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Metallica Through the Never Is One of the Great Concert Films

The last time Metallica made a documentary, they let the cameras into their therapy sessions, their private lives, their struggles with their families. It wasn’t good for their image, but it made for a compelling film. This time they reverse tactics. In Metallica Through the Never, the most immersive concert film ever, glimpses of the band offstage will only give you the Saturday morning cartoon versions. There are days playing metal must feel like a catch-22: Your music is at its best when it’s tapping into people’s pain, anger, and frustrations, but if you display any of those emotions as a flesh-and-blood human, fans call you a whiny bitch.

Whatever controversies Metallica have stirred up—about their image, their crusades against file-sharing, their late-period work—there’s no question they remain a band that loves to play. How hard must it be to keep your enthusiasm when you’ve been performing the same song for more than three decades? Apparently not very hard when those songs are “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Ride the Lightning,” and “Battery.” James Hetfield can work the crowd with just a growl. Look at Lars Ulrich grin like a kid at the stage lightning. It might make you say to hell with movie theaters’ social contract of silence. You want to get up on your seat and pump your fist with the crowd onscreen.

It’s immersive but not intimate. The concert is cut with fiction-narrative footage showing the saga of Dane DeHaan as Trip, a member of the band’s crew sent on a quest through abandoned city streets to recover a truck he’s told contains something Metallica need for their show. It’s a wordless performance in the face of increasingly surreal circumstances, like a good, long-form music video you might have seen on 120 Minutes in the days when MTV was more like the art kid girls secretly had a crush on and less like the quarterback from a wealthy family who owns a hot tub. To call Trip simply a roadie diminishes him. He has the kind of religious zealotry to do Metallica’s bidding that makes martyrs—better he burn himself alive than Metallica do without. Who is he to question? He’s never done anything as good as “Master of Puppets.”

No knock against DeHaan, a good actor who anchors even the dopiest fantasy sequences, but whenever he’s onscreen audiences are sure to miss the concert itself and maybe even wonder why the filmmakers didn’t focus on the real roadies to create a counterpoint to the music. Mid-set, the crew must assemble a 30-foot statue of Justice, then demolish it at just the right chord and in such a way that the gargantuan rolling head doesn’t crush Ulrich’s kit. Consider the precision necessary to send a stuntman on fire across the stage while rigging crashes down around him, all without anyone getting hurt: No matter how skilled they are at their jobs, there must be enormous pressure to pull it off right, something Hetfield probably knows too well after a pyrotechnic accident 20 years ago caused him to suffer second- and third-degree burns.

As for the music: There’s a good chance you already know how you feel about it, and there isn’t much I can tell you. At IMAX prices, it might be cheaper to buy an album or two, but that won’t replicate the Through the Never experience. It’s taken just a couple years for 3D to go from the future of cinema to just another way to charge more for the same old crap. When Christopher Nolan says you won’t need special glasses to see his new movie, that’s taken as a mark of integrity. When 3D is announced for The Lone Ranger, it’s a confirmation of your worst suspicions. Now comes Through the Never to remind us of the value of the technology done right. This is a movie made for people who mash themselves up against those steel crowd-control barriers at concerts and still don’t think they’re close enough. Those faithful are rewarded here with a better look at the texture of the drum skins and the battered stock of the guitar, all close up enough to for you to fake a sense memory of what playing might feel like. Sadly, the film is only 90 minutes, which seems brief for a band with so deep a catalog.

As for Trip—I feel for the guy. I don’t know a thing about him, what led him to Metallica, or how he feels at the end of his journey, but I can’t help but empathize whenever he’s onscreen. We’re both missing the real show.

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Balls to You, Lars Ulrich

Despite what you may have heard, Lars Ulrich has balls. According to what appeared to be a CNN news article circulated rapidly on the web, Ulrich suffered a December 17 attack by a napster supporter, in which he sustained “mild gunshot wounds to the groin and abdomen.” the story was a hoax, albeit a clever one; Metallica’s publicist, Sherry Ring-Ginsberg, confirms that Lars’s testicles are fine. Says Charles “Chuck Rock” Belak-Berger, the 19-year-old administrator of Abobo.com, the site responsible for the story: “It was intended to be a harmless parody of the recent anti-MP3 [legal] action. Within hours, the URL was on message boards across the Internet. And even more amazing, many people believed it was true. We realized our joke may be going too far and pulled the plug.”

Lars Ulrich is not alone as a target for Internet hoaxes. In recent weeks, MSNBC.com appeared to run a story about the Supreme Court legalizing marijuana, a faux New Yorker Web site has been making the rounds in literary circles, and several news organizations—NBCi, CNN, and MTV—have been made to seem as though they ran a story that falsely reported rapper Eminem had died in a car accident.

Making a hoax site is easy, because geeks can create an authentic look just by copying the design code readily available through an ordinary Web browser. The parodies can be especially deceptive thanks to a loophole in the way browsers read addresses. For the Ulrich story, the link posted to message boards and forwarded via e-mail appeared to stem from the CNN server: www.cnn.com&breaking—news@1074199347/ulrich.shooting.html. A browser considers everything before the ‘@’ as an unnecessary user ID and password, then sends the viewer to the location specified by the numbers and letters that follow, in this case, Abobo.com. Likewise, an unsuspecting parent might think www.disney.com&kidfriendly@ 204.177.92.196 links to Mickey and friends, when in fact it leads to the graphically depicted carnal acts of Sex.com.

“People get links forwarded to them all the time,” says Jessica R. Friedman, a new media attorney for the Manhattan firm of Reboul, MacMurray, Hewitt, Maynard and Kristol. “People are used to seeing ‘cnn.com/blah blah blah.’ ”




Making a hoax site is easy, because geeks can create an authentic look just by copying the design code readily available through an ordinary Web browser.


Representatives for MTV and CNN downplayed the incidents, describing them as pranks rather than hacks. But Friedman says the danger lies not in hacking, but in trademark infringement. “People will be confused into believing that this story is true, and when it turns out to be a hoax, they are likely to believe that CNN made a mistake,” says Friedman. “CNN’s reputation is with broadcasting true, real-time news. You’re talking about harm to the goodwill of a company. CNN’s reputation is the basis for their billions of dollars of revenue, including Internet advertising revenue.”

That’s of little concern to a guy like Chris Rhee, a 15-year-old student at San Jose’s Lynbrook High School who runs an online journal, Chris-Sucks.com, which he uses to host a hoax of MTV.com. Using the loophole in Web addresses, he mimics the appearance of MTV.com news in a fabricated story headlined “Eminem Killed in Car Accident.” Rhee claims his site has received as many as 200,000 views in one day. “I didn’t start this rumor,” says Rhee. “I think someone first did it on an NBCi page and a CNN page. I just redid the news story with the MTV design.”

The phony Eminem story alerted Metallica’s publicist to the impact of Net hoaxes just prior to the fictional Ulrich shooting. “I have a teenage daughter,” says Ring-Ginsberg, “and that weekend, she came into my room almost in tears, saying that Eminem had been killed. Then a few days later, the Lars thing happened. And even though you know it’s not true, you still pause.”

Ultimately, the lesson to be learned here may be a tried-and-true one. “We didn’t intend to malevolently trick anyone,” says Belak-Berger. “And we regret doing so if we did. This may serve to educate millions who otherwise might have learned by being defrauded, having their children deceived by pedophiles, or worse. It all goes back to the adage ‘Don’t believe everything you see or read,’ especially when it’s on the Internet.”