Growing up is a weird thing. Some of us fight it, wanting to hold onto our youth for as long as we can, refusing to change with age and constantly struggling against the system, others embrace it and once they're out of college are content to put on a suit and tie and work for a faceless corporation. Anyone who grew up with any connection to punk rock probably falls into the earlier category, but as Andrea Blaugrund Nevins' documentary The Other F Word explains, even punks will change - particularly once kids are involved. The documentary, which focuses pretty much entirely on the west coast scene by covering bands from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, gives us a quick rundown of how rough and tumble the punk scene was in the eighties by showcasing violence at Black Flag shows and using a few news clippings to show how scared the establishment was of these 'weirdos' taking over their streets. From there, it introduces us to a few of these guys, many fast approaching or already well entrenched, in middle aged suburban lifestyles.
Scattered throughout the film are interviews and clips with musicians and 'extreme sports' guys like Tony Adolescent (The Adolescents), Art Alexakis (Everclear), Rob Chaos (Total Chaos), Joe Escalante (The Vandals), Josh Freese (The Vandals), Fat Mike (NOFX, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes), Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Lars Frederiksen (Rancid, Lars Frederiksen And The Bastards), Matt Freeman (Rancid, Devil's Brigade), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fear), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion), Greg Hetson (Bad Religion), Tony Hawk (Skateboarding God), Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Mike McDermott (The Bouncing Souls), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Jim Lindberg (Pennywise), Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), Duane Peters (U.S. Bombs), Rick Thorne (competitive BMX rider) and Joe Sib (Wax) but there's definitely more focus here on Lindbert than on any of the other guys (which makes sense as the film was inspired by Lindbert's book, 'Punk Rock Dad,' which was about his attempts to balance a touring schedule with some semblance of normal family life). As the documentary makes its run, we see and hear Lindbert wrestling with his loyalty to his band, Pennywise, and to his wife and three daughters and this loyalty eventually causes him to leave the band that gave him his career in the first place. It's quite a moving story, the man obviously cares very much for his family, as he should, but also for his band mates.
Other interesting moments include Lars Frederiksen taking his kid to the park, at which point, upon his arrival, it more or less clears out almost instantly. Ron Reyes takes his kids record shopping and shows them which Black Flag recordings he was on before arguing about which is the best track on AC/DC's Dirty Deeds album with his kid, while Fat Mike of NOFX explains how, kids or no kids, he's not about to change who he is or what he likes despite the presence of some heavy newfound responsibility. A lot of these guys open up about their own fathers and it shouldn't surprise anyone that a majority of them come from less than ideal home environments - what's inspiring about all this, though, is that they all seem bound and determined to do the best for their kids and give them the upbringing that many of them never had.
Much of this is done with a sense of humor. Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 notes with a grin but not without complete sincerity that based on his public persona and involvement in punk rock that the fatherhood bar was set very low. This is done as a joke but it makes the point that a lot of people would be quick to judge these guys just based on their appearