Why the Flaming Lips’ ‘Christmas on Mars’ is still the weirdest holiday movie ever

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne in 'Christmas on Mars.' (Photo: Warner Bros.)

The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne in Christmas on Mars. (Picture: Warner Bros.)

Quite a few psychedelic seasons in the past, the weirdest holiday break motion picture you’ve probable never ever listened to of, Christmas on Mars, by Oklahoma indie-rock eccentrics the Flaming Lips, was introduced to both bafflement and acclaim (Ok, mainly bafflement). And it grew to become a Xmas cult classic.

The wacky output was delayed several instances due to the sudden achievement and ensuing marketing of the band’s albums The Comfortable Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots  the latter of which was just reissued as a 20th anniversary, 6-disc boxed established on Black Friday 2022, and will make a excellent present for the Lips fan on your holiday browsing listing. The movie eventually took about $200,000 of the Lips’ own income and 7 many years to entire.

“I’m not guaranteed if I’m ashamed about it or if I’m happy of it,” the band’s mastermind/frontman, Wayne Coyne, claims of that long wait.

So, by the time Christmas on Mars lastly manufactured its formal premiere at the 2008 Sasquatch! new music competition, the movie experienced already turn into the stuff of legend. Nonetheless, despite all the mythology and speculation encompassing the movie, the concluded products is truly way a lot more bonkers than even the most diehard Lips devotees could have at any time imagined.

Starring Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd as Big Syrtis, an astronaut on the verge of a nervous breakdown Coyne as an antenna-headed, Santa-suited environmentally friendly alien Fred Armisen, Adam Goldberg, and, in a longer and even-lesser-found DVD director’s slice, Elijah Wooden and Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock and a fleet of large marching vulvas, the lo-fi sci-fi flick focuses on a Xmas pageant celebrating the beginning of the 1st newborn born on the newly colonized planet Mars.

Obtained all that? Alright, so none of it can make very a great deal feeling. Perhaps that is because it all started out as an justification for the band to document an album of “bizarre classical-audio-satisfies-room-age-new music-meets-tunes-from-the-future” with the Xmas on Mars title.

“This concept of making a film was sort of a way for us to make a soundtrack to a film — but the film didn’t exist,” Coyne tells Yahoo Amusement. Nevertheless, like several of the Lips’ fantastical concepts — Zaireeka, an experimental launch necessitating 4 CDs to be performed simultaneously on 4 different stereo techniques all those limited-version tunes the Lips issued on a USB travel buried inside a daily life-sized, edible gummy skull the Dead Petz facet-challenge with Miley Cyrus the Lips’ COVID-safe and sound bubble live shows — Xmas on Mars is a fascinating illustration of Coyne’s rampant, unchecked creative imagination at function.

“I believe [making Christmas on Mars] confirmed me a great deal about the way that I could get started to do any of my suggestions, any of my artwork, and all that, from then on,” claims Coyne. “No a single was demanding that we end it. It was only my personal motivation to kind of say, ‘No, we need to do this.’”

Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd in 'Christmas on Mars.' (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd in ‘Christmas on Mars.’ (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Speaking of “movies that don’t exist,” when Coyne made a decision to make Christmas on Mars, he was inspired by some extremely un-sugarplum-like visions that danced in his mother’s head a lot of Christmases back. When Coyne and his older brother arrived house late from a night time out, his mom attempted to explain to them about a unusual space film she’d just found on tv, and her wildly disjointed recap remained in his mind through the years.

“It goes back again to a ‘movie’ my mother had witnessed, which now I know was not a movie. It was a mixture of some movies that she observed, since she would fall asleep on the sofa viewing films late at night time,” Coyne laughs. “I keep in mind a single evening she considered she noticed this motion picture, but it was not right up until a lot afterwards, immediately after she died, that we figured out she didn’t definitely see one particular motion picture — she observed 3 videos, and she was falling asleep off and on and connecting them in involving. We searched endlessly to uncover this motion picture that she thought she saw.”

Among 2001 and 2007, the Lips labored to convey Mama Coyne’s bogus dream-state film(s) to the monitor, sporadically taking pictures Christmas on Mars (at to start with on 16mm film, and then afterwards, as house moviemaking technologies promptly advanced, on electronic formats) at a variety of locales all around their native OKC — which include dilapidated industrial amenities and handmade sets in Coyne’s compound of connected residences and backyard.

“Some of it we would shoot literally just in my dwelling. I have a substantial, ridiculous household in Oklahoma Town,” Coyne states. “At the time, the again part of the house was continue to being renovated, so there would be rooms that have been kind of just tore up, and I manufactured them glance like they have been rooms inside a room station or no matter what on Mars. … At the time, there was a crack property that was an abandoned small shack that was in the back again of one of these properties that I experienced not long ago purchased, and as an alternative of tearing it down, I just turned it into a further scene. So I’m virtually shooting in my home, and practically capturing in my have backyard, and the scene which is got Fred Armisen in it is shot in that crack house.”

Fred Armisen in <em>Christmas on Mars</em>. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Fred Armisen in Christmas on Mars. (Picture: Warner Bros.)

Coyne also shot in Austin through the 2004 South by Southwest pageant to accommodate Goldberg’s schedule, and it turned out to be very well worth it. “I stated, ‘Well, if you are gonna be there for 4 days, I’ll construct a set in Austin. All you gotta do is arrive above there.’ He stated, ‘If you can do that, dude, I’ll be yours for a full day and a full evening. What ever it takes, from the starting of the early morning to the end of the night.’ He had, like, 4 internet pages of dialogue, and I noticed him practically go off to a room 20 minutes just before we shot, study by it, and then he came in and did most likely 50 can take. Every one of the requires was amazing. I try to remember we would forget about that we have been even shooting a film. We’d be like, ‘Oh, f***. Sorry. Lower!’ He was so awesome.”

