One Punk’s Movie Guide By Mike Plante

One Punk’s Movie Guide by Mike Plante

One Punk’s Movie Guide originally appeared in Razorcake #104, released in June/July 2018.

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Cover illustration by Marcos Siref.
Original layout by Todd Taylor.
Zine design by Marcos Siref.

One Punk’s Movie Guide
By Mike Plante

I owe everything to movies. Film festival work pays the bills and making a fil is fun. But punk rock movies taught me about the world and let me know I wasn’t insane. To be fair, cinema has always been proud of its rebellion, but you connect most to what was around you as a kid. I wish something like the guide below was around then, but if you want something that doesn’t exist, you have to create it. I tried to keep this relatively easy to find the films (in our sad, sad age of no video stores besides the odd, lucky holdout). Many of the films are available for streaming, rent, or sale online. Some are just underground enough to pop up for free in places. And don’t get rid of your DVD and Blu-Ray players.

I wanted to make an overview that’s a fun mix for any generational fan of punk. If you’re old and creaky like me, you know most of the golden oldies, but there are always one or two great discoveries that slipped through, ready to finally check out. This is a compilation of films that don’t have punk music, but a punk ethos. I tried to fill it with lesser-known gems you might not have seen that will either reestablish or uphold your faith.

And if you’re younger and know there must be a huge archive of cool shit from the past to check out, this is a great diving board. I generally stayed away from concert films. Those are pretty easy to find if you’re searching for a band you like. I tried to stick with movie-movies and documentaries.

THE FOUNDATIONS (‘70s-‘80s)

Another State of Mind (1984)

This tour doc was filmed in ‘82  and follows Social Distortion and Youth Brigade. It’s well made and captures an important part of the second wave of punk in the early 80s, showing hard work and optimism will get you far—but so many other parts of the system (clubs, money, even the bus) will still fuck things up. Tons of great moments and insight, including one of the most perfect punk happenings—Minor Threat is playing a show, the club hates it and takes the P.A. and mics away, so the band plays anyway and the entire crowd sings all the lyrics to the songs. Take that, rock’n’roll.

The Blank Generation (1976)

Of the two punk films with this title, this is the one to watch. Amos Poe and Ivan Kral were deep in the scene in New York in the ‘70s and captured a lot of essential bands on super-8 film and later made a sorta-concert movie from it. Alas —without sync sound, so it’s odd. This brings up a weird factoid as I looked for films for this guide: While some of the major scenes in other cities are captured in docs on-the-spot, at least in London (D.O.A.), Los Angeles (Decline), and San Francisco (Target Video), there doesn’t seem to be a definitive NYC punk doc made in the ‘70s. These are home movies with music added later, and there is a charm to it. Just don’t look for deep interviews. That comes later in some great docs, such as “Looking Back with Anger.”

Border Radio (1987)

This was a project four years in the making by co-directors Allison Anders, Dean Lent, and Kurt Voss. It stars and was co-written by John Doe, Chris D., and other L.A. punk citizens. Border may be the first film that shows self-reflection of the scene and its players, capturing the end of that first L.A. punk wave as it transitioned into the mainstream (for lack of a better world) as actors and writers, or into bands that would actually get airtime. The characters fully know the best days are long gone and that it was time to evolve into a different kind of artist. They try to figure it all out in the drifting plot. Border doesn’t wallow in nostalgia, but like many of the better punk fiction films you get the idea that the people involved were part of what they were portraying and it’s interesting to see this period of time.

Class of 1984 (1982)

A classic exploitation film. I tried to stay away from too many of these because they suck. If you know that going in, then you have the right expectations. When I was fourteen, this was probably my dream world, as the punks take over the high school with maximum rage. Actually, when this came out, I was twelve, and then when I went to high school in ‘84, I broke my back skiing and was put in a body cast. So things don’t quite play out like the movies, dammit.

The Complete Truth About De-Evolution (1976–1990)

Future thinkers Devo always won gold for the style Olympics, not just because they were making short films years before music videos were normal but because of the films themselves. This covers the original brain-damaged films from the Akron early years through the big, famous times. The lyrics are smart, the music is great, and the images are hilarious. Their brand of satire was so pitch perfect that you get tricked into learning how weird the human race is. It’s analogous to the way a satirical war film is always far more scary and insightful than a serious one. Also includes the great Mongoloid short film by Bruce Conner, the grandfather of music videos.

The Cramps Live at Napa State Mental Hospital (1984)

Is this the most punk show ever? One of the most iconic bands of the scene, the slithering geniuses known as The Cramps, reworked underground rockabilly, rock, and country classics into their own mystery plane, driven by the steamroller couple of our era, Lux Interior and Poison Ivy. With no irony and no prisoners taken, every sweaty Cramps’ live show you can find online is worth a watch. But this one is next level. The hospital did have various nights of bands playing over the years (and SF’s The Mutants also played this gig), but can you imagine anyone pulling this off today? The patients, of course, fit in to punk’s style of outsider fans, but usually the crowd is in the know (a few of the bands’ friends attended but it was mostly patients). So this is even more pure when looking for the outside of society. The Cramps play a great set of their best songs and fit in perfectly. Joe filmed it with one of the first portable video cameras that only did B&W and raw sound, which really amps up the moody look—it’s like telepathy from Mars. What’s funny is it’s not crazier than the usual punk show, with people coming up on stage and trying to take the mic away, acting like they’re having a seizure. But the aura is weird. The hospital’s citizens dance and seem to love the band. Lux loves them right back in a genuine way: “…somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that. You seem to be all right to me.”

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

While it feels like the apex of the Los Angeles punk scene, Decline might actually capture the end of the first wave of L.A., as rampant violence and the mainstream music industry quickly ate it up. But it has some of the best punk moments on film, between energetic performances and long interviews with some of the best bands of the time. The pure humanity of the kids really comes through and gave me something to believe in when I saw it at age fourteen, a few years after it was made. Many young fans give honest thoughts about growing up fucked up. Even most of the bands are fucked up kids in their early twenties. If you grew up far from London, New York, or Los Angeles, you may have felt trapped. Then, if the world is fair, you see something like Decline, directed by Penelope Spheeris.

Crazy-living punks like Darby (Germs), Exene (X), and Dukowski (Black Flag) spout out what society really means and why we should fight against it at times. They’re beautiful poets, but they’re also real people you can relate to. They drink and are messy and make mistakes in life. Recognizing the world for what it is doesn’t save you from it—but you can make adjustments to stay sane and have fun.

