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|Index||32 reviews in total|
A documentary about two rocks bands, spanning a number of years. Brian
Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. What makes it special is the
examination of the complex contrasting personalities and the ironies of
success and failure.
Anton Newcombe, the main man of Brian Jonestown Massacre, is widely recognised as a musical genius not only by his colleagues, his friends and rivals the Dandy Warhols, but also by record producers and most people who have worked with him. Sadly he and his band members are also incapable of integrating with the real world. Newcombe picks fights with band members on stage or with members of the audience (getting arrested at one point for literally kicking in the head of a fan). Newcombe knows no limits he plays between 40 and 100 different instruments, writes and produces all BJM's music, can produce enough songs to fill a whole album in a single day, has a prophet-like obsessiveness with his own musical genius, but is also a heavy drugs user, flies into rages at the slightest compromise of his own artistic integrity, orders his band members about as if they are lower forms of life, and can blow deals as fast as he makes them. BJM go through a large number of record labels in fast succession they sign them up as soon as they realise Newcombe's talents and let them go as soon as they realise he is totally uncontrollable.
The Warhols acknowledge their debt to Newcombe's creativity and don't even put themselves in the same exalted sphere of greatness but the Warhols have something that BJM don't the ability to integrate their talents with common sense, the real world, and their market as a mixing pot of talent (even if much of it is distilled from guru Newcombe) and accessibility, they are the very definition of 'cool.' DiG! follows the parallel careers of the two bands with increasing poignancy. At one point, Newcombe pulls stunts designed to generate publicity by sending apparent death threats and hate messages to the Warhols (in a box containing live ammunition and insults like a bar of soap 'to clean up their act') only he forgets to tell them it's a stunt and they get so paranoid they take out a restraining order against Newcombe. By the time the Dandy Warhols take off in Europe with hits like 'Every Day Should Be A Holiday' and 'Bohemian Like You', Newcombe is becoming increasingly isolated. BJM are stopped and the band breaks up when they are arrested for possession of marijuana the Warhols get busted for drugs around the same time, let off with a warning, and even allowed to keep the grass.
The wider appeal of DiG! is that the lessons of genius versus accessibility go way beyond two bands or even rock music. The downside is that it is still a documentary, however intimate, and it will mostly only appeal to dedicated film fans or people who are already interested in the music of one or both of the featured bands. Newcombe may well be a largely unrecognised genius, and there are feint glimpses of this in the film, but to the unattuned ear there is little more than the assertions of the people interviewed to attest to this. In the words of one of the band members: "In every spiritual tradition, you burn in hell for pretending to be God and not being able to back it up." Newcombe isn't pretending but numerically there are maybe still insufficient people to appreciate him in his own lifetime, and DiG! has an uphill struggle to rectify the balance in favour of a tortured but largely unrecognised genius.
Excellent documentary, ostensibly about the friendship and subsequent rivalry between two West Coast retro rock'n'roll bands: The Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. What it actually turns out to be is a portrait of a borderline psychopath - Anton Newcomb - and his tortured relationship with the rest of the world. Interestingly, for a music documentary, there is hardly any music. What there is - snatches of songs, more often than not aborted by the performers - is incidental rather than central. Although the protagonists are musicians, the story is not about music but rather about a particularly American version of a British myth of a cartoon lifestyle, ie, one where nobody has to take responsibility for behaving like spoiled adolescents on a full-time basis. Tantrums, drugs, violence, grossly dysfunctional attitudes, egomania on a truly epic scale - all of this is excused or positively encouraged because it conforms to some collectively held idea about what rock'n'roll is about. As a film this is a first-class documentary but it raises more questions than it answers. For example, why is Anton's music so conservative? For someone so wild and outrageous (and he IS wild and outrageous) his music never seems to have progressed beyond the most obvious derivations of his 60s idols (The Stones, Velvets etc.) For someone who claims to be able to play 80 instruments he has never bothered to learn to play any one of them beyond the most rudimentary level. Similarly, the Dandy Warhols burning ambition is based on a vision of rock'n'roll which is astonishingly fossilised in 1969. Nothing wrong with pastiches, of course, but surely there's more to musical life than perpetually acting out a cartoon from the late 60s. Why don't they take some risks with their music - in the way that their role models did? Because, one suspects, this is not about music. Music is just an accessory, a prop, or an excuse, to lead completely dysfunctional and irresponsible lives. But why? In the Dandy Warhols case, the answer is obvious: to make lots of money and be famous. Big deal. Anton Newcomb's case is more interesting. He is obviously very talented, but every time he is given an opportunity to reach a wider audience he sabotages it, usually in the most dramatic way possible. He is terrified of success, and at the same time, deeply resents anyone else who has it - especially his former friends the Dandy Warhols. Fascinating movie. Highly recommended.
