Celebrating The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch On Film

In light of today’s heartbreaking news about Beastie Boys frontman Adam Yauch, I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the group’s lasting contributions to cinema here on MTV Movies Blog. Whether you know it or not, the Beastie Boys — and Yauch in particular — have deep roots in the world of film. I’ll always think of them most fondly for the album “Licensed to Ill,” one of the first cassette tapes I ever owned, but it’s hard to deny the impact the Beastie Boys’ presence have had on Hollywood.

For starters, the group’s music has been featured on the soundtracks of a varied assortment of movies, including “Pump Up the Volume,” “The Jerky Boys,” “Above the Rim,” “Kids,” “La haine,” hip hop DJ documentary “Scratch” and, most recently, J.J. Abrams’ summer ’09 reboot of “Star Trek.” Their hit song “Sabotage,” off of the album “Ill Communication,” was also featured in the video game “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” and was famously covered by the recently reunited jam-rock quartet Phish.

Of course, when the single for “Sabotage” first dropped in 1994 it was accompanied by an incredible video directed by none other than Spike Jonze, long before he found success with the likes of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” The video is an opening credits-styled homage to 70s police TV series, along the lines of “Starsky & Hutch.” Check it out:

“Sabotage,” which played extensively on MTV at the time of its release, became a centerpiece of sorts for a Beastie Boys video anthology released in 2000. The collection — released as a two-disc set under the illustrious Criterion Collection label — includes 18 videos with multiple viewing angles, an interview with the “cast” of “Sabotage,” more than 40 remixes of Beastie tunes and a whole lot more. Of course, this collection and the movie ties that precede it is just the start of Yauch’s associations with Hollywood.

In 2006, Yauch produced and directed the Beasties-centric documentary “Awesome: I F–kin’ Shot That!” In a rather ambitious move, 50 audience members at a 2004 Madison Square Garden Beastie Boys performance were given handheld video cameras and asked to just keep them rolling throughout the show.

Yauch, billed for the flick as Nathaniel Hornblower, and his crew cut together the recordings as a sort of video collage, re-creating the experience of being at the sold out show for fans at home. Interestingly, “Hornblower” appears in a DVD extra mock profile being played by comedian David Cross.

Two years later, Yauch again took on the producer/director role for the street basketball documentary “Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot.” Built around a 2006 competition, “Gunnin'” follows eight high school basketball players (out of 24) as they compete in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at Harlem’s historic Rucker Park. Yauch clearly knew what he was doing; out of his group of eight fast-rising young superstars, six of them are now enjoying careers in the NBA.

“Gunnin'” also marked the first effort under Yauch’s Oscilloscope Laboratories production shingle. Oscilloscope has put out a number of offbeat works, including “Flow,” “Wendy & Lucy” and “Burma VJ.” The company also made headlines recently, securing a digital distribution deal with Warner Bros. and picking up environmental docu-comedy “No Impact Man” and Sundance ’09 darling “The Messenger.”

I saw the latter film, which stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as American soldiers tasked with delivering death notices during the Iraq War. It’s a downer to be sure, but a well-crafted one. I’m excited to see what Oscilloscope does with it and, more importantly, what it does for Oscilloscope.

Make no mistake, this is no kind of Adam Yauch remembrance. The doctors say that his condition is an eminently treatable one. I’m just here to point out that Yauch doesn’t need to be gunnin’ for a #1 spot of his own anymore; he’s already there, and has been for some time.

What is your favorite Yauch effort in the film world? Which Beastie Boys videos are your favorites? “All of them” is an acceptable answer.