Air Guitar Nation

2007, Movie, R, 0 mins


Alexandra Lipsitz's documentary can't do the impossible: Make playing air guitar look like anything but a goofy macho exercise in juvenile wish fulfillment. But it does accomplish the near-impossible: By the time competitors David "C-Diddy" Jung and Dan "Bjorn Turoque" Crane arrive in Oulu, Finland, to compete in the Air Guitar World Championships, reflexive scorn has turned to an odd kind of admiration for their wholehearted dedication to a dream. Though the Air Guitar World Championships entered their 10th year when Lipsitz was filming, she records the birth of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships: Founders Kriston Rucker and Cedric Devitt simply couldn't believe that the U.S. had never sent a competitor to Oulu, so they set out to rectify that sorry state of affairs. The first U.S. qualifying rounds, held at the venerable Lower Manhattan strip club Pussycat Lounge, is mobbed thanks to a timely mention on the "Howard Stern Show." It turns up two stars: Jung, a Korean-American actor and stand-up comedian who performs in a red kimono and Hello Kitty breastplate (actually a little girl's backpack worn backwards) and can't play a lick, and Martin, a musician who bears a striking resemblance to wolfish filmmaker Abel Ferrara and has made his rueful peace with the fact that faking it has gotten him more attention than he ever got playing for real. Born performers who gleefully enter into a high-octane public rivalry, they're also both genuinely competitive beneath the mock banter and bluster. When Jung wins and gets sent to the finals in Los Angeles, Martin figures out a way to parlay his runner-up status into an opportunity to compete again. Jung wins a second time and goes to Finland as the U.S. champ, and Martin makes his way to Oulu as an independent competitor. Along the way, Lipsitz interviews a cross-section of other competitors, a predictably colorful bunch who also prove unpredictably articulate and intelligent. It can't be said often enough: Yes, they're playing air guitar in public, but they're not boneheads. Lipsitz and her collaborators planned to cover the U.S. Air Guitar Championships as a VH1 reality series; the deal fell through at the last minute, but they decided to go ahead anyway. And without their efforts, ordinary moviegoers would never know that air-guitar competitors must craft a series of one-minute routines, some to songs they've only just heard, or that their efforts are judged on the 4.0 to 6.0 scale used to rank competitive figure skaters. Important to know? No. Fascinating? Absolutely. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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