The Alamo Drafthouse
theater chain is known for a lot of things - the food and drink service during films, the no-talking policy, the eclectic programming mix... but the thing that those among us who go to a LOT of movies appreciate most is the preshows - the not-so-random assortment of videos that play before the trailers start. The guy in charge of these is named Laird Jimenez and I knew that when I asked Laird to select a short film for this feature he would not disappoint.
My parents were either too lazy or too indifferent to censor what I saw as a child, so I got my first glimpses of decidedly not-for-kids things like BLUE VELVET and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD by wandering into the room when my parents were watching TV. When I was about six years-old my dad acquired a promotional Ralph Records VHS that contained, among other videos, The Residents "One-Minute Movies," I was transfixed by the sing-song melodies, the outrageous costumes, the puppets. I was terrified by the slightly "off" quality to the melodies and the vocals, the warped analog synth sounds, the bizarre imagery, the puppets. It was the first thing I ever saw that felt appealingly "dangerous" to be viewing: I wanted to watch, but I knew it would give me nightmares.
As an adult, I'm only a little bit less creeped out by The Residents. For those that haven't heard their story: They are a group of Bay area artists (originally from Louisiana) who formed in the late 60s and have, for the most part, remained entirely anonymous to this day. As legend goes, their very name comes from a Warner Bros. rejection letter addressed simply to "The Residents," because they deliberately left their names off of their demo tape. To preserve the anonymity, they have always performed live in various costumes, more recently using fabricated names and personalities.
By the mid-1970s The Residents were experimenting with film and video in a way that made them a decade ahead of their time. Their "Third Reich and Roll" video (from the album of the same name) featured their fractured take on golden oldies mashed up into a primal stew that is at once reverent and irreverent. "One-Minute Movies" was made for 1980's Commercial Album, 40 one-minute "pop" songs numerically significant in referencing the "Top 40" format, and the idea that most pop songs have no more than one-minute of unique musical ideas in them. In "One-Minute Movies" we see alien arms probing a mannequin a gauze covered mannequin, a sad old man who loses track of gravity, a Lord-of-the-Flies-esque tribal dance, hand puppets, The Residents' iconic tuxedo-wearing eyeball costumes, and the most polite music video of all time (Unless there's another that ends by saying "THANK YOU!" to the audience). The imagery is great, some of it downright gallery worthy, and it has a homemade look that is very inspiring. The late 70s, early 80s seemed to be such a fertile period for "weird" and for DIY. Grab a mannequin and some gauze, some road flares and a pig, and you can make yourself a darn music video! The music video was still such a novelty that the nascent MTV, who today wouldn't give The Residents a milisecond of airtime, were running their videos around the clock. That's okay, though, The Museum of Modern* Art has The Residents early music videos in their permanent collection, which is probably a better place for them anyway.
*"Randy" of The Residents had this to say: "You know why they call it 'The Museum of Modern Art?' Cuz they got mo' dern art in that building than you can shake a stick at!"