I couldn't find anyone to watch DiG! with me because no one I knew was
a fan of either of the bands. Naturally everyone assumed you can only
enjoy this film if you like the music of either The Dandy Warhols or
the Brian Jonestown Massacre, but this is so far from the truth. The
only requirement is that you have an interest in music and/or pop
culture in general. The way in which the careers of the two groups are
paralleled is a perfect representation of the paths a band can take,
and watching the public eat up and spit out the Dandy Warhols is
fascinating. I agree with other reviews that mention it would be nice
to get a final word from Anton himself, since he's clearly depicted as
his own worst enemy and the bulwark to the band's ability to just
Most interesting to me is the Dandys' respect for the BJM (despite their lack or reciprocation) and for Anton (despite his erratic behavior). The Dandy Warhols respect the art the group produces even if the group hates everything the Dandy Warhols now stand for (although that's disputable). The best line is when the drummer for the Dandy's says "I won't have them anywhere new me again" and the guitarist unconsciously blurts out "I'll still buy their records though." To me, this just shows how powerful good music can be.
Definitely see this movie, even if you know nothing of either band. It's more about the themes of rock music and how they develop that makes this film so interesting. It's rare to follow a group so closely for so long.
Rock n' roll is a messy business and DiG! demonstrates this masterfully. A project of serious ambition, and perhaps foolhardiness, the filmmaker is able to mend together seven tumultuous years of following around two unwieldy rock groups. With that said, the abundance of quality material ensures the film's ability to captivate the audience. If you've ever been interested in any realm of the music industry, this movie will undoubtedly be an arresting viewing. the music in the film, although it suffers minimally from requisite cutting and pasting, is worth the price of admission alone. the morning after i saw DiG! i went straight to the record store to pick up a Brian Jonestown Massacre album (i was already initiated to the Dandy Warhols' sounds). Primarily defined by its exploration of rock music, the film succeeds at other profound levels. DiG! is a sincere, and sufficiently objective, glance into the destructive and volatile nature of the creative process and the people that try to wrangle those forces.
A really cool flick. A must for any music snob. You don't really have
to know about the bands to enjoy the movie. Before the movie, I only
heard only two songs from the Dandy Warhols. The only thing is required
is an open mind.
The movie centers around the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The Dandy Warhols have a role in the film, as the 'rival band,' but they are second fiddle to the BJM. The Dandy Warhols don't play as big of a role in the film as I originally guessed, but then again, they didn't have the element of excitement and unpredictability of the BJM.You can't help but be fascinated by the band and its very charismatic front man, Anton Newcombe. By itself, it's an insightful film and study on the music industry. Just watch this film and enjoy.
DIG! is funny, fun, amusing, interesting, stylish, and very well done.
Knowing that it was made on such a shoestring budget over 7 years it is
amazing that such a story can be told, especially with such style and
substance. If you are a music fan or documentary fan this is a must
Focusing on The Brian Jonestown Masssacre and The Dandy Warhols over the years is a brilliant way to show the contrast between a decent band who meets with moderate success through perseverance and the ability to compromise and a genius megalomaniacal lead singer backed up by a varied cast of characters who sabotage their own success through drugs, alcohol, and insanity. If I did not know that this is footage of real people, I would swear it was an incredibly well written and imaginative scripted piece. The story is compelling, concise, and simply amazing.
The movie is about Anton Newcombe. The music and careers of the two
bands are simply backdrop. It's only fair that Newcombe have the last
word about the film, which at this writing you can find in the "news"
section at the brianjonestownmassacre website. I'd link it here but
IMDb won't permit it.
Documentarians are limited by what the camera captures, as well as by the need to assemble a cohesive narrative from the somewhat-random occasions when chance has put the camera lens on a sight-line with relevant happenstance. In Dig!, fortune smiled on the Dandy Warhols, capturing their rise to the status of pop-idol candidates, as they formed slickly-produced pop confections for mass consumption, most notably "Bohemian Like You," a song that made them global darlings thanks to a Euro cell phone ad.
