“I’m Now” – An Essential Chapter in Rock History

Seattle is known for many things, not the least of which is spawning Grunge. Most of the bands in the Seattle music scene had very little to do with the ultimately hackneyed word; A word which is far more marketing term than musical genre. Nonetheless, in the early nineties, the title was thrust upon any band in Western Washington with a distortion pedal. One such band was Mudhoney, who inadvertently become Grunge poster boys. They were lumped in with a whole bunch of other bands with which they had nothing in common other than an area code. If it had not been for this stupid, meaningless catchall title, perhaps Mudhoney’s career would have gone much differently. Perhaps they would have had the success they deserve.

Of course, Mudhoney is successful, relatively speaking. But they should have been huge. They probably would have opted out of having crazy, drug-fueled parties at the Edgewater Hotel where groupies were violated with fish and branded with cattle prods (a la Led Zeppelin). But damnit, they should have had the option. At the very least, they should have been credited for being at the forefront of a musical revolution. Yes, they’re that good.

If you live in Seattle, you might be able to score a ticket to the June 8th premiere of “I’m Now”, the feature-length documentary which spans Mudhoney’s entire history and finally gives credit where credit is due. The Triple Door will hold two screenings of the film that night. It’s a beautiful theater and a great place to see this unforgettable film (review follows).

“I’m Now” (2012)
Directors: Ryan Short & Adam Pease
5/5 Stars

If you aren’t a Mudhoney fan when you start watching King of Hearts Productions’ new music doc, “I’m Now”, you certainly will be by the closing credits. The band has a lot to be bitter about. But they aren’t bitter. In fact, they couldn’t be more gracious. These are guys who love to play music and consistently found a way to keep doing it.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are interviews with other Seattle music scene notables including Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman of Sub Pop Records, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. But none of these famous faces are as captivating as the band members themselves.

Each of the guys is interviewed separately, getting the chance to tell the story from their individual perspectives. They’re well spoken and clever, and never do they seem at all arrogant or inaccessible.

For me, one of the most refreshing moments is when front man, Mark Arm, speaks candidly about his drug and alcohol issues. He acknowledges the rock n’ roll cliché in which he found himself. But he didn’t have to surrender to any higher power to get through it. It’s not a juicy, “Behind the Music” tale. He just isolated the problem and took care of it. Fuckin’ A.

But it’s not just the interviews that enchant. It’s also the live performances. The footage from these shows is intimate and electrifying. Much of the b-roll is from the band’s own archives, but filmmakers, Ryan Short and Adam Pease, also followed Mudhoney on a recent tour. In 2008, this documentary team cut their teeth on a film about another unsung Seattle band, Tad (“Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears”). With a long resume of music videos, they certainly know how to film a band. As a result, “I’m Now” is the most riveting and reverent music documentary since Julian Temple’s “The Future is Unwritten”. Short and Pease have made an explosive piece of art, fueled by the raw power of Mudhoney’s music, that delivers sweet comeuppance to all the folks who did the band wrong over the years. Treat yourself to the aural and visual intoxication of “I’m Now”. I promise you won’t have any regrets come morning.

Film Threat Review: Mansome

2012
Unrated
84 minutes

*

Morgan Spurlock has quite a few talented names in his address book. Good thing too, because without them to pad his latest vanity project, he might be exposed for the hack he’s starting to become. If anyone is going to like a documentary about facial hair, it’s me. I’m what you might call a beardthusiast. But Spurlock’s “Mansome” fails to expose any sort of substance behind the follicles.

Maybe it’s because there isn’t actually much to talk about. Some people like beards and some don’t. Some men can grow a beard and some can’t. There are many different ways a man can sculpt his facial hair. Some people embrace their hairiness and some people seek to debilitate their entire bodies. And sometimes someone who can grow a very long beard will end up with delusions of grandeur. That’s about all “Mansome” has to say on the subject. The only real insight it gives is into the waning career of a once celebrated documentarian.

The aforementioned famous names include producer/director Judd Apatow, congenial actor Paul Rudd, professional attractive person and Old Spice spokesman Isaiah Mustafa and manthority Adam Corolla. The ubiquitous Scott Ian, who is apparently an authority on every single aspect of pop culture, can barely mask his ambivalence about the subject. He clearly has not given his ever-present goatee nearly as much thought as Spurlock has his own self-professed “signature” handlebar mustache.

Spurlock just can’t help but make at least part of the film about himself. He decides to participate in a “Reverse Movember,” with the pledge to shave at the conclusion of Lance Armstrong’s mustache-themed national fundraiser. I couldn’t have been less entertained watching Spurlock transform his face from that of a hipster douchebag into that of a regular douchebag. Though it may have been worth it to hear his young son (who had yet to see his father clean-shaven) wail, “You don’t look any good.”

Zach Galifianakis and John Waters also appear to discuss their own iconic facial hair. Their vignettes serve as the shiny, warm center to an otherwise ice-cold piece of poo. Waters is gracious and charming as ever. While Galfianakis gets in some great lines, he carries the look of a man who would rather be elsewhere.

The film spends a woeful amount of screen time with a less humble lot, including a professional wrestler who shaves his entire body, a self-professed “Metrosexual” and “Worldclass Beardsman” Jack Passion, who erroneously insists that his trophies make him something other than a huge waste of conditioner and oxygen. About the only thing Spurlock does right in “Mansome” is to juxtapose Passion’s scenes with sound bites from Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd and John Waters asserting that a man would have to be a complete dillhole to create a “career” out of having a beard.

And just when you think the inanity has reached its peak, Spurlock introduces us to the creator of a product called “Fresh Balls,” the purpose of which is self-explanatory. If this were a Tim and Eric sketch, the concept might be worth pursuing. Sadly, Fresh Balls is a real product about which the inventor is dead serious.

Executive producers Gob and Michael Bluth (Will Arnett and Jason Bateman), bulk up the film with footage from their trip to a day spa. The men wax poetic about male grooming while they are unpoetically waxed. Though their banter remains light, you can see that both of them are thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” At best, “Mansome” is an A&E special to be DVR’d and deleted. Commercials would have been a welcome break. It’s quite a slog through the 84-minute running time.

Early in his career, Morgan Spurlock seemed like an important documentarian. In retrospect, the premise of “Super Size Me” is somewhat of a no-brainer. But it went deeper than the hypothesis that fast food is bad for us. It evolved into a meditation on food addiction. It got people talking and paved the way for real introspection on what we consume. Similarly, his docu-series “30 Days” seemed to strive for real change by letting the audience walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Since then, he’s reverted to his vapid beginnings as an MTV host, filling our eye holes with tripe. Here’s hoping Mr. Spur-schlock takes a long look in the mirror and gives that ego a shave.

Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).