06 May 2011

The History and Symbolism of Fight for Your Right Revisited, Part II

Here we are, Part II of more coverage than you ever wanted to see of the Beastie Boys' longform music video, Fight for Your Right Revisited. Check out Part I of NMW's review here then dive in:

PART 4: THE ACID TRIP



The group falls out of the Limo clearly in a drug-induced state, the camera wobbles and distorts the image and the colour palette has this overexposed green hue, drastically different from either their sober adventures or their drunken adventures. They've just survived the Metal Girls but are tripping their brains out on acid. This part is really interesting, I believe it is all about finding identity. They encounter three different characters here, all of which point to this idea.

Their first encounter is one of the more curious castings in the entire short, Clint Caluory (whoever the hell that is) is officially billed as "Clint as Zach Galifianakis as George Drakoulias." Actually my first impression of seeing him was that he was Galifanakis but something was definitely off. George Drakoulias was the protege of Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Records and was instrumental in discovering and signing the Boys. He also looks like this. Naturally when lining up the finest working comedians in the video, Galifianakis is an inspired choice to play him, my first thought at Caluory's involvement is that they couldn't secure Galifianakis and so went with a look-alike then kept the billing as a joke.

We can go deeper though. The Acid Trip is about discovering identity and the fuddled Clint/Zach/George blur certainly aligns with that. The boys aren't quite sure if they're buying a hot dog from one of their oldest producers, a modern-day superstar or some random dude. It's a confusing effect that actually has many respected people confused. Drakoulias is also mentioned in the Beastie Boys track "Stop That Train" off Paul's Boutique. Nothing is quite real in this world and the shaky identity here affirms that.

During this encounter MCA raps very slurred "Pass me the scalpel, I’ll make an incision / I’ll cut off the part of your brain that does the bitching / Put it in formaldehyde and put it in the shelf / And you can show it to your friends and say 'that’s my old self.'" This is very directly a foreshadow of what's to come later in the short film regarding the clash between present and future versions of the Boys. The young versions are bitching, fighting against the world but one day that part of them will be relegated to their "old self," and they'll move on from the anarchy of "Fight for Your Right."

The identity crisis doesn't stop there though! Immediately after leaving Clint/Zach/George Ad-Rock has a close encounter with Nathanial Hörnblowér played by David Cross. Nathanial Hörnblowér is a pseudonym of Adam Yauch (the second alternate MCA to appear in the film, the first being Sir Stewart Wallace) that he commonly uses for music videos he directs. He also fictionally directed their concert film Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! and in the DVD appeared in a special extra played by...David Cross. See? It's all coming together. Hörnblowér here is again part of their splintering identity. He represent's Yauch's foray into film and as such appears just as inebriated as the Boys themselves. In a world of alternate realities Hörnblowér is just as real and Ad-Rock looks at him as if he can almost recognize him, as he does to Ad-Rock.

Finally Mike D encounters Orlando Bloom playing Johnny Ryall washing the window of a station wagon. As he approaches he says the lines "Parlay romancing into the financing / Opened up a restaurant with Ted Danson," a backwards reference to The Restaurant shown earlier, which makes sense as Johnny Ryall is a reference to a character in his eponymous song off Paul's Boutique, making him the third character from that album (after Vincent Van Gogh and George Drakoulias to appear live in Revisited). "Johnny Ryall" was about a New York City homeless man, and Bloom's appearance fits that description. The casting of Bloom is likely a callback to his appearance with Elijah Wood in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Anyway, the interaction between Ryall and Mike D is interesting. They both run up to each other as if they know each other then upon closer examination find that they are unfamiliar. They both stagger away confused. It's part of their inability to fully recognize each other and accept their identity. By this point the Boys' fight for their right to party has taken them farther than they wanted to go but they are unable to recognize that. They must encounter more than Drakoulias and Ryall to curb the error of their joyously destructive ways.

They travel on as the colour fades, possibly indicating the Acid is wearing off (tho MCA later admits that they are still "tripping their balls off") and a tumbleweed blows by, indicating they are about to face a showdown.

PART 5: THE CHALLENGE



The Boys stop and stare at a DeLorean DMC-12, a clear reference to both the 80s and a Time Machine à la Back to the Future (1985), indicating that whoever is inside is likely from a different time period. A wolf howls in the distance, which seems strange for a city, I take it as another indicator that this isn't exactly the correct universe and it's more for setting tone through juxtaposition than anything.

