50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2005
While I've got my order placed, I can reliably give this film a five star rating as I was lucky enough to have seen "The Fearless Freaks" February 26. This review was adapted from a post I placed the other day at flaminglips.com, a site well worth a visit if you dig the band.
I was looking forward to seeing this, but was not prepared for the emotional punch of this beautiful documentary by filmmaker Bradley Beesley. I felt as moved and joyful as I have after actual Lips concerts.
"The Fearless Freaks" was screened Saturday night at the Blue Note in Columbia (Mo). It was a nicely full house on hand to see director Beesley introduce the film as part of Columbia's annual "True/False Film Festival (documentaries).
(This was a special "secret screening", as more official "world premiere" screenings (3) will occur at the 2005 SXSW in Austin.)
Beesley was introduced, talked a bit about the film and his long association filming and working with the band. His cell phone has a speakerphone feature, which he put to use as he dialed Wayne Coyne at the Tarbox recording studio near Buffalo, NY. They talked a bit back and forth, Beesley holding the speaker to the microphone. The audience had lots of laughs during the five-minute chat. Wayne mentioned that he, Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins were recording new stuff and that it has snowed every day since they arrived that week. Wayne said that he believed that filming of "Christmas on Mars" movie would be completed this summer, but then they would need to do music for the feature. (It sounds like Christmas '06 is most realistic, but who knows, maybe '05 if the planets align.) "The Fearless Freaks" includes five minutes or so on the making of "Christmas on Mars". Fun.
The movie is a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and heart. You'll see the large Coyne family in vintage home movies from the 70's, the early days of the band, the path to now and the often moving story of the passage of time since the band's founding in the early 80's. About two-thirds into the film, one of those passages sweeps the movie to an emotional impact that vaults this film to a level that transcends any "traditional" music documentary.
As Beesley says at flaminglips.com, the many years of access and friendship with the band allowed him to produce something he hopes goes beyond just "another okay rockumentary and, together with the band, instead create an insightful and personal piece of cinema."
This is a courageously honest band that has allowed Beesley to present truth that is raw and inspiring. Beesley has fashioned a fine film that ultimately owes its success to the goodness and open-heartedness of The Flaming Lips. The band has bared their souls and their humanity (un-self-consciously) that is completely congruent with the message of their recent music. ("The Soft Bulletin" and "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots", most particularly.)
I spoke with Beesley after the screening and told him how special I thought his movie is. As this is his first film (I believe) he was soft-spoken and a bit deprecating about his work to the degree that he might still have had concern about length or he saw this or that that might still need to be edited. (I did see more than a few put fingers to ears during some of the extended excerpts of live shows from their punk days. While exhilarating and an exciting document of shows that WERE tremendously loud, the sound levels of those sequences did seem a bit over modulated, though seeing it through the pa of a concert venue did allow for that music/noise to come through in all ear-splitting glory!)
While there might be a couple of minor tweaks *maybe* worth considering in the first half of the film, one must be careful because that beginning sets up the emotional power of the second half. Humbly offering my first impression after the show, I assured Beesley that what he DOES have is a film with something all too hard to successfully pull off - weight, depth of feeling, an emotional heart that bathes the audience with goodwill. I've seen lots of music documentaries over the years. Not till this one have tears come to my eyes. Of course, in The Flaming Lips, Bradley Beesley had subject matter that delivers the "goods". I applaud Beesley for bringing that "script" to Life. As fans of the band know, Wayne would be a star of any film. The man is an inspiring example of LIFE, of humanity most kind. Guile has been stripped from Wayne Coyne and he is nakedly human in a manner that makes me proud to be part of the species.
(I also hope that Beesley submits "The Fearless Freaks" for consideration of film festivals - I would think Cannes audiences would love this - and also the documentary division of the MPAA. Oscar in '06? This film is truly worthy. A scene with Steven is one of the most powerful moments I've ever seen - on film or "real" life, one of great humanity that touches the soul and moved some in the audience to tears. The ultimate triumph of Steven, the open-hearted humanity of the band and the inspiring music of The Flaming Lips - particularly since "The Soft Bulletin" - is a gift that should be shared with as many people as possible.)
