I want to type quickly so I can preserve this feeling and look back on what a profound experience I just had so you’ll forgive the run on sentences and comma splices and such and stuff. August Rush came out in October 2007, almost ten years ago. I remember when it came out. I didn’t see it, but a close friend of mine did and sent me a song with wild acoustic guitar harmonics which I loved. Tonight, March 2nd, 2017 I did see it. I had recorded it on my DVR and my mom and I decided to watch it. Thank the stars.
When I say watching August Rush was a transformative experience for me, I’m not being hyperbolic. I may be caught in some post-movie hype, but no amount of post-movie hype has ever led me to make the statements I’m about to make. August Rush is not only hands down, easily, far and away the best movie I have ever seen, watching it was one of the best experiences of my life. That may sound sad, but if it sounds sad, then I’m sorry but that’s not a slight on my life experience, that’s more saying that you don’t know what it’s like to be this inspired by something. August Rush may be the first movie I have ever felt, not just seen and heard. It started with the very first scene and it never went a way: a profound connection to everything that was going on on screen and everything I was hearing from the surround sound speakers.
It is a movie that has not only transformed the way I view cinema with a single watching, but has also profoundly transformed the way I view my biggest passion, music. To turn away what this movie has to teach would be the biggest act of arrogance I could commit. To think that I can’t learn from a critically panned, decade old sap story would be ignorant and it would cost my dearly in the way I approach music. Until this day, I counted three pieces among the things that have had a transformative effect on the way I see, hear, play, and think about music: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance, De Stijl by The White Stripes, and Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church (the documentary of his performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival). Each of these taught me something unique at different points in my life. Danger Days taught me that there are many ways music can tell stories; that powerful, awe-inspiring music doesn’t have to be dark and doesn’t even have to be heavy; and most of all that there are so many ways that you can put hope into a song. De Stijl was one of the first albums I heard, and taught me better than anything I have heard to date that instruments aren’t just for technical virtuosity or to fill sonic holes in songs, in the hands of the right artist, they’re vehicles for expressing emotion in a way that almost nothing else can match. Electric Church taught me that music isn’t just what you hear, it’s also the ineffable charisma and ability to transform the lives of people listening, even if only for one set, even if only for one song; it taught me that when music is done right, it is truth in its purest form, and it doesn’t need lyrics to be that truth, music does it all on its own. And now, I place August Rush proudly among those three transformative experiences for teaching me at a time when music has never been more complicated to me with the addition of recording, editing, mixing, and producing, that you can never allow yourself to forget how beautifully simple music is; that music is all around us, we just have to choose to listen; and that while music has infinate complexity and nuance to it, at its core, it’s what flows out of us when we create and there’s no need to complicate it beyond what flows out of us; that music is as much of a feeling as it is something you hear.
Simply put, this movie was perfect. It was perfect for me at the perfect time for me to watch it. This is what cinematic perfection looks, sounds, and feels like to me. Maybe not to you, and that’s fine, we’re all inspired by different things, but to me, nothing could be more perfect than this film. It seems laughable to me to point out any potential plot holes, not because there aren’t any, but because in the face of something so profoundly beautiful, why would it matter? The term “suspension of disbelief” is a great way to illustrate how perfect this movie is. For most movies you suspend your disbelief to a point, and if they cross that point, that’s when you’re in the theater whispering to your friend in a midnight showing, “wait so we’re supposed to believe that not only did he just happen to get thrown in a cell with some kind of magical chiropractor who fixed his broken back, like that was a thing, is spine snapped, we saw it; but we’re also supposed to believe that he wouldn’t either die or at the very least re-aggravate his previously broken back when he fell thirty feet and stopped immediately with a rope tied around his waist? How is he not dead?” You know the movie I’m talking about. Yeah. He should’ve been dead like 10 times in that movie and he ends up in fucking Paris? Bull shit. So that’s what happens when movie makers take for granted our suspension of disbelief. It’s not something you can force the audience into. Yet somehow, from the second I started watching August Rush, it kind of forced me to suspend my disbelief. It didn’t do this in a janky way like a lot of Superhero movies do, it did it through raw emotion, acting, music, powerful performance after powerful performance, identifiable character after identifiable character, so that as I said, picking out plot points to say “well that would never happen” seems so silly and petty. Like if someone ever tells me [do i still say spoiler alert if it’s been almost a decade?] “okay but it’s a little ridiculous that he actually finds his parents… like all of those things just happen to go perfectly?” I wouldn’t even be offended because I’d understand that they don’t view the movie the way I do. The movie starts out with the premise of music being the guiding force of the universe and having intrinsically magical qualities. If you don’t buy into that, then yeah it’s gonna seem hokey. If you do, though, and if you feel that premise in a very real way, then there is not a movie out there that will measure up to this one.
It’s been almost an hour since I finished it and I still have chills. I still feel that same feeling I felt Christmas day 2010 as I walked through light snowfall in below freezing temperatures near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, listening to Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys for the very first time. That feeling from deep in my stomach to way up top in my head that something magical is happening, something life-changing is happening. In 2010 it led me to start outlining a trilogy of novels of which to date I’ve written two totaling around 300 (8.5 x 11) pages of, but that wasn’t what was life-changing. In fact those novels will likely never see the light of day. What was of lasting importance from that feeling was not only a new perspective on music, but a glimmer of hope during a pretty severe depression, hope that would eventually get me through my last year of high school and on to college. I’m not gonna be foolish and guess what this feeling will lead to, if anything. I’m already working on an album and I imagine this will have some impact on that, but really it could be anything. That’s the thing about these experiences: they can impact any part of your life, just like music, and just like music, all you have to do is listen.