I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to go to a sci-fi convention. The jailbait geeks, the spirit of free love and tolerance, the costumes, the snacks it’s all so enticing. Well, I’ve finally achieved my goal.
And no, I didn’t go to a sci-fi convention. I went instead to the screening of the Flaming Lips’ pet project, Christmas on Mars, hosted by Nike Sportswear at the Montalbán in Hollywood.
So wait. Let me preface that preface by saying I really don’t know much about the Flaming Lips. I mean, sure, I shimmy to "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" while perusing the sales rack at Urban Outfitters and I know all the words to "She Don’t Use Jelly." I also know they put on fanciful live shows somehow involving furry animal people and giant balloons. And yeah, that’s about it.
Apparently, that’s not it. At all. There is an underground world of Flaming Lips superfans, and I walked smack dab into a buzzing horde of them. These people fucking love the Flaming Lips, and they are not kidding around. Fans filled the seats wearing reindeer antlers, bobbly alien antennae, and skimpy Santa suits. Excitement crackled in the air. Shirley Manson was there. It was the Rocky Horror Picture Show on massive amounts of seizure-inducing LSD.
When director/FL lead singer Wayne Coyne took to the stage dressed in a shrunken grey suit, the house nearly came down with applause and miscellaneous shouts of adulation. He graciously thanked us for coming, introduced his film and invited us all to enjoy the “Flaming Lips message."
After the movie, I headed upstairs to the afterparty, flanked by cases of Nike Sportswear nestled in piles of candy and a man dressed as some sort of amoeba. The party, of course, was an amalgam of weirdness, with a frosted Belvedere Vodka bar seemingly sculpted out of an ice queen’s castle, a giant electric blue latex alien man, and fingerpainted fan art hanging from the ceiling. Hot nerd boys with backpacks chatted up babes dressed as Princess Leia (Star Wars fans totally cross over) while The Postal Service’s Jimmy Tamborello spun sweet indie pop tunes, a welcome respite from all that banging electro.
And so, you might want to know. Get on with it. How was the movie? What was the message? What clever subtlety, what subconscious mantra was buried in the grainy black and white footage? Honestly, I have no idea. Adam Goldberg had no idea either, and he was in it.
From the opening trippy graphics up until the end credits I had no clue. What is the movie about? I don’t know. It’s about moths, immortality, mortality, the futility of existence, birth canals, the universe, aliens, babies, vaginas, heaven and hell, eyeballs, scatology, the frailty of the human mind, magic, life, love, death, everything, nothing. I don’t know. I was stumped.
And as Wayne reappeared to thunderous applause to take questions from adoring fans dissecting his movie, trying to pinpoint its elusive “message," it became endearingly clear that Wayne himself had no idea what it was. In his brilliantly rambling words, “life is horrible and bleak and smells bad, but it’s up to you to make it full of magic.”
That pretty much sums it up. This thing is an offering to anyone who wants to be touched by it. The showering of mutual love and support was the most potent anti-cynicism pill I’ve taken in a long, long time. Basically, what Wayne has done is gifted his fans (and the world, obvs) with something rare in an age of pretentious filmmakers ramming some obscure pedantry down our throats: he left his film open to everyone’s personal interpretation. He implored us all to “use our imaginations” and follow our “dumb obsessive intuitions," because, frankly, that’s all we can do.
All I know is, I left that theater a little more uplifted than I did entering it. And I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but in the words of the totally creepy main character, “we’re all trapped inside some horrible machine and that machine is dying little by little," so it’s up to us to squeeze some magic out of it.
And, by gum, finally get my ass to a Flaming Lips show.
Photos by Marla Aufmuth