Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful.
Welcome to the surreal and poetic planet of They Might Be Giants, the Brooklyn-based musical duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, who have spent the past twenty years crafting their singular alt-pop style - cerebral, dark and humorous. Embracing the Do-It-Yourself ethos of true independent artists, They Might Be Giants has followed a unconventional path to cult stardom - from John and John's first meeting in a Lincoln, Massachusetts grade school through the East Village performance art scene of the early '80s to their 2002 Grammy Award - aided by stunning, low-budget music videos, trailblazing use of the internet and a truly groundbreaking utilization of the telephone answering machine.
Shot over seven months in 2001 as the Giants prepped their first studio record in five years, Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) is a comprehensive chronicle of the band's 20-year history, told through performance, animation, videos and hilarious commentaries from friends and fans. Since its world premiere at the South By SouthWest Film Festival in March of 2002, Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) has been one of the most popular documentaries of the festival circuit, garnering critical praise and sold out crowds in San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Florida, Boston and Denver.
Critics have raved that Gigantic has accomplished the feat of mirroring the unique style of the band, while welcoming audience members who have never heard of They Might Be Giants. Joan Anderman of the Boston Globe raves, "Dry wit rules, sharp left turns are encouraged, absurd running jokes abound, and a goofy, vaguely avant-garde aesthetic colors the whole thing while remaining utterly accessible to anyone interested in the idea of a couple of whip-smart wise-guys playing whimsical pop songs."
2001 saw the band riding a crest of success spawned by the growing re-appreciation of the public. There were two sold-out American tours, a triumphant SRO return to London (where "Boss of Me", the theme they created for TV's Malcolm in the Middle, broke onto the pop charts) and the release of the band's first studio record in five years, Mink Car, which was hailed by critics as one of the best albums of their career and the best realization of John and John's work with their backing band, which features Dan Miller on guitar, Danny Weinkauf on bass and Dan Hickey on drums. Director AJ Schnack and producer Shirley Moyers conducted more than 50 interviews in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago for the film, and also shot footage in Washington DC, London, Baltimore and the Johns' hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Reflecting They Might Be Giants' unusual and unique place in the pop music universe, the film features appearances and contributions from a wide range of fans and collaborators, who themselves have garnered much praise for their witty and perceptive takes on the band: Musicians Frank Black, Mark Hoppus and Syd Straw; This American Life's Ira Glass and Sarah Vowell; Authors Michael Azerrad and Dave Eggers; Journalists Gina Arnold and Robert Krulwich. In addition, director AJ Schnack called upon actors Janeane Garofalo, Michael McKean, Andy Richter and Harry Shearer to recite the band's lyrics, another favorite of critics and audiences. The film also features appearances by Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Joe Franklin and actor/director Josh Kornbluth.
But ultimately, Gigantic is a tale of two Johns, Flansburgh and Linnell, and their inspiring and distinctive partnership. Moriarty of aintitcoolnews wrote "What makes this film accessible to non-fans is the story of Flansburgh and Linnell as friends, not musicians. These are guys who have been together since junior high school. Their creative collaboration is one of respect and an almost chemical-level communication. I was fascinated by this element of the film. Gigantic is not a hard-hitting expose, and it's not meant to be a gritty examination of the way the music business works. It is a film about friends who make music together, and the way that music has changed over the years, even as their relationship has stayed the same."
Or as Paul Sherman of the Boston Herald raved: "Gigantic is a celebration of a lasting collaboration, creative integrity and the right to be different. It's big in all sorts of small ways."