To be clear, aside from all my talk of "feelings", this is a FUN film - laugh out loud at times, with lots of music and cool visuals.
That it is so much more is what makes this movie a joyous treat.
I will not spoil your enjoyment of this movie by revealing any further specifics. See it for yourself.
So, in the end, I certainly recommend that you purchase this when it becomes available. In the meantime, if you - or maybe a loved one - haven't already, order "The Soft Bulletin" and "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots". In that sequence, listen to each cd from beginning to end, reading the included printed lyrics. I think you'll be quite glad you did. Then you'll really be ready for the "Fearless Freaks"!
- Do You Realize? -
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2005
I was the entertainment editor of the local college newspaper around the time the Flaming Lips got started here in Oklahoma. Yet, I never got into their music. I don't know why. Some of my friends knew them. I guess maybe it was an oversight on my part. Oversights happen in life. It's just one of those things.
Anyhow, flash forward to 2005. I attend the Oklahoma City premiere of the Fearless Freaks. I own two Lips CDs. Yeah, it's Yoshimi and the Soft Bulletin. So, I'm not a true fan. Anyhow, here's what I think of the movie.
The bad: There's a stretch in the movie that seems sort of like a VH1 program. Luckily, it's in the middle of the movie so good stuff comes before and after the bad middle.
The good: I think there are different interweaving stories in this movie. I'm going to only focus on one in my review. It's about Steve Drozd, the drummer of the band. One way to approach the movie is BSD (before Steve Drozd joined the Flaming Lips) and ASD (after Steve Drozd joined the Flaming Lips). He obviously lifts the band so that they can musically achieve their previously unmet artistic aspirations. He gives music to his bandmates. In turn, they give him unconditional love. And, as the movie shows, it's a very dangerous exchange due Steven's drug addiction... Now thankfully in the past. It bothered my hardened friends who attended the premiere with me.
I can't recall any movie dealing so forthrightly with the personal and artistic relationships that exist between members of a music group. I came away from the movie admiring Steve's musicianship, admiring Wayne's energy, and admiring Michael Ivins for living through it as any solid Rock 'n' Roll bassist should. One more thing: I think people live with a misconception that successful pop musicians get by on talent. Wrong. As the Fearless Freaks shows, they generally get ahead and become successful due to constant and unrelenting hard work (as well as some luck along the way). Recommended.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2005
As a long-time Flaming Lips fan, I was excited to see "The Fearless Freaks" and learn more about the band that, for the last 15 years, I have watched and admired. That is, until the pre-scripted shows became the norm, and the music started to play second fiddle to the performance.
I was very interested in the film because I thought it would provide context into the toxic-shock acid-psychedelia scene of the mid 80s to 90s that existed in the Texas, the midwest and San Francisco. But, besides some clips of Gibby of the Butthole Surfers and members of the Chainsaw Kittens, the film neglects the influences of the band and its relationship to the rest of the scene that was populated with the Butthole Surfers, Ed Hall, Sun City Girls, Caroliner Rainbow, and many others. This scene has been all but forgotten in rockumentaries, "The Fearless Freaks" included.
The film is immensely self-congratulatory, and spends alot of time discussing how wonderful and "crazy" Wayne Coyne is, while spending too little time on other members, with the exception of Steven Drosdt. The tale of the band that shouldn't have made it, one of the themes of the film, lacks the pre-history of their success.
Having been to many of their shows, owning all of their albums, I love the Flaming Lips. But, it seems that since "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots", that their music and performances have become so scripted, so pre-determined, that the "freak"-iness that the documentary claims to be inherent in the band, is all but gone.
