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"Scratch"

Directed by Doug Pray.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  3/9/02 

Folks-- 

Mmm...the daytime matinee.  What is it about the daytime matinee that is so sexy?  The cheaper prices?  The wider availability of seats?  The fact that when you get done with the movie, you've got the whole day ahead of you?

That's what happened today when my friend Andy "Strippers or Bust" Kellam and I went over to the Lumiere to catch the DJ documentary "Scratch."  Andy and I both love hip-hop, so seeing this film was a match made in heaven.  But, while the movie is  good, it ultimately will disappoint the hard-core fan.

The 90-minute film follows the path from the early days of DJs in the late 70s and early 80s, with interviews with some of the early players like Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Master DXT (the turntablist for Herbie Hancock's "Rock It"), and Grand Master Theodore, who is widely credited with being the first to intentionally scratch records for show.  Then, the film fast-forwards to the early 90s, and dedicates most of the final two-thirds of the film to Mix Master Mike and Q-Bert, two of the Invisible Scratch Piklz (pickles) that are apparently recognized as the best hip-hop DJs in the country.  The film also goes in-depth with Bay Area and New York City DJs, on topics such as "digging" (searching through record stores and crates for the next great record), "battling" (DJ competitions) and "turntablism."

For both the hard-core fan and the casual observer, there is some really great stuff here in "Scratch", mostly coming in the form of the DJ's performances at competitions or in their respective in-home studios.  Just watching some of these guys work is incredible stuff, no matter how many times you may have seen some of these highlights before.  Plus, watching the "digging" portion of the film was mesmerizing to me, because I can't fathom having a record collection that numbers over 100,000, like a couple of the DJs in the film.

But, for the hard-core fan, there just isn't much you haven't heard about before, and sadly, you won't learn too much by seeing this film.  I would consider myself a long-time fan of hip-hop culture and rap music--by no means a scholar--but I have heard of all of the major DJs interviewed in this film save for two from Atlanta that seem to be included only because one of them is a woman.  The film seems just a bit dated; one of the taglines for this film is that "the turntable now outsells the guitar", which is true but has BEEN true for five or six years now.  Around the time that I was graduating from college in 1997, hip-hop was Billboard's top-selling genre, and it was the most aired music genre on MTV a year later when alternative music was fading.

The film also runs a little long, which is saying something given that it is already short at 90 minutes.  Also, it feels like director/editor Doug Pray thought that the period between Grand Master DXT's Grammy performance with Hancock in 1984 and the Invisible Scratch Piklz' rise in 1990-92 was non-essential; this leaves for an odd transition and a total lack of perspective from the older players on the current generation of hip-hoppers.  Something can be said for continuity, after all.

This film will both entertain and educate the hip-hop newcomer, but for those already familiar with the culture and the terminology, this one is just so-so.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09