I’m in the odd position of wanting to review something that I’m pretty certain very few of you will actually be able to watch: the documentary BEASTIE BOYS STORY, directed by Spike Jonze, currently exclusive to Apple TV+. Which I only have because I bought an iPhone this year and you get a free year when you do that. So far we’ve watched this documentary and season one of SEE, which was entertaining and pretty and unbelievably, heinously dumb.
And the thing is, I’ve been a Beastie Boys fan for, functionally, my entire damn life. License to Ill came out in 1986, when I was nine, and if it wasn’t the first rap tape I ever got it was the second, since I don’t remember if I bought this or the Fat Boys first. (Also, Jesus, at least two of the Fat Boys don’t even scan as fat any longer. I’m bigger than all three of them, I think.) So it’s weird to see Adrock and Mike D on stage as, basically, two old dorky white guys telling terrible jokes and reading, mostly not especially compellingly, off of a TelePrompTer.
I was thinking this was going to be a more standard talking-heads type of documentary, but what it actually is is a two-man stage show, with Spike Jonze handling audio and video on a giant screen behind them and tons and tons of white people in their 40s and 50s in the audience. And while I definitely enjoyed watching it (and, perhaps more importantly, so did my wife, who doesn’t have remotely the attachment to hiphop that I do, and virtually none at all to the Beastie Boys specifically) I have to admit that there’s a certain bittersweet element to watching it, as MCA was absolutely and undeniably the brains and the soul of this group and he passed away of cancer in 2012. It’s as if Lennon got shot and the only members of the Beatles left were Ringo and Pete Best. The Beastie Boys didn’t have a Paul McCartney, y’know? Once Adam Yauch was gone, the group was over; there was never any chance of either of the other two even trying a solo career.
Seen as the artifact it is, this is definitely worth two hours of your time, especially if you have ever been a fan of either rap music or the Beastie Boys (and I can watch music documentaries all goddamn day long even if I don’t like the artists they’re about) but I did find myself wishing we could break away from the perspective of the two surviving band members from time to time. I’d like to hear what Rick Rubin or Russell Simmons have to say about the group’s split from Def Jam, or what Run-DMC had to say about their tour together, and oh my god this is what Rick Rubin looks like now:
Holy shit. Dude.
Yeah, well, point is, some other perspectives would have been nice, from time to time, and there are a couple of weird lacunae in what we get that could have used some shoring up– early bandmate Kate Schellenbach gets enough attention that you expect there to be some sort of payoff, which never really arrives, for example. But if you go in knowing what you’re about to see– Mike D and Adrock (who damn near never calls himself that; he’s “Adam” throughout the documentary, and Adam Yauch is “Yauch,” not MCA) talking about their lives on stage, mostly from a script, and some almost insultingly corny jokes from time to time, it’s not a bad way to spend two hours. Call it a B-, I guess.
4:49 PM, Sunday May 3: 1,154,340 confirmed infections and 67,447 Americans dead. Meanwhile, a whole lot of places open back up tomorrow, and … this is not going to go well, at all, for a whole lot of people.
My wife and I have watched the six-episode McMillions documentary over the last week or so. If you’re not familiar with it, you may remember the McDonald’s Monopoly game that they used to run; turns out that the game was basically rigged from the start, with one single guy taking most of the high-end winning pieces and selling them to a network of people that really wasn’t as spread out or sneaky as it should have been. Something like $24 million in prizes was diverted until an informant clued the FBI in, and then a lengthy investigation ensued, resulting in a whole bunch of people getting indicted, most of whom pled guilty.
The documentary itself is … okay. It’s probably twice as long as it needs to be– certainly an episode or two could have been cut out without really harming anything– and damn near every single person that they talk to over the course of the documentary is some variety or another of douchebag, loser, or both. There’s one guy who they try to make out as a sympathetic victim of the whole thing, which doesn’t really work because he’s just as much of a dick, if not more, than everybody else involved– and, frankly, as far as I’m concerned he might actually be the worst human being to actually take part in the documentary. But more on him later.(*) This will be diverting if you’re home on quarantine and you need something to watch, but it’s not gonna change your life or anything.
And, well, I don’t think this was the intent of the filmmakers, but by the end of the documentary I was pretty well convinced that nothing in the documentary was actually a crime and that no one should have been prosecuted for this.
There is a point, late in the documentary, where one of the defense lawyers points out that his client is being prosecuted for federal mail fraud because he broke a hamburger company’s rules for a promotional game that they made huge amounts of money off of. There is another point where an actual journalist points out that like three or four of the big winners lived in the same zip code and that no one ever noticed.
