2021 American Music Awards: BTS, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion are the top winners

November 21, 2021

BTS at the 2021 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on November 21, 2021. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

With three prizes each, BTS, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion were the top winners at the 2021 American Music Awards, which were presented November 21 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Cardi B was the host of the ceremony. ABC had the U.S. telecast of the show. The American Music Awards are voted for online by fans.

BTS won the American Music Awards for Artist of the Year; Favorite Pop Song (for “Butter”); and Favorite Pop Duo or Group. Doja Cat received the prizes for Collaboration of the Year (for her “Kiss Me More” duet with SZA); Favorite R&B Album (for “Planet Her”); and Favorite Female R&B Artist. Megan Thee Stallion won the awards for Favorite Trending Song (“for Body”); Favorite Hip-Hop Album (for “Good News”); and Favorite Female Hip-Hop Artist.

Several artists won two awards each, such as Olivio Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Cardi B, Carrie Underwood and Gabby Barrett. (See the complete list of winners at the end of the article.) Rodrigo went into the ceremony with the most nomnations (seven), followed by The Weeknd with six nods. The Weeknd ended up winning the award for Favorite Male R&B Artist. New categories this year were Favorite Trending Song (with nominees from TikTok on the year’s most viral songs); Favorite Gospel Artist; and Favorite Latin Duo or Group.

According to a press release from ABC: “Nominees are based on key fan interactions—as reflected on the Billboard charts—including streaming, album sales, song sales and radio airplay. These measurements are tracked by Billboard and its data partner MRC Data, and cover the time period September 25, 2020, through September 23, 2021.” The 2021 American Music Awards ceremony was produced by MRC Live & Alternative and Jesse Collins Entertainment.

The following is from an ABC press release:

Show performance highlights included:

  • Multiple Grammy Award winners Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak, who just dropped their debut album as Silk Sonic, kicked off the night with an energetic opening performance of their recently released hit “Smokin Out The Window.”
  • It was a night of AMA debut performances, with Olivia Rodrigo taking the stage for a powerful performance of “Traitor,” the fourth single from her record-smashing album, “Sour.”
  • Pop megastars BTS joined legendary British band Coldplay for the world television premiere performance of “My Universe.”
  • Tyler, The Creator performed “Massa” off his sixth studio album, “Call Me If You Get Lost.”
  • This year’s new “My Hometown” segments included spectacular performances by Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean and an epic “Battle of Boston” as iconic boy bands New Edition and New Kids On The Block shared the stage together for the very first time and had everyone on their feet.
  • Italian rock band and first-time AMA nominee Måneskin made their U.S. awards show debut when they performed their global No. 1 hit “Beggin.’”
  • Three-time AMA winner Jennifer Lopez delivered a magical performance of her newly released song “On My Way” from the soundtrack of her upcoming film “Marry Me.”
  • Country music star Mickey Guyton wowed audiences with her performance of her newest single “All American.”
  • Chlöe made her AMA performance debut from the Xfinity Stage with her debut single, “Have Mercy.”
  • Walker Hayes marked his AMAs debut with a fun performance of his viral song “Fancy Like.”
  • This year’s “AMA Song of the Soul” segment honored German singer/songwriter Zoe Wees for her powerhouse performance of “Girls Like Us.”
  • Five-time AMA winner Kane Brown performed his hit “One Mississippi” at Tennessee State University (TSU), a notable HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Brown also gave fans a look into his Tennessee and Georgia roots leading into his performance.
  • Diplo took on a special role and served as the first-ever AMAs musical curator, DJing his iconic tunes throughout the night.

Winner Highlights of the “2020 American Music Awards”:

  • Tonight, BTS made history at the AMAs as the first Asian group to win in the Artist of the Year category and won Favorite Pop Duo or Group and Favorite Pop Song for their record-breaking hit “Butter.” The group now has nine AMAs.
  • Now 34-time AMA winner Taylor Swift took home the awards for Favorite Female Pop Artist and Favorite Pop Album for her No. 1 album “Evermore.”
  • Following her breathtaking debut performance on the AMAs stage, Olivia Rodrigo won her first-ever AMA with New Artist of the Year.
  • Bad Bunny was named Favorite Male Latin Artist at this year’s AMAs and won Favorite Latin Album for “EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO.”
  • Kali Uchis, now first-time AMA winner, won Favorite Latin Song with her hit single “telepatía.”

Presenters included Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Anthony Ramos, Billy Porter, Brandy,  JB Smoove, JoJo Siwa, Liza Koshy, Machine Gun Kelly, Marsai Martin, Madelyn Cline and Winnie Harlow.

The following is the complete list of winners and nominees for the 2021 American Music Awards:

*=winner

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Ariana Grande
BTS*
Drake
Olivia Rodrigo
Taylor Swift
The Weeknd

NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
24kGoldn
Giveon
Masked Wolf
Olivia Rodrigo*
The Kid LAROI

COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR
24kGoldn ft. iann dior “Mood”
Bad Bunny & Jhay Cortez “DÁKITI”
Chris Brown & Young Thug “Go Crazy”
Doja Cat ft. SZA “Kiss Me More”*
Justin Bieber ft. Daniel Caesar & Giveon “Peaches”

FAVORITE TRENDING SONG
Erica Banks “Buss It”
Måneskin “Beggin’”
Megan Thee Stallion “Body”*
Olivia Rodrigo “drivers license”
Popp Hunna “Adderall (Corvette Corvette)”

FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak) “Leave The Door Open”
Cardi B “Up”
Lil Nas X “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”*
Olivia Rodrigo “drivers license”
The Weeknd “Save Your Tears”

FAVORITE MALE POP ARTIST
Drake
Ed Sheeran*
Justin Bieber
Lil Nas X
The Weeknd

FAVORITE FEMALE POP ARTIST
Ariana Grande
Doja Cat
Dua Lipa
Olivia Rodrigo
Taylor Swift*