From the distincitve DeLorean doors emerge what appears to be older versions of Ad-Rock (Will Ferrell), Mike D (John C. Reilly) and MCA (Jack Black). Let's take a minute and talk about the casting choices for everyone now. The younger Beastie Boys feature two comedians, Seth Rogen and Danny McBride and Elijah Wood, a (mostly) dramatic actor (tho he does appear in some genre-bending films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [2004]). I think Elijah is in there because he really fits the body type of the factual Beastie Boys. He's small, white, goofy and skinny. Danny and Seth are both pretty big and their future versions, Jack Black and John C. Reilly reflect that. Small skinny young white comedians are kind of hard to come by these days. The best I could think of would be Jason Schwartzman, Andy Samberg or Jay Baruchel to fit in with Revisited's casting. I don't think Schwartzman nor Baruchel are really expressive enough, nor are they as big as Danny or Seth. We could have easily had a Pineapple Express (2008) reunion with James Franco but like Samberg I think he comes off as more smug than the innocent joy that Elijah displays very well here. This is key for Ad-Rock, we've already established that MCA is the most destructive member, Mike D is probably the closest to a confident leader and that leaves Ad-Rock full of this wonder exploring the world (leading the first verse very expressively, kissing Chloë, encountering Hörnblowér, etc). Elijah's casting is probably the best of the lot.

It's probably important to note that for a video staring six of the most popular Comedian Movie Stars of the day (maybe five - we'll see if Wilfred catches on), they don't do a whole lot of comedy. Their dialogue during The Challenge is about the only showcase and it works on nonsensical sentences, angry character jokes without punchlines and a bizarre knot-undoing scene that lasts a little too long. It's two distinct generations of Comedians but only separated by about ten years.

Seventeen minutes in Mike D pinpoints the overall meaning of the entire film. The Future Boys are only a possible future. They aren't really what the Beastie Boys in reality will turn into, they're what the characters the Boys played in the Original "Fight for Your Right" video will eventually turn into. Those characters from the Original Video are now played in time by Seth, Danny and Elijah. Still with me? Will, Jack and John are not playing Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D as they appear today but rather the culmination of the kind of kids that were in that original video. Seth, Danny and Elijah receive the gift of looking into this future and can then decide if they will become like these guys or like the Beastie Boys from our reality. Again - still with me? Good. Note how they admit that "The Future us-es are complete idiots." Sometimes it isn't fun to meet yourself and realise how much of dick you are. For these reckless kids, meeting themselves is awful.

They hammer the point that this Dance Contest is critical and how much it will affect their lives and the world. The Boys don't like what they see in the mirror. They say this is important because they need to learn to not become like these dumbass old men. Ad-Rock lends his future self a knife to help undo the knots Future MCA tied, further establishing Ad-Rock as the most empathetic and innocent of the three boys. His future self also graciously accepts while Future Mike D and Future MCA chastise their past selves.

Then it's on.

PART 6: THE CONTEST



The two groups announce themselves, both claiming to be the "Real Beastie Boys." By this point they are clearly antagonistic towards each other, both defiantly claiming to be the genuine article because they despise their alternate versions. Instead of accepting and changing themselves they quarrel. The battle for identity and acknowledgement continues.

The Wide-Angle Lens returns, signaling a sign of intoxication, perhaps this time intoxicated on power or anger. It's also to help the focus, the dancer is in the center of the bubble, holding all attention during their time to dance. Finally, it adds to the surreality of it all and really serves to lift The Contest to the high point in bent reality here. Things that were slowly leading askew and the battle for identity finally breaks as the freshest dance-off in history gets under sway. Also there is some precedent to the Boys' use of this technique as we can see in the video for "Shake Your Rump" off Paul's Boutique. Man, do they love Paul's Boutique or what? I'm worried I'm not catching enough Hello Nasty references because the Paul's Boutique references just outweigh everything else.**

Regarding the dancing itself, there isn't a whole lot of history that I can tell here and the Comedians probably put their best stamps on the characters here. The Dance Order is interestingly symmetrical: Future Ad-Rock, Young MCA, Future Mike D, Young Mike D (my favourite moves...tho Jack Black's head shake is Legendary), Future MCA, Young Ad-Rock. There is nothing to really connect the dance moves except that they're all pretty awful. I think each past and future version does have a connection, both MCAs use a lot of quick, violent hand movements, both Mike Ds involve a lot of full body movement with unique arm gestures and both Ad-Rocks use classic corny moves. The whole thing is orchestrated to a largely instrumental version of "Say It" off Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011) which provides a great intense yet danceable beat.

Once all the participants bust their best moves it clearly appears an awful tie between the feuding teams. Recognizing this, Future Mike D initiates a piss-fight. Now the best I can think of is that this is really the lowest they can get. They've all drank enough beer to have unlimited piss streams and a three-on-three piss fight is just about the nastiest, childish fight they could come up with while retaining some humour. This is where "Fight for Your Right" has led them. They've gone too far in their joyous destruction and it's gotten to the point where they're literally pissing on themselves. No more cameos, the destruction as turned inward, instead of offending the world they're destroying themselves.

