Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: The Astronaut Farmer

Like this, only less reluctant.

Film: The Astronaut Farmer (2006)

Director: Michael Polish

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen

Written by: Mark & Michael Polish

 

On its own merits, The Astronaut Farmer doesn’t qualify as Bizarro cinema.  It’s an overly earnest and sappy film which chronicles the obsessive quest of farmer Charles Farmer (get it?) to build a rocket and blast off into space.  Aside from a scene involving a brick thrown through a bank window, a clever quip dismissing the rocket’s potential as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (because the government wouldn’t have found it if it was one), and a cameo by Bruce Willis playing a guardedly supportive ex-astronaut, this story of a family of dreamers overcoming adversity is downright formulaic.

Yet I do have a solid reason for inducting The Astronaut Farmer into Bizarro canon, and that is because its packaging has the strangest talk-up of a film that I’ve ever seen.  Kind of a strange criterion, I know, but this is much more than a simple matter of bad, punny taglines.  The film’s description of itself is so mind-boggling that the only reasonable explanation for its existence is heavy use of hard drugs, or at least the work of a publicist who hadn’t slept for a week.  Don’t believe me?  Behold The Astronaut Farmer’s epic self-analysis, in all its glory.

 

“All systems are ‘Go’ for Charles Farmer.  He’s faced bank foreclosure, neighborhood naysayers and a government alarmed by his huge purchase of high-grade fuel, but now he’s ready to blast into space inside the homemade rocket he built in his barn.  Just be home in time for dinner, Charlie.

“Billy Bob Thornton portrays Charlie in this charmer about chasing dreams… and about what it means to be a family.  10,000 pounds of rocket fuel alone can’t lift Charlie into the heavens.  He needs a launch/recovery crew, and he has one of the best: his wife (Virginia Madsen) and children, dreamers all.  They have liftoff.  Our spirits have uplift.  Gravity cannot hold down our dreams.  The Astronaut Farmer is that kind of movie.”

 

Um… what?

 

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The Designer’s Drugs: Daft Punk – TRON Legacy Soundtrack

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Daft Punk – TRON Legacy Soundtrack

Anno: 2010

 

If you’re expecting Daft Punk to bust out dancefloor classics on the new TRON soundtrack, you’re going to walk away disappointed.  There is a slick track titled “Derezzed” which is vintage Daft Punk, but that’s about all the fanservice this score has to offer.  In the place of robot rock are rather high-minded symphonic tracks, the type of tense string use that is reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean scoring or his work with James Newton Howard on The Dark Knight.  The best example of this is in the tremendously monstrous “Rectifier,” which sounds like a Kraken devouring Jack Sparrow.

Though it’s not their home genre, Daft Punk makes a great transition to film scoring, and hopefully we’ll see more such efforts from the group in the future.  If the movie is as good as it sounds, no sequel fears will be necessary.

The Designer’s Drugs: Deadmau5 – 4×4=12

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Deadmau5 – 4×4=12

Anno: 2010

 

Whether one enjoys Deadmau5 ultimately depends upon whether one enjoys Daft Punk – and specifically, the minimalist side of the Daft Punk sound.  On 4×4=12, Deadmau5 puts together some good beats, but there’s next to nothing here that doesn’t feel like a mirror of someone else’s song.

Compounding this forgivable sin are the few vocal tracks which dot an otherwise instrumental album.  One of these three tracks, a moody pianodance titled “Raise Your Weapon,” is the album’s best track, reminiscent of the Hybrid school of orchestral electronica.  The other two sing songs, “Sofi Needs a Ladder” and “One Trick Pony”, have solid music, but they feature a shit vocalist who spouts out dirty slut slogans in an attempt to be hip and cool.  Boring.

Beyond those two disasters, 4×4=12 is a good album, but not a mind-blowing one – which, if you’re into the style, shouldn’t matter.

The Designer’s Drugs: And the Wiremen

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: And the Wiremen

Anno: 2010

 

And the Wiremen offers a jazzy stripe of down-tempo rock, bearing some distinctively low-key British sensibilities. There are some weird moments on the album which don’t totally fit with the general theme; the eventual swagger of “Rayuela” is found after enduring some whispered rapping in Spanish, which is kind of creepy and awkward.  By and large, however, And the Wiremen play things very cool, in its best form during the rainy day noir of “Before He Gave Up the Ghost,” which is half jazz instrumental.  The slow build works so well that when the final track, “Lines,” suddenly kicks up the speed, it becomes more exciting than if it had been randomly inserted elsewhere.  It’s a nice swerve end to an album custom-made for constructive gloom.