No such luck for Brian Jonestown Massacre. The film captures little of what made the original BJM lineup great, with the sole exception of a single montage, lasting a minute or so, showing Newcombe creating/recording a number of brief instrumental parts, unremarkable in themselves, and concluding the sequence with a playback of the lush, shimmering sounds that had to have been in Newcombe's mind and soul before they could enter the world.
Three commentaries accompany the film; one by the filmmakers, and two by the members of the bands (the BJM track is solely former members, and without Newcombe). Both the Warhols and BJM alumni point up this montage sequence as the "best" bit in the film, and I'd agree that, given the film's focus on Anton Newcombe, it is the only part of the film that sheds proper light on his gift, and seems too brief to lend proper balance to this attempted portrait of the "tortured artist."
Interesting thing about commentaries is that, unlike film, they are recorded in real time -- one long take -- which can be more honestly revelatory than a documentary that takes shape primarily through editing.
The Dandies do not come off well in their comments. If the rock and roll world extends the experience of high school life for its denizens -- as I believe it does -- the Dandies are the popularity-obsessed preppy types, the ones who listen to rock because it's what their peers do, while the BJM crew come off as the half-rejected, half-self-exiled outsiders (to insiders like the Dandies, "losers") that are the real rock spirit. BJM's Joel Gion, who talks a LOT, nails the film's message for me when he says (paraphrasing): "You can't forget that Anton has been able to do the only thing he ever said he wanted to do. Make a lot of great music."
The Dandies, meanwhile, laugh too easily at every outrageous display in the course of Newcombe's meltdown (all the BJM footage here ends at 1997, before Newcombe quit heroin). Courtney Taylor-Taylor's discounting of Newcombe's commitment to his vision is summed up as follows: "He's 37 and still living in his car. You can download all his work at his website. He was so tired of being ripped off by everyone else, he's giving it all away. He could be making a mint." You can practically hear him shaking his head in disbelief.
The film's shortcomings can't be blamed on the filmmakers; rather it's the difficulties of the documentary form, and the loss of cooperation by the film's subject, that makes this portrait of Newcombe so fragmentary. But it's likely the best we will get, outside of his music.
I only rented disc one, which has the feature. Most of the extras are on disc two. Not renting that, as I've put in my order to buy the set.
Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor are friends, they both are the leads
in their own respective bands; Anton with The Brian Jonestown Massacre
and Courtney with The Dandy Warhols. What's interesting about their
friendship is that they are rivals; its a love hate relationship. At
times you both hear them praising one another, but the next second they
are complaining at how stupid and self absorbed they are. While the
Dandy Warhols went on the reach commercial success, BJM still was stuck
in the underground scene; and for good reason why.
The focus of Dig! is more towards Anton and the BJM, as they have a lot more substance. They are the most dysfunctional band. During gigs they will fight and bash each other. Anton will hit other members if he feels they aren't performing correctly. With the amount of drugs an alcohol they consume, fight was always waiting to happen. You know how people go to car races just to see if a huge car crash happens; that's why people would go to their gigs, for the fights.
Anton is very unstable. Always thinking himself as a music messiah, he wants to change music and create a revolution, but he could never get out of the underground. He is a very talented musician, its amazing how many instruments he can play and with such skill. But his draw back is he cant escape the world he created; a prolific musician stuck in a black hole drugs, alcohol and depression. On the other side, the Dandy Warhols were having their own troubles. They didn't find much success with their first album and were constantly fighting with their record label. But they found huge success in Europe. But Courtney keeps being sucked back into the world of Anton. Its interesting that both Anton and Courtney both had what the other needed. Courtney always wanted to be musically talented as Anton, though Anton wouldn't say it, he needed the commercial success that the Dandy's had, to make his revolution.
Over the seven year course the film crew followed these two bands, there is a lot of footage. There is never a dull moment in Dig!. It is constantly moving along as it doesn't have time to slow down as it has to much to say, seven years of story telling in the 1h 45mins is a hard job. Ondi Timoner has done a great job of piecing together one of the best music documentaries that makes you always wanting more. Even if you don't like the bands it still deserves viewing; it transcends the music to reveal a great story of a successful failure.
