Monday, January 11, 2010

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

I wonder how many people in the world have dreams, but, out of fear, give them up before even trying to make them come true. I’d say many millions. How many give them a shot, but give up once harsh reality starts keeping them awake at night? I’d say just as many.

Now, how many follow their dreams even when the going gets tough? And when their friends and family advise them to hang it up, they still persist. Man, they keep charging ahead even as the tiniest fire of pessimism simmering deep inside their optimistic guts begins to rage. Well, one such man goes by the name Lips.

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” tells the story of Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, guitarist and lead singer of the heavy metal band Anvil. Since his teens, he’s shared a dream with his buddy, drummer Robb Reiner, of becoming a rock star. They formed a band and started gigging in their hometown of Toronto and enjoyed a bit of early luck. They were on the bleeding edge of the early ‘80s heavy metal rage.

For slightly more than fifteen minutes, they were poised for the big time alongside the big four – Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica, and Anthrax. Then, somehow, as those bands advanced to filling arenas and selling millions of albums, Anvil receded into empty bars and albums only purchased by a few diehard fans. What happened?

Oh, the movie suggests some possible answers. Their songs really aren’t all that good. They have lousy management. They’re unwilling to compromise and change their sound to fit the ever fickle changing times. Or, simply, life just isn’t fair.

That’s not really what the movie is about though. What it is about is a guy and his passion? It’s about his getting by day after day, year after year, feeding his family without giving up on his dream. It is a funny, sad, heartbreaking, until finally jubilant movie. I found every moment moving and charmingly real. I fell in love with Lips.

“Spinal Tap” is my favorite mock-documentary. It is so truthful to its subject that I forget it is a fiction. “Anvil!” is also one of my favorite movies. I felt for Lips so strongly that I often wished it was a fiction. I kept hoping that the filmmaker would suddenly jump before the camera and wink and then Lips would say, “Ha, got you going.”

I actually thought it must be fiction as the similarities to “This Is Spinal Tap” began to pile up. Anvil’s drummer is named Robb Reiner and “Spinal Tap” was directed by Rob Reiner. Anvil gets lost trying to find a gig. Spinal Tap gets lost trying to find the stage. The members of Anvil visit Stonehenge and Spinal Tap recreates Stonehenge on stage.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when Anvil is recording an album in the English countryside and their producer casually reaches over and turns the amplifier up to eleven. Anyone who doesn’t notice the weird synchronicity of that moment not only needs to see “Anvil,” but also seriously needs to rent “Spinal Tap.” Its “but this one goes to eleven” scene is one of the funniest in movie history.

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” has not been rated by the MPAA. It does contain brief nudity and quite a bit of profanity of the two bests friends having a lover’s spat variety. Think Mick Jagger cussing out Keith Richards and you’re on the right track.

“Anvil!” shows at the Grand Theatres on Thursday, January 21 at 3:00 and 5:30 as the opening attraction of the Cinema 100 Film Society series. Tickets are available at the door. $25.00 gets you 12 movies.

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