at May 7, 2012 11:05 AM

Is there no free/low-cost streaming service in Japan? A lot of these movies are worth watching, though maybe not worth owning if you have another option.

I really love Exit Through the Gift Shop. Very funny and smart, especially if you like Banksy's style. That's one I would consider buying.

Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy are both so minimalist and quiet that a lot of people probably find them meaningless and boring. I like this kind of movie, though you should go into them knowing that they're very small, very independent, very inexpensively-made movies about people living on the margins, and that not a lot happens.

A.O. Scott wrote an interesting article on what he calls "Neo-Neo Realism" a few years ago. I like just about all the movies he references here (esp the ones by Reichardt and Bahrani), but many people definitely find them slight and dull.


Treeless Mountain is good, but I think Nobody Knows is a better example of a heart-wrenching movie about young children in cities abandoned by their parents. Treeless Mountain is by a Korean-American director, Nobody Knows is Japanese.

Dark Days actually came out in 2000, but it's a pretty good one. Oscilloscope must have put it out on DVD recently.

Posted by: amy at May 7, 2012 11:46 AM

Cheers for the recommendations, Amy! This will be My Summer of Neo-Realism: I ordered a bunch of DVDs (everything from a Rossellini box set to Wendy and Lucy, and even some mumblecore stuff), because I'm intrigued by how the cinematic style of realism has changed and evolved.

These days when people label a movie realistic, they seem to base it more on story: It's episodic, generally plotless, and personal in scale. Traditionally, in film studies, movies are labeled realist or formalist based on their visuals, with realist movies being shot proscenium-style, with long takes and distant framing. These days when someone like Jarmusch does that, it looks mannered and formalistic.

I'm curious how these Neo-Neo-Realist movies are shot, and to what extent they utilize straight-forward Hollywood style intensified continuity in the service of smaller scale stories.

Oh, and I LOVE "Nobody Knows"! Thanks for reminding me of Kore-eda; I just ordered some of his other movies. I just wish June and July weren't my busiest months at work, 'cuz there are so many movies I want/need to watch!

By the way, I just saw a great little Japanese flick called "Who's Camus, Anyway?", that you might like. It's about a group of Japanese university students making a film loosely based on The Stranger, and it has a great ending (you also get to see the very W&M-like campus of Waseda University, which is a much, much better school than where I teach).

Posted by: Tim at May 20, 2012 9:20 AM

Oh, and just by coincidence, I recently saw On The Bowery, which was just released on DVD by Milestone, an excellent company that appears to have been taken over by Oscilloscope.


Posted by: Tim at May 20, 2012 9:28 AM

Yeah, I think that difference between what we mean by "realism" now vs. what that term meant in years past is what A.O. Scott is obliquely getting at. The takes still tend to be long and distant, but the term as it's used now refers more to the subject--personal stories about people living on the margins. I don't know why "real" has come to mean "poor" and "desperate", but maybe that makes some unfortunate sense.

I haven't seen that much of the "mumblecore" movement, but of what I have seen I like Baghead and Humpday. I couldn't get through more than 15 minutes of Hannah Takes the Stairs.

On the Bowery looks fascinating and cool! And probably hard to watch. I will definitely look for that one.

Posted by: amy at May 21, 2012 3:03 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)