The filmmaking is perfect for the tone. It feels so urgent with great 16mm camerawork. And it’s better than the usual music doc. There are full songs.  Subtitles of the lyrics show it’s not about coke and cars, but actual meaning, frustration, and poetry. The stylish interviews with the punk kids (one bright light bulb) feel dramatic for a moment, but then become fun.

Every generation has its version of messed up teens/delinquents, but I still think true misfit punk rock kids and bands had the most to say with the least amount of bullshit. About half of the bands include women—another positive to the scene—as Exene and The Germs’ manager Nicole Panter have some of the most lucid thoughts about being punk rock. The film is still as compelling as ever, and there are enough positive moments to still get me inspired to be creative and question authority.

It’s worth it to buy a player for the new Blu-Ray box set. After waiting all these decades for a good copy and lost footage, it doesn’t disappoint. New transfers look and sound great (for punk). The best extras include an amazing walk through the closed-down Masque with Brendan Mullen on camera; new/old footage of songs not in the film by Fear, The Germs, and The Gears (the one band filmed but not in the finished film); audio commentary through the film with Spheeris and her daughter Anna Fox, who supervised the restoration and Blu-Ray release; and the band interviews with Black Flag, Darby, and X, unedited in their full form. There are also interviews with Mullen, Nicole Panter, and the light bulb kids. So much cool extra footage. For deep fans, it’s like getting another punk film in all its time capsule glory. The doc does a good job humanizing the bands as real people, but the long interviews really give you further insight as well as some more fun moments.

The one extra that’s oddly the most fun is the full “attention” announcements from each band. A necessary statement for film legality sets the tone perfectly, as the punks are asked to enforce authority—through a punk filter.

Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984)

Filmmaker Dave Markey caught some great footage of the punk scene in L.A., often on luscious super-8 film. He’s made a lot of docs but also a couple of fiction films like DTL and its sequel. This isn’t the film to watch to learn about the danger of fame, but to have fun watching some kids making a DIY movie with charming amateur acting and good music. It’s basically a landscape film, too, a perfect time capsule from the street of all the clothes and buildings.

D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage (1980)

One of the most important punk docs can now be seen in a better version than your old bootlegged VHS tape after being restored and released to theaters and DVD in 2017. Until the great doc The Filth and the Fury came out in 2000, this was the best way to learn the Sex Pistols’ story on film, and it’s complicated.

You got to see the legendary U.K. club shows you heard about and feel the energy and importance. And then you see the doomed U.S. tour the band played through the southern states before imploding in San Francisco at their last show.

In the middle is an epic interview with Sid and Nancy, which is not informative, but a stark look into sad junkie life. All this is complicated because it feels like it’s looking from the outside in, even with Sid, because he’s too wasted to complete a sentence. What was happening behind the scenes is fascinating and clearly explained in Filth, but you should watch this first to get a real emotional sense of the scene in all its blood and guts on 16mm film.

Besides the powerful footage of the Pistols in full, subtitled-lyric glory, there’s a lot more to enjoy. Tons of show footage of great bands that never got as much screen time (especially X-Ray Spex and Sham 69). Lots of fan interviews (is this where that staple started?) with two important audiences. The U.K. youth are interesting, as they have their specific experiences in that country as working class. But it’s the southern U.S. crowds that are more fascinating, as they’re true weirdos and curiosity seekers, stuck in what had to be the most non-punk scenes possible.

By the end, it works in the way many political and social issue docs succeed. The scene started to fight problems, both in society and in music. Incredible energy and deep motivation created a vibrant moment with great promise. A few benefitted and really changed things. In the end for Sid and the Pistols, it’s melancholic, not just from the lost youth, but much of the horror-future they predicted would be here.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

One of the films I’m sure you know, but it’s time to re-watch it. Holds up incredibly well over time, and as an adult you realize how fucking amazing this is. You’d think it would be a ‘70s sex comedy or a soap opera that’s harsh and revealing—but Fast Times feels soooo real, showing the mess that is high school with complete honesty. The awkwardness of young love is sweet, charming, and fun, and then fucking terrifying when the creepy predator dudes show up. Director Amy Heckerling didn’t leave out the tough moments, dealing with sex and abortion in a candid way most films don’t try to touch. Of course, there’s still the overwhelming factor of Spicoli, which might make you remember the film in the wrong way. The film is still hilarious, after you stop thinking, “Holy shit, that’s Sean Penn.” The great acting and characters are bigger and better than just the stoner comedy, though. This will save your kid more than any D.A.R.E. video could hope to.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)

A group of young women start a band in the face of opposition. They push through the bullshit that is the music industry, fight misogyny, trends, and expectations, and achieve a failed success as the system eats the band up. Yet, they prove an inspiration for other young girls to be creative individuals.

The big Hollywood studio Paramount didn’t try to make a punk masterpiece. But that’s just what Fabulous Stains ends up being. The pieces are odd—screenwriter Nancy Dowd (credited as a Rob Morton) also wrote the nasty but hilarious Slap Shot and won an Academy Award for co-writing the sensitive Vietnam drama Coming Home. She knew how to make vibrant characters in a world you want to watch. Director Lou Adler had only directed Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, which has some punk ethics. But he had a long, successful history in the music business as a record producer with The Mamas And The Papas and Carole King, among others, and knew how the system operated. The actors are a wild mix of incredible movie talents—including Diane Lane, Christine Lahti, Laura Dern, and Ray Winstone—and actual legendary punk rockers. The main band in the film behind Winstone is Steve Jones, Paul Simonon, and Paul Cook.

You’ve seen the story before with teen angst, shit parents, and cautious bands selling out. But it’s done so well here—from the performances, to the music, to the message—that it’s worth all the hype. Of course, much of the hype is from the studio wimping out and trying to stop anyone from seeing the film, reshooting the ending, and barely releasing it to theaters. It became a bootleg hit in the ‘80s and ‘90s and popped up on late night TV, making it even more special.

Made in Britain (1983)

The great U.K. director Alan Clarke made movies for television, often around England’s working class social issues, all being realistic dramas with powerful acting. This has Tim Roth as a Nazi skinhead, exploring not only his faults, but the fucked system that won’t help to change him. Also highly recommended are Clarke’s other angry youth films Scum (1979) and The Firm (1989).