FAVORITE POP DUO OR GROUP
AJR
BTS*
Glass Animals
Maroon 5
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak)

FAVORITE POP ALBUM
Ariana Grande “Positions”
Dua Lipa “Future Nostalgia”
Olivia Rodrigo “SOUR”
Taylor Swift “evermore”*
The Kid LAROI “F*CK LOVE”

FAVORITE POP SONG
BTS “Butter”*

Doja Cat ft. SZA “Kiss Me More”
Dua Lipa “Levitating”
Olivia Rodrigo “drivers license”
The Weeknd & Ariana Grande “Save Your Tears (Remix)”

FAVORITE MALE COUNTRY ARTIST
Chris Stapleton
Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan*
Luke Combs
Morgan Wallen

FAVORITE FEMALE COUNTRY ARTIST
Carrie Underwood*

Gabby Barrett
Kacey Musgraves
Maren Morris
Miranda Lambert

FAVORITE COUNTRY DUO OR GROUP
Dan + Shay*

Florida Georgia Line
Lady A
Old Dominion
Zac Brown Band

FAVORITE COUNTRY ALBUM
Chris Stapleton “Starting Over”
Gabby Barrett “Goldmine”*
Lee Brice “Hey World”
Luke Bryan “Born Here Live Here Die Here”
Morgan Wallen “Dangerous: The Double Album”

FAVORITE COUNTRY SONG
Chris Stapleton “Starting Over”
Chris Young & Kane Brown “Famous Friends”
Gabby Barrett “The Good Ones”*
Luke Combs “Forever After All”
Walker Hayes “Fancy Like”

FAVORITE MALE HIP-HOP ARTIST
Drake*

Lil Baby
Moneybagg Yo
Polo G
Pop Smoke

FAVORITE FEMALE HIP-HOP ARTIST
Cardi B
Coi Leray
Erica Banks
Megan Thee Stallion*
Saweetie

FAVORITE HIP-HOP ALBUM
Drake “Certified Lover Boy”
Juice WRLD “Legends Never Die”
Megan Thee Stallion “Good News”*
Pop Smoke “Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon”
Rod Wave “SoulFly”

FAVORITE HIP-HOP SONG
Cardi B “Up”*

Internet Money ft. Gunna, Don Toliver & NAV “Lemonade”
Lil Tjay ft. 6LACK “Calling My Phone”
Polo G “RAPSTAR”
Pop Smoke “What You Know Bout Love”

FAVORITE MALE R&B ARTIST
Chris Brown
Giveon
Tank
The Weeknd*
Usher

FAVORITE FEMALE R&B ARTIST
Doja Cat*

H.E.R.
Jazmine Sullivan
Jhené Aiko
SZA

FAVORITE R&B ALBUM
Doja Cat “Planet Her”*

Giveon “When It’s All Said And Done… Take Time”
H.E.R. “Back of My Mind”
Jazmine Sullivan “Heaux Tales”
Queen Naija “missunderstood”

FAVORITE R&B SONG
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak) “Leave The Door Open”*

Chris Brown & Young Thug “Go Crazy”
Giveon “Heartbreak Anniversary”
H.E.R. “Damage”
Jazmine Sullivan “Pick Up Your Feelings”

FAVORITE MALE LATIN ARTIST
Bad Bunny*

J Balvin
Maluma
Ozuna
Rauw Alejandro

FAVORITE FEMALE LATIN ARTIST
Becky G*

Kali Uchis
KAROL G
Natti Natasha
ROSALÍA

FAVORITE LATIN DUO OR GROUP
Banda MS de Sergio Lizárraga*

Calibre 50
Eslabon Armado
La Arrolladora Banda El Limón De Rene Camacho
Los Dos Carnales

FAVORITE LATIN ALBUM
Bad Bunny “EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO”*

Kali Uchis “Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)”
KAROL G “KG0516”
Maluma “PAPI JUANCHO”
Rauw Alejandro “Afrodisíaco”

FAVORITE LATIN SONG
Bad Bunny & Jhay Cortez “DÁKITI”
Bad Bunny x ROSALÍA “LA NOCHE DE ANOCHE”
Farruko “Pepas”
Kali Uchis “telepatía”*
Maluma & The Weeknd “Hawái (Remix)”

FAVORITE ROCK ARTIST
AJR
All Time Low
Foo Fighters
Glass Animals
Machine Gun Kelly*

FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL ARTIST
CAIN
Carrie Underwood*
Elevation Worship
Lauren Daigle
Zach Williams

FAVORITE GOSPEL ARTIST
Kanye West*

Kirk Franklin
Koryn Hawthorne
Maverick City Music
Tasha Cobbs Leonard

FAVORITE DANCE/ELECTRONIC ARTIST
David Guetta
ILLENIUM
Marshmello*
Regard
Tiësto

Review: ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass,’ starring Megan Fox, Bruce Willis and Emile Hirsch

August 31, 2021

by Carla Hay

Megan Fox and Bruce Willis in “Midnight in the Switchgrass” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Midnight in the Switchgrass”

Directed by Randall Emmett

Culture Representation: Taking place in Florida, the dramatic film “Midnight in the Switchgrass” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Law enforcement officials try to capture an elusive serial killer who targets prostitutes for murder.

Culture Audience: “Midnight in the Switchgrass” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching boring, forumlaic and predictable crime dramas.

Lukas Haas and Megan Fox in “Midnight in the Switchgrass” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

It’s quite a stretch to call “Midnight in the Switchgrass” an “original movie,” since this formulaic dud recycles every movie/TV cliché about cops looking for a serial killer who targets prostitutes. If you’ve seen any movie with the same concept, then you know exactly what to expect in “Midnight in the Switchgrass.” A derivative film might be mildly acceptable if there was some excitement in the story or if the characters had charisma.