You wont be disappointed.
If you are a fan of The Brian Jonestown Masacre and the Dandy Warholes
or either, there is no doubt you will like this. Possibly my favorite
music documentary, Dig! explores the gritty rivalry between Anton
Newcomb and Courtney Taylor-Taylor as there success polarizes and
tensions draw between them.
Raw and insightful, Dig! gives a deep look inside the not so glamorous view of the music business and the backstabbing and the internal band fights involved. Good for fans but non fans may find little point in viewing, but who cares. Fans will have a blast with this little masterpiece of a film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed this documentary, but only because it was a fairly thorough
look at how the music industry often works by parallelling two bands'
journeys: The Dandy Warhols & The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I did not
enjoy watching Anton Newcombe being praised as a genius and some sort
of musical god by people who are clearly too spineless to be honest
with someone about how big of a maniac they are, or witnessing
unfortunate audiences who paid money to see a show only to see a
regression of the BJM band into ego-filled, hysterical fights. The
documentary succeeds by taking a scathing look at both bands, but most
certainly focusing on the volatile nature of Anton's personality. It
does not succeed in making you like Anton, or Courtney for that matter;
the latter is not nearly as egotistical, but often falls into diva-ish
behaviour while condemning others for acting the same way.
My only opinion on Anton is this: BJM makes good music, but for people to drool over him, and say he is a musical genius, or one of the best musicians ever is foolish. Sure, maybe he had a hand in starting the whole 60s revival that is so fully in swing now in all its hipster glory, but the fact remains his music is completely derivative of the 1960s and 1970s. Yes, Bob Dylan was building on what musicians like Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson had done before, but he made something new out of it, and fashioned it into a way to 'fight the system', or at least wake people up to TRY and fight it. Anton doesn't come with a message other than "I AM ABSOLUTELY CRAZY". I don't care if he plays 80 instruments, I don't care if he puts out three albums in 1996, I don't care how many recording sessions in various places across the world he does- nothing changes the fact that he acts like a spoiled brat who didn't get what he wanted, and throws tantrums, or belittles those around him. I am a musician- when somebody fools up on stage, you don't stop and freak out or hit somebody, you just keep playing because most times NOBODY notices. Yet Anton claims he is a musician, and trashes a show just because someone didn't hit the right chord. All the while everyone around him simply puts up with it, and claims he can't get a deal because "he won't conform". I'm sorry, but beating up your band or throwing a 12-year old girl tantrum on stage because of something so minor is not non-conformism.. it's simply a boy who has never grown into a man. Finally, what I find hilarious is that Anton continually wonders how he stacks up against The Dandy Warhols (even though he makes it clear he thinks they and Courtney are a joke compared to his band), and even at shows he claims they'll get "the biggest record deal of all time", yet he says it's not about being for sale (like he says the Beatles were). Then later on he invokes The White Stripes' name, basically laying claim to how he paved the way for them to come on the scene, which I found to be in highly poor taste; he slams new bands for not telling people who influenced them, and yet through the entire documentary I never once hear him talk positively about an influence of his from the 1960s (a decade he so shamelessly riffs on and copies).
All in all, I give this documentary a 6 out of 10. It's fairly well made, but even though I have a lot of opinions on Anton, I feel there was a heavy degree of negative tone when showing the BJM on screen; I can't imagine there weren't at least SOME good times for the band to enjoy. I also find having Courtney Taylor do the voice-over narration for this documentary was a little strange, and it sort of put things in an immediate perspective of "Okay- we're going to see more of the plight on The Dandy Warhols side", which kicks things off assuming most of the drama will come from Anton and the BJM (which of course it did, but that isn't the point). The best thing about this documentary is how it portrays the bands; we can clearly see The Dandy Warhols changed themselves a little from where they started, and this is possibly why they've received more mainstream attention, as opposed to BJM. Although I don't agree with the conformity stance many have on Anton, the BJM definitely hasn't tailored themselves towards being marketable, as even the rest of the band seems perfectly happy with letting their 'leader' terrorize them for the chance at enjoying some moderate level of success; this is probably why they will never reach the mainstream in the way Courtney did with his band. I recommend watching this film, and I dare you to still like Anton at the end. I have never disliked somebody more while watching a documentary, and I have watched a ton of them on serial killers, so.. you be the judge.
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