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Bittersweet Motel


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I just wanted to post regarding what i think is such an entertaining movie. I watched it for probably the 800th time today, but I find that everytime i see it, there's something i catch that i had missed at an earlier viewing.

I've heard a lot of people say they think there's too much trey. not enough page. too little mike...etc. But i don't know. I think that as the frontman, trey is entitled to be the centerpiece of a documentary. it would be nice to see some interviews with page, and the one part where fish talks to the camera is nice.

Just the whole way the crew and band communicate with each other still amazes me. it makes me wonder how they hiatus could have lasted so long.

I look for different things each time I watch. Today i noticed it's almost as if page and mike hardly know each other in the movie. They never talk one on one. In that case, yes, i would love to see some behind the scenes footage of how the band members relate to each other during creative periods, or states of disagreement.

I think another movie similar to BM would be fantastic. Just meeting the dudes behind such genius is so funky. I love it.

I've also heard rumours though that people have met trey and he has been full of himself? Just wondering what people might think about that. I dont know, it seems like he'd be a really cool guy (referencing of course to the scene in BM where he is approached by the girl backstage with the crazy story from tuscon, AZ).

I'm so fascinated by the personalities behind the musicians who so consistently make my life more fun.

Any thoughts, friends?


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Bittersweet is a better concert film than a true documentary. Perhaps that was director Todd Phillips' true intent. However, seeing Trey occassionally portrayed in a not-to-flattering light ( especially in his comments regarding some Phishhead types ), makes for compelling film-making and viewing. The stuff that I will always go back to when watching the Bittersweet DVD will always be the concert scenes and music, not the interviews. Plus, the music is ( mostly ) recorded with a DTS soundtrack. It kicks ass with a good stereo set-up.

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..I have heard a number of people mention how trey is "full of himself" ....... the dude routinely gets up infront of tens of thousands of fanatical fans night after night and rocks harder than most guitar players on the planet...i think we have to cut him some slack.

I would be hard to be accosted by fan after fan without seeming a wee bit harsh from time to time....not to mention the drug consumption, are you telling me that trey is not allowed to seem a bit crusty or cynical at times?

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Nice comment secondtube,....

Here are my thoughts. Only seen it once but got several distinct impressions. The overbearing one was that the other members of the band (besides trey) didn't really care whether they made a movie or not, so probably agreed saying they would do it but not play a major role. Hence trey was the focus out of necessity not obsession from a particular fanbase/documentary maker. Secondly it gave me insight into trey. I might be psychoanalyzing too much here but trey seemed so obsessive, (not really compulsive though). I mean to get that good at something so many people in sports, arts, anything really where people are at the pinnacle or upper echelon of their profession must have some amount of obsessiveness in them...and trey seemed to have a lot. makes a lot of sense. anhyow glad he does... [smile][big Grin]

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I found a review of it:

Full disclosure: I am a Phish fan, the kind who follows the band on tour, has seen concerts all over the map, pours over setlists of shows they couldn't make, and has a tape collection of ridiculous proportions. So of course I was thrilled about Bittersweet Motel, a documentary chronicling a pivotal Phish tour, a gigantic summer festival, and the band's second trip to Europe. It's rare that part of your life is the subject of a movie, and so I braved last week's snowstorm to pick up the DVD on the morning of its release. Unfortunately, the overlap of my life as film and music fan leaves much to be desired.

Rolling Stone called Phish the most important rock band of the 90s, but outside the hard-core fan base, nobody really seems to understand their appeal. Filmmaker Todd Phillips was picked to make this film because he didn't know anything about the band - Phish purposefully didn't want an adoring fan to fawn over them. Unfortunately, Phillips doesn't quite seem to get the fascination the band has to its dedicated followers, and it shows. It's a laudable idea to have an outsider with a fresh point of view make this movie, but how can a documentary filmmaker attempt to explain something he doesn't understand?

Consequently, the film is a serious disappointment. Of course, it's compulsively watchable to any Phishhead: I'll gladly pay for any concert footage I can get my hands on, and the backstage scenes are entertaining enough. The scenes from shows I've been to are especially gratifying, and the sound is a hell of a lot better than any of my audience recordings. In the end though, in the light of what it could have been, Bittersweet Motel is a disappointment for fans, and to an outsiders it hardly explains anything - it fails both as music video and as documentary.

