Help identify this movie
January 26, 2007 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out the name of this movie... A few weeks ago I rented a DVD and it there was a trailer for a movie. I can't remember the name but I know kind of what it was about. It was about a guy who played music (from what I remember it was mostly piano). And he was kind of crazy from what the trailer revealed. He recorded himself on cassette and there was always some kind of little alien on the cover. I thought it was by Sony Pictures, but I couldn't find it on their website or imdb. Any help would be appreciated. If you've seen this movie, how was it?
posted by bsexton to Media & Arts (16 answers total)

I liked it. It helps if you already have an interest in Dan or are into so-called "outsider music" in general, though.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:33 PM on January 26, 2007

goodnewsfortheinsane is unanimously correct. The little alien you saw is from the album "Hi, How Are you?" and can be seen again on this here website of his.
posted by Milkman Dan at 12:38 PM on January 26, 2007

Or, across the street from UT-Austin's Harry Ransom Center. It was originally painted on the side of a record store, which became a Mexican restaurant, which closed, and I haven't been back lately to see what's happened since.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:43 PM on January 26, 2007

You guys are great! Thanks so much!
posted by bsexton at 12:44 PM on January 26, 2007

Even if you don't love Daniel Johnston that much, it's a fascinating documentary about a truly disturbed genius. If you're into "people stories", this would be a great movie.
posted by GilloD at 12:49 PM on January 26, 2007

The movie's pretty grandiose -- it doesn't really get into the core issues of outsider art (i.e. what makes outsider art good/interesting, and how we try to evaluate it in the same context of mainstream art, or whether that's even possible), and simply tries to paint a picture of a TRUE GENIUS, which Daniel Johnston is (I guess debatably) absolutely not. Somebody in this movie, straight-faced, says he's a better songwriter than Dylan.

There's an issue that's partially addressed in the movie, namely that D.J. would be a much more functioning and happy person if he remained on his meds. On the other hand, it's always been in the best interests of his hangers-on that he stay off medication in order to continue his (supposed) meteoric rise to fame. I came away with the feeling that a lot of people in the movie (including, possibly, the director), were interested in using Daniel Johnston for their own benefit. They all want desperately to be part of something important and long-lasting, when really Daniel Johnston is kind of funny and writes cute songs, but he's no Bob Dylan. But the people he surrounds himself with are all obsessed with making it so. Significantly, some of the only people who seem interested in getting Daniel better (rather than turning him into a rock god) are the guys from Sonic Youth -- the only ones who didn't have to use him to get famous. The movie doesn't comment on that directly, but I guess you can watch it with an eye on the unreliable narrator.

I had a friend in college with a radio show and we interviewed Daniel Johnston for this movie on-air. They filmed it, but it got cut from the final version. He spent most of the time grabbing the camera, staring straight into the lens and shouting "I AM HITLER!!!" The director told us he was back in one of his "nazi phases."

There's some good stuff in the movie, though, and I guess it's worth watching.
posted by one_bean at 1:49 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

The alien picture is indeed a piece of "graffiti" that was on the outside of Tower Records in Austin, that is now a University of Texas bookstore.

Here's the Flickr Picture

And here's the article from TODAY about it being torn down.
posted by stovenator at 3:33 PM on January 26, 2007

err, not today... I got hoodwinked. I think the frog is still there. I could drive by to check.
posted by stovenator at 3:34 PM on January 26, 2007

That's no alien, that's Jeremiah The Innocent Frog.

one_bean, you say you thought the people around Daniel 'were interested in using Daniel Johnston for their own benefit.' I didn't get this impression from the movie at all. I thought most of the people around Johnston were and are truly blown away by Johnston's music and art and only want to see him happy and successful. They love Daniel's music and want to share it with the world. If anything, Johnston is lucky he didn't get scooped up by a bunch of hucksters. These days his older brother is his manager and by all accounts I've seen is doing an excellent job looking after his brother's money and career.

You say 'it's always been in the best interests of his hangers-on that he stay off medication in order to continue his (supposed) meteoric rise to fame.' This is untrue. In the movie, every time Daniel goes off his meds it's his own decision (he thinks he'll play a better show) and he has to trick his 'hangers-on' (his father and his manager) into thinking he's still medicated. When Daniel goes off his meds it creates chaos and havoc for his 'hangers-on' (friends and family) and Daniel ends up either arrested or institutionalized or both. Everyone the movie interviewed-- everyone-- wants Daniel Johnston to keep taking his medicine.

Daniel Johnston always wanted to be a 'rock god', just like his hero John Lennon. Through hard work, good luck and sheer persistence, the man is living his dream.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:35 PM on January 26, 2007

Oh, and relevant MeFi link
posted by stovenator at 3:35 PM on January 26, 2007

I love Daniel Johnston that much, and I loved the movie. I think the term genius is overused, but I find him to be a truly unique talent. However, other people--whom I respect--absolutely can't stand his music. Since so much of the film is about Johnston's music, I'm sure they'd hate it, even though it is a fascinating people story.
posted by found missing at 3:37 PM on January 26, 2007

great movie - interesting look into his life! if you like it, i'd also rent 'how to draw a bunny'
posted by boygirlparty at 4:46 PM on January 26, 2007

I enjoyed the movie a lot. As for his music, I'm not a particular fan of his own recordings (too lo-fi, and I don't like his voice). But he wrote some pretty good simple pop songs, that have been covered by a whole host of other bands. Check out The Late Great Daniel Johnston - Discovered Covered for covers of his songs by Wilco, Eels, Bright Eyes, TV on the Radio, Teenage Fanclub, Beck. Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, Beck etc.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:11 PM on January 26, 2007

Dead Dog's Eyeball is another album of his songs done by someone else (Kathy McKarty), and is very very good
posted by edgeways at 9:59 PM on January 26, 2007

I'm in Austin. The frog's still on the former Sound Exchange/Baja Fresh building. No other business has moved in yet.

I'm not a big DJ fan, but I did like the documentary. It made me want to record everything.
posted by lunalaguna at 8:23 PM on January 28, 2007

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