Wednesday, November 13, 2013

12-12-12: the Sandy Aid Concert

People do not realize the swath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy was so wide, encompassing most of the Tri-State Area and a good chunk of New England, it made flight impractical.  Where were you going to go? Ohio?  As a result, most New Yorkers sat tight and made the best of things.  Many were wiped out and the rebuilding continues to this day.  The Robin Hood Foundation was one of many non-profits that rushed to assist those in need.  To support their efforts, Cablevision-Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan, Clear Channel’s John Sykes, and the always quotable Harvey Weinstein organized a benefit concert at the Garden, featuring some of the biggest (and as many can’t help observing, oldest) acts in rock & roll.  Amir Bar-Lev, with co-director-co-producer Charlie Lightening, documents both the on-stage attractions and the backstage bedlam in 12-12-12 (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Not to be confused with the little seen horror film with the same title, 12-12-12 starts a few days before December 12, 2012, as the power trio scramble to nail down the concert details.  Once again, Sir Paul McCartney is the concert’s lynch pin, as he was for the Concert for New York six weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  Once the elder statesman Beatle signed on, some of rock’s biggest names followed, including The Who, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, the divisive Roger Waters with Pink Floyd, and Billy Joel, an alumnus of the 2001 benefit, who also featured McCartney as a special guest at his send-off concert for the fondly remembered Shea Stadium.

12-12-12 mostly features songs that roughly sort of fit the evening’s themes, like “Living on a Prayer” and “Miami 2017” (the one that goes “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway”), but sometimes it just makes do with greatest hits.  As a follow-up to Bar-Lev’s fantastic music doc Re:Generation Music Project, 12-12-12 is a considerably more commercial, but ironically less interesting subject.  Essentially, it is a clips package, but Bar-Lev still has a shrewd eye behind-the-scenes action.  When the concert’s website goes Sebelius on them, it is rather amusing listening to Weinstein and Dolan try to bullying poor tech support folks into fixing it.  Likewise, it is rather telling to see Jesse Jackson glad-handing any celebrity who will talk to him.

Shockingly, Charlie Watts now looks like the youngest member of the Stones—and he still lays down a solid beat, God bless him.  $50 million was raised for Sandy relief, which definitely helped a lot of people.  Overall, it is a nice film, if not particularly deep, with only an occasional snippet of global warming soap-boxing here and there.  The Robin Hood Foundation is still accepting donations for Sandy Aid, but frankly, this is the time for New Yorkers to come together to support the typhoon survivors in the Philippines, a nation we have a long, close history with that has an accomplished film industry and a better jazz scene than you would expect.  You can donate to the Red Cross relief efforts here.  Recommended for mainstream rock fans, 12-12-12 opens this Friday in New York at the Angelika Film Center.