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Having filmed his life since he was 11 years old, Jonathan Caouette has woven a psychedelic whirlwind of snapshots, Super-8 home movies, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, snippets of '80s pop culture and dramatic reenactments to create an epic portrait of an American family torn apart by dysfunction and reunited through the power of love. The film made history when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival as the first feature to be edited completely with Apple's iMovie software. Executive produced by Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell.
 

 Twenty-Five Things That I Love
Tarnation

1. Lindsay Wagner
There’s this Stepford-Wives-like “Bionic Woman” episode where Lindsay Wagner plays a dual role as Jaime Sommers and arch-enemy Lisa Galloway, who throws Jaime in an asylum then impersonates her doing evil in the world! Lindsay Wagner is astonishingly intense in this episode as she was in the entire series. I once read her explaining she played Jaime Sommers as a triple amputee in post-traumatic shock, and that motivation always comes across. The Bionic Woman is the only female action superwoman of the ’70s that’s as vulnerable, passionate and full with multifaceted grief as a Robert Altman heroine.

2. Chloë Sevigny
So flippin’ hot! I love her sense of fashion and the “whatever” attitude she seems to have towards the film industry. And she always disappears into whatever role she takes on—at all times serving the film and not herself.

3. Matt Dillon in Over The Edge
Over The Edge is the Gone With The Wind of ’70s street-kid flicks and Matt Dillon as the felonious young Richie is scorching! Especially when doing crimes with a young, hot Vincent Spano. Tim Hunter co-wrote the script and he went on to direct The River’s Edge, Tex and some of my favorite “Twin Peaks” episodes.

4. Alejandro Jodorowsky
Find a copy of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 trip-hop opus The Holy Mountain (La Montaña Sagrada), about this sexy, silent, Dee Dee Ramone-esque Christ figure stampeding through fabulously sacrilegious scenarios including a mystic Venuszian rock-n-roll fashion designer marketing machine guns shaped like crucifixes and electric guitars.

5. Low
Low is an astonishing band from Duluth with Alan Sparhawk, Zak Sally and the chillingly restrained vocalist/musician Mimi Parker. The magic of Low is not just the melodies they play but how they convey the silences in between the notes. I’ve included three of my favorite Low songs in Tarnation because their music’s aura can express depths of sorrow and strength unlike anybody else. They have a luminously melancholy Christmas album too!

6. Cheese Enchiladas
Kryptonite to the Atkins diet but who cares? Cheese enchiladas with refried beans and rice is the staple for all real caballeros and me too, the quality barometer for all Mexican restaurants is found in this dish.

7. Dolly Parton
Dolly is pure hope.

8. Penny Rimbaud
Badass co-founder of Crass, novelist, and punk rock spokesperson, Rimbaud forged political punk as a movement with his band of angry hippies. His novel Shibboleth tells the history, values, and sordid details in this emerging scene, including the awful death of his friend Phil Russell who was destroyed by corrupt and antiquated 1970s psychiatric services. Penny is the real deal.

9. Townes Van Zandt
The Texas artist to know, Townes is a songwriter/poet who defined ’70s “Outlaw Country.” His gentle demeanor and heartbreaking honesty gets old-timers crying in their beer. Townes is one of the most covered of all country musicians, but it’s never better than from the source. Every music collection should have “Live at the Old Quarter” resting up front.

10. Walter Keane
Joan Crawford loved those bodacious big-eyed boys…and so do I.

11. Emma Goldman
Pioneering anarchist, environmentalist and feminist in the height of American radical politics in the 1900s. That’s all great, but this seventy-year-old Russian lady built like a bulldog had more lovers than Dr. J. Even her prison guards courted her with fruit baskets. Make love not war.

12. The Geto Boys
You’ll totally get Houston, Texas listening to the hardest gangsta rappers in the world. The best line-up is Scarface, Willie D. and Bushwick Bill (a one-eyed midget). Big Mike is the Shemp in this trio, but shouldn’t be forgotten. How can you beat a one-eyed midget rapper with ultimate flow?

