Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) (USA; 100min.)

directed by: A.J. Schnack
Gigantic : a Tale of Two Johns
Greg says: "Perhaps I am biased because I am already a big fan of this band to begin with, but I really felt this was an excellent film that should be checked out even if you are not familiar with the band. It wasn't over-the-top-lauditory and it wasn't merely mundane, but was just a very colorful, inside look at the world of this wildly imaginative group who are often overlooked because of their lack of gritty hipness. But they have maintained an audience and a vitality for 20 years while other more 'genuine' rock n roll bands have burned out, and this film effectively shows why. It gives a surprisingly straight-forward account of the close friendship and mutual appreciation and respect that exists within the band, while documenting what makes this band tick and where, if anywhere, all their inventive ideas come from. If you like the band, there are many 'behind the scenes' treats to enjoy, and if you are not I would highly recommend checking this film out as an introduction to this great musical duo."
Hilary says: "I defy you to sit through GIGANTIC: A TALE OF TWO JOHNS without bopping your head and tapping your toes along to the They Might Be Giants tunes and breaking into laughter again and again. Put simply, this film is a delight.

"I think what is so compelling about TMBG is that they’re certainly well known, but not so famous as to be inaccessible. You can tell there is an authentic admiration and friendship at the center of the group, the two Johns of the title: Flansburgh and Linell. Also, you sense that the group hasn’t changed drastically over the years, even after making a name for themselves and growing from a duo to a group (too funny that all 3 members of their backing band also share a common first name, thus they’re 'The Band of Dans.') The experience seems authentic – gathered from various concert and even from their produced video footage -- a quality hard to come by within the hyper-produced world of the music industry.

"Unlike other band documentaries, there are only two moments of all-out fan hysteria: a girl reduced to tears by having met them at a record signing, and the other involving a box of cupcakes hand-decorated by a group of female fans, each one with a letter spelling out the name of the band. These moments are hilarious viewed within the film as a whole, interspersed with commentary from long-time friends and admirers, all of whom clearly enjoy and appreciate their music, but can see them as "real" people.

"Judging from the footage, their fans largely are smart, witty people – another quality that can be hard to come by when dealing with popular music. Granted, the participation of two well-known NPR figures, Sarah Vowell and Ira Glass of 'This American Life' (I loved actually seeing them) may seem like an overly deliberate choice, but these two prove to be true, raving fans. All the better that they’re interesting and knowledgeable speakers.

"The central theme of this film is the idea of complimentary elements. One John is an extrovert, the other an introvert. They are known artists, but stay true to their small-venue roots and maintain a hands-on approach to their music. Their lyrics are at turns dour, hilarious, cryptic and silly, generally paired with upbeat melodies, making for bittersweet but satisfyingly smart results."

Laura says: "The husband and wife team of director A.J. Schnack and producer Shirley Moyers both follow the standard documentary format and deviate from it. We know we're in for something different when the filmmakers segue to Lincoln, Massachusetts' Chairman of the Board of Selectman declaring the documentary begun from a discourse by Illinois Senator Paul Simon on his state's famous president of the same name. Talking head commentaries from the band's former record promoter, manager, fellow musicians and fans are kept visually interesting by each speaker's signature sepia photo of TMBG over his or her shoulder. Their subjects are illustrated by cutting to TMBG live performance footage, videos, and dramatic lyric readings by Janeanne Garofalo, Andy Richter and former Spinal Tap members!

"The band's musical growth is documented with archival footage, animation and an insider look at the band promoting their most recent album, Mink Car. Recollections of their inspired Dial-A-Song, run from Flansburgh's home answering machine, are hilarious, while a story of fans picketing the show where they first performed with a full band has the significance of Dylan switching to electric guitar. A People Magazine writer's comment that in 1985 he was still able to write about what excited him speaks volumes about how the industry has changed from the days an independent act could get rotation on MTV. GIGANTIC recalls THE COMPLEAT BEATLES in its ability to show a band's evolution artistically and historically.

"Flansburgh and Linnell self-deprecatingly reflect upon each other's talents. They seem to truly admire each other and obviously bring out each other's strengths. Comparisons to Lennon and McCartney are inevitable and their many admirers provide them. This feel-good lovefest may seem to almost flirt with being self-congratulatory, yet there's not a whiff of insincerity about it.

"If the filmmakers' intent was to widen the fan base of They Might Be Giants, they've succeeded. If their intent was to showcase the developing style of a band over two decades, they've succeeded. If their intent was simply to entertain their audience while educating them on their subject, they've succeeded. GIGANTIC (A TALE OF TWO JOHNS) is one of the best rock documentaries ever made " 4 1/2 cats

For Laura's complete review:"

Michael says: "Surprisingly, the highlight of the Provincetown Film Festival for me was this top-notch documentary about the band, They Might Be Giants. John Flansbrugh and John Linnell met in Jr.High in Lincoln, MA. Together they formed alternative rock band They Might Be Giants. Interviews with the two Johns is mixed with dynamic performance footage, video clips and words of admiration from friends and business associates. The pair's genius is highly evident, and even those with a casual, or no knowledge of the band will find this documentary a rewarding experience. Boston-area doc-buffs won't want to miss this terrific film during its run in August at the Museum of Fine Arts. Producer Shirley Moyers and director AJ Schack were enthusiastic, friendly people. Check out the Chotrudis Spotlight on this film." 4 1/2 cats
Robin says: "Even to a curmudgeon like me, the freshman effort by AJ Schanck, GIGANTIC (A TALE OF TWO JOHNS) is a well thought out, intelligently constructed insight into the near 20 year history of the principle members of TMBG, John Flansburgh and John Linnell. I vaguely remember their name popping up for club gigs in Boston way back when I even listened to rock stations. Then, I sat down and watched these guys and was stunned to find out just how prolific and talented they are. Not only did they have top ten songs like Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Birdhouse In Your Soul, they have a Grammy for the theme to the hit TV comedy 'Malcolm In the Middle.' They also created the theme and incidental music for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' and ABC News' 'Nightline Primetime's Brave New World.' These guys are talented.

"Schanck and his documentary team conducted over 50 interviews with, for those in the know, Frank Black (former lead singer of the Pixies), Dave Eggers (author, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), Joe Franklin (NYC talk show host), Ira Glass (host of public radio's 'This American life') and many, many more talking heads. Moving and poignant is the neat bridging mechanism and segue into the actual songs - personalities Harry Shearer, Janeane Garofalo, Michael McKean and Andy Richter give nice readings of TMBG's smart, witty and emotional lyrics.

"Gigantic: The Tale of Two Johns" is the kind of documentary about two talented, inventive musicians that makes me understand why they would have a dedicated following. I may not like modern rock music, but I like these guys and their docu, too." 4 1/2 cats

For Robin's complete review:"