But the filmmakers of “Midnight in the Switchgrass” made no attempt at having anything in the movie that that could be described as “suspenseful” or “surprising.” And the cast members look like they’re just going through the motions. There are zombies that have better personalities than almost all of the characters in this dull and dreary crime drama.

Directed by Randall Emmett and written by Alan Horsnail, “Midnight in the Switchgrass” doesn’t even have a clever title. The movie’s title refers to a switchgrass field in Florida where the killer keeps some of his victims captive in a hidden storm tunnel. Switchgrass is also mentioned as a place where one of the serial killer’s murder victims used to hide as a child to escape from an abusive father. The movie takes place mostly in Florida’s Pensacola area, where two cops from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are on the hunt for the serial killer. (This movie was actually filmed in Los Angeles and Puerto Rico.)

“Midnight in the Switchgrass” has probably gotten more publicity for being the movie set where co-stars Megan Fox and Colson Baker (also known as musician Machine Gun Kelly) fell in love. Fox separated from her actor husband Brian Austin Green after finishing the movie. She and Baker went public with their romance after that. It’s probably the only thing that people will remember about this dreadful movie.

Fox and Baker have just one very short scene together in “Midnight in the Switchgrass,” near the beginning of the film. She portrays an undercover cop named Rebecca Lombardi, who usually goes undercover as a prostitute. (How stereotypical.) Baker plays a sleazy pimp named Calvin “Calxco” Colton, who’s got Rebecca in a motel room, and he wants her to do some prostitution work for him, but she’s stalling.

The sting almost goes awry when Calxco starts to get rough with Rebecca, and it seems as if he won’t let her leave the motel room. She fights back in ways that show she’s not a typical hooker but someone who’s got combat skills. Luckily, Rebecca was able to alert her police colleagues through audio surveillance, and the cops arrive in time to arrest Calxco.

One of the colleagues who worked with her on this sting is Byron Crawford (played by Emile Hirsch), an earnest cop with a very fake-sounding Southern accent, thanks to Hirsch’s terrible acting in the movie. Byron ends up taking the lead on the investigation into the prostitute murders that are plaguing the area. Byron and Rebecca want Claxco to give information about who’s been murdering prostitutes and dumping their bodies along the highway. Claxco gives a clue about what the suspected killer’s truck looks like, and then Claxco isn’t seen in the movie again.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because the investigation of this prostitute-murdering serial killer uses the same formula as other similar movies and TV shows. The obligatory grizzled and jaded cop veteran is FBI agent Karl Helter (played by Bruce Willis), who’s only in about 25% of the movie. Translation: “Midnight in the Switchgrass” didn’t have the budget to hire Willis in a role where he would get most of the screen time. Willis looks like he’s just there for the easy salary, and he looks completely “checked out” emotionally in this movie.

The only important thing that Karl tells the Florida cops is that the federal government doesn’t want to get involved in finding this serial killer. And so, Byron and Rebecca do most of the legwork to solve the case. And you know what that means: Rebecca is going undercover as a hooker again, so that she can be bait for the serial killer. You can almost do a countdown to when she gets held captive by the serial killer. (And it would be easy to predict, even if it wasn’t shown in the movie’s trailer.)

Through surveillance footage, the cops find out that the serial killer is most likely a truck driver, because many of the murder victims were last seen at or near a truck stop. There’s even surveillance video of one the of murder victims being forced to leave with him. And sure enough, the killer really is a truck driver. The movie’s trailer shows his face, so it’s not spoiler information to reveal that the killer is a married father named Peter (played by Lukas Haas), who’s been leading a double life.

Predictably, Peter has a “Jekyll & Hyde” personality: He’s mild-mannered and quiet to most people, but he’s a rage-filled monster when he’s alone with his victims. He doesn’t kill all of his victims right away, but he keeps them tied up in the storm tunnel to torture and sexually assault them. Peter also has a barn with a locked door to hide a lot of evidence related to his murders. Because the movie reveals early on who the serial killer is, there’s no mystery or suspense. The screenplay for “Midnight in the Switchgrass” is so lazy and generic, there’s not even an explanation for why Peter turned out the way that he did.

It must be frustrating for aspiring filmmakers who have truly original ideas for movies but can’t get the financing for these movies to be made, while unimaginative junk like “Midnight in the Switchgrass” is churned out, just because some actors with well-known names signed on to the project. You can almost hear the thought process of the “Midnight in the Switchgrass” producers: “Sure, there’s already a lot of movies and TV shows about cops looking for a serial killer, but this movie doesn’t have to be good, as long as we might make a profit from it.”

“Midnight in the Switchgrass” is the type of sexist movie where almost all of the adult female characters have shallow, underdeveloped roles as prostitute crime victims or dutiful wives/mothers at home. Peter has a wife named Karen (played by Lydia Hull) and a daughter named Bethany (played by Olive Elise Abercrombie), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Peter’s wife and daughter have no idea that he has this secret life as a serial killer. Byron has a baby daughter named Bella with his wife Suzanna (played by Jackie Cruz), who does nothing in this movie but fret over her husband

And the movie doesn’t really care to give the prostitute victims any real personalities. They have names like Heather (played by Sistine Rose Stallone), Chastity (played by Katalina Viteri), Tracey (played by Caitlin Carmichael) and Sarah, who has no dialogue in the movie because she’s already dead. Peter’s victims are typically all young and pretty.

In one unrealistic scene, one of the prostitutes invites Peter into her motel room before they even discuss the price of her services. You don’t have to be a sex worker to know that’s just not the way they do business. A sex worker wouldn’t invite a potential customer to a room until the sex worker knows first how much the customer is going to pay.

As for undercover cop Rebecca, she’s one of the few women in the movie who isn’t a prostitute or a dutiful wife/mother. However, she still spends about half of her screen time pretending to be a hooker. It’s just an excuse to have Fox in a movie where she has to dress like a prostitute and spend a considerable amount of screen time being tied up in the scenes where she’s been kidnapped.