The musical selections, of course, are the most difficult. Phillips is not very likely to please a hard-core fan, especially when faced with the task of cutting Phish's trademark jams down to manageable size. So we end up with some of the shorter ballads and cover tunes that don't quite capture what Phish is all about. The film takes its title from one of the least interesting songs in the band's repertoire, and most of the songs that define Phish are absent from the film. (If you want to get obsessive about it: Phillips had footage of the Great Went "Bathtub Gin" and didn't include it, not even as an extra on the DVD. To me that's unforgivable and shows that it was a grave mistake to have an outsider calling the shots in the editing room.)

The variety of Phish's music is sadly underrepresented: too keen on covers and short songs, Phillips misses the bluegrass, the handmade techno, the jazzy tunes, the cow funk, the art rock symphonies, the fourth dimension space jams,the vicious elevator-to-hell sounds, as well as the gracefully building geek rock anthems that together, somehow, form the Phish sound.

The interviews with the band members and backstage scenes are unsatisfactory because lead guitarist Trey Anastasio is completely over-represented. Sure, this helps portraying him as somebody who lets his words flow as freely as his guitar riffs, but some of the outtake material included with the DVD shows that the other band members are equally witty and articulate. As a matter of fact, almost all of the outtakes shed more light than most of the footage that was left in the movie.

It's fine that we see Phish as geeky pranksters, but Phillips seems to have made a conscious decision not to ask any questions that would let Phish show any kind of serious dedication to their art. (Richard Gehr got much better answers out of all of them in his 1998 Phish Book.) Even the movie's cover shows just Anastasio. The richly textured interplay between all four members is precisely what makes Phish what it is, and by concentrating on the band's most garrulous member, Phillips misses a central point.

Worst off are the fans: the Phishheads interviewed all come off as drugged-out moronic goofballs who just beamed down from Planet Zork. Sure, there's a fair amount of extraterrestrials in the Phish scene, but there are also professionals, lawyers, programmers, teachers, and Ph.D.s who can, in fact, write or speak in complete sentences and hold down jobs. People with brains follow Phish for their inventiveness and their willingness to take risks. By picking out the flakiest fans with the rattiest hair, Philips does the band and its fans a real disservice, confining them further to a ghetto of weirdos instead of giving them their due as a bunch of adventurous, exciting, and accomplished musicians with fans who are able to sustain their interest outside of the music industry's ridiculous attention span and hyper-commercialized pandering to pre-teen audiences.

There's also a purposeful mix-up in the chronology of events. While it makes sense for Philips to built toward a big climax at Phish's summer festival in Maine which attracted 70,000 heads, it's irresponsible to announce via title card that it happened a year after it really did. It costs him all credibility, and it's simply poor filmmaking.

So what we got here, really, is a half-assed (and literally backwards) rockumentary rather than a serious attempt at understanding what the particular fascination with Phish is. Phillips says that when he first heard about the band, he was "surprised how big this thing was," but other than briefly asking a girl with angel wings on her back and a guy from Planet Zork about it, he makes no effort at all to come to grips with why exactly people would see dozens of concerts and collect hundreds of CDs by the same band. The often-quoted connection to the Grateful Dead comes up without being examined or explained. Nothing in Bittersweet Motel will change anybody's ideas about the band and its music. If you're a fan, you'll be glad to own it for the live footage, but if you're not, you might as well not bother. (I'm surprised you even read this far.)

In the end, Phish is a bit like licorice, religion, or trainspotting - a documentary can't really explain what it is that keeps some of us coming back. In a way, Phillips' project was doomed from the start, even if he had approached it with more rigorous interest in its subject. A quick search on the Internet would have turned up many more articulate and insightful explanations than any of the interviews in the movie, but words will only ever do so much. The fascination with Phish does not lie in any one of their songs, not in some stoned fratboy's half-baked comments, and it's not Trey Anastasio talking on and on. It probably can't be summed up in an 80-minute film - especially not one that wastes precious time on showing the band shopping for whips in a Spanish gun shop. Phish is what happens when these four musicians plug in and start to play in front of an audience to whom every note matters. The best documentary about Phish is still a Phish concert.

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the other day I saw a documentary on the guy who is in bittersweet motel who takes the big namked picture. the part with phish in it was very short,but i guess what he was doing when he took that picture was trying to take one nue picture in every state in the U.S., and that picture was the one for the corresponding state.

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