Out of the Blue (1980)

Dennis Hopper was hired to star and ended up directing this lost classic of weirdness, right at the end of his dangerous days post-Apocalypse Now and before he cleaned up and was reborn into Blue Velvet. Linda Manz, the truly strange cool kid from Days of Heaven and The Wanderers, plays his daughter who cares more about Johnny and Sid than her deadbeat dad. Things get really strange, but just watching Dennis and Linda move and talk is worth the price of admission. It’s a weird atmosphere that’s hard to come by. The Pointed Sticks from Vancouver pop up with kickass energy. It’s better than exploitation, but still pretty druggy.

Over the Edge (1979)

Did Matt Dillon even have parents? It’s like he just stood up out of the gutter one day, combusting into the universe. Outta control teens go wild, proving that suburban neighborhoods are worse than downtown—not a film full of punk rockers as much as they are little punks. Reckless teen stories go back to the 1930s at least, when teenagers were invented by child labor laws, not having to go work in a factory at ten, or at least they could finish high school before getting drafted. So this one isn’t the first, but it’s the best that came out at the time and felt symbiotic with the punk life being created then. In his first film, Matt Dillon started a career of playing this character, because it’s pretty cool. Lots of the cast was found by going to schools and grabbing kids who were skipping class. The film was hard to find for a long time, because distributors were scared it would start riots, then it gained fans on late night TV. Adults are so dumb.

Repo Man (1984)

Besides a killer soundtrack, Repo Man is a time capsule of the ‘80s. Disenfranchised, suburban youth decompose in a big city’s downtown, stealing pills and cars for fun and money. It’s full of conspiracy theories, aliens, “dianetix,” time machines, the FBI, and other reasons why the world is out of our hands. The terrifying, imminent nuclear war. John Wayne came to the door in a dress.

This movie is so quotable, the commentary track on the DVD is 75% of the cast and crew saying the lines along with the film and laughing.

Today, the film resonates even more. The late, great Harry Dean Stanton plays Bud, an aging repo man with plans to retire. He thinks he understands the world looking from the street up. “No commies in my car… No Christians, either!” Then-lesser-known Emilio Estevez plays Otto, a young punker who hates the world and takes up a repo gig for money. The amazing character actor Tracey Walter plays Miller, the only one of the repo staff who doesn’t drive. He thinks he sees the whole world for what it is, with UFOs as time machines and a plate of shrimp connecting all of society.

Director Alex Cox does not make it romantic. It’s a comedy and political satire. While the punk kids are ready to fight the system, they also have no direction on how to do that. They rob and pillage, but do the drugs they steal. The rich, government-running bad guys in the film also believe in aliens, but they think they deserve them as a chosen group. The only true revolutionaries in the film are the Latinx characters from East L.A., who have been fucked by the system since day one.

Otto has the clearest vision of all, as an observer swept up by the repo culture. He never sees himself as better than anyone else. He’ll do the drugs and he doesn’t treat friends that nice, but he also knows the world is totally nuts. When an old friend gets shot in a robbery, he tells Otto he blames society for making him a villain. Otto says that’s bullshit—he’s just a suburban punk like Otto.

The Criterion Collection release has great extras, tons of deleted scenes, new interviews with everyone involved, and a hilarious TV version of the film, where they say, “Flip you” a lot.

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

My reluctance to include lame exploitation that happens to feature some punk-looking characters is not happening here—Return is amazing! About one second after punk rock became notorious, filmmakers tried to shoehorn it into fiction films. It worked with Repo Man because Alex Cox actually liked the music and understood what the scene was talking about, and mixed it into a sci-fi genre comedy. Here, the comedy genre totally works, too. Maybe horror is the perfect genre for punk. Plenty of great bands like The Misfits and The Cramps borrowed almost everything from ‘50s and ‘60s horror movies. In turn, the best horror secretly made political statements against society and racism. So it’s kind of perfect that Return is a pseudo-sequel to the lo-fi Night of the Living Dead (1968), a punk-before-punk movie with stark DIY skills and strong political undertones, one of the best ever. Return has more comedy on the surface in the same way Repo does, but also great effects to make the horror pay off with things zombies never did before. Classic character actors deliver the goods and a cool soundtrack fills the movie. There’s a punk method to the madness: Once again, it’s the greedy big corporations that are going to fuck up the whole planet. Timeless.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

The Ramones in person! Another school-takeover juvenile delinquent film, and this one is the most fun. While most of the teensploitation flicks get deep into violence and try reallllly hard to shock you, RNRHS just wants to make you laugh. There’s a plot and it moves fast, as Riff Randall (played by P.J. Soles) falls in love with the Ramones, tries to meet them, and destroys the school. It actually works out. America’s punk boys and girls in turn fell in love with P.J. Soles.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

For what it’s worth, this is a movie with actors and not a documentary with recreations. On one hand, it changes some events for poetic license and that’s touchy, because lots of audiences get their history through movies. You can’t overlook that, as it’s not a completely surreal vision of the story. On the other hand, the acting is amazing, and it takes the approach that Sid and Nancy acted like they were in a movie in daily life, or at least an overboard, annoying soap opera. Many of the scenes don’t work for me with this soapy vibe, but you can glean the humanity of two young adults caught up in the mess. I have deep respect for writer/director Alex Cox and all his works, and am happy a film can start discussions about what it was all for, as punk ideals often sink into rock fantasies.

Smithereens (1982)

Wren is a New Jersey new wave girl, trying to make it in New York City. She’s somehow charming, yet really annoying. It’s going badly with no money or place to live. She stays with a guy who has a van, but she’s in love with a local rocker played by Richard Hell. That’s a bad choice, too. They all scheme on how to move to L.A., where the punk scene just moved. Susan Seidelman’s first film is full of raw filmmaking and it’s great, with a perspective that’s fresher than the usual macho male viewpoint from the ‘70s. The acting and atmosphere raises the film above its amateur status for some funny scenes and honest reflection on goal setting. Original soundtrack by The Feelies is minimalist gold. Filming completely in real locations, Seidelman captures the shitty ‘70s New York people seem to want back.

Suburbia (1984)

The ultimate punk rock B-movie, which should play with RNR High School in drive-ins. After her underground hit doc Decline, Penelope Spheeris made Suburbia, a fictional movie that feels like real life. Oh, it’s got bad acting and some cheeseball plot twists, but the kids feel like real kids put in a movie and the desperate California world didn’t feel like a set. We follow a group of runaway punk rock kids forced to the streets as they bond into a family unit, protecting each other and fighting the man. It’s pretty funny in parts, and the dramatic moments can be overboard but meaningful. The gift this film has is honesty. Ultimately, the kids are as human and flawed as many of the parents, making fun of people who don’t deserve it, doing petty crimes, and getting wasted. They just don’t have jobs or houses they need to maintain for appearances.

