04 March 2006

The awesomeness I did not see coming in my opinion.

[One of what may turn out to be an occasional series of posts recycled from the Movie Nerd Discussion Group, in response to queries from readers who don't belong to same. Here I'm responding to Theo Panayides, whose question alludes to my current state of romantic bliss.]

> Also explain, is Bloc Party Feat. David Snapple just a
> rockin' good time, or is there actually stuff there for
> those of us not currently floating on air, humming to
> invisible music, etc.

Noel [Murray]'s ho-hum response to this question has me wondering whether you need to be a Brooklyn resident to achieve the contact high that I did, though there are certainly enough ecstatic reviews out there from other parts of the country.

My other supposition is that folks who go in wanting to see a kick-ass concert movie are going to be disappointed, because it's no great shakes in that department, even though nearly all of the performances are terrific. Ebert bitches about this, for example: "It noodles around too much and gets distracted from the music." For me, though, the concert is largely incidental. And it's clear from the way the film is edited—hopping back and forth throughout between the event itself and the preparations for same—that this is very much by design. It's about the journey, not the destination. And it's simply one of the most joyful celebrations of community ever captured on film—an achievement that's all the more remarkable given that we're talking about two very different communities.

Thing is, it's hard to explain what made Block Party such an exhilarating experience for me without sounding like Pollyanna on two hits of ecstasy. Part of it may be how rare it is, at least for cinephiles of a certain stripe, to have a great movie experience that makes you happy—not the somewhat detached, largely intellectual happiness of having experienced great art (which is often depressing in equal measure), but a genuine in-the-moment blissful buzz at what you're seeing. I don't think I ever stopped grinning during this movie, except at the very end when the coup of reunited Fugees belatedly does turn it into a concert film rather than a block party that happens to involve a few musical performances. (It doesn't help that I consider the Fugees the most overrated band of the late '90s.) Chappelle's enthusiasm is so evident and infectious that it comes off the screen in giant giddy waves. And the editing is nothing short of phenomenal, both within individual sequences and in the deft way that past and present are made to seem like irrelevant distinctions. (Credit to Owen Gleiberman both for that observation and for linking it to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.)

At one point, Chappelle is telling a lame joke onstage, and then the film cuts to him delivering the punchline at a casual rehearsal/jam session a day or two earlier. Something about that sudden temporal SNAP!—particularly in that direction, going from the big day back to the preamble—struck me as intensely optimistic and moving. Maybe the fact that it draws our attention to the idea of the event and away from the event itself.

I'm rambling. But damn did I love this movie. Only that Fugees reunion kept it from hitting 90+.

"Nigga on the Side" for Skandies Best Scene 2006.

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