This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

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“These go to 11.”—Nigel Tufnel

If anyone tries to tell you that The Blair Witch Project is the origin of the fake documentary genre, please give me their mailing address so I can have Amazon ship 1,000 copies of This Is Spinal Tap to their doorstep.

In This is Spinal Tap, fictitious filmmaker Marty DiBergi follows the British band Spinal Tap on their tour across the U.S.A. The band’s elaborate dreams for special effects at their concerts never quite live up to their expectations, but the guys remain so focused on their passion—rock ‘n roll—that they barely seem to notice or care about any of the onstage flaws the rest of us find so hilarious. It’s a common sight to see the stagehand running around trying to fix things while Nigel, David, and Derek fire off their solos without a care in the world. (Well, I guess there is one mistake that gets under their skin involving a tiny Stonehenge monument…)

I just finished listening to a 30+ hour biography on Walt Disney called, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. Walt’s lifelong struggle between big dreams and perfectionism was a common theme throughout the book. For example, at the last minute Walt decided to add a cathedral shot to the song “Ave Maria” in Fantasia. It took up lots of space in the studio and a whole team of animators to pull off the shot. They worked hours at a time without sleep. When the first version was presented to Walt, he rejected it because the shot was too “jittery.” They finished the final version of this cathedral shot barely in time for the reel to make it on a plane for the premiere in New York.

When it comes to mistakes within our own big dreams, hopefully we can find a balance between Spinal Tap’s obliviousness and Walt’s perfectionism. Sometimes, I feel like a bass guitarist trapped in a translucent egg on life’s stage. But you just gotta keep playing.


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