There’s a half-hearted attempt to make Rebecca a little feisty, but the dialogue is so bland for all of the characters, viewers who have the misfortune of sitting through this dreck will have a hard time remembering any specific lines of conversations after the movie is over. If you make it to the end without falling asleep, you’ll find that “Midnight in the Switchgrass” fails to live up to its description as a “thriller,” since there is almost nothing in this horrific misfire that is thrilling.

Lionsgate released “Midnight in the Switchgrass” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 23, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27, 2021.

Review: ‘Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos,’ starring Rob Zombie, Ice-T, Duff McKagan, Lars Ulrich, Tom Morello and Lzzy Hale

April 24, 2021

by Carla Hay

Fever 333 singer Jason Aalon Butler in “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” (Photo by Jordan Wrenner/Abramorama)

“Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos”

Directed by Jonathan McHugh

Culture Representation: The documentary “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” features a predominantly white, mostly American group of people (with some African Americans and a few Asians and Latinos) who are musicians, fans and industry people discussing the impact of hard rock/heavy metal music in their lives and in other people’s lives.

Culture Clash: Hard rock/heavy metal often has a reputation for violence at concerts and in song lyrics, while musicians in the genre who aren’t white males face discrimination barriers. 

Culture Audience: “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching a documentary that gives a broad but not-very-revealing overview of hard rock/heavy metal fandom in the United States.

Rock fans at a concert in “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” (Photo by Jordan Wrenner/Abramorama)

There have been many documentaries that have tried to capture the essence of hard rock/heavy metal culture, but few have truly succeeded. “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” is like a rambling ad campaign for hard rock/heavy metal’s die-hard fandom. The documentary doesn’t reveal anything new, the editing is horribly unfocused, and the movie often comes across as a long infomercial for rock concert festivals.

And there are parts of the documentary where the sound mixing is so amateurish, it’s embarrassing. For example, the sound levels are sometimes mismatched and uneven in the same interview. You know it’s bad when a music documentary can’t even get the sound right.

Directed by Jonathan McHugh, “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” gives a lot of screen time to fans who are devoted to seeing their favorite artists in concert and meeting up with other fans at big rock festivals. There are entire segments of the movie about concert rituals such as crowd surfing, mosh pits and the wall of death. It’s mentioned that a wall of death can be security personnel’s biggest nightmare because it simulates a war battle with large numbers of people on one side charging into large groups of people on the other side.

But it begs the question: Why is a documentary that’s meant for hard rock/heavy metal fans spending so much time on basic things that they already know about these concerts? The segments on crowd surfing, mosh pits and the wall of death all look like they were filmed as instructional videos for people training to work in concert security, not for people who are in the audiences at these concerts. If you think it’s fascinating that some concert promoters hire college football players for audience security at rock concerts, then “Long Live Rock” is your kind of movie. The documentary has an entire segment on that too, with Urbana University head football coach Tyler Haines introducing his team members who do concert security, and showing how they interact with the crowds at concerts.

And there’s a lot of contradictory statements in the documentary. Although several people in the movie talk about friendly and welcoming communities at these concerts, they also acknowledge there’s disturbing violence at these shows. The general consensus is that people who choose to participate in a mosh pit and a wall of death should expect to get bloodied and some other type of physical injury. Crowd surfing can also be hazardous, especially for women, who are more at risk than men of being sexually groped and assaulted while crowd surfing.

But then in the documentary, concertgoers and artists pipe in with comments that even if people get physically hurt at these concerts, there are always other people who will help anyone who gets injured. Here’s an idea: How about just not hurting each other in the first place?

Although most people who go to hard rock/heavy metal concerts have a great time and don’t get physically injured, the movie has a bizarre and borderline irresponsible tone of glossing over the serious injuries that do occur. The violence is described as all in “good fun” and people just letting off steam when they go to these concerts. But maybe trying to justify and endorse this violence should be no surprise from a documentary whose subtitle is “Celebrate the Chaos.”

One of the best things about the documentary is the concert festival footage that effectively captures the positive aspects of the shows, such as the adrenaline and excitement of safely being in the audience of a big music festival. Some of the artists also talk about the rush that they get from being on stage, but it’s the type of commentary that artists have said countless times. This is not a movie about bands struggling in tiny clubs. The live concert experiences presented in the documentary are mostly about the spectacle of being at a festival that can attract at least 10,000 people per show.

As such, all of the artists interviewed in the documentary are those who are at the career level of performing at major festivals. The artists in the movie span a few generations, but most are artists who first hit it big in the 1980s, 1990s or early 2000s. They include Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich; Rob Zombie; Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello; Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell; Guns N’Roses bassist Duff McKagan, Body Count vocalist Ice-T; Zakk Wylde; Korn singer Jonathan Davis; Stone Temple Pilots members Robert DeLeo and Eric Kretz; Slipknot singer Corey Taylor; Avenged Sevenfold singer M. Shadows; Godsmack singer Sully Erna; Shinedown singer Brent Smith; Papa Roach singer Jacoby Shaddix; Myles Kennedy; Skillet spouses John Cooper and Korey Cooper; Live singer Ed Kowalczyk; Sevendust singer Lajon Witherspoon; Mastodon singer/drummer Brann Dailor; Steel Panther members Stix Zadinia and Michael Starr; and The Offspring members Dexter Holland and Noodles.

Younger musicians (those who released their first albums in the mid-to-late 2000s and 2010s) are also interviewed in the documentary. They include Machine Gun Kelly; Greta Van Fleet twins Josh Kiszka and Jake Kiszka; Halestorm members Lzzy Hale and Arejay Hale; Dorothy singer Dorothy Martin; Radkey; Beartooth singer Caleb Shomo; In This Moment singer Maria Brink; Fever 333 guitarist Stephen Harrison; The Pretty Reckless singer Taylor Momsen; Fire From the Gods singer AJ Channer; and Black Veil Brides singer Andy Biersack.

