Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yeah, I know, it's been a long time. Life likes to throw you a curveball every once in a while . I've had 'em in spades of late: illness, work hassles, family problems and the kinds of stresses which add up into one big month-long headache. I'll be back for real soon... when I really feel like writing about music. I would like to add, however, before I go, that I did indeed witness that movie above, and, in the words of my buddy Michael Row, it was like swallowing a shit sandwich. I'm giving it 3/10. A friend who lent it to me - a man of taste, mind you - warned me that it was like a telemovie, but still "pretty good, for what it is", so my expectations weren't great, but, as I noted to him, my interest in the subject - CLASSIC EARLY LA PUNK ROCK (is there a greater genre of sound??) - was so strong I didn't give a flying fugg if they rooted it up royally: I still wanted to see it. And that I did. And I never want to see it again. WWDIS got it all wrong: the costumes (everyone ironed and cleaned their clothes daily at the Masque? Really?), the wigs (the guy playing Don Bolles looks like Nigel Tufnel! And what was w/ Pat Smear's 'fro? IT WAS NOT THAT BIG! Jesus, they have him looking like an extra from Superfly. Any casual glance at a photo from their last gig at the Starwood would have one notice that Smear had cropped his hair to a buzzcut by then: not so here), the acting (not for a second is anyone in the movie convincing as the person they're playing, though I actually lay the blame more on the script and sets as opposed to any particularly awful displays of thespianism), the narrative flow of the film (there is none; it's a series of ticks in boxes: 1) Darby was obsessed w/ Bowie: tick; 2) Joan Jett produced their album: tick; 3) Darby was very likely gay: tick; etc.) and the sense of excitement that was palpable around the Germs and their cohorts back in the day. In short, there is no such excitement in WWDIS. This film fails the one basic test that a music biopic should match: if you'd never heard of the artist before,would it make you want to know more, to hear more of their music? I'd say very likely not. Hell, I saw Ray on a long plane flight when it came out, and even that load of middle-brow fluff had me browsing Ray Charles CDs by week's end! You get a few short scenes of Darby crawling around on stage mewling like a sick cat - really pretty well-crafted scenes; I mean, that's what he did a lot of the time - but never do you sense that they were actually an amazing rock band and, probably by accident more than by design, heralders of a major cultural shift in American independent music: the birth of suburban punk. A real teenage-style American punk rock band who combined all the trash 'n' hype of Iggy/Bowie/Runaways/malls/'ludes and mixed it up with a proto-HC aesthetic, made an excellent album and, had they not imploded, could've taken it much further. The only band who succeeded at that game was Black Flag, but that's a different story and they were, in many ways, a very different type of suburban band. Director Rodger Grossman spent 10 years on WWDIS, and whilst I know it must be terrible to spend a decade of your life making a film which, it appears, no one really liked, I'll join the chorus: the guy shouldn't have bothered.

7 comments:

Cousin Creep said...

I know someone here in Bakersfield that was an extra in 'What We Do is Secret'. He showed up looking like he was straight out of a 1978 year book. He got a bunch of sneers from other young punksters mocking him while they were being lined up to be picked. The punks were wearing DK and GBH t-shirts and spiked hair. When the younger punks were refused they mouthed off and the assistant director. The AD said "Look, DKs were not even formed in 1978 and I was there in 1978 and the kids at Germ gigs looked like that guy" and pointed to the guy from Bakersfield.

Dave said...

Actually, the DKs were formed in 1978, but that's a side point... it wasn't the actual costuming that was totally wrong, it was the condition of the costumes (everything looked brand new and clean) and look of the film (bright colours like a telemovie). It needed grainier film stock and a more hand-held look to make it convincing.

Jay said...

Thanks for the good advice to just leave this one be. I actually forgot about this film entirely, and had almost zero interest in it when it was in the theaters. What's unfortunate is I consider the Lexicon Devil oral history of the Germs to be one of the greatest rock books of all time. SUCH a bizarre period in American culture - they could have done an amazing film set about the cults that surrounded Bobby & Pat at Uni High; their own cult-like aspirations; and of course existing as a gay man in the late 70s, even in a "tolerant" culture like punk rock (it wasn't back then). Totally fascinating stuff, but sounds like they totally blew it off.

Michael said...

Thanks for actually articulating some of what made this film blow such MAJOR chunks - I particularly related to your comments about it being nothing but a tick box exercise. It left such a bad a taste, I've consistently found it hard to go back and think about why I recoiled so violently from it in the first place. Perhaps I was just so bummed at the wasted opportunity.

Dave said...

Yep, I've watched it once and really have no curiosity to watch it again. As a film, it simply offers nothing worthy of a repeat viewing, and like Jay pointed out: the book it's based on, Lexicon Devil, I would also rate as one of the most fascinating biographies EVER - an incredible trawl through LA post-hippie culture in the '70s - and it seems like director Grossman just didn't get it, so much so I'm surprised that Bolles and Smear allowed their names to be put near the thing.

Anonymous said...

To get it, you had to be there....

Neon Leon said...

I said this movie was "watchable Sunday afternoon stuff" not "pretty good for what it is". PUNX ARE DIED.