Today, anyone with ears is mourning the passing of Adam Yauch. His group, The Beastie Boys, is one of the few true crossover bands – we can't think of a single person who doesn't like at least some of the tunes by this incredible, eclectic act. What may have started as dopey frat rock - "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)" - grew into mature music mixing genres and expanding the dialogue between styles.
Yauch had the most visible extra-curricular life of all the Beastie Boys. He was very involved with the annual Tibet House concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and had his eye toward the cinema. The B-Boys' videos always looked great. 'Sabotage,' of course, was one of Spike Jonze's first masterpieces and 'Gratitude' is a delight for hardcore film snobs with its references to 'Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.' Yauch, with the nom de guerre Nathanial Hörnblowér, directed many of the Beasties' videos and was the puppet-master behind their concert movie 'Awesome; I F---in' Shot That!,' the only movie we can think of with a semicolon in the title.
In 2008 Yauch helped launch Oscilloscope Laboratories, a distribution company for oddball independent films. They've released a number of truly terrific movies. Here are five you can rent right now to support the memory of this very talented entrepreneur and artist.
'We Need To Talk About Kevin'
Director: Lynne Ramsey
Or, as it could be called: 'Advertisements for Birth Control.' Tilda Swinton stars in this highly controversial dark drama (with a little comedy?) which presents a Columbine-like event from the point of view of the killer's long-suffering mother. Just how much does nature or nurture play-out in raising a “bad seed?” And, for God's sake, who thought it was a good idea to buy this nut an archery set?
Director: Evan Glodell
This is a movie that is more interesting than good, but it has that maverick quality that is nicely aligned with Yauch's aesthetic. Apocalyptic weirdos who drink a lot, screw on the kitchen floor and eat live crickets build their own flame-throwers and death-fueled muscle cars in a hallucinatory vision of madness. The director Evan Glodell famously built his own camera so he could use modified lenses, giving the entire film a surreal look.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
A trance-inducing trip with Manifest Destiny, Kelly Reichardt's dizzying survivalist tale follows a group of pilgrims going west who get lost and slowly fracture. Captain Pike from 'Star Trek' wears one of cinema's all time greatest beards. This movie is slow going, but once you get attuned to its wavelength it is mesmerizing.
'Exit Through the Gift Shop'
You could watch this movie multiple times and still not know if it's for real or not. It is either about the world of art hucksterism or it IS a work of art hucksterism itself. Either way, you'll gain a new appreciation (if not any actual true knowledge) about some of the cool tags and stickers you see in difficult-to-get-to places.
'Gunnin' For That #1 Spot'
Director: Adam Yauch
Oscilloscope's first release was directed by Yauch himself. It is a documentary about the street basketball scene at Rucker Park in Harlem, New York. No matter how rich or how Buddhist Yauch got, he was still a kid from Brooklyn – and this is an insightful and exhilarating film about a unique bit of urban subculture.
Oscilloscope does not die with the passing of Adam Yauch. In fact, this summer they are releasing one of my most anticipated films, 'Samsara'
from the brain-blitzing visualist Ron Fricke. Fricke is the guy who made 'Baraka' and was the cinematographer on 'Koyaanisqatsi,' the greatest “head-film” ever made. Celebrate Adam Yauch by blasting 'Check Your Head,' but keep your eyes open for films from his young company. It will be his other great legacy.