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Flaming Lips leaves us behind on ‘Christmas on Mars’ film

Robert Allen
rallen@summitdailynews.com

It takes a confident director to cast a recovering heroin addict for the main character of his first film. But Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne is celebrated for absurdity.

“Christmas on Mars” features death, birth and rampant delirium. But it’s not the joyful, exuberant madness of a Flaming Lips performance.

It’s not Coyne waving massive green fists or stepping into a large hamster ball and rolling over crowds ” not a celebration with dancing elves, giant balloons and blizzards of confetti.



Nah, this film is mostly bleak, with brief flashes of bright colors, noise and disturbing imagery.

The sets, effects and cinematography are clearly influenced from David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The acting is terrible and after a while, it’s tough to pay attention.



This film would best serve as the background ambiance of a chic, urban Christmas soiree ” something strange and artsy but not so captivating people stop going back to the punch bowl.

The low-budget charm and homemade quality of the sets are noteworthy, as is the thoughtful plot driving all the weird, mind-bending sequences. But relative to the musical standards this band has set over the past couple decades, it falls short.

Thousands of fans had their hopes up for this film, which took seven years to create. And a stellar score would have made it much more tolerable.



But the potentially good ideas and themes just weren’t that moving, perhaps because several bad ideas were thrown in as well.

Unsettling scenes, like the genitalia-headed marching band stomping an infant, came across more nauseating than touching.

Steven Drozd, the band’s prolific guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and recovering heroin addict ” and the star of the film ” is totally spaced out the entire time.

He just wanders, dazed, around the Martian base. This character’s sole conflicts are to find a Santa Claus and to come to grips with his sanity, which sounds like fun.

But Drozd even admits in the DVD extras that his acting was terrible.

Adam Goldberg is the only professional actor in the film, and he does a great job as the station’s psychiatrist. But his part is only about 4 minutes.

The rest of the characters, while offering a variety of personalities, are too one-dimensional for a full-spectrum sci-fi trip into psychedelia.

So why would Coyne, master of musical chaos and soothing voice of a bemused generation ” why would he be so proud of this film?

He certainly likes to put himself out there. And for anyone familiar with his brilliant mind, “Christmas on Mars” is no surprise. The Flaming Lips wouldn’t be where they are today without bold experiments.

The Parking Lot Experiment in the mid-90s involved 40 audio cassettes played simultaneously, in automobiles specially arranged in a parking lot. Such catchy tunes as “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” and “Lightning Strikes the Postman” create a lasting impression on listeners.

“Christmas on Mars” may just be a tribute to Coyne’s friends and family. The band members, four Coynes ” including Wayne’s wife, who has a baby on Mars ” and even Scott Booker, the band’s manager, appear in the film.

Coyne said the story came from his mom, who may have dreamed it after falling asleep in front of the television.

Formed in 1983, The Flaming Lips consistently come out with fresh, original art ” which is more than can be said for most products of the ’80s.

Robert Allen can be contacted at 970-668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.


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