You know why no one ever noticed? Because they weren’t looking, because no one gave a shit, because no one even conceived of this as a crime until someone tipped off the FBI, who only paid any attention to the case because, as one of the lead douchebags investigators points out, they had been working on “health care fraud” and were bored.
Seriously, this man’s dress shirt is three sizes too big for him for the entire goddamn documentary and it was driving me insane by the end. But I suspect health care fraud probably involves actual victims? And this “crime” does not. Literally no one was hurt by this except for the people who didn’t realize that if you give the dude from the mob half of your winnings and the taxes on your winnings are 40% then you’re not going to actually get a whole lot of money out of it, and I don’t feel bad for them.
McDonald’s was gonna give that money away anyway, and remember they’re *profiting* enormously off of this game. No victims.
You could make a case that someone out there in the world was supposed to be the real winner of the money, or the car, or whatever, but it’s equally likely that those winning game pieces get accidentally thrown away, and at any rate we have no idea who that person is. No victims.
There’s a big deal made about how the marketing company and the “secure” printer went out of business and some people lost their jobs, but as it turns out the only thing they did wrong was hiring the guy who took the pieces, and at any rate they only lost their jobs because the FBI did the investigation. No investigation, no job loss.
You could make an argument that, yes, dude stole the game pieces– but that’s basically stealing office supplies, which isn’t a federal crime, and no law enforcement agency anywhere would ever take it seriously. If I can get you to give me a million dollars for a post-it note that I wrote “ONE MILLION DOLLARS” on, that doesn’t mean that I can get anyone else to give me a million dollars for that post-it note, and no one would argue that you have stolen a million dollars by stealing the post-it. Should McDonald’s have sued the guy? Sure, why not? But it’s not a crime.
They basically openly admit that the only reason they used mail fraud as the main crime they charged these folks with (apparently at some point you have to mail the winning game pieces in for verification) was because they really couldn’t get them on anything else. Because, again, this is breaking the rules of a hamburger company’s marketing scheme, not an actual crime. Crimes have victims. Some danger, either to individuals or society. This has neither. Literally no one anywhere was harmed by any of this, at all, except for whatever cases the FBI was ignoring so they could pursue the “more fun” french fry case.
The biggest bullshit? The longest prison sentence anyone served from this was the main dude, who did 37 months, which shows you how seriously the judge took the case. Three people mentioned having to pay restitution (I assume there were more; a whole bunch of folks pled guilty) and of those, two actually mentioned the amount.
One guy, who has to repay something like three and a half million dollars, is paying about $170 a month. And the ringleader of this entire thing, who diverted $25 million in winning game pieces, is paying $370 a month, or about 2/3 of the amount that I’m paying on my fucking student loans every month, and this is the point where I’m actively fucking angry now, if you were wondering. Because it’s abundantly fucking clear that this money is never getting paid back, so they don’t even care enough to actually pretend that’s going to happen. And McDonald’s didn’t care about the “crime” enough to do even the slightest amount of due diligence on the winners– like the journalist pointed out, several of them lived in the same zip code, and a bunch of them turned out to be related, and no one noticed or cared until the “informant” tipped off the FBI, and– this is great– it turns out that the reason the informant called the FBI was spite.
Because this wasn’t a crime. It was breaking the rules of a hamburger company’s marketing scheme.
I really do enjoy the idea that getting an education fucked up my finances worse than “stealing” twenty-five million dollars, well over three hundred times as much as I borrowed, would have. Tell me again why I’m paying this shit back?
(*) OH RIGHT I FORGOT: they go to some length to make one of the people who took the game pieces look sympathetic, right? And this guy does end up eventually getting acquitted on appeal. But the reason they let him go? Is because instead of being told “Hey, these fell off a truck” or whatever ridiculous justification they used for the other end-user people, this guy is told that the game piece was found by a guy who is going through a divorce, and he wants to secretly sell it so he can hide the assets from his wife, so that she doesn’t get any of the money. And, as he says, he’s been through a divorce himself, so he “gets it,” and he coughs up fifty grand or a hundred grand or however much money they asked him for so that he can prevent a woman who he doesn’t know and as it turns out isn’t real from getting half of the prize.
In other words, the sole “sympathetic” character in the entire documentary is a misogynist piece of shit, and fuck him a lot. As far as I’m concerned he deserves jail more than anyone else in the documentary, because he’s the only person who thought he was hurting someone, and he was just fine with it.
10:35 AM, Sunday, April 19: 735,366 infections and 39,095 Americans dead. It’s early in the day; we’ll be comfortably over 40K dead by the end of the day.