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DVD Review: Air Guitar Nation

It's been said that those who can, do. Those who can't, play air guitar. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but after watching Air Guitar Nation I can proudly say that I fall into the latter category.

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by Rene Williams, for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2007
I've never picked up an actual guitar and played anything that sounded like a chord, but I've played a million imaginary axes, and I've rocked them all.

It's been said that those who can, do. Those who can't, play air guitar. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but after watching Air Guitar Nation (Rated R, 81 min) I can proudly say that I fall into the latter category. I've never picked up an actual guitar and played anything that sounded like a chord, but I've played a million imaginary axes, and I've rocked them all. In the privacy of my home with Eddie Van Halen's screaming solos playing from my iPod, I've made dudes bang their heads to the point of whiplash and chicks cream their panties. I am an air guitar god. But honestly, who isn't, right? That's what makes Nation such a fascinating and borderline surreal documentary. Everybody dreams of being a rock star, whether it's banging out an AC/DC riff in the shower or imagining yourself fingering every note in "Sweet Child o' Mine". Much like picking your nose at 65 mph on the freeway, everyone does it, but nobody wants to admit to it.

It's easy to imagine the concept of two guys traveling to Finland to compete in the World Air Guitar championships as a Will Ferrell type comedy or Spinal Tap-esque faux mockumentary, (with films like Dodgeball and Balls of Fury out there, you would figure somebody has to have an air guitar script floating around) but the filmmakers present it in a way that acknowledges the ridiculous nature of the subject and stays true to core of the competition.

Although it shows a variety of contestants who competed in the 2003 American championships, the film's major focus is on rivals c-Diddy and Bjorn T?ºroque, a.k.a. David Jung and Dan Crane respectively. While c-Diddy is a master showman and the more gifted axe-man of the two, Bjorn is a gritty technically proficient performer who will do anything including taking internet donations to travel to each competition and compete with the best of the best. A hero and a rival? Sounds like the makings of a compelling tale. And that's exactly what it is.

The film follows the two as they compete first at regional levels in New York, then on the national stage in Los Angeles. From there they travel to a small town in Finland to compete on the world stage against representatives from other countries. For seven years the World Air Guitar training camp and championships has been taking place in Finland as a movement intended to transform the world and promote peace through air guitar awesomeness. Until 2003, the US has never had a participant who competed in the finals which is an outrage if you ask me. Isn't this the country that invented rock? Luckily a couple of promoters felt the same way and decided to hold their own national championships and send the winner to compete in Finland. Howard Stern plugged the upcoming competition on his radio show and the event drew so large a crowd eager to rock, they actually had to turn people away at the door. The performances in the film are mesmerizing in the same way that you can't help but slow down and look when you see an accident on the side of the road. I won't spoil anything by telling you who won, but needless to say, the fun is in the journey, not the destination.

The DVD includes 40 minutes of deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer and extra air guitar contestant's performances. Pure air goodness.

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