In addition, other people from the music industry weigh in with their comments. They include concert promoter Gary Spivack (one of the documentary’s producers), Spotify global head of rock Allison Hagendorf, record company executive Jason Flom, manager/producer Andy Gould, Halestorm manager Bill McGathy, artist manager Rick Sales, concert security staffer Seyth Boardman, artist manager/addiction counselor Jeff Jampol and MusiCares senior director Harold Owens. Media people who are interviewed include radio personalities Eddie Trunk, Matt Pinfield, Bob Lefsetz, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jose Mangin.

Republican politician John Kasich, the former Ohio governor and congressman who was a candidate in the 2000 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections, is one of the people interviewed. However, his time on screen is reduced to one soundbite. He comments, “Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, a liberal, or a conservative, when the music catches you, we’re all one.”

The documentary has no explanation for what Kasich is doing in this movie. Is he really a hard rock/heavy metal fan? And if so, who are his favorite artists? How does he feel about laws that affect the music industry? The documentary never bothers to ask and answer these questions. It’s an example of how this movie has substandard filmmaking. “Long Live Rock” helmer McHugh makes his feature-film directorial debut with this movie. Maybe a more experienced feature-film director would have done a better job.

There’s even an interview with a psychotherapist named Kevin Stolper, whose specialty is in treating adolescents. Stolper explains how hard rock/heavy metal appeals to people who want to have a youthful, party mentality. Hard rock/heavy metal fans, who often describe themselves as misfits when they were in school, find the fandom appealing because it’s a community where they feel like they belong.

Metallica drummer Ulrich describes heavy metal fandom this way: “All the disenfranchised feel like they belong to something that’s much bigger than themselves.” In fact, many of the comments in “Long Live Rock” are about how hard rock/heavy metal fandom is about this strong sense of community. The words “tribe,” “tribalism,” “community” and “finding your people” come up a lot when people in the documentary describe the main reasons why they love the music and going to concerts.

And many of the interviewees mention that even though hard rock/heavy metal isn’t as popular as it was in the 1980s, there’s an adoring appreciation for the music that gets handed down through generations. The die-hard fans admirably don’t care if the music is trendy or not. “I don’t listen to reviews. Anyone who says rock is dead is ‘out’ for me,” Guns N’Roses bassist McKagan comments, as he flicks his hand in a “tossing out” motion.

The stereotypical image of a hard rock/heavy metal fan is of a white male stoner, but the fandom is a lot more diverse than people might think. SiriusXM host Trunk comments: “I never liked the clichés and stereotypes that came with this music. People think you can pick out who is or isn’t into this music by how they look. Doctors, lawyers, brain surgeons love this music. The music is way wider-reaching than people give it credit for.”

The documentary includes segments about gender and racial diversity in hard rock/heavy metal. The general consensus is that although a male majority still exists in hard rock/heavy metal, the numbers of females who are musicians and fans have increased over the years, compared to how it was in the 20th century. New Year’s Day lead singer Ash Costello comments on female participation in the hard rock/heavy metal scene: “Females have always been there. Now, it’s more of an equality than a separation.”

However, the documentary completely ignores any #MeToo stories in hard rock/heavy metal. It’s as if the filmmakers don’t want to acknowledge hard rock/heavy metal’s reputation for glorifying toxic masculinity. If you were to believe this documentary, sexual abuse and sexual harassment don’t exist in hard rock/heavy metal. The closest that someone comes to describing gender discrimination is when Halestorm lead singer Lzzy Hale mentions that sometimes she meets people while on tour who assume that she’s a band member’s girlfriend instead of a member of the band.

Black people and other people of color are still very much a minority in hard rock/heavy metal. And although no one denies that racism exists, black artists such as Ice-T believe that most hard rock/metal fans don’t care what color an artist is if that artist has talent. However, he adds that there are still misconceptions some people might have about his heavy metal band Body Count, because the band members are black.

Ice-T says in the documentary: “When we got in trouble for [Body Count’s 1992 song] ‘Cop Killer,’ they called it a rap record, That was a racist way of saying it because they didn’t want to call it rock. Maybe [‘Cop Killer’] was a protest record.”

Fever 333 guitarist Harrison mentions that it isn’t just the subset of white racists who have a problem with black people being hard rock/heavy metal fans. He says that some black people have a hard time understanding why any black person would be a fan of hard rock/heavy metal. But on the plus side, Harrison thinks that most music fans have this belief about hard rock/heavy metal: “It isn’t a white thing. It’s for everyone.”

That belief might be true for most music fans. But, for whatever reason, the filmmakers of “Long Live Rock” only chose to feature white American fans in the documentary’s interview segments on people who love to go to hard rock/heavy metal concerts. The main diversity that they have is in their jobs. The documentary gives no mention of the loyal hard rock/heavy metal fandom that exists outside of North America, particularly in Europe, Japan and South America, where certain hard rock/heavy metal artists can headline shows at arenas and stadiums.

The interviewed fans include medical billing manager Andrea Rickord, a married mother of two children who were about 7 to 9 years old when she was interviewed for this documentary. Rickord (who’s from Springfield, Ohio) describes what going to concerts means to her: “It’s definitely like therapy.” And when she goes to a big festival, she calls it her “mom trip” that she enjoys for herself, because her kids and husband don’t have the same passion for hard rock/heavy metal that she does.

Ex-con Josh Guikey, his nurse wife Jami Guikey, and corrections officer Scott Prince (who met and befriended former burglar Josh Guikey when Josh was sent to prison) also talk about the therapeutic benefits of hard rock/heavy metal. Dental technician Sarah J. Kazan and dentist Dr. Gytis R. Udrys, who are a couple and co-workers, say that part of their initial attraction to each other was their mutual love of the same music. Dr. Udrys says he also likes going to hard rock/heavy metal concerts because he can let loose and not have the straight-laced image that’s required for his dentist job.

