200 Motels (1971 ) ** First Full Viewing
In the beginning of the creative process, ‘Yes’ is good word. Say yes to as many ideas as you can. Especially if what your making isn’t heavily plot-driven, if you’re chasing an emotion or abstract idea.
However, there becomes a point where the yes ideas need to have import in the art, the ‘yesses’ should have meaning—-to theme or to emotion or to plot or to pace.
Has Frank Zappa ever had idea he didn’t pursue or throw in there? Just for fun? Because no one, Zappa included, ever said whoa there, think it through.
I had my GFF Shelly also watch 200 Motels with me. Hopefully, she’ll comment. Shelly was to give me another perspective. You see, I should like Frank Zappa. He’s weird, he’s funny, he’s in the underground. I’ve tried in the past to like him, all failed. And while there are some bright spots, generally the more focused comedy pieces, Frank Zappa’s art is busy mess. Say, no to something. All yes makes the yes irrelevant.
Overworked. That’s the word. Sometimes, the best quality of an artist is knowing when the fuck to leave the art alone. To be done. I could be wrong on their motivations, I think Zappa and The Mothers of Invention don’t know when to stop screwing with their movie and some of their songs. So, it’s all (now) dated chroma key tricks ahoy. Just because you can edit and loop video doesn’t mean you should. I always suspect when I see re-used shots, cheap fast/slow rewind, and a general overuse of video tricks as a transparent effort to ‘fix’ missing shots, under shooting and lack of a story.
I don’t know the back story to the production, but here’s my theory:
Hey guys, I got this studio space for a week starting tomorrow. Let’s make a movie. We’ll figure it out while we’re shooting.
The Mothers of Invention have been on the road forever. 200 Motels. They all go more bonkers from being on the road, I dunno, maybe it’s drugs? Songs are sang. Sketch-like flights of fancy are are taken. Ringo Starr plays Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa is barely there. Keith Moon is a nun groupie who dies (?) of an overdose (eewwww, like real life). Everyone knows they’re in a movie and talks about it all the time, that’s kinda neat. 200 Motels is an early example of the now popular meta entertainment trend. Pre-meta, if you will.
Tim and Eric is a good example of the new meta entertainment using a lot of the modern old-timey video tricks to create an overall strange-land effect. The difference is these tricks are used for a purpose. A winking purpose. Zappa may be making some inside jokes about the freak lifestyle, but they no longer stand up. Also, any sketch-based movie is usually, inherently uneven. 200 Motels has more misses than hits.
Also, 200 Motels‘s kitchen sink approach doesn’t build toward much, just noise. Maybe I don’t get it. Early music video? Granted, I liked the last third more than the rest of the film, but I think that’s just Stockholm Syndrome.
Things I Learned?
—The Mothers of Invention really hate Frank Zappa. He’s a dictator and a puppet master who steals their ideas. I’m sure it’s just an extended lame joke.
—This movie has talked directly to my penis more than I ever have. Guess I should talk to my penis more. Seems like our conversation ended years ago.
—I can see why teens might like it, TMOI say a lot naughty words. Funny, naughty words.
—Ringo Starr can actually be not funny or likable. Who knew? First time in his career.
—If you’re going as Frank Zappa for Halloween, just get a weird mustache/goatee and a purple long-sleeved turtleneck sweater.
—Drugs are bad?
Do It: The Fiery Furnaces. Like Zappa, TFF’s music is filled with abrupt tonal shifts, looped lyrics and strange instrumentation. Unlike Zappa, there’s a more of a cohesive feel and weird logic at work.
Avoid It: Season two of The Killing. I now know who killed Rosie Larsen. Blah. Blah. Blah, not worth the time investment. With very little forward motion, the–I’m guessing–series finale could have run after the season one finale. Oh, and the show spent most of the last episode trying to glorify and redeem all the characters that it once needed as suspects. You know, except the killer. Killer bad. The good news, I don’t have to think about The Killing anymore.
The Tweeter: True Blood stole my idea I had for a marketing opportunity for True Blood a week ago. Maker’s Mark Whiskey. A groupie was drinking it tonight. #iwastoolate #makersmarkambassador
The Facing Book: A fun (?) game you can play while out dining. When you’re ease dropping on another table, pick one person. Imagine that everyone else at the table is about to take that person to jail or rehab without their knowledge. The stupid everyday conversation they’re having suddenly seems way more important, way more tension-filled.
Bonus Movie Review:
Bring Me the Head of Alberto Garcia (1974) *** First Viewing
The weather’s been in full summer mode, so I was in the mood for a western. A movie where everyone was miserable from heat. I thought BMTHOAG would be a classic Sam Peckinpah western. Not so much, but it is a classic Pekinpah movie. Morally compromised men. Lots of slow-mo shooting. A story that goes sideways. And everyone is miserable.
Alfredo Garcia is the movie’s MacGuffin, everybody wants him. Actually, like 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Alfredo Garcia’s head is the MacGuffin. A million bucks for said head. It’s a mad, mad, mad head.
Warren Oates is a down on his luck American bartender in Mexico. Think Rockford without the PI badge. He gets his prostitute girlfriend to help him find Al Garcia. And at its heart, the film is a love story. Like Sid and Nancy or Bonnie and Clyde is a love story. Although, for a movie with rape in it, the love story is kind of sweet and an effective motivator.
They drive around third world Mexico in a crappy car. Mexicans in crappier cars chase them. There’s a rape break with Kris Kristopherson. Then, things get weird, go bad. Things get shooty.
Warren Oates is fantastic as he slowly slips off the sanity burrito, wearing big sunglasses, shabby clothes, drinking tequila. That toothy, grim smile. His performance makes the film. The ramshackle, mostly plausible plot is engaging. Surprisingly good, but quick ending.
If you’ve liked any other Peckinpah movie (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs), you should like this unconventional Peckinpah movie.
Things I learned from BMTHOAG:
—Do NOT sleep with El Jeffe’s daughter. He will not like you.
—Pay more to have a pubic lice free hotel room.
—Ice. What can’t it do? Especially in hell.
—You can live on Tequila alone. I’ve always wondered.
Next Up: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Aftermath (1994), The 400 Blows (1959), or Abraxas by Santana (1970).