I recommend seeing the film to get an idea of where they all came from: hillbillies crossed with the Who I think is a good description. I just encourage viewers, after they finish watching the film, to seek out the other compatriots of the Flaming Lips from the early days through the mid-90s. Then, I think, viewers and fans will be able to see the musical movement that was occuring, and how it influenced the pop, indie, and industrial music that would come out of it in the mid to late 90s and into the present. Enjoy!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Memories...this retrospective look back at the formation and final breakthrough of The Flaming Lips, described by one of the band members as "hillbillies" crossed with The Who. This movie uses home movies, home video and current footage of the band to go back into the past and see the formation of one of America's most important rock bands around. Coyne describes his band early on as a loud band without much talent (oh, not true Wayne perhaps inexperienced) in the beginning of their career, The Flaming Lips went from cult favorite to critical favorite and while not in the top ten (who is today except historic singers) they've found a niche in rock music that they work exceedingly well in. Coyne at 41 with a touch of gray proves that there are second acts in American lives...or perhaps first acts with a late curtain. We also get a glimpse behind The Flaming Lips science fiction movie a bizarre, unscripted film like only The Flaming Lips could make involving an insane Santa Claus, a giant bunny and Wayne Coyne as a super powered alien.
Because the source material for this is drawn from a variety of sources over the years, the picture quality ranges from poor to good. That's not a problem in the transfer but in the source material itself which includes Super 8 home movies, early videotapes, film shot in less than the best lighting conditions and video ditto. The picture quality for the newer footage is quite good. Audio, likewise, varies quite a bit from poor to good once again depending on the source material.
We get a whole bunch of very cool live performance footage of the band (some of it with distorted sound), deleted scenes including behind-the-scenes footage of the band warming up for "Austin City Limits". There's also footage of Wayne as Santa and some truly strange stuff that was cut out of the film including footage shot for one of the band's first recording sessions. There's a photo gallery that looks like a trip through my childhood (bell bottoms, long hair, goofy afros, punk hair cuts although I'll never confess to any of those and I've burned MY photos like that) clearly the band and I share a bond that goes beyond simple music. Perhaps it's my simpleton attitude but, more than likely, it's an appreciation for Coyne and his band pushing the limits of music wherever possible.
The current line up for the band does a running commentary throughout the film giving considerable background on the various people interviewed throughout the film. It's actually interesting in a car wreck sort of way in that we learn a lot more than we really need to know about the lives of the band members and their extended family.
If The Flaming Lips hadn't come into existence someone would have to invent them. Luckily, Wayne Coyne found his true calling as a songwriter and singer. Yes, they borrowed from the best (including The Butthole Surfers) but Coyne made it all his own creating a sound and style unique to his band.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2005
If you've been to a Flaming Lips show in the past few years you've noticed lead singer Wayne Coyne's penchant for letting fake blood fall over his face and onto his trademark khaki suit. One of the least momentous, yet most revealing, of the revelations in The Fearless Freaks is that Mr. Coyne washes his suits himself. So there is Mr. Coyne, in his modest bathroom at home in Oklahoma City, soaking his suit in the bathtub (pre-Halloween hint: soak in cold water so that fake blood doesn't set).
Wayne's involvement in the state of his suits is revealing because it demonstrates that the worklike manner he displays before and during a Flaming Lips show is no show. He still mows his own lawn. Still hangs with the neighborhood kids in the neighborhood he grew up in. Still helps his mom out with her house. It seems his only extravagence is the Sci-Fi X-Mas movie that Wayne is producing and directing in his backyard.
This film delves into the roots of the members of the Lips and it will interest even those who have never heard a song they've written. Why? Because it is about how people relate to their family, the place(s) they grew up in, and their pasts. Drugs are a large part of movie, though probably not the way most people would suspect. One of the most startling, and poignant, vinettes of the movie occurs when band-member Steven Drowd inject himself with heroin while on camera.