Justin “G” Griffin (an architect) and his wife Tiffany Griffin (an elementary school teacher) discuss his passion for building an online community for hard rock/heavy metal fans, going all the way back to the days when MySpace was the top social media platform. Tiffany says that she knew that she and Justin would be a good match for each other when he said that he had to listen to Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album (also known as “The Black Album”) every night before he went to sleep. One of their first dates was a Shinedown concert.

“Long Live Rock” gives a lot of screen time to the fans who consider themselves to be expert crowd surfers. They include crowd-surfing married couple Etienne Sabate and Michelle Sabate, who are shown going into a festival crowd while encased in giant plastic bubbles. Abby McCormick, a mother of two who lives in Georgia, is probably the most memorable fan in the documentary because she likes to crowd surf in her wheelchair. The documentary has plenty of clips showing her doing that.

McCormick lost her one of her legs in a motorcycle accident that killed her fiancé. She has a prosthetic leg, and she also likes to be in mosh pits at concerts. McCormick has a lively personality and she’s hilarious when she tells some of her stories, such has an experience she had when her prosthetic leg got ripped off while she was crowd surfing at a concert. The leg was eventually returned to her, with an unopened bottle of beer placed inside the leg. She also proudly says of crowd surfing in a wheelchair: “I’ve never been dropped.”

Although these fan anecdotes can be entertaining, “Long Live Rock” has such atrocious editing, that the fan segments sometimes abruptly appear in random moments throughout the film, resulting in clumsy tonal shifts. For example, toward the end of the documentary, the tone gets dark and depressing when it covers the topic of rock stars with alcoholism and drug addiction. The documentary then segues into discussing mental-health issues and the untimely, tragic deaths of Soundgarden/Audioslave singer Chris Cornell and Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, who died just two months apart in 2017. (Both of their deaths were ruled as suicides.) But then, after all this talk of addiction and death, the documentary cheerfully goes back to the crowd-surfing married couple to show them in their plastic bubbles. It’s an awkward editing transition, to say the least.

And the fan segments sometimes have unnecessary footage that shouldn’t have been in the documentary. For example, the documentary shows a fan named Jessie Shrewsburry, who is a rehab trauma nurse, going fishing in a creek because she says fishing, just like going to concerts, helps her reduce stress. Dr. Udrys is shown piloting a small plane in another scene. It’s meant to show that these fans have additional hobbies, but it’s an example of how the documentary has a tendency to lose focus by going in these off-topic tangents.

“Long Live Rock” should have had more behind-the-scenes stories from the musicians instead of mostly fluffy soundbites from them. Most of the artist interviews are reduced to short quips that don’t say anything new that they haven’t already talked about in other interviews over the years. For a documentary about hard rock/heavy metal fandom, it’s lacking in unique fan interaction stories from the artists’ perspectives.

For example, Rob Zombie says in the documentary, “I’ll be at something like Comic-Con. And the actors will be like, ‘Oh my God, this is insane with all these fans and having so much interaction!’ And I’m like, ‘This is every fucking day on the tour.”’

Zombie has said this before many times in other interviews, so this documentary should have had more insight into how Zombie interacts with fans or how he prepares for a show, to explain why the interaction is so “insane” on tour. Several people in the documentary praise how he blends horror movie concepts with his music. But that’s not news to anyone who knows anything about Zombie.

The closest that “Long Live Rock” comes to showing what it’s like to be a rock band on tour is when Skillet spouses John Cooper and Korey Cooper show the inside of their tour bus and talk about how their son and daughter go on tour with them. There’s also a brief segment with Halestorm doing a meet-and-greet session with fans at a music store, where Halestorm superfans Dave Rumohr and Lizzy Gravelle gush about how much they love the band and how lead singer Lzzy Hale inspires them.

Although “Long Live Rock” has interviews with some of the biggest stars in hard rock and heavy metal, there’s a shortage of perspectives from artists who are not from U.S.-based bands. How could there be a documentary about heavy metal without anything from the bands of the highly influential New Wave of British Heavy Metal? (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Def Leppard, for example.) It’s a glaring omission.

X Japan lead singer Yoshiki is the only musician interviewed in the documentary who’s from a band that’s not based in the United States. Five Finger Death Punch co-founder Zoltan Bathory, who is originally from Hungary, is also interviewed, but Five Finger Death Punch is primarily an American band, based in Las Vegas. Metallica drummer Ulrich is originally from Denmark, but he’s also in a U.S.-based band consisting primarily of Americans.

And this movie almost completely ignores the impact that non-American musicians have had on hard rock/heavy metal. A few people mention Black Sabbath’s influence, but that’s about it. No one mentions Led Zeppelin, the first superstar hard rock band to sell out arenas around the world. No one mentions AC/DC, Rush or Scorpions, who were breakthrough hard rock bands for Australia, Canada and Germany, respectively.

Maybe this documentary’s American bias is because “Long Live Rock” producer Spivack works for American concert promotion company Danny Wimmer Presents, which produces U.S. hard rock/heavy metal festivals that include Louder Than Life, Epicenter and Sonic Temple. But the simple fact is that you can’t do a credible documentary about hard rock/heavy metal fandom by not including fans and more musicians from other countries.

As the popularity of hard rock/metal declined after its peak in the 1980s, many bands were able to sustain themselves because of their fandom outside of the United States. The band joke “We’re big in Japan” is rooted in hard rock/heavy metal bands’ real-life experiences of making a huge chunk of their income outside the United States. And whenever hard rock/heavy metal artists talk about which places in the world are their favorites to perform, there will be mention of places in and outside the U.S.

Although well-intentioned, “Long Live Rock” missed an opportunity to be a revealing documentary that shows how artists’ interactions with fans are the necessary fuel that keeps the fire of hard rock/heavy metal burning at a time when this genre of music has been declared “dead” but is still very much alive. And by “artist interactions,” that doesn’t just mean showing the artists saying a few words on stage to the audience. People can see concert footage for free on the Internet.

