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Seek Out the Indies

Anvil lead singer "Lips."
Photo by Brent J. Craig

There’s a reason you should show up late to watch most mainstream movies: to miss the 15 minutes of previews the chain theaters show. These are trailers you’ve probably already seen a dozen times on television or on the Web. Some megaplexes even show, gack, full-blown commercials.

But at the independent Landmark movie theater in Hillcrest, you’re wise to show up early. You can anticipate trailers for un-mass-marketed, compelling movies, like the upcoming “Management” (with Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn), “The Limits of Control” (Bill Murray, John Hurt) and “Gigantic” (John Goodman, Zooey Deschanel).

Heard of ‘em? No, but you’re been bombarded with promotions for the blockbuster “Star Trek.” Look beyond the hype.

I saw “The Soloist” and “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” in separate movie theaters last week. You’ve heard of the first film, which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Fox as a columnist and a street person who form a special bond through classical music. Part of the reason you’ve heard of “The Soloist” is the promotion it received on TV and other media. “The Soloist” is inspirational, and if I were a movie reviewer it’d get four stars and a thumb up.

Chances are you’ve never heard of “Anvil!”The preview caught my eye a couple weeks ago during a different visit to the Hillcrest Landmark. “Anvil!” is also a

story about the not-so-cheery side of intense musical devotion. The genre happens to be heavy metal. Before you cover your ears, give this documentary a chance. It’s one of the funniest, most brutally painful, inspirational life stories you’ll ever watch. At first, you’ll wonder if it’s all a joke. Then you’ll fall in love with the characters and root for a band of long-haired dreamers who live passionately in a moment that has long passed them by.

Again, this isn’t a movie review. It’s a movie reminder. Sadly, there were just seven of us watching “Anvil!” If you saw “Spinal Tap” you might think this is a mockumentary sequel. But it’s the real tale of a Canadian metal band from the 1980s that still rocks and tours. It focuses on two friends, guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (no, not the “Spinal Tap” director) who, at 50, won’t let go of the rock-and-roll dream. They come off at first as buffoonish and pathetic. Until you recognize they are not dolts or egomaniacs. They’re dreamers—deluded, to a likeable fault—and so authentically living the life they aspire to that it’s impossible to not root for them (even when 147 people show up for a gig held in a 10,000-capacity concert hall).

“Anvil!” was directed by Sascha Gervasi, who wrote “The Terminal,” the Steven Spielberg movie that starred Tom Hanks. Big time. But Gervasi did the indie “Anvil!” because he is a fan, and a one-time roadie for the band. It’s a gem ready to be unearthed.

Metal isn’t pop music by any means, with perhaps a little bit more of a following than the classical arrangements that permeate “The Soloist.” Both musical genres inspire pure cinematic joy—the only difference being that one is easier to find.