The world is complicated. Suburbia runs the tightrope between exploitation and sensitive teen portrayal. One kid runs away because his dad is gay, another because his stepdad is a black cop. Even in the ‘80s, that seemed awkward and dumb. But then the black cop becomes the most sensible, positive character in the film. Another time, a girl is attacked and shamed at a show with her clothes ripped off and everyone screaming at her, a dumb drive-in movie cliché. Later in the film, the runaways gallantly fight back against a dad who sexually abused one of the girls. The great Roger Corman paid for half of the film. He loved artistic foreign films, but made hundreds of exploitation films with shock values, and some of that double life shows up here. Corman was also the only producer in the U.S. with real money and resources to give women jobs as writers and directors on a regular basis, and Spheeris was rightly established as a talented filmmaker.

As most punk fiction films of the time, Suburbia captures some great band performances with better-than-usual image and sound. This time it’s T.S.O.L., The Vandals, and D.I. in live “shows” made for the movie that are great.

Target Video

Target Video—started in 1977 in San Francisco by video artist Joe Rees and co-founders Jill Hoffman and Jackie Sharp to make a “new type of television”—captured artists and bands on videotape, which probably felt more punk and DIY than film at the time. The footage was originally for a show on public access TV and later became a long release of VHS tapes. The collection of videos made by Target is essential. While mostly performances, their series of tape releases are a bedrock document of punk bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s across a pretty wide spectrum of what “punk” stood for in the early days. You have the lighter stuff that I’m always surprised is called punk when it’s soft rock, but I do connect with the ethos and the artistic DIY style of those bands. You have the intense hardcore at the other end of the punk spirit and a whole lot of fascinating personalities in between.

Target caught great live performances and also had bands play in their studio with solid recording equipment. Each tape felt so urgent that even the trailers at the end were hints of gold you had to search out, which is hopefully easier now with the internet. Target also had a great knack for capturing the unique moments: Crime playing in San Quentin prison (it’s one thing when it’s a famous country singer and something else when it’s an underground punk band in cop uniforms and sunglasses), a news report about Jello Biafra running for mayor, The Mutants doing a free show for deaf kids, art-robot destruction by Survival Research Laboratories, and The Screamers, who wanted to make videos not records. And then there is this video.…

Urban Struggle (1981)

Short, black-and-white 16mm doc about legendary club The Cuckoo’s Nest south of Los Angeles, where Orange County beach punks showed up to party, much to the dismay of the cowboy bar next door. Incredible live footage and interviews from all the people involved, from the owner to the early bands and the fans, exploring the scene and the violent rednecks. Not long enough, but there was a follow-up doc in the last ten years (see later in this guide). This short is just as raw and, on the heels of Decline, a perfect companion piece. “The hippies, I don’t think really believed in love that much, and I don’t think the punks believe in hate that much…” –Jerry Roach, club owner

There’s a feature doc follow-up called Clockwork Orange County (2012), although it spreads out beyond the club to profile punk culture and bands in Orange County and the beaches. Lots of talking heads, but plenty of the right folks and the stories are fantastic; great insight.

Wire—On the Box (Live at Rockpalast 1979)

Not a doc so much as a well-produced TV show and long interview, but essential. Rockpalast was started in 1974 and is still a German TV show with all kinds of rock and jazz bands performing. This episode captures Wire at blazing speed, already with some fame and notoriety (“We don’t take requests.”). The live versions are much different than the recorded versions, of course, but they’re so tight and energetic that you get something special. As much as I love a messed-up video image and stark sound, every once in a while you’d like the time travel treasure hunt to result in some perfect image, sound, and editing. And then the band is amazing too! Makes me cry.

X: The Unheard Music (1986)

Great filmmaking follows the lovable X as they release their new album Under the Big Black Sun. Reflect on the past and enjoy the present. Way more vibrant than the usual doc about a band, this film is inventive. One sequence of old punk photos are scanned during one song. “The Unheard Music” plays over an incredible sequence of a house being moved by a semi through the streets of L.A. late at night. The filmmakers set up cameras at different street corners and inside the house itself, staring out the windows as the city creeps by. Delving into the business of it all, X the documentary observes the often ridiculous music industry.

Maybe it’s not a surprise; the film is more cohesive than usual, as X was older and seemed to have their shit together compared to younger, wilder bands in the scene. We see X in their own houses, giving a peek into their personalities. Live shows are covered with actual good sound and lighting. There’s also a nice acoustic rendition of a Hank Williams song by Exene and Doe. Billy Zoom gets deep about scooters. Bonebrake does an incredible display of how to keep a beat with all four extremities. It’s good to have a happy doc about a band in the mix, encouraging the rest of us to be creative.

PUNK’S NOT DEAD

We made it past Reagan!

Films made in the ‘90s and beyond, about what was happening right in front of the camera.

Better Than Something (2011)

Jay Reatard embodied a pure punk spirit. Growing up poor in Memphis, he was an outsider who took his band name from what bullies called him, recorded his first songs on a 4-track with one track broken, playing guitar and hitting plastic pails ‘cause he couldn’t afford drums. He never praised himself even though he had a huge output of music and bands with an incredibly consistent high quality of rage and riffs. He also fucked up a lot, broke friendships as much as equipment, and died much too young. This documentary is almost all him talking about his music and life. It’s fun—with crazy stories plus old footage—but also insightful about what drives us to create and care about music.

The Decline of Western Civilization III (1998)

Since the second film in the Decline series was about metal, this feels like the true follow-up to the original, both made by Penelope Spheeris. This time it’s a much different structure, with more time devoted to the fans. The L.A. punk scene was twenty years in at that point, and a new generation embraced it as a tested way of life. But life on the streets of Hollywood didn’t get easier. While the world advances in technology and tolerance, plenty of young adults are still on the outside of society to the point of being homeless. There are fewer bands this time and they’re good, but the movie’s more about adapting punk to their modern lives. Punk has always come from desperation, but did anyone really expect it to last? Spheeris explores punk ideals and changing times in new interviews with Flea, Keith Morris, and Rick Wilder from the Mau Maus.

