There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Beset by writer’s block at the prospect of writing about Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns), I called They Might Be Giants’ Dial-a-Song (that’s 718-387-6962)and got no answer. Typical: Once more the poster boys for wordplay had gotten there first. To fans of the surreal-pop duo, everything is open to interpretationThey Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh and John Linnell have spent 20 years dreaming up, dressing up, and laying out dream fodder in CDs, videos, stage shows, and such miscellaneous media as their Brooklyn answering machine. Gigantic doesn’t explain why they do it; instead, the film lets the Johns and the people who love them make the case. Director AJ Schnack deploys the expected concert clips and talking heads, but he also gleefully tosses in one surprise after another. (The film opens with a historical lecture by Paul Simonthe senator.) Yet he never forgets to maintain narrative coherencein other words, Gigantic is not merely merch urging the oddball masses to exclaim, “Remember the video for ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’? Awesome.” TMBG novices will appreciate the portrait of Flansburgh and Linnell’s stubborn refusal to capitulate to the demands of the music industry. (It’s the closest this genial hour and a half comes to dramatic conflict.) They’ll also enjoy perceptive and sometimes hilarious commentary from celeb fans and friends such as erstwhile touring partner Syd Straw: “You’re probably wondering whether there was sex exchanged….Oh, this isn’t like a Pennebaker documentary?” But for TMBG’s nerd-radio fan base, it’swhat else?This American Life that will offer the film’s most memorable verbiage: An unintentionally funny Ira Glass belabors every point like the kid who has to explain every joke, and longtime fan Sarah Vowell sums up the band’s appeal to the well-scrubbed college-bohemian fringe. “You didn’t have to pretend,” she says, “to be more messed-up than you are.” Pamela Murray Winters