There’s a whole other level of promotion and marketing that a lot of these artists have to do, especially when they’re not played on mainstream commercial radio. The Internet and social media are barely mentioned in this movie. “Long Live Rock” had a documentary concept that needed to go beyond what’s seen on stage and give more personal and interesting stories about artist experiences with fans while on tour, not just in the U.S. but also in other parts of the world.

The filmmakers had the right idea to include the perspectives of fans, but this idea was executed sloppily. There’s tailgate concert footage in other films that’s more interesting than a lot of the fan footage that’s in “Long Live Rock.” (See the 1986 documentary “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.”) Unfortunately, what viewers get in “Long Live Rock” is a jumbled mishmash of an electronic press kit for concert festivals, rehashed comments from artists, and fan interviews that talk more about crowd surfing and moshing than what they saw on stage.

Abramorama released “Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos” in U.S. virtual cinemas on March 12, 2021. Amazon Prime Video’s Coda Collection (a spinoff subscription available to Amazon Prime members at an additional cost) will premiere the movie on May 1, 2021. The movie’s VOD premiere date is June 1, 2021.

Review: ‘Big Time Adolescence,’ starring Pete Davidson

March 13, 2020

by Carla Hay

Griffin Gluck and Pete Davidson in “Big Time Adolescence” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

“Big Time Adolescence”

Directed by Jason Orley

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. suburban city, the comedy/drama “Big Time Adolescence” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A high-school student’s close friendship with an older guy who’s a stoner ends up being problematic for the student.

Culture Audience: “Big Time Adolescence” will appeal primarily to people who like male-centric coming-of-age stories or stories about young people partying.

Pete Davidson and Griffin Gluck in “Big Time Adolescence” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

“Big Time Adolescence” is just another way of saying “Overgrown Man-Boy,” which is the typecast persona that “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson has cultivated for himself so far in his entertainment career. It’s exactly this type of person that Davidson plays in this comedy/drama, where his Zeke character is an irresponsible stoner in his early 20s who’s a bad influence on high-school student Monroe “Mo” Harris (played by Griffin Gluck), who is Zeke’s best friend.

Viewers know this from the beginning of the story, which shows in the opening scene that Mo is getting taken out of his classroom by a police officer. And Mo says in a voiceover that it’s Zeke’s fault that Mo got into this mess. What exactly is the mess that has gotten Mo in trouble with the law?

Most of the rest of the movie shows what happened that led up to this moment. In a flashback to six years earlier, Mo became friends with Zeke when Mo was about 10 years old and Zeke was about 16. At the time, Zeke was dating Mo’s sister Kate (played by Emily Arlook), who eventually broke up with Zeke because she suspected that he was cheating on her. The night that they broke up, Mo asked Zeke if he and Zeke could still be friends. At first, Zeke doesn’t think it’s good idea, but Mo insists and Zeke relents, and off they ride in Zeke’s car.

Over the next six years, Mo and Zeke have become close enough that they consider each other to be “best friends” and have what might be considered something like an older brother/younger brother relationship. Now 16 years old, Mo hasn’t made any real friends in high school. His social life revolves around hanging out with Zeke and Zeke’s fellow dimwitted stoner friends, which include Danny (played by Omar Shariff Brunson Jr.) and Nick (played by Colson Baker, also known as rapper Machine Gun Kelly).

Mo isn’t a complete loner at school. He’s on the baseball team, but he does not excel there. He’s not good enough to be frequently chosen for playing on the field during games, and it adds to his insecurities. Mo wants to quit the team, but his supportive parents Reuben and Sherri (played by Jon Cryer and Julia Murney) urge him to not give up.

Zeke goes to watch Mo at baseball practice, where he sits far away from Reuben and Sherri and is shown to be the loudest and most irritating spectator on the benches. Instead of giving Mo tips to improve his baseball playing, Zeke encourages Mo to not take a swing when he’s at bat and instead take the lazier option of base on balls (also known as a walk) to get to first base.

Zeke has his own house that he inherited from his late grandmother. It’s party central at the home, but somehow, up until a certain point in the story, Mo has managed to never get stoned, although he does partake in underage drinking when he’s with Zeke. Even though it’s entirely believable that Mo declined to smoke marijuana while being Zeke’s friend, what’s harder to believe is that Mo never got a contact high from all the years of partying with Zeke and his friends.

The movie shows Mo’s first “contact high” with Zeke much later in the story, when a stoner friend from Zeke’s murky past just happens to see Zeke and Mo while they’re out driving in Zeke’s car.  Zeke’s long-lost pal wants to catch up and get high for old time’s sake and makes Zeke close all the car windows while they smoke blunts.

Even though Mo spends a lot of time with hard-partying Zeke, Mo is very sheltered when it comes to dating. It’s revealed in the movie that not only is he a virgin, but he’s also never been on a date or kissed or girl. Considering the kind of person Zeke is and how he pushes Mo so hard to be a reckless partier, it’s kind of unrealistic that Mo didn’t get involved in drugs sooner. We’re supposed to believe that during the relatively short period of time that this movie takes place (about a month or two), Mo’s life suddenly took a downward spiral because of Zeke.

What flipped this switch? For starters, Mo got his driver’s license, which allows him to have more freedom. The other thing that happens is that Mo unexpectedly gets a chance to hang out with some of the “cool” older kids in school. But there’s a catch.

He’s invited to his first high-school house party by a fellow nerd named Will, who goes by the nickname Stacy (played by Thomas Barbusca). Stacy says that he was invited to the party because Stacy promised the older kids that he would bring alcohol, but Stacy doesn’t know how to get alcohol and he needs Mo to get the alcohol through Zeke. In return, Mo will get to go to the party as Stacy’s guest.