Naturally it must be stopped.

PART 7: THE ARREST



I'm not sure if this is consciously a reference to the ending of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) but the only logical conclusion to the Piss-Off is arresting all the participants. Very naturally the officers are Adam Horowitz, Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch - the Factual Beastie Boys. Note how they emerge in that order, the same as the Future versions emerge but slightly different than we see the Young Versions (We see first Elijah as Ad-Rock, then Danny as MCA and Seth as Mike D). The real real Beastie Boys are finally ultimately rejecting the "Fight for Your Right" ideology, although of course they have managed to honour the song and their history good or ill (communication) throughout the entire preceding twenty minutes.

The arrest clarifies that neither the Danny, Seth and Elijah versions nor the Jack, John and Will versions can stand in for the real thing. The Beastie Boys have matured greatly since their Piss-Fight days and the entire video is an example of something that the randomly destructive kid versions could not have pulled off. Martin Starr drives the Paddy Wagon full of the imposters away into the sunset and the credits roll as "Say It" picks up.

PART 8: THE CREDITS



"Say It" plays over the first part of the credits, later blending into "Too Many Rappers (New Reactionaries Version)" ft. Nas, the original single that was supposed to come off Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1 before its delay. This may very directly be commentating on their various identities and how they had to sort them out - thinning the Wannabe Rappers in the video until only the genuine article remained.

The credits are very long (around five minutes) and serve to both showcase these two songs as well as dutifully acknowledge the entire cast and allowing analysis like me to feed off conveniently placed information. This way I can tell you that the number played in The Restaurant is Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 4, Opus 7, performed by Paul Hsu and produced by the Beastie Boys. That's right - they're producing Beethoven. They also give a ton of Special Thanks, notably to Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill who very well may have been involved at some point but dropped out for whatever reason. Really it seems as though this would be right up both of their alleys.

This isn't the first Beastie Vid to have credits like this, "Ch-Check it Out" off To the 5 Boroughs (2004) also had some extremely long credits for a music video. In fact the multiple roles played in "Ch-Check it Out" and "Sabotage" reflect the crises of identity that seems to take hold of Revisited. The Beastie Boys are stuck between rock and hip-hop, between 80s Punk and Def Jam, between 70s Cop Serials, Giant Sci-Fi Robots and Pie Fights. They're so idiosyncratic that they needed something like Revisited to sort out what they can be, what we perceive them to be and who they are.

Anyway, I mentioned earlier that they make throwing beer cans around into an art form. These five minutes walking down the street are strangely hypnotic and beautiful - the splashing foam, merciless abandon of judgment and the immense fun of the characters make the scene the most iconic in the short film and the best for this scene. You'll note that it starts once again after a rewind and presents possibly a third Reality for the Elijah/Danny/Seth Boys, one of a less destructive path (tho not perfect) but perhaps one of less confusion, drugs and crisis of Identity. Maybe that's the path that will lead them to become the Beastie Boys we know today.

So that's that. I attempted to make this as exhausting as possible, I'm sure I left out some great key points, definitely let me know in the Comments section.

Go Fight for your Right!

**After reading a bit about Paul's Boutique from very authenticated sources I think I can figure how why it's so heavily referenced in Revisited. Immediately after "Fight for Your Right" blew up huge many critics and producers in the Music Industry wrote off the Beastie Boys as a One-Hit Wonder. No one thought "Fight for Your Right" had much substance and like I mentioned earlier, no one really got MCA's claim that it was satire. Paul's Boutique was their second album, which is vitally important after a track blows up on a Rookie Album - the band needed to prove that they had something more than just this party tune.

Paul's Boutique did not sell well and many critics dismissed it upon its arrival. In the twenty years since then though its lyrical complexity has been acknowledged and it's now considered a landmark Hip-Hop Album in many circles. By now Paul's Boutique is considered to be one of the Beastie Boys' best albums but by this time period it may very well be their least known - I mean, look at the Track Listing, what was their biggest hit, "Hey Ladies?" The Album however, was instrumental in solidifying the Boys as a truly great Hip-Hop group and distanced themselves from "Fight for Your Right." This is exactly what Revisited is also trying to do, tho with the competing goal of also honouring their Party Anthem. The Boys are able to do both - overtly and obviously callback "Fight for Your Right" while pumping the subtext full of inside jokes and references to Boutique. See, no one would care if they honoured their unpopular Sophomore album so they had to do it subtly. This film rules.

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