22 September 2010

WWQTW?: Nowhere


I could not have been more nervous and excited to reveal the movie on Monday. For the most part, we have been watching classics (both new and old), and I thought it was about time to shake things up. The purpose of the club has always been to educate and expand the movie knowledge of its members. This month, I didn't just want to expand, I wanted their brains to explode! So, I screened one of my favorite movies of all time- "Nowhere" by Gregg Araki.

Released in 1997, "Nowhere" tells the interconnected stories of a group of teenagers living in Los Angeles. The action takes place in the 24-hours leading up Jujyfruit's party. The main character is Dark (played by the amazing and frequent contributor to Araki's films, James Duval). He is the quintessential existentialist; always worrying about the future, life, love, and himself. He's in love with Mel (Rachel True, "The Craft") but she's only in love with sex and she doesn't care where she gets it. Dark is equally confused when his masturbatory fantasies are invaded by new kid Montgomery (Nathan Bexton, "Go"). Dingbat (Christina Applegate- one of the best in the cast) is looking for love in all the wrong places. Egg (Sarah Lassez) falls for the charms of a famous heartthrob. Alyssa (Jordan Ladd) appreciates the kinky side of life with her boyfriend Elvis. Her twin brother Shad and his girlfriend Lilith (Ryan Phillippe and Heather Graham) fancy themselves anarchist's in the same vein of "Natural Born Killers". Cowboy (Guillermo Diaz, "Chappell Show") is looking for his drug addled boyfriend (Jeremy Jordan, "Never Been Kissed"); and a very young Mena Suvari is looking for the party with her boyfriend (and Mel's brother).

Cameos abound with Gibby Haynes of rock band Butthole Surfers plays jujyfruit; Rose McGowan (also in Araki's "The Doom Generation"), Traci Lords, and Shannon Doherty are a trio of Valley chicks; Christopher Knght and Eve Plumb from "The Brady Bunch" play some parents (Araki seems obsessed with the Brady's, referencing them in several films); John Ritter is a televangelist; and Beverly D'Angelo is Dark's mom.
[side note: In my dream film where I pay homage to everyone I've ever loved, this recurring theme of casual, big name cameos will appear. As will direct references to this movie and "The Doom Generation". I love him that much.]

I don't remember exactly when I first saw this movie but I think I sought it out after watching "The Doom Generation". It introduced independent cinema to me in a totally new way. Previously, independent meant "Pulp Fiction" and "sex, lies, and videotape". Now, there was a filmmaker doing it for himself and showcasing subject matter I was more familiar with. Life isn't a John Hughes movie much as we wish it were. Instead actions have consequences. Sometimes it means your car gets high jacked by a trio of crazed hackers. Sometimes you stick your head in the oven. Sometimes you can't decide between two guys and wind up losing both of them. Sometimes it means you end up alone.

Araki has been the face of gay independent cinema for years, a title he would happily relinquish. A member of what a "New York Times" critic dubbed the New Queer Cinema, Araki was one of the first to address gay, bisexual, straight issues in the same breath. Furthermore, these characters where not ostracized from their peers. They were represented in a positive light free from cliche or stereotype. Actually, it might be more fair to say they were just as fucked up as any other character in the film! Blame it on my fairly young age or naivete, but it's hard for me to remember that this is a new concept; that gay culture was addressed in a derogatory tone. In an interview with the "Montreal Mirror", he says "I like to be thought of without any kind of adjective attached to it. A gay filmmaker, a Gen-X filmmaker, an Asian-American filmmaker--I'd just like to be thought of as a filmmaker. I don't make films to be thought of as a spokesperson or to toe any politically correct line. I approach films in the way a musician approaches music. It's just my means of expression, my chosen medium." However, it's impossible not to think about how his own experiences have influenced his "chosen medium". That being sad, I appreciate such a personal filmmaker who refuses to talk about his personal life. He's said all he has to say- It's on the screen.

Gregg Araki has never shied away from controversial subjects and visuals. His films usually address the misanthropy of youth that comes with being an outsider. His characters come from the sub-culture. They're gay, poor, violent, dumb, exceedingly smart, creative, lost, derelicts. There seems to be no shame to the actions performed by its characters. Most get away with murder, at least for a little while. One of my favorite scenes in "Nowhere" involves three Valley chicks waxing poetic (more like moronic) in complete oblivion to what is going on around them. Next thing we know, they've been zapped with a laser gun by a visiting alien (dead? abducted?). All that's left behind are their retainers. It's classic!

This movie is not for the faint of heart or prudes. It is a hard "R" and you will either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, it is not available of DVD so head to your local indie movie store or you can catch it on IFC. It's showing September 26th so check your local listings.

Recommended viewing: Also by Greg Araki The Living End, The Doom Generation, Mysterious Skin. Also Mallrats, Donnie Darko, All Over Me, Empire Records,

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