Fugazi: Instrument (1998)

It’s hard to make a doc about a band; it helps to film one for ten years. Instrument shows what an amazing documentary about a great band can be—as exciting and artistic as the band is. A solid mix of here’s-what-happened stories along with beautiful film and video footage of live shows across the years. Filmmaker Jem Cohen is also from DC and has been lifelong friends with the band, so there’s that inherent trust that would be hard to get from an outsider dropping in with a camera. This feels like family. Jem’s style of dreamy street photography fits perfectly with the band.

Fugazi walked the walk, doing benefits, keeping shows affordable, and staying consistent in songwriting. Just the most successful band in our lifetime. And there are plenty of human moments and laughs throughout the film; people expect them to be monks or something. But as Ian says, “Fugazi is about being a band.”

Hype! (1996)

Now is an interesting time to re-watch Doug Pray’s landmark film about the Seattle scene. It’s good to remember the ‘90s pop culture insanity of the grunge era also includes a lot of great punk bands that started in the ‘80s. Everyone in Seattle was well aware of the impending doom the music industry brings—and did unleash—on any band that was simply from the area, to the point where the city name was on the magazine cover without the particular band names. Eddie Vedder admits so much of the success they got should’ve included many important bands that came before them. But we can’t control major labels, much less what people will buy. Anyway, the doc is fun and reminded me of a lot of bands I liked beyond The Melvins and Nirvana. Plus, it shows the real community and cool people that have always been there, before and after the rest of the world cares.

Kids (1995)

That this film was so shocking when it came out was strange then. It definitely captures serious issues in a realistic way, but we all knew (or were) these kinds of kids, from every generation. Fucking around, getting wasted, skating… The music would change a bit with the times, the clothes, the size of the wheels, but essentially the drama of wasted youth rang the same bell from the ‘40s on. Films got better over the decades—or maybe more realistic with less censorship holding them back—at portraying so-called juvenile delinquents to where it felt more like a home movie: handheld camera, more natural dialogue, et cetera. Punk fiction movies always seem to have non-actors involved and are inspired by real events. I think that’s one of the best things about them: the honesty. Plus, they always have reviews or really hilarious TV news coverage talking about the dangers of showing them in theaters. From the edgy minds of Harmony Korine and Larry Clark, Kids now rides the line of time capsule and modern drug scare film, in a good way, and it still feels vital and alive. It also has the unfortunate cliché many of these flicks do, where some of the non-actors faced tragedy in the real world.

Kurt Cobain: About a Son (2006)

Of course, there are a ton of films about Nirvana. However, I would guess Kurt might like this one. All the audio is from Michael Azerrad’s taped interviews with Kurt talking about his life over newly filmed footage of all the places he lived and talks about. It’s a beautiful, personal portrait that gets to the heart of the real person.

The Punk Singer (2013)

The life and times of ‘90s punk icon Kathleen Hanna, from her outspoken days in Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, to her current fight with Lyme disease and continuing to be creative and positive. Punk has had a number of strong female musicians to look up to, but it’s still not enough in any music scene, as meatheads always seem to take over. Hanna has been a role model for the right reasons—not out of ego or money, but because she is smart and talented. You wish that were the case with every musician—it is possible. The doc is a fun ride, but when she’s hit with the disease, it’s yet another hurdle of bully society to leap over. Few could do it the way Hanna does.

The Punk Syndrome (2012)

Doc about a one-of-a-kind punk band, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät from Finland, consisting of developmentally disabled musicians who met in 2009 in a social workshop for adults. The film follows the band as they try to stay together through creative differences and compete in a national battle of the bands made for TV. Uplifting and never cheesy, just totally sincere as they sing about just wanting to be treated with respect—while banging out catchy punk rock. Bands are families and sometimes it gets deeper than blood.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (2013)

Again, when we see true punk rock in another country, we get a taste of what the music and the message can really do. We‘re also reminded of how fucked a bad government can be. When the activist band Pussy Riot puts on a political performance inside a church in their homeland Russia, the clamps really come down as they get arrested. The doc follows the creation of the group, their performances, and trial, as the women face seven years in a vicious prison camp—for saying the church is bad. Scary and intense.

We Are the Best! (2013)

An amazing good time as teen girls in 1980s Sweden tell everyone with normal hair and clothes to fuck off, and then start a band because they can’t play and no one wants to hear them. What’s great is their parents are actually supportive—it’s other kids that suck. Hilarious fun and should be required viewing if you have a kid in middle school. Their main song is called “Hate the Sport!”

LOOK BACK IN ANGER

Newer documentaries dealing with the past

The Allins (2017)

To GG Allin’s mom, he was just Kevin. This is a look—finally—at the notorious punk icon that gets past the bullshit shock and awe to what really fucked him up. With so many of our “big” names in punk rock—Sid, Darby, Thunders, Dee Dee, et cetera—you feel our scene was the start of fighting back for someone marginalized and is positive. Yet they still get sucked up in the character they created and it eats them alive with incredible speed. GG might have been a talented singer and stage performer, but he was too far gone from the start, destroyed by an evil father beyond what you could expect. This doc gets to the real story from the mother, who truly wishes things were different, and from older brother Merle. As he embraces the notoriety and fans, Merle finds an unusual existence of living off the fame and the strange knick-knacks he sells to pay the bills. All the while, he has a love for his lost brother that brings the complicated world to the surface.

American Hardcore (2006)

Wham, bam—bam, bam, bam! A treasure trove of old footage from big and small names, with some good insights from players talking about the emotion under the intense energy. Although there are some bands and folks oddly missing here—maybe due to infighting—this will satisfy your hardcore fix more than a mix tape. It’s more fun to see the people go nuts.

Bad Brains: A Band in D.C. (2012)

You could easily say Bad Brains was as influential as any of the biggest names in punk, at least to kids in the audience and definitely to other bands. Present at the very start, ferocious yet more musically adept than others, bringing their diversity to the music—not just the stage—as they played reggae in equal amounts as hardcore. If you don’t know the legend behind lead singer H.R., this doc is a start, with incredible archive footage and stories from the rest of the band members about the roller coaster of being a unique band, but never quite crossing over to being a success. The only problem is H.R. doesn’t really want his life story told, and the film focuses too much on the reality show aspects of the story, dropping in and grabbing moments, when there’s more of a message the band could get across. At least the film doesn’t glorify the severe destructive problems within, just observes them. The brief, amazing creativity of the band is the part to celebrate.

