So What! Article

At The (Home) Movies With Lars Ulrich

Apr 16, 2020

While adhering to shelter-in-place, Lars is enjoying a lot of movies with the family. However, unlike most of us, Lars is not just a watcher of cinema, he’s a student! Steffan Chirazi thought it was time to get a gauge on how Ulrichian movie nights are going, and what they’ve been comprised of.

“We have been taking breaks to participate in the ‘Formal Friday’ thing Jimmy Kimmel introduced. For those who don’t know, this is where you get dressed up and have a dinner party at home…” Lars pauses, “we’re not exactly getting fancy or anything, just putting on proper clothes and getting out of our jammies. We’ve been spending a lot of time in our jammies!” Lars chuckles, I nod and we conclude that this likely encapsulates a large swathe of the global population right now (at the very least, many Metallica fans surely!) and a brief discussion ensues as to how many pairs of PJs you need to have on hand to avoid hammering the washing machine every day.

This, however, is not why we’re talking.

We’re talking because I want to know exactly how Lars, Jess, and his two eldest, Myles and Layne, have been going about their movie viewing in shelter. As we’ve established, this is not a family who takes such matters lightly, and as such, I figured at the very least we (meaning you and I) would get some cool tips and ideas to supplement our own viewing habits. It turns out that each night, one of the family chooses a film and “screens” it (no-one can block anyone else’s choice) with discussion, opinions, and research all on the post-viewing agenda. I have to say, it sounds like fun, so let’s get to the movie chinwag (ha!) shall we?

Steffan Chirazi: So what was your first choice/first film screened.

Lars Ulrich: The first one I showed was Midnight Express.

SC: A nice cheerful moment.

LU: Yes, nice cheerful film. It was the first movie that I really connected to in an obsessive way back when I was, I guess, around 15 or 16. I saw it probably at least three or four times in the theater in the first two weeks. I bought the soundtrack on vinyl and I bought the book that it was based on. I’d been seeing movies with my mom and I’d been seeing movies with my friends, but that was more for entertainment, or for escapism, like just a fun play date kinda thing. But this movie had an impact on me. I had never seen anything quite like it, not just the story itself but also in the realism that was portrayed. It was really impactful. I’ve come back to see that movie over and over again, and it just seemed fitting to show the boys.

SC: What was their reaction? I think there’s two scenes you think of with this one, when he actually gets pulled at the airport, because you know that it’s not going to end well, and then the beating of the soles of the feet is hard. And that horrendous fat jailor! Were there key scenes that got a reaction from the boys?

LU: Not especially, I mean it’s just got a realism to it, and violence, punishment, beatings, all these types of things have different emotional impacts depending on how you connect to the characters. We all agreed that there’s something about the realism in this film, it’s not like a Robert Rodriguez film, where the violence is super exaggerated and almost cartoony, where it’s more for laughs, or you connect to it in a humorous way because it’s so exaggerated. You know, this is kind of the opposite of that. It’s just so realistic, and because you really have this connection to the characters, it hurts when they get beat up; they get beat up, you get beat up. You take beatings with the characters.

For me, whether it’s music, whether it’s film, whether it’s art, painting, whatever, the joy of reconnecting to something that’s had an impact on you is always a great, pleasurable thing. But I would always have an asterisk in that there’s a 10% fear that when you reconnect with something, whatever it is: a piece of music, a film, a painting, [that maybe] it hasn’t aged well, or that you’ve drifted to a different headspace where you have maybe a lesser sense of appreciation for that particular piece of work. So I think that when you go back down these rabbit holes of experiences that have been very, very impactful through your life’s journey, then that’s an additional part of the ride that’s very cool.

I don’t think, off the top of my head, other than late night, 3:00 am scrolling through the cable channels to fall asleep occasionally, I’ve watched that movie in say, twenty, maybe thirty years. You know, I mean sat down to watch it. And when you sit down and watch it with an audience or another group, the mood of the room is obviously also a part of the experience. The short answer to your question is that this movie certainly holds up.

[For each screening] we sit around afterwards and talk about it, IMDB the trivia, look at the goofs, or we’ll check out the soundtrack. With Midnight Express, we were listening to the Giorgio Moroder soundtrack for the next three or four days around the house. Obviously, Giorgio Moroder was a very well-known composer, writer, and electronic music producer; he did the music for Scarface and had a bunch of big hits with Donna Summer…

SC: The Cat People soundtrack.

LU: And the good news is that it’s aged very, very well!

SC: Did everyone agree with you?

LU: Well, obviously they hadn’t seen it before, so they don’t have the history with it…

SC: No, but did they agree with you that it was an impactful film?

LU: They thought the movie was very, very potent, very impactful, and very raw.

SC: So essentially a timeless film, because if they’ve seen it for the first time and are getting the same hit off it, that probably elevates it into the category of being timeless. It’s not in any way dated.

LU: Yeah, I mean first of all, obviously the boys are older than I was when I first saw it, and obviously culture is at a different place. Thirty or forty years ago, when you would see a movie, you would obviously not be bombarded with it in the way that you are now. Literally the only connection you had to that movie was in the movie theater itself. And then I needed to feel a part of that experience, so I went to the record store and bought the album. I went into the American bookstore in Copenhagen, and I don’t know if they had the book, but they ordered the book. It wasn’t like you could just go onto the movie’s website, or go on the Instagram page, or IMDB and see what all the actors were up to. It was much more of a long-distance relationship you had with these things that really turned you on.