In sum we get to see how the members of the Lips grew up: from playing rag tag pick-up football games to watching family members go to prison, to conceiving banal and then transcendent music. And, of course, there is more Wayne, the court jester, going back to his old Long John Silver's. This is the story of a good-hearted group of people making good music despite, or because of, the problems they've encountered in life. The film ends with another piece of heartache, but you just know that this group (and man) is built to handle it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2005
and being a longtime Lips fan, and being from Oklahoma City, I was not disappointed. However, I did get the feeling of "is that it?" at the end of the film. I think I may have felt this way because of the build-up that this film has gotten from the music press. I did like the fact that most of the film takes place in OKC, which it should. To outsiders, it shows just how phenomenal it is that the Lips come from 13th and Blackwelder, or is it McKinnley? I can't remember. Another nice touch is the unreleased music featured in the film; especially "The Captain". I could not believe it when this song was left off of the Soft Bulletin. I have heard that it may be one of the bonus tracks on the reissue 5.1 surround sound edition. There really is nothing to dislike here. The Flaming Lips are forever underdogs, and the film captures this sentiment and makes the viewer subconsciously submissive to it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
just got the DVD in the mail yesterday and immediately watched the entire thing. Wow, I knew The Flaming Lips were a very unique band, but Fearless Freaks makes you appreciate them that much more. All the guys come across so sincere in their desire to push themselves and their vision. Some parts of the movie are really intimate and it even gets emotional in some parts. Director/friend Bradley Beesley created a beautiful view into the world of Wayne and the gang. Excellent.
on July 22, 2005
This film has been in the works for a few years. I saw an earlier version,
thanks to director Bradley Beesley, which was half as long. This version is
really great. It pretty much tells the story of this band from Oklahoma. We sort
of know them as this weird indie rock band from ten years ago and also the
recent international group that produced The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi. This film
goes back to the beginning when the Flaming Lips were like a Oklahoma version
of The Butthole Surfers. Scenes with the brothers of Wayne Coyne is like
watching the film Crumb. The scenes with Stephen Drodz using heroin are pretty
disturbing and exploitative. It's fun to look at the lineup changes and relive
their chance success with "She Don't Use Jelly." It's fun to watch the madness
of them creating Zairekka, a CD to be played with four boom boxes. Their later
success is amazing. They are now as distinguished as bands like REM and Red
Hot Chili Peppers. Their international reputation is overwhelming. They can
only play the biggest venues in most cities. The Flaming Lips can be seen this
fall on some ocean cruise in the LA Harbor. This is an excellent documentary. I
hope it reaches out further than to Lips fans. IT is for any student of modern
music. Hopefully it can be watched with the complete Flaming Lips videos.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Home videos from the 70's and candid interviews give a great incite of how the Flaming Lips philosophy came about. It is difficult to watch this DVD without wanting to jump up, go out and change the world.
A very likable, intimate portrait of the punk rock turned art rock
group The Flaming Lips.
A very unusual documentary in that the film was
made by a longtime friend of the band members, especially leader Wayne
But rather than that leading to a glossy 'these guys are
perfect' approach, it leads to a sense of honesty, of humor, of
admitting of personal faults (right down to a band member using drugs
on camera, and talking in a pretty heartbreaking way about his
And what's fascinating about this particular group from
Oklahoma is that they're wildly creative, while still seeming like nice
regular human beings with families, day to day problems, good and bad sides --
unlike what we usually see of rock stars. These guys are just
trying to make music, try new things, and still pay the rent.
If there's a problem with the film it's that, for someone like me who
doesn't really know the band's music, we see and hear so little of it
that sometimes it's hard to fully understand the evolution of their
work that's being discussed. So in some ways this film will work best
for those who are already fans of the group,
But that said, I still really enjoyed it, found I liked these people, laughed with their funny
view of life (the 'reenactment' of the robbery of a 'Long John Silver's' where Wayne once
worked is a comic highlight) and even found myself quite touched by the end.