Coyne admits with a self-deprecating chuckle and shrug that he and his bandmates and forged of assembled nearby pals weren’t as competent at performing as Goldberg, but he believes that is component of the film’s Do-it-yourself attraction. “There’s bits of it wherever the acting is odd, or it’s uncomfortable, or terrible, or preposterous, but that was our way of saying, ‘I know, but this is us earning a motion picture. We’re not really trying to acquire the Cannes Movie Pageant this year. We’re just making this with our pals and our household. It actually is a car by which we can set our new music and other abstract strategies into.’

“And you know, I’m not making an attempt to be a movie director,” Coyne adds with a giggle. “I wasn’t ready on somebody to connect with me and say, ‘Hey, we saw Xmas on Mars. Would you wanna make our motion picture?’ I’m just earning my individual film, my individual way. This isn’t me auditioning for other director’s careers!”

The final result was not accurately a experience-excellent family members movie: A ten years and a 50 % afterwards, Christmas on Mars is still most effective remembered for the previously mentioned-stated vulva-army scene, set to an experimental instrumental titled “The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia.” (Side notice/entertaining fact: A year following Christmas on Mars’s brief theatrical launch, the Flaming Lips expounded on their bizarre edition of this “nativity scene” of sorts, by releasing a confined-edition Xmas tree ornament shaped like a fetus.)

Coyne breathlessly tries to clarify this vaginal symbolism to Yahoo Entertainment. “It went along the thought that this child was becoming born exterior of its authentic mother [in a manmade plastic space-womb], and that this is the way babies will be born 100 yrs from now. They’ll be in an incubated issue seemed around by the mother and father, but it will not basically be within the girl or man. That was the principle there,” he begins. “So, the one particular principal character [Drozd’s Major Syrtis], he’s haunted. He sees this newborn in there, and he’s residing on Mars, and the oxygen’s strange, and the oxygen generator breaks. All these factors sort of trigger him to have this breakdown, which qualified prospects to hallucinations. And so this dream that he thinks he’s owning is actually a hallucination the total space station is owning. In some way on some deep humanistic degree, this way of a newborn being born, devoid of being inside of of its mother, is producing some humanistic crack. And that’s what they were hoping to arrive to grips with. That’s what that parade is. He’s telling people today about this horrible aspiration of the toddler staying crushed by a marching band whose heads are … yeah, they are giant, flopping women’s vaginas.

Yeah. I indicate, it is a scene that only we would make.”

Clearly the dystopian Christmas on Mars has additional in common with Eraserhead than with preferred holiday getaway fare like, say, It’s a Great Lifetime or Really like, Essentially. But Coyne insists that, regardless of all of its disturbing imagery and soundtrack tune titles like “The Horrors of Isolation: The Celestial Dissolve, Triumphant Hallucination, Mild Being Absorbed,” “The Top secret of Immortality: This Weird Feeling, This Difficult Planet,” “Space Bible with Volume Lumps,” and “In Excelsior Vaginalistic,” the movie does supply a Xmas-proper, if obscure, concept of hope.

“To me, Christmas on Mars is like a condition,” Coyne explains. “Mars is the problem that this is completely brutal, and this is completely unfamiliar. And we never know what to do. And you know, we invented Xmas on the darkest day in the northern section of the earth. On the darkest days of the year, we set lights in our trees. And that’s what I would explain to everybody: On the darkest days of your life, you have to put lights in your trees, regardless of what your ‘trees’ might be. It’s like you expressing, ‘I know I’m participating in alongside with this preposterous fantasy, but it truly performs.’ That is what we indicate when we say ‘Christmas on Mars.’ Xmas is the manufactured-up fantasy situation that will provide you contentment in the deal with of this utter unidentified, bleak void.”

Years after they released Christmas on Mars into the void, the Lips, whose other vacation cult carols involve “Christmas at the Zoo” and “A Adjust at Xmas,” are continue to celebrating Xmas as only they can — in recent several years, they have released their own psychedelic version of the beloved Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet, “Peace on Earth”/“Little Drummer Boy.” And Coyne looking forward to forming new holiday getaway traditions as he and his wife Katy rejoice with their younger sons, 3-year-old Bloom and 9-thirty day period-previous Rex.

“For me, just about every day when you are a minimal boy is like Christmas already. … I indicate, for me, I get to are living like a whole ’nother daily life now. This is the commencing of my 2nd everyday living. I’m like, ‘Let’s go, motherf***er!’” suggests Coyne, age 61. “Our household is currently manufactured for little young children, and we never often get that a great deal snooze previously, so it is not… that substantially distinct for us.”

As for whether or not Xmas on Mars will at any time develop into a extra widely considered or cherished loved ones getaway vintage in a long time to appear, Coyne understands that, like fruitcake, the film is an acquired taste. “We do make odd f***ing songs. Not all people in the world’s gonna comprehend it,” he admits. “But I truly feel like the men and women that do understand it are folks that fully grasp it the way I do. It’s psychological. We’re not just acquiring a bash. It is hitting something extremely down to the core. I imagine Xmas on Mars has that arrive at, as well. It is not striving to truly entertain you on your acutely aware level.”

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