Last night as part of CIMM Fest 09, Chicago's Music Box Theatre premiered the new Wilco touring documentary, Ashes Of The American Flag, to a packed house with a only handful of empty seats. Two evening screenings were fans' only opportunity to see the doc on a big screen, and directors Brendan Canty (also the drummer of Fugazi) and Cristoph Green fielded a playful Q & A afterward.
Here's the film's trailer:
Simply put, no one's going to watch this who isn't already a fan of Wilco, I presume (I couldn't find Ashes on an IMDB search). The documentary was awesome when the band played awesome songs, and boring during less awesome songs. Once it's on DVD on April 18th, fans will skip to their favorite songs (uber fans may watch it in its entirety the first time through) and probably skip the often quirky interviews. I know I woulda skipped around a bit, because I hate the material on A Ghost Is Born, am indifferent toward A.M. and Being There, but die for anything from Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Sky Blue Sky. Although I categorized this as a Wilco fan only movie, some candid moments with the band could be enjoyed by any. Guitarist Nels Cline could be found backstage lying on a couch with ice on the back of his neck due to whiplash from live shows. A few vertebrae were dislocating (or something), he explained, because he never thought about his body while playing, let alone hurting it. Drummer Glenn Kotche soaked his hands in ice water backstage as his bandmates explained how he destroyed his hands every night playing drums with such vigor. These little details humanized this alt-country-folk-rock band (or however you care to categorize Wilco) while exposing the bandmates' passion, sometimes sacrificing themselves physically to perform music they love.
That said, if you want a Wilco documentary, check out I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, director Sam Jones's film about the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, arguably the band's most renowned and lauded album to date. Chronicling singer Jeff Tweedy and Co. from the songwriting process through recording and record label problems to its much-delayed release, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart is a must see for any supporter of the arts.
Next up, I watched Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July's indie dramedy from 2005. July is Christine Jesperson, an artist who supported herself through a cab service for the elderly. Buying new shoes from a clerk named Richard (John Hawkes) caused her to track him down and get to know him. Richard, divorced, lived life bug-eyed with fear for whatever frightfulness might strike his life next. His two boys had cyber sex chats online at home while Dad's at work selling shoes. The neighbor left notes in his window for two teenage girls explaining what he would do to them if it weren't illegal after they hit on him one day. The girls considered losing their virginity to this guy.
My point is... how could you not be interested in the outcomes of these people's stories? They're all slightly insane, but July takes them all very seriously and all their stories give you warm fuzzies like when you pinch a baby's cute chubby lil cheek. Totally worth 90 minutes of your time on a rainy day.
Oh, and if you wanna know why the mentioning of 'pooping back and forth' will send me into hysterical laughter for months to come, watch this movie. Or, you could probably find it on youtube... but watch the movie instead.
#136: My So-Called Life
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