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (2012)

While the Dogtown crew started so many important things in the skate world, they were the excess rock’n’roll era to the more DIY punk era of the Bones Brigade crew. While the older guys were crashing and burning, the new teens on the board were reinventing skating with humility and childlike enthusiasm. The kids were Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain, and Rodney Mullen. They were led by the older Stacy Peralta, who also directed this look-back doc. The style is a bit forced with the sit down interviews, but all the personality makes it fun and insightful right away. We get to hear about their lives and the rebirth (and rebirth again) of skating direct from their point of view, exploring the idea of skating as both art and sport, and how money affected everything. There’s also incredible old footage, and there’s even a nice reunion between Peralta and old business partners George Powell, who had the mechanical skill, and artist/writer/photographer Craig Stecyk, who made designs and coined the name Bones Brigade. And even if you know these stories, you’ve got to see the doc in order to fully realize the next level that is Rodney Mullen.

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

The first of two great docs on the start and art of skateboarding by a guy who was there—Stacy Peralta. Dogtown covers the first wave, which was more sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll—all seemingly fun until they’re reallllly not. Stacy has great access to everyone (left alive) and killer old footage. And there’s no glossy filter. He shows how so much of the promise and talent went to waste at times. It’s exciting and sad and real. The doc established Stacy as a filmmaker, and more than just a guy who films tricks.

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2004)

Here’s the proof the Ramones were far more complex than the mainstream gave them credit. Maybe it was the clothes, the hair, or all the 1-2-3-4, but the notion that they were just dumb kids who couldn’t play never sat well with me in middle school. This doc is fantastic—so much archive footage, but also some perfect, fun, and insightful interviews with everyone involved, including family and friends. Joey was really smart, Johnny was all business, Dee Dee was actually talented, and Tommy and Marky were important to the glue. I knew it. All the warts are here, too —the fighting and the bad living. The band was and still is a blueprint for fuckups to succeed on their own terms. It’s confusing being at a baseball game and people who would beat me up for listening to the band are now screaming, “Hey ho, let’s go.” But, whatever, Earth is a strange place.

The Filth and the Fury (2000)

At the very least, the total genius of this doc is to have the band speak in silhouette like a witness protection program. Plus, how many docs are just people sitting and talking? Some style is always appreciated. The real meat here is getting deep into the story of the Sex Pistols, with all the players giving their memories of what was an important time for music and politics.

Whatever you thought you knew, this film goes deeper. There’s a lot of positivity coming from the intense times the band existed in, along with the heartache—from the band’s benefit show for firemen on strike, to Lydon breaking down what happened to Sid.

The Godfathers of Hardcore (2017)

Historical piece about Agnostic Front, with more surprisingly emotional notes than you’d expect. This gives you the usual band history vibe of show footage, old photos, and waxing nostalgic, with some great hardcore footage and stories. There’s also an even fresher story here between two very different men working together in life. Vinnie Stigma is the NYC born-and-bred street tough kid who still lives in the same apartment all these years, as coffee takes his neighborhood over. And Roger Miret is the Cuban immigrant, rising out of forced poverty and overcoming some wrong choices that society didn’t exactly help him with. There can be a lot of humanity inside the angry hardcore, and people can actually like each other while fighting the system.

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)

British filmmaker Julien Temple was deep in the ‘70s scene there and thus has made two great looking-back docs on punk pillars who were also his friends. This one goes deep into Strummer’s life while keeping it an actual movie wrapped around all the reminiscing, with cool home movies and family photos, plus some amazing early Clash footage. Along with Strummer’s own voice from interviews and talking to old friends who paint a complete picture, you see the world around Joe that created him and that he also tried to break down.

Skinhead (2016)

One of the main facets of punk—skinhead—is controversial, especially depending on what decade and city is being referenced. Director Don Letts goes deep into the history and lays out the facts in this great doc he made for the BBC. Letts was there in ‘70s England as a young British filmmaker and official videographer for the Clash before he made a ton of docs on punk history, including one of the better look-backs, Punk: Attitude (2005), and a doc on the Clash, Westway to the World (1999).

Skinhead goes through the people, places, and ideals and breaks down the look. Fashion is one the least discussed facets of punk, as a specific way to show you are an independent mind, or at the very least a member of a local community. Letts finds what appears to be the literal shop where the skin look started along with the original, diverse community at the beginning. He then explores what happens when fashion gets hijacked from a culture.

Sonic Outlaws (1995)

“Copyright Infringement Is Your Best Entertainment Value.” Filmmaker Craig Baldwin is the king of found footage (see Tribulation 99 later in the list), and made this film to explore the world of using found films—music and sounds—to create new art. He also goes into the world of Negativland, one of the more interesting bands within sample culture, and their well-publicized fight with U2. While that story gets serious, there are also hilarious moments throughout.

Theory of Obscurity: A Film about The Residents (2015)

Holy shit—are The Residents basically unmasking themselves? For the fortieth anniversary of the trippy band, they allowed a documentary to be made about their long and strange history, playing a warped mix of rock and jazz that’s neither of those things, while incorporating high concept theatrical stage shows and always wearing masks, best known for their giant eyeballs in top hats. Hailing from Shreveport, they ended up in a cocoon in San Mateo in the late ‘60s before metamorphosing alongside punk in mid-‘70s S.F. They’re serious musicians but incredible pranksters and artists—maybe if you mixed the Butthole Surfers with Devo and still took more acid.

No one has ever seen their faces, other than one or two performers whose masks let some face slip. The interviewees are, of course, speaking as close friends of the band who happen to have been next to them all these decades as the band’s managers, “The Cryptic Corporation.” It seems they are all the band members over the years (that are still alive) and have fantastic stories and ideas about art and music. Mix in some truly special archive footage of their performances, films, and music videos. It’s great fun to hear all the theories about who they are before sorta learning they are just who they are: hallucinatory artist-musicians from the deep South, I guess, in my opinion. The real fun is seeing the highlights of their crazy cool work from all the decades.

There Is No Authority but Yourself (2006)

This is a solid look back at anarcho punks Crass, with great modern day interviews involving Penny Rimbaud, Steve Ignorant, Eve Libertine, and Gee Vaucher, exploring the vibrant political art and history of the band, from simple beginnings to influential songs and shows, to the very odd heights of companies stealing their logos for modern T-shirts and their fans in the KGB. They also speak to the deep ethics of the band, which they still fully embrace. They walk the walk but don’t preach—just speak their minds, do what they say, and listen to others.

