S/T Survived … The Front Row of a ‘Christmas on Mars’ Screening

Wayne Coyne as ‘The Martian’

[Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Records/Cinema Purgatorio]

By Andrew Parks

To answer your immediate assumptions, yes the acting’s atrocious and the dialogue is pure B-movie drivel. With a couple exceptions, of course–namely the uncomfortably numb delivery of Steven Drozd, the Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist who also happens to star in Wayne Coyne’s long-delayed film debut. (Adam Goldberg is also brilliant as a wry ‘physiciatrist’. Mr. Goldberg, you are now forgiven for The Hebrew Hammer.)

Yes, you read the preceding paragraph correctly: Christmas On Mars has finally sparked a string of limited release engagements, several months after screenings at Sasquatch! and Oklahoma’s deadCENTER Film Festival. While Christmas On Mars was originally promised in time for December 25, 2003, it’s just now receiving a special run at the 99-seat Kraine Theatre in New York’s East Village. And, well, self-titled couldn’t have been happier to catch a Saturday matinee featuring the Lips’ custom-fit “Zeta Bootis Mega Supersonic Super-Sound Surround System”.

Steven Drozd peers through the gates of hell, err, a spaceship on Mars

Having seen the band’s incredibly intimate SxSW set in 2006 and a co-headlining trek alongside Beck in 2002 (one that included the Lips backing Gen X’s original “Loser”) we feel like we ‘get’ the Lips’ live aesthetic by now: a psychedelic cycle of confetti, habit-wearing hand puppets, fake blood, and dancing Furries. That said, self-titled wasn’t around for such striking postmodern stunts as Coyne’s “Boombox Experiments,” a lo-fi symphony on par with Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night” performance piece.

Given the “offbeat venues” angle of Christmas On Mars’ planned 15-city run (and “probably many more,” according to a press release), we expected Lynch-ian (or at the very least, Mystery Science Theater-ish) images and impromptu smoke machines this time around. Instead, we soaked in the following plot points and potential themes from a seat directly in front of–as in the first row, dead center–Kraine’s high-def screen. Presenting our observations:

  • A marching band lead by horn-blasting vagina heads. Talk about a repressed band geek moment … or a cry for help from Freud.
  • Speaking of reproduction, what’s with all the baby imagery in the film? Was this thing co-produced by Governor Palin?
  • Woah with the dentistry video! Dr. Giggles ain’t laughing anymore.
  • Sudden Technicolor dream sequences–or is it reality gone horribly wrong?–that made us remember the wickeness of Willy Wonka‘s tunnel scene. (And Marilyn Manson’s Portrait of an American Family interpretation.)
  • Did we mention how great Adam Goldberg’s monologue is? And how awkward and unfunny Fred Armisen was?
  • Drozd just might have a future in acting if Coyne decides to pull a Rob Zombie and do movies fulltime.
  • Speaking of Rob Zombie, the popcorn-laced love that went into his splatterhouse films is mirrored by Coyne’s grasp of the fantastical–science fiction that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
  • Man this thing’s loud–like ear-poppingly, face-meltingly LOUD.
  • Ninety minutes = just the right time to scream “Cut!”
  • Is Isaac Brock in this thing or what? (He’s supposed to have a cameo.)
  • Man, if only this had come out when self-titled‘s staff was still in college … and crafting gravity bongs every weekend.
  • Not that you need drugs to enjoy Coyne’s stylized shots or anything. We were sober through Saturday’s entire presentation and loved every minute, even if the thing was delberately O-D-D.
  • Um, there had to be at least four Coynes in the credits. Family affair anyone?
  • Is it terrible that we teared up a little after seeing the “Thank You” message from the Lips to their fans in the credits? Looks like someone just fulfilled a lifelong dream.

That’s enough spoiler business. All we can say at this point is go see Christmas At Mars if it hits your town. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter, and a mind-fucking conversation starter at that.

Be sure to catch our interview with Wayne Coyne later this week, as he takes time off from Mars‘ DVD version to talk shop with s/t