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Heavy Metal Parking Lot:
In the beginning was Judas Priest. By happenstance, that metal band was playing at the now-obsolescent Capital Centre on the day in 1986 when John Heyn and Jeff Krulik brought their public-access videocam to the arena’s asphalt wasteland. The result was Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a documentary glimpse of big-haired metal disciples that became legendary (mostly via bootlegged videotapes) and has been widely imitatedincluding by Heyn and/or Krulik themselves. In honor of the 15th anniversary of their pop-anthropological coup, the filmmakers have assembled a compendium of such shorts, most of which are fully explained by their titles: Neil Diamond Parking Lot, Harry Potter Parking Lot, Heavy Metal Sidewalk, Girl Power Parking Lot, and Raver Bathroom. Also included are long-missing outtakes from the original flick, a snippet of the never-completed Monster Truck Parking Lot, and the video for American Hi-Fi’s “Flavor of the Weak,” which carefully reconstructs Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
The geniusif that’s the wordof Heavy Metal Parking Lot is that it’s a nature film. Heyn and Krulik captured metal fans in their native habitat, untouched by authority figures. Few of the subsequent films have the same purity. Although Harry Potter Parking Lot spotlights Ward 3’s pretentious pre-pube yuplings desperate to impress with their literary conquests, it’s mostly about crowd control. So is Girl Power Parking Lot, which was shot at the L.A. premiere of Spice World. For all their rote hosannas to metal and getting “fucked up,” the old-school Priest fans seem to have more free will than either the baguette-eating Harry Potter enthusiasts or the Spice Girls fans, who name their favorite Spice as if they were taking a pop quiz. As for Heavy Metal Sidewalk, shot outside a 1998 Judas Priest showyou can’t go home again, dude, especially after the lead singer tells everyone he’s gay.
Among the more worthy successors to the original is Raver Bathroom, even if the E-popping techno fans do seem closer in spirit to the Harry Potter eggheads than the primal Priestheads. (Just listen to one woman explain serotonin with an earnestness that drains all the fun from getting fucked up.) The highlight, though, is Neil Diamond Parking Lot, which has a tragic subtext Nora Ephron could never render: Asked why they didn’t bring their husbands or boyfriends, a half-dozen middle-aged women yell in unison, “We don’t have any!”
No matter how intensely the various fans focus on their idols, the gap between the parking lot and the stage is unbridgeable. That’s why the only one of these shorts that completely missescatchy grunge-pop song asideis the “Flavor of the Weak” video. Going for the requisite cute-babe appeal, director Chris Applebaum replaced the lumpy, unglamorous headbangers of the original with Calvin Klein-model types. They’re pretty but all wrong. You can dress them up in DC 101 T-shirts, but you can’t take them to the Capital Centre parking lot in 1986.
A spiritual autobiography and feminist omnibus, You Don’t Know What I Got tells the stories of five women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and vocations. The result is crisp, lively, and deftly crosscut, giving the impression that director Linda Duvoisin got a little more than she actually did. Lucky for her that she employed an astute editor, Barbara Burst. And that one of her five subjects is Ani DiFranco.
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The film begins with the admission that Duvoisin was seeking “people who had something I did notan undying enthusiasm for life.” That theme resurfaces occasionally, but the filmmaker focuses less on what she (supposedly) lacks than on what her subjects have. Linda Finney and Julie Brunzell are both middle-aged Minnesota cops, and Myrtle Stedman is an elderly Santa Fe artist and adobe architect. The film’s two stars, however, are Jimmie Woodruff, the housekeeper for Duvoisin’s family during her Tennessee childhood, and DiFranco, whose punk-folkie songs stitch the stories togetherand whose combativeness undercuts the film’s platitudes. One of the neatest juxtapositions comes when Woodruff, dispensing advice to the lovelorn director, tells her that she’s “a pretty girl”and the film cuts to DiFranco singing “Not a Pretty Girl.”
Anyone who’s familiar with the singer’s catalog will see that segue coming, but it’s executed so nimbly that it works anyway. Whether singing or chatting, DiFranco is always there to underscore a point. When Woodruff dismisses her former legal status as a “mulatto,” Duvoisin can cut to the hiphopped, purple-dreadlocked DiFranco, who mocks racial categories. When Stedman recalls bohemian Santa Fe’s sexual experimentation, or Brunzell discusses sexual abuse (her enforcement speciality) and masturbation, DiFranco picks up the theme, arguing that “nothing is too private or too personal.”
Woodruff aside, these women don’t reveal much that might be considered all that private. And the film keeps aiming not for the personal but for the archetypal, intercutting historical footage to mythologize the women’s lives (especially Woodruff’s). Although the director never abandons the other biographies, ultimately You Don’t Know What I Got plays like a duet, with Woodruff’s indomitability mirrored by DiFranco’s assertiveness. Toward the end of the film, Woodruff reveals that she’s always loved “Amazing Grace.” Guess who’s about to sing it.
These days, Hollywood’s customary summer-flick procedure is to graft two genres: comedy and action, romance and action, drama and action. Such hybrids, director Rob Cohen has decided, are for sissies. His The Fast and the Furious combines action and action. One plot celebrates illegal street drag-racing and the adolescent death wish in multiculti L.A., while the other has the cops scrambling to bust a gang that hijacks trucks at high speed. The link is that the FBI is convinced that some of the dragsters are using their driving skills to commit the truckjackings. The agency sends undercover cop Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) to infiltrate the street-racing scene by posing as a kid from Arizona who learned how to speed while boosting cars.
Walker played the not-so-good preppie in Cohen’s fast-moving but flat previous film, The Skulls, but here he’s a different sort of good-bad. Brian is ready to bust the truckjackings as long as they’re the work of the Latino or Vietnamese gang bosses with whom he quickly has nasty dust-ups. But he doesn’t want to suspect his new pal Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his motley, big-hearted crewespecially because he’s fallen in love with Dominic’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). When his bosses insist that Dominic and his cronies are the prime suspects, Brian is torn between friendship and duty. But not too tornif pressed, his dedication to the LAPD is gone in 60 seconds.
Like The Skulls, The Fast and the Furious exults in the hedonism of a secret society its protagonist can never truly join. The racing scene is pumped on booze and gasoline and ripe with slutty street-racing groupies. The movie provides a little pedal-to-the-metal feminism when it reveals that both Mia and Dominic’s girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), aren’t merely decorative; they can control a nitrous-oxide-boosted sports car at 170 mph just like the guys. This would be more inspiring, however, if Cohen didn’t employ several dozen street babes and beach bunniesmostly in halter tops and bikiniswhose roles are utterly ornamental. Still, not one of these exploited women is as boring as Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft.
The Fast and the Furious has two tactical advantages over Cohen’s previous film: First, it involves supercharged dragsters rather than racing shells, which don’t provide nearly as many opportunities for spins, crashes, and explosions. Second, its central character acknowledges the appeal of the dark side. So does Cohen, of course, with a movie that includes dozens of racing scenes that are irresponsible and onewhen some speeding morons attempt to beat a train to a railroad crossingthat’s so reprehensible it inspired a don’t-try-this-at-home disclaimer. But summer at the megaplex is no place for a moral education, so the film’s payoffhidden at the very end of the creditsis appropriately beyond good and evil. The thumping score, by the way, is by former Washingtonian BT, who can never claim to make “intelligent” techno again. CP