Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

23 March 2008

Punk's Not Dead, dir. Susan Dynner (2007)

STEVE says:
After a fifteen minute primer on the perceived evils of old-school punk music and it's alleged demise, Susan Dynner's Punk's Not Dead quickly moves away from the founders of punk music like Black Flag, Ramones, Minor Threat and TSOL and spends the next 20 minutes focusing on nouveau- and pop-punk bands like The Offspring, Greenday, Pennywise and NOFX, and their corporate sponsors.

And that's about where this doco lost me. "Punk's not dead, see - it's available at Target and Hot Topic!"

Of course it was around this time, also, that I was distracting by a peculiar, high-pitched buzzing sound that I though, at first, was a mosquito, but actually turned out to be Joey Ramone spinning like a gyroscope in his grave.

Punk's Not Dead is a very schizophrenic documentary. It's promoting the idea that punk has evolved into the bubble-gum pop-punk of Good Charlotte, Sum 41 and A Simple Plan. (Any of whom, you throw them in the middle of a Clash concert in '79, they'd never make it out alive.) But if punk has indeed evolved, then by definition it is no more.

The doco finishes up on a low note at The Drunk Tank House in Echo Park, CA. Here, punks of all ages get together to rock, mosh, play dodgeball and puke on the living room table day in and day out. Beautiful. This is punk, now?

What about the punks who hold down jobs? I've always considered myself to be fairly punk rock. Not in a face-pierced, blue-mohawk, safety-pins-holding-my-jeans-together kind of way, because I maintain that punk is an attitude, a way of life that has nothing to do with the music you listen to or the clothes you wear. Sure, I may dress like I've stepped whole-and-breathing from a Gap ad, but under that Classic tattersol oxford shirt ($39.50), I'm sporting a Ramones T. (Or Misfits, or Lenny Bruce, or Day of the Dead, or what have you.) Conversely, among my Misfits, Cramps, Ramones, Clash and Stranglers CDs, you'll find Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News and the Moonlighting soundtrack. And you know what? I don't care what you think about it.

That's punk.


NIKKI says:

I wanted to like this film. I loved seeing the old punks again, hearing what they had to say about Good Charlotte, and the corporatisation of the attitude they turned into music. But, I didn't really care for Dynner's thesis that punk's not dead, it's just turned into Sum 41. And that real punks with their blue mohawks and pierced mouths still exist, living on the edge, sleeping on the floor, and vomiting on the sofa.

That's not punk to me, that's get off your ass and do something with your fucking lives.

I wanted this film to remind us that punk is not a style of dress but an attitude, a feeling, a reaction to oppression. It doesn't always manifest itself in binge drinking and blue hair. But Dynner's punks seemed very much this idea of what punk looks like. It was all fashion over feeling, adoption of a lifestyle based on what it's supposed to represent, not a natural progression away from a norm.

It was no surprise that the guys who remind me of my punk roots (Henry Rollins, Billie Joe Armstrong, Dexter Holland) just look like normal guys you'd see down the street. I prefer my punks sans mohawk these days. Because what is the mohawk, after all? It's becoming the Abercrombie and Fitch of "punk": Punk Dress Code 101.

Someone in this film said that his punk experience occurred during the movement's evolution, now people are just playing with it. That's kind of how I feel. I didn't have Hot Topic to teach me how to dress. I didn't have Emily the Strange giving me slogans to adopt, showing me that attitude was cool, while I bought her hundred dollar shoes. And when I went to my first year uni graduation dinner at Cellar 47 restaurant with my magenta hair and new tattoos and got pointed at and ridiculed by hip clubbers, I didn't have anyone to commiserate with. There just weren't that many of us around.

But that's what we wanted -- to stand out, to make it known we weren't like you. Now everyone dresses like that, and I want to turn my Misfits bag face around when I walk down the street because God forbid you think I'm like you.

What has happened to our punk? This movie did not provide those answers. It simply stirred the punk in me to react to this, too. I wanted to turn my back so far on the seemingly accepted "new punk" of Good Charlotte and My Chemical Romance. I wanted to run away and listen to my Debbie Gibson CDs because that seems like a way bigger fuck you to the modern world than Good fucking Charlotte.

Maybe it's that chip on my shoulder than kids today just have it so much easier. And punk shouldn't be easy. Or maybe that's the punk evolution -- my punk is different to your punk because times are different. I can live with that, I think.

(The movie does lose points for me, though, for all but ignoring girl punk. They had L7, but few others. Where was the discussion of Blondie, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Exene, Plasmatics, Siouxsie? God, even Patti Smith, XRay Spex, Courtney Love? Huge oversight.)


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