PUNK ETHOS

These films may not have a mohawk or skateboard, but punks will be fans.

American Job (1996)

Not a fiction film and not a mockumentary, Job follows co-writer and actor Randy Russell through a variety of dead-end jobs. Although Russell is acting for the camera, everyone else in the film is a real worker, with Russell having worked at some of the places in real life.

Based on Randy’s zine of the same name from the ‘80s, Job captures the monotony of what the average American is expected to do for work to stay alive. It also takes a step back and looks at the whole picture, and shows what we punkers already saw—the world of jobs can be absurd. You’re a cog in an enormous wheel. It’s not even about tearing down the system from inside. Man, you’re working an overnight shift alone in a warehouse full of boxes.

There are great characters in here and some truly weird atmospheres. Randy fully represents the 9-to-5 working stiff. We follow him in Milwaukee as he tries to stay gainfully employed making minimum wage, bouncing from job to job. He not only gives some insight on the human condition but also provides mounds of deadpan humor. Somehow, Russell and filmmaker Chris Smith bring a unique feel to the documenting of mundane work behavior. When one manager is disappointed in Randy, he makes him switch chairs so Randy can feel like a manager for a moment, then he has to fire himself. Denizens of overnight shifts create their own perverse logic, and when one co-worker talks Randy into going to a strip club, you just know it’s not gonna be pretty.

This is Chris Smith’s first film as director, before going on to make the cult classic American Movie and many other cool films. Go Milwaukee!

Chameleon Street (1989)

Based on the incredible true story of William Douglas Street, a super-con-man who impersonated a variety of successful professionals—sometimes to make money, sometimes to prove he can do more than the world expects of him. In a short time, Street goes from a simple extortion plot to complex impersonations, including a reporter from Time, a lawyer, and even a surgeon—who did multiple fucking surgeries on patients. The intensely enigmatic Wendell B. Harris, a self-taught filmmaker from Flint, Mich., wrote, directed, and acted as the main character in this film version of the story, which won Sundance and more recently was released for streaming and DVD. The film tackles identity, class, and race politics that still feel fresh today. The extremely intelligent Street has great ideas to fight the system, but is constantly stumped by tiny details he cannot control. You root for him to win, but feel sorry for the people getting conned as well. And it’s bittersweet-funny, as the sardonic humor in the film rings all too true.

Chuck Norris Vs. Communism (2015)

In the 1980s, a rich smuggler in Romania decided to deal in VHS tapes of American action films, re-recording them with a single female translator dubbing over the film’s sound in Romanian. It was not only big time underground entertainment there, it quite possibly helped start their revolution. And this shit is real. So amazing. The doc uses incredibly well-made recreations. It’s twice as fun as you think it could be.

Duck Soup (1933)

As writers and actors, the Marx Brothers destroyed society in every one of their films. Growing up poor at the turn of the century, the (real) brothers worked their family into a travelling vaudeville troupe as teenagers. Doing traditional comedy gags and singing, they eventually their found their voice making comedy to comment on how dumb the system is. They were a huge success, then pissed off the wrong people and lost everything. They found their way onto Broadway plays and found huge success again, only to get wiped out by the stock market crash of 1929. Hollywood was the last straw. They reluctantly took their plays and acts and remade them into films. Luckily, this is the way they can exist to us, through movies. And they kept their trademark insanity of fighting the system.

However, they never made themselves everymen or superheroes. Instead, they put themselves in the roles of powerful high society and showed the absurdities. For Duck Soup, instead of showing the insanity of a government that loves war by portraying serious revolutionaries, they put themselves at the top of the government in a clever satire.

Right off the bat, Groucho Marx becomes president of a country going broke. He blatantly declares war on a neighbor for no reason at all—or barely—for the love of a rich woman. Along the way, the four brothers enact total destruction, piling insanity on top of insanity, singing the troops into war fervor through repetition of gibberish—“But everyone else is into it. Aren’t you?”

Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo Marx jockey for various cabinet positions in the surreal government. In the simple search for money, they backstab each other and tear the country up. While hilarity ensues in the fake war film, there are far too many similarities to today, or every decade, really. So many times in movies it’s a satire that’s far more realistic than a drama (also see Dr Strangelove, Monty Python, et cetera). The writing is sharp and delivered fast. Through total absurdity, the Marx Brothers somehow predicted the greed and militarism over the next seventy years. Might as well laugh while we cry.

Special mention: One of the characters in Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia has a sharpie-drawn Groucho face on the back of his white jacket, among T.S.O.L. and other logos.

Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)

A group of dwarves take over their mental institution and create their own rules. Things don’t go well. Filmmaker Werner Herzog has 1,000 miles of street cred going overboard, with larger-than-life stories and fantastical characters that are often based on fact, then he layers them by working with unusual actors like, say, a group of dwarves. Or with the mysterious Bruno S., who portrayed Kaspar Hauser but also lived a life very similar to Kaspar. Or an entire cast that was hypnotized. Or Klaus Kinski—multiple times. Yet in each film, Herzog finds a cohesiveness that is as mesmerizing and poetic as it is funny. Like life, right?

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Before the great Hairspray (1988) or even his cult classic freakout Pink Flamingos (1972), counterculture genius John Waters blessed the planet with this insane, hilarious feature that is somehow still incredibly shocking today. Waters has made a career with movies the mainstream thinks are foul and disgusting, when he is simply holding up a mirror to society. Okay, a mirror painted black with vomit on it, but still… And I’m not a fan of the “so bad it’s good” nonsense. Bad is just bad. I’m a fan of filmmakers who fully realize they have a vision and limited resources, and will blow it out anyway with the guitar and amp parts left working. That’s punk. Maniacs has been restored by the Criterion Collection. The high art irony is not lost on Waters—saying he can’t believe their logo is in front of this insanity.

Ratcatcher (1999)

It’s so hard to catch the true feeling of the perils of childhood. And when a film does, you wonder how the hell did we even survive our youth? Lynne Ramsay’s first feature finds the beauty in the beast, as a preteen boy tries to navigate life after a tragedy in a poor neighborhood in ‘70s Glasgow. He turns to some delinquents, but the film always stays realistic with some incredibly poetic moments about youth.