When Mo tells Zeke about the party, Zeke immediately sees it as an opportunity to sell some of his marijuana and make a profit. He tells Mo that Mo has to be the one to sell the weed at the party because Mo is underage and the legal consequences won’t be as severe if he gets caught. Mo is extremely reluctant, but since he idolizes Zeke, Mo is convinced to do it. As part of the deal, Zeke says that he will split the profits with Mo.

Things go much better at the party than Mo expected. Not only was he instantly accepted because he brought alcohol and marijuana, but he also got to connect at the party with a fellow student named Sophie (played by Oona Laurence), who’s been a secret crush of his from afar. Sophie is smart with a sarcastic sense of humor. She finds Mo’s awkwardness endearing, even though she’s trying to hide some of her awkwardness too.

Mo felt so good about his first party experience with his high-school peers that he jumps at the chance when he’s invited to another house party soon afterward. At the first party, he and Zeke made a tidy profit from the drug sales, so Zeke wants Mo to keep selling marijuana at these parties. Zeke has even quit his job as a sales clerk at an appliance store because he figures that he can make enough money by overcharging high school students for drug sales, so he doesn’t have to work.

Zeke literally tells Mo all of this, but naïve Mo still acts surprised that Zeke doesn’t want a job and would rather sit back and let Mo do all the dirty work in the drug deals while Zeke reaps the monetary benefits. Mo protests and says his drug dealing at the party was just a “one-time thing.” But once again, Mo gives in to whatever Zeke wants because Mo is desperate to look “cool.”

That desperation is reinforced when an attractive older girl approaches Mo at school and asks him if he can score her some molly, which she wants him to bring to the next house party. Feeling buoyed by this attention, Mo says yes and asks Zeke for help to get some molly. Of course, Zeke has the molly that Mo requests, along with a stash of other drugs that are randomly lying around his house.

Reuben and Sherri sense that Zeke isn’t a very good influence on Mo, but they still let Mo hang out with Zeke because Mo seems to be doing well-enough in his school academics and they don’t want Mo to resent them for being too restrictive. Reuben is more suspicious of Zeke than Sherri is. In a private moment alone with Zeke, Reuben even gives Zeke same cash to keep Mo out of trouble. Zeke takes the money. But then, like the smarmy person that he is, he asks Reuben for a raise. Reuben just has to shake his head and walk away.

Meanwhile, Mo starts a budding romance with Sophie. She’s his first date and first kiss. But once again, Zeke interferes by advising Mo to play hard to get after a while, in order to manipulate Sophie to like Mo even more. Zeke has a girlfriend named Holly (played by Sydney Sweeney), who is nice to Mo and very tolerant of Zeke’s childish ways. Holly parties with Zeke and his friends, but she also does things like cook for Zeke and make his house more domestic.

Unbeknownst to Mo and Holly, Zeke is still in love with Mo’s sister Kate, who is planning to go to law school. Zeke and Kate have a parking-lot hookup in Zeke’s car, but it’s an encounter that she immediately regrets and tells Zeke that it won’t happen again. She has also moved on to a responsible live-in boyfriend named Doug (played by Esteban Benito), who is the type of ambitious art-collecting yuppie that Zeke despises but secretly envies.

We know that Zeke is insecure about not measuring up to someone like Doug because not long after meeting Doug (when Mo convinces Zeke to drive him over to Kate and Doug’s place), Zeke and Mo go to an art museum (it was Zeke’s idea of course), where Zeke tells Mo that he can appreciate art too. But viewers see how unsophisticated Zeke is when he foolishly thinks he can buy one of the paintings on display and offers a museum employee cash on the spot. (Whatever amount he offered was also obviously laughable.) Zeke has to settle for buying an oversized print at the museum gift shop instead.

The movie doesn’t really show what kind of academic student Mo is, but it’s implied that he’s probably good enough to consider going to college. However, Mo is definitely not “street smart.” He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that his new “social status” at school is very superficial because it’s about people using him to get drugs.

Mo’s relationship with Zeke is a little more complicated because of the big brother/little brother relationship they’ve had over the years. As Mo says about Zeke near the beginning of the film, “He was the man and he made me feel like the man.” But this type of co-dependence has now turned dark, as Mo gets more involved in dealing drugs to fellow students. The movie doesn’t let Mo off the hook so easily by portraying him as a completely innocent child corrupted by an adult, because despite Zeke’s influence, Mo still knew right from wrong and had a choice to do what he did.

As Kate tells Mo, it’s weird that Zeke wants to be best friends with a teenager, and it’s only because Mo makes Zeke feel cool. But to the rest of the world, Zeke isn’t cool. Mo ignores Kate’s warnings about Zeke. But there are signs that Mo knows she’s right, such as when Mo mentions to Zeke that he’s thinking of introducing Sophie to Zeke, but Mo asks Zeke to not make the moment into “The Zeke Show.”

Davidson has made a career of being an often-obnoxious, immature guy who’s not as funny as he thinks he is. Zeke is that kind of person too, so if you’re not a fan of Davidson, his Zeke character is going to wear very thin because it just seems like Davidson is playing a version of himself for the entire movie.

“Big Time Adolescence” is the first feature film from writer/director Jason Orley, who also directed Davidson’s “Alive From New York” Netflix comedy special. If Orley and Davidson continue to work together, it’ll be interesting to see if they can do something different from the same “man-child” shtick that Davidson has been stuck on repeat in doing. The Zeke character is almost a caricature because there’s no real depth to him, and the movie tells almost nothing about his background.

Because the movie revealed from the beginning that Mo gets arrested, there’s not much suspense to “Big Time Adolescence.” And it’s certainly not an original idea to do a movie about teenagers and young adults who like to party. But what saves this movie from complete mediocrity is Gluck’s authentic and sometimes emotionally touching performance as Mo, because Mo (not Zeke) is ultimately the one who grows up and is the character in the movie that audiences will care about the most.

Hulu released “Big Time Adolescence” in select U.S. cinemas and began streaming the movie on March 13, 2020. The streaming premiere date was moved up from March 20, 2020.