My Uncle Stu | Boston | 08/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Full disclosure: I am a Phish fan. I'm not quite a die-hard fan, I've probably seen them less than 10 times live, but I've listened to hours of bootlegs. One of the shows I saw was at Red Rocks in Colorado during a thunderstorm. Not a drop fell on us, buffered by the foothills, we had nothing but blue sky above us. But behind the stage, we looked down on a dark storm pouring on Denver, with bolts of lighting creating an intense light show. Phish opened with a Divided Sky, the crowd went nuts, and a catecholinergic soup bathed my nucleus accumbens like never before. Guess you had to be there. Which is the point, and the flaw in this movie.
I liked Bittersweet Motel. I liked the backstage look at the band interacting. It had the effect of demythologizing the members. Like anything that takes on a life of its own, the reality behind Phish is both fascinating and disappointing. The guys are basically likeable, guys you can imagine yourself drinking beers and laughing with. At times they seem to take themselves too seriously, come off as your basic high school band geek, or even come off as jerks. Just like your overgrown college buddies who stop by unannounced.
The best is watching Trey respond to negative reviews. I don't know quite why, but nothing amuses me more than artists reacting to critics. Beethoven's letters to critics are hilarious, Tchaikovsky is said to have committed all his negative reviews to memory, word for word, until his dying day. Trey makes a point of letting us know he doesn't care what people think. But he's clearly smoldering underneath, and it's all there for our entertainment.
What I didn't like was the selection of songs in the movie. Whether trying to explain the phenomenon to people who don't get it, or trying to entertain those already converted, I don't think this was the right mix of musical moments to get the job done. Too many of the slow, somber songs and not enough great jamming. There are some high-energy jams but not necessarily their most creative handiwork, in my opinion.
I do think the movie conveys the fun of being a fan. Loved the footage of the mass nude scene. I loved hearing the stoners pontificating, reconciling the rich girls versus the more authentic hippie girl in her VW bus: "the girls rolling up in their Cherokees, their pits are shaved obviously..." but "it's how you're brought up, it's not their option...they're both on the same level, everyone here is chill."
Thumbs up overall, it'll entertain and make you wish you were back at a show."
The Asse Festival
Bernie Mandeville | The Grumbling Hive, USA | 07/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If Bittersweet Motel were my first exposure to the band Phish, I am almost sure that I would hate them. Film-maker Todd Phillips certainly does. Given almost unlimited access to the band for a year, he seemed determined to portray them in a thoroughly unappealing light. He achieves this effect through a number of number of nails-on-the-chalkboard strategies, including posing inane interview questions ('Do you feel like a rock star?' and 'Are you rich'? are two of the dumbest), staging tastelessly manipulative ploys (like having band members read negative press reviews out loud and then respond to them on the spot), and filming the band while they are drunk after a show. Combine this with the generally mediocre live footage, eccentric song choices, and some tacky voyeuristic shots of bra-less fans, and you end up with a fairly disagreeable picture of the band from a documentarian who seems to equate such approaches with authenticity. On the other hand, it has to be said that the band give Phillips more than enough unappealing material to work with. Some of this, I am sure, was a product of the filming itself. It's clear that Phish disliked Phillips as much as he disliked them, and they sometimes work hard to be crass or obtuse, just for the pleasure of giving him a hard time. Other times, unfortunately, it seems to come to them fairly effortlessly. I was really disappointed by the glee they seemed to take in deliberately spoiling the pictures fans asked to have taken with them (their road manager would take the pictures and make sure everyone's heads were cut off) or the rather tacky fan-bashing song they cook up when drunk. This isn't Phish's finest moment. Of course, all of us can be asses at times, but most of us don't have a film crew waiting to capture those moments, and only those moments, with which to define us. Phish did, and it makes for a really mediocre movie. I've been a fan since 1994, and I'm not sorry I own this movie, but I doubt I'll watch it often. The unitiated might want to see their 'IT' DVD instead, or just download some of their hundreds of amazing live shows."
John Jackson | los angeles | 05/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fantastic DVD that gives you a taste of the wonderful world of Phish. I don't understand the statements of some reviewers saying that Todd Phillips hates Phish. He did a freakin' movie about them for cryin' out loud. And a pretty damn good one. Trey dominates much of the footage because (guess what Phish fans)...He dominates the band. I've seen and read countless interviews, and generally he's the one who has the most to say. It's not his out-of-control ego, he just happens to be more verbose than the other 3 guys. And he is also the primary songwriter of the band and the obviuos "ringmaster" of the group in their live performances. I miss Phish just as much as the next guy, but enough with all this Trey-hating. He is a BIG part of what made Phish so special (and may again.)
I thought this film was great. It captured the scene, the band, the music the personality. Plus it was majorly cool to see the Great Wendt and remember what it was like to be there (that was actually my first Phish concert and my life was never the same afterwards.)
If you don't know Phish and are curious, check out this film.
If you are so hardcore that you argue about which was the best version of My Sweet One, then you'll probably complain about this film."
The story of a very good DVD!!
devilsfan1 | San Antonio, Texas United States | 04/19/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent DVD although I must say I was slightly disappointed because it was so short. There are a lot of highlights though like when Trey goes gun shopping in Barcelona. That was hilarious! There is a lot of conert footage that is cool too. Highlights include hearing: "Roses Are Free", "Waste", "Wilson" and all the additional stuff on the DVD ("Punch You In The Eye" ect.) are amazing. This video in my opinion focuses a bit too much on Trey Anastasio and I wish there was more of the other 3 members. I can tell that Fishman is a funny guy and would have liked to have seen more of him. Todd Phillips, who directed "Road Trip" is someone who knows what he's doing so maybe everyone else was burned out and didn't want to be in the spotlight. Heck, Trey pretty much banged out "Farmhouse" by himself so its probably good that Phish is taking a break from touring this year. Like other reviewers, this movie brought back memories from seeing the band live and hopefully Phish hasn't taken the stage for the last time."