Revolución (2010)

On the hundredth anniversary of the Mexican revolution, ten notable Mexican filmmakers were asked to make a ten-minute short about the revolution. It’s more interesting than a gimmick and it’s not a historical drama. It’s different ideas of what the revolution means to society today. A wide mix of styles and stories—and some are better than others—but the process is worth seeing. I prefer the more abstract moments, which can still get totally nuts.

Stranded In Canton (2005)

Self-taught photographer William Eggleston is born and bred in Memphis, which may have influenced his style creating truly American portraits: gorgeous colors and textures, fascinating characters full of deep undercurrents, without being heavy-handed. With a load of amazing color photos from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he blew up in the art world with a 1976 show in New York. Three years prior, he got one of the first video cameras sold to the public. He took the zoom lens off and put a prime lens on, which views the world similar to how the human eye sees it. Then he adapted it to record by infrared heat rather than light, so you could see what was going on in the darkness (metaphor intended).

In 2005, he took that footage and made this seventy-seven-minute diary film, a sort of home movie filmed within his street-photo style. His world at the time consisted of family and close friends in the South, a fascinating mix of everyday folks, talented amateur performers and musicians, and some real life delinquents far past their juvenile status. “Back in the days when everyone liked quaaludes. Let’s get doooowwn.”

They hang out, perform for the camera a bit, and talk about life, with Eggleston narrating a bit in the present day about who they were. Don’t show up to this film looking for it to tell you things in words. This is about existing in the same space—a Southern Gothic room—if your eyes were a secret camera. Since making this video, Eggleston has stayed with still photography, always capturing the world in all its beauty and no bullshit. Also check out the great doc following Eggleston around his hometown of Memphis as he takes photos, William Eggleston in the Real World (2005), made by Michael Almereyda.


Tokyo Drifter
(1966)

The Japanese filmmaker Seijin Suzuki made a career out of making crazy movies in a methodical-mod style. The studio funding the films had a rule he couldn’t change the approved script, which was often a gangster story. Instead, Suzuki went nuts with the visual style, the way the actors delivered the lines, how the camera moved, and the way the film was edited. So his films have cool genre stories and amazing ‘60s clothes and cars—and a frenetic style that’s fast and kinetic, but really smart and funny. His next masterpiece, Branded to Kill, came out the following year and is just as ballistic. It got him fired from the studio.


Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America
(1992)

San Francisco legend Craig Baldwin has a long career of making underground films and it basically starts here. Trib99 is just under an hour long, yet creates a swirling tornado breaking down the history of earth by connecting every conspiracy theory made (or ninety-nine of them) to a trippy breaking point. Long before internet mash-ups, Baldwin made feature films mixing found footage from old movies, industrial films, and scenes he made on 16mm. But his footage goes so deep and obscure that it all melts perfectly into a volcano that’s pure Baldwin. You’ll scratch your head at the possibilities and laugh the whole way.

Vagabond (1985)

This film moves backward, starting with the main character’s death and showing what happened to get her there. It’s not a whodunit crime film, but a look at being “free” without rent or responsibility, just drifting. Being young and wandering is championed so often in art, and we truly dream of it every night. This film manages to capture those details that aren’t Instagram moments. Vagabond’s French title is Sans Toit ni Loi, which means “without roof or law.” The film captures that philosophy in a realistic way, a noble journey full of beauty and pain. One exchange she has with a shepherd sums up the punkness:

“On the road in this weather?”

She answers, “Didn’t choose it.”

“But it’s your road?”

“Sure.”

Also—so French.

It makes me think of the various heroes within the punk scenes. The ones that are rightly on stage; incredibly knowledgeable with strict motivation, but not without humor. Other times we pull in those who don’t want to play by rules and are just wandering, passing by at the right time in the right age of youth. And, of course, many of our heroes are both and hard to figure out. It allows for poetic moments and a fierce drive to be alive, to be creative, and to make something out of this stupid fucking world.

The Yes Men Fix the World (2009)

Holy shit, I have done nothing productive in life. That’s the first thing I thought seeing the Yes Men in action. They’ve had many videos available for years, and even some other docs made about them, but Fix really concentrates their life and ideas. Andy and Mike are the Yes Men, and they’re devoted to doing socially conscious pranks against corporations and politicians that are fucking over humans, animals, society, or the world at large. Not just marching or making signs, but coming up with real high concept, insane stunts. Try to imagine Jackass with a tight plan to change the world for good.

The doc opens with the time they went on a BBC live show, said they were spokesmen for Dow Chemical, and they were going to pay for a toxic disaster they caused in Bhopal, India. Incredible. The news channel fucked up by not checking who they were. Dow’s stock fell and cost the company millions of dollars and a lot of embarrassment. Then Dow had to report they weren’t actually going to help people they hurt. When the Yes Men are confused, thinking the stock actually should have gone up and not crashed when a company declares it has a soul, they investigate what the fuck is going on.

The Yes Men keep going, year after year, with genius stunts like this. Of course, the world isn’t really saved in the end, especially in the decade since this came out. But they look at the reasons why. Why does the human race insist on fucking themselves up? Why does money have to lead to such evil? And what can people with good intentions do in order to stay sane?

At the same time the Yes Men give you the rough details, they’re fucking hilarious. It’s the human condition—if we didn’t laugh, we would be crying. But they show we’re not really that crazy for dreaming about getting along, having a good time, and not destroying the planet.

KEEP DIGGING. HERE’S A SHOVEL.

If you want the incredibly deep dive and need to see every instance where a mohawk showed up in film or TV, my friend Zack and his friend Bryan actually did just that, in a book I can’t recommend enough: Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics). The book also has some great interviews from many players in the punk hall of fame, if it existed.

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Mike Plante started the film zine Cinemad in 1998 and made six print issues, it continues now as a blog and podcast. In 1993 he started working as a projectionist and film programmer, and in 2001 he started at the Sundance Film Festival, where he is a Senior Programmer for short films. When not totally broke, he makes documentaries about outsiders, including The Polaroid Job and Giuseppe Makes a Movie. He bowls 155 on average, a proud member of the Razorcake team that took second place in Vegas.

One Punk’s Guide is a series of articles where Razorcake contributors share their love for a topic that is not traditionally considered punk. Previous Guides have explored everything from pinball, to African politics, to outlaw country music.

Razorcake is a bi-monthly, Los Angeles-based fanzine that provides consistent coverage of do-it-yourself punk culture. We believe in positive, progressive, community-friendly DIY punk, and are the only bona fide 501(c)(3) non-profit music magazine in America. We do our part.

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