Tuesday, December 15, 2015

COLUMN: We Are Your Friends

I'm about to do something that I think might make me very, very mad -- and you're all coming with me.

There's nothing cooler than discovering a movie that may as well be about your life -- plotlines you can connect with and characters you can sympathize with. When it's done right, it can be magic. But when a movie gets it WRONG, it's unbearable. How many times have you gone to a flick and watched a scene play out like this:

"Oh no! We only have twenty seconds to stop this computer program or the bomb will explode!"
"No problem," says the computer expert. "I just need to hack into the mainframe server and re-route the guidance system!"
As the music swells, our hero then taps eight random keys, presses the space bar twice, and saves the world.

Whenever this happens in a movie, my techie friends won't shut up about its ridiculousness. If you're an evil genius and your evil computer can be defeated by pressing the space bar a few times, you need to return your supervillain membership card pronto.

Movies have the magical ability to hold a mirror to your life, but sometimes its a funhouse mirror thats skews your world into an unrealistic, watered-down mess. And it may have just happened to me.

The film is called "We Are Your Friends." It may just be the first ever major motion picture about nightclub DJs. I've been moonlighting as a nightclub DJ since high school, so you can imagine such a movie peaked my interest a little. But the flick flopped. Worse yet, my few DJ friends that saw it told me it was a disgrace to our profession and reduced us to the worst stereotypes imaginable. I made a vow to never watch it, but now it's available On Demand and I'm SUPER curious. So I'm going to use THIS column as my excuse to watch. As the movie plays, I'm going to journal some thoughts and we'll find out together if it's as bad as my friends claim.

Needless to say, MASSIVE spoilers ahead.

0:02:04 - We have just met Cole Carter. Cole is a DJ, and we know this because he wears comically large studio headphones everywhere he goes. Cole is played by Zac Efron, who looks like no DJ I've met. As a rule, we don't have chiseled abs, tanned skin, and a personal trainer under our employ. Most DJs look like me: Pale-skinned, baggy-eyed, and roly-poly. We hang out in basements, pull all-nighters, seldom see the sun, and subside on a diet of Hot Pockets and caffeine.

0:03:30 - Not Cole. In fact, Cole likes to go jogging in the morning. But we are reminded that he definitely IS a DJ, because he goes jogging with those gigantic headphones on. Hey, here's a fun fact: know what happens when you sweat while wearing a pair of those huge headphones? The foam in the earpieces falls apart and black ooze drips down your face and neck. Not that that's ever happened to ME or anything (cough.)

0:04:42 - "If you're a DJ, all you need is a laptop, some talent, and one track." Shut up, Cole. If you're a DJ, all you need is a laptop, controllers that cost way more than the laptop, years of practice, business acumen, encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, and every track you can get your hands on. If I roll into a gig with less than 50,000 songs on my hard drive, I feel unprepared. Don't believe me? Step up to a packed dancefloor and see how far that laptop, some talent, and one track gets you.

0:09:21 - Cole and his buddies are sitting around drinking before the club. One of them says, "This is my favorite part of the night. It's the moment before the moment." I'm clearly doing something wrong, because my "moment before the moment" usually involves running through the house searching for the right adapter, making sure I grabbed that new Justin Bieber remix it took me an hour to find online, and racing to the club at the last minute.

0:09:45 - Cole and Co. walk into the club for his big DJ set. None of them are carrying any equipment. No one is struggling to bring in a flight case that weighs as much as a small adolescent. He doesn't even have his laptop with his one track.

0:10:12 - Girl at DJ booth: "Can you play 'Drunk in Love'?" Cole: "Absolutely not." Okay, that's 100% real. That girl is at every party ever, and she always requests the wrong song at the wrong time. Don't be that girl.

0:27:00 - Cole teaches us about song tempos and BPMS (beats per minute.) Don't get me started.

0:37:31 - Cole is being mentored by a famous DJ. "Get your head out of that laptop and start listening to the real world."

0:44:45 - Famous DJ has a girlfriend who we are not supposed to recognize as the hot model from the Robin Thicke video. She tells Cole he has an "acute sense of assemblage."

0:50:30 - Famous DJ takes Cole to a festival in Vegas, where Cole repays him by stealing his Robin-Thicke-video girlfriend, because occasionally movies require plot.

1:11:30 - OH NO! Cole's buddy overdoses. There is much sadness. Cole even takes off his headphones.

1:20:40 - Cole goes for a jog and finds his sound, which is fairly impressive since he's got those headphones on again. He hears things like a roofing gun, the sizzle of power lines, and wind chimes, all of which he records with his iPhone, which is how all big songs get made.

1:24:00 - Cole spins at a big festival, starts dropping his weird samples, and they magically transform into a musical opus. The crowd goes wild. Presumably Cole becomes a megastar and everywhere across the country, people are lining up at DJ booths to request, "Umm, do you have that one song with the roofing gun and the wind chimes?"

It could have been worse. I could go on for hours about the things this movie got right and wrong, but there's really no point. This flick isn't even really about DJing. It's about a kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a dream, some talent, and a pack of idiot friends. Even though he gets sidetracked by a girl and watches one of his friends die, his passion perserveres and he triumphs in the end. In other words, it's a note-for-note remake of "Saturday Night Fever." It might not be my cup of tea, but at least I didn't have to suffer through any disco.

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