13. 4AD Records
Those in the know will understand 4AD Records is the ultimate label of the last twenty years—comparable in influence and relevance only to Motown in the ’60s or Elektra in the ’70s. Geniuses like Lisa Germano, The Breeders, Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins, Thievery Corporation, His Name is Alive, Rachel Goswell, Cuba, the Pixies, This Mortal Coil and, of course, the band Tarnation, fronted by rock diva Paula Frazer, all call 4AD home. So do I.

14. Sissy’s Bloody-Killer-Walk in Carrie
Okay, since Carrie is the all-time best Brian De Palma movie, the scariest based-on-a-Stephen-King-book movie, the creepiest ’70s horror movie, the sexiest John Travolta movie, the harshest Betty Buckley movie, the baddest-ass Piper Laurie melodrama movie and the saddest teen coming-of-age movie ever to utilize both menstrual blood and pig’s blood as recurring motifs, so naturally Carrie also has the best malevolent Bloody-Killer-Walk ever filmed! When Sissy Spacek finally emerges from her fiery gymnasium hell, pastel dress bloodied, stringy hair glued to her skull, arms arched down, hands akimbo…well, that beats any assassin aerobics of a Freddy or a Jason.

15. Mavis Staples
Mavis is the greatest gospel singer ever. Either singing alone or with her family, on Stax label classics or Paisley Park mediocrities, none can touch Mavis and would be fool to try. Others can sing louder or trill more octaves, but no one can touch Mavis Staples for expert phrasing, sensual delivery or overall ethereal power. Get the compilation “Only for the Lonely” and whenever she comes to your town to sing—go!

16. David Lynch
The greatest surrealist of our time. I think he’s kinda cute too.

17. ZoomVids
I remember watching these marvelous Super-8 short films that kids from across the country wrote, directed and edited, then sent into “Zoom”; a show for kids, by kids and starring kids, these homemade ZoomVids were the one place to see some of the most amazing experimental art-film narratives on television.

18. Xan Cassavetes
I only met Xan once in the West Hollywood Virgin Megastore, but I can’t get her out of my mind. Xan is the coolest. She has a noble air, punk rock eyes, a shy smile, and the funny, salty mouth of a sexy, sweaty Greek sailor. She said next time I’m in L.A. we should get together and hang. I’m coming to you Xan…

19. Mabel King
Bodacious Mabel King was a radiant, versatile, beautiful actress of Broadway, television and film who died of diabetes complications a few years ago. Best known as Evillene in The Wiz, and playing Big Mamas in Steve Martin’s The Jerk and the TV show “What’s Happening,” Mabel also worked alongside luminaries like Richard Pryor, Elliot Gould, Eubie Blake, James Earl Jones, Sam Fuller, Taj Mahal, Robert Mitchum and Morgan Freeman. Check out her loquacious Queen of Myrthia in Ganja & Hess. I would have loved to see her do Raisin in the Sun. Mama Icon.

20. Chris Makepeace
As a kid I used to pretend My Bodyguard and Meatballs were these wonderful gay love stories with all the dirty parts cut by Jack Valenti; Makepeace makin' out with Matt Dillon…Makepeace balling Bill Murray…you get the picture. He also ruled in Falcon and the Snowman with Sean Penn and Vamp co-starring Grace Jones as a disco vampire. Ahh, Makepeace forever.

21. Buffy Sainte-Marie
Righteous, relevant prophet, poet and Native American Greenwich Village folk singing Original Gangsta, Buffy Sainte-Marie is not only a Sesame Street veteran and a virtuoso on the mouth bow, but she’s got a PhD in Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts plus degrees in Philosophy and teaching. She can write a heart soaring love song like “Up Where You Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman or scratch your soul with the political treatise “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone.”

22. Nick Drake
Nick Drake is G-d. ’Nuff said.

23. John Amos
James Evans was such a great father on “Good Times” that I wept when his character died. Then whenever prolific actor John Amos would turn up on other shows years later looking older (and even more handsome), I would say to myself “Wait dammit, I thought he died!” I especially love him as the pro-homo Admiral on “West Wing” reruns.

24. Edie Sedgwick
Warhol didn’t know from glamour ’till he met Edie. She inspired two Dylan songs and set fire to the Chelsea Hotel. The bar has been set.

25. David Sanin
My boyfriend David is the most beautiful, brilliant, wonderful, perfect, sexy, loving man in the world. I love him more every day. Thank you David.