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Thoughts on Christmas on Mars

My thoughts on Christmas on Mars, a movie I suggested to Oancitizen of Brows Held High:

You want a Christmas film? I have a dandy for you! Christmas on Mars, a vanity project from The Flaming Lips. It’s a film made by and starring a band, yet they don’t make music in the film. Sure, they provide an unobtrusive, ambient soundtrack, and two of them do a half-hearted rendition of a Christmas carol at the end, but that certainly doesn’t count. No, they’re trying to make a thoughtful science fiction movie, and it is a mess. Really, they wanted to make a weirder version of Solaris. The result is boring, boring, relentlessly boring.

It’s the story of some astronauts, played by The Flaming Lips and their friends (keep your eye out for former Blue’s Clues host Steve Burns,) who spend their days conducting repairs, going insane from the isolation, and navel-gazing. The first lines come from… I can’t be bothered to remember any character’s names. The main character is watching two technicians outside setting up a light, and the main character says, “They look like two moths, hovering around that light.” They really don’t. Then he muses about how when he was a little kid, there were two moths on a window sill huddled around a light, and for whatever reason, he squished them. This has haunted him ever since. Now, um, when I was a kid, I salted some slugs, and then when I saw what I had done, I cried and felt awful about it; however, this guy’s just a navel gazer. He puts maximum effort into being pretentious and empty, and refuses in all situations to act like a normal human being.

The main plot involves a mute green alien who comes to the station. Actually, you can rarely tell that he’s green, because the movie is primarily black-and-white, just to make things extra-pretentious. Now, the genesis of this project was a Christmas card sent out by The Flaming Lips to their friends and fans that showed a surreal-looking green alien in a Santa suit. People wanted to know this alien’s story. So what we obviously want is a story about an interstellar Santa Claus who wears this suit and goes from planet to planet delivering presents in his infinite wisdom.
Of course, that isn’t what we got. This is what we got:
Not the same thing, are they? And this guy isn’t a Santa Claus by profession: the astronauts have to actually put a Santa Claus suit of their own onto him. Also, the story described above was exciting. This one tries to emulate Tarkovsky without the skill required to be interesting, so it’s just low-key, low-key, aggressively low-key, and most of the time is devoted to The Flaming Lips’ friends hamming things up in a boring way.

Yeah, there’s other stuff going on. A woman on the space station is about to give birth to the colony’s first baby. The main character wants to put on a Christmas pageant to boost morale. Oh yeah, he’s so obsessed with this thing that after a fellow researcher goes insane, puts on the Santa suit, runs out of the station with no space suit on, and dies of exposure, this guy interrupts the autopsy and, very sheepishly, very nervously, very slowly, asks the doctors to give him the suit. Dude, a guy just died in it! This isn’t the time, and you don’t want that suit anymore anyway!

Then there’s the surreal stuff. The main character is walking through the halls of the station when he sees an astronaut with a woman’s genitals for a face. They composited an actual set of female genitals, opening and closing, onto an astronaut’s face. Later, there is a sequence where an army of vagina-faced men, this time with puppet vagina faces, march in rows like a great army and crush a baby under their feet; a parallel with the moth story.

Yeah, the whole thing forms a big metaphor about birth, and the space station is a metaphor for a womb, and being out in the world is dangerous, blah blah blah. Really, when it’s this ceaselessly boring, who cares? That’s why this is a movie perfect for Brows Held High. It’s pretentious, it’s boring, it’s interesting in spurts, it tries to be Solaris, it’s a total vanity project filled to the brim with hubris, and it needs to be kicked in the face.

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