SC: Let’s talk about what Jess chose.

LU: Jess showed Y Tu Mamá También.

SC: Ah yes, there we go. Yes!

LU: Which obviously I also hadn’t seen since it came out, and it still played incredibly well. You just connect to these two adolescent characters instantly, and their energy and their charm and it took me… let’s see how I say this? Of the three Mexican filmmakers who all broke at the same time – Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Cuarón – they obviously made all these great films together, and I don’t sit there with, “Which director did what?” loaded up at all times. So as I was sitting watching it, I found myself at one point going, “Wow, there’s a sequence in it that is a lot like Roma. And then I realized it was the same guy who did Roma 20 years later. I hadn’t made that connection because I just remember Y Tu Mamá También as this incredibly energetic film about youth and coming of age from 20 years ago, or whatever it was. So it was just great. Very, very graphic. I didn’t remember how graphic it is. It’s almost pornographic in places, but it never feels dirty or it never feels gratuitous. It just feels like part of the storytelling.

SC: Taking your house’s motivation to motivate around here, one that I’m probably gonna check out again is Amores Perros, which I remember loving.

LU: That’s on our list here for the next couple weeks, absolutely!

SC: All right, moving on to another member of the family, what did Myles show?

LU: Myles picked the Jean-Luc Godard film Breathless. He hadn’t seen it before. So we watched a Godard film, which obviously is very, very influential. It was made in 1960, so I think when you see something like Breathless, you have to try to imagine what the world was like in 1960 and the kind of movies that were coming out primarily of Hollywood, which were these big westerns and big dramatic American gangster films. Seeing something like Godard, which was almost voyeuristic, it feels like you’re almost a fly on the wall to these characters, and Paris film obviously had a very different, opposite energy to the big, polished American movies. This was a little voyeuristic, a little do-it-yourself. It almost felt like it was a little bit of a – I don’t know if piss-take is the right phrase – but felt like it was kind of an anti-Hollywood approach.

SC: Very cool. And how about Layne? What did he pick?

LU: Layne picked Sling Blade. It’s aged really well. I mean, what an incredible film! Just the fact that Billy Bob [Thornton] wrote it, directed it, and starred in it! I mean, the first thing we did was look to see who put in a better Academy Award performance than that for that year, because he was incredible. But what a great film, a very tight, small film, and with Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh – Jim Jarmusch shows up unexpectedly, Robert Duvall too. And it’s beautiful story with such great heart. The relationship between Billy Bob Thornton’s character and the kid is so pure, incredible. It’s a very simple story, but the way they execute it, I mean you just connect to it. I don’t think I’d seen it since it came out, and I couldn’t remember most of it, but there was one place where it was like, “Oh, no, I know what’s gonna happen?” And then what I thought was gonna happen, didn’t happen and I was really happy about that because it showed its unique approach.

SC: Interesting as well to consider that along with Rain Man and Forrest Gump, Sling Blade was one of the first modern era films to really make disability-illness- film material?

LU: To be honest with you, when we watched this movie, we never talked about Rain Man or Forrest Gump. We never made that connection.

I guess you could argue that obviously there’s a conceptual connection between the three of them, but Sling Blade is a really, really intimate movie. And I don’t think when you think Forrest Gump, the word intimacy comes to mind. I mean, Forrest Gump covers what, 30 years of world history? To me, Forrest Gump’s brilliance is the way that it brings in these world events for 20 or 30 years and cycles them through the story line without it ever seeming forced, contrived or overly clever. But in terms of its plot scope, Forrest Gump is like Lawrence of Arabia compared to Sling Blade.

SC: Indeed. Let’s close out with one more that you’ve chosen.

LU: One of Thomas Vinterberg’s films called Submarino, which is one of the darkest films you’ll ever see. Denmark’s the happiest country in the world, as you know, and there’s a lot of good times and so on. Obviously, all countries have a relative dark side, and this film captures the dark side of Denmark at its fullest. It’s one of the movies- he didn’t write it himself, he adapted it from a story, but it’s very, very bleak. There are a couple of scenes in there that are almost unwatchable in how depressing they are that involve children and heroin. I mean it’s pretty crazy shit, and again it’s also done in the subtext of the Danish welfare state, and it’s an interesting “other side” to the side of Denmark that we most celebrate. This is one of the darkest films I’ve ever seen in my life, and when I mean dark obviously, I don’t mean horror films. I mean it’s just a really intense subject. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but I would encourage everybody to see it.

SC: Very good. And let’s try and leave on a lighter note. I mean, have you picked a comedy or anything lighthearted?

LU: Well, the boys had not seen Booksmart, so we showed them Booksmart, which is I think in the tradition of Fast Times…, any of the John Hughes films, or any of these coming of age films like Superbad. This is about as good as it gets in that area in terms of the filmmaking, it’s very, very cleverly written, and Olivia Wilde did an incredible job directing it. So there you go…

As expected, a few cinematic gems to sink your teeth into, and rest assured, I’ll be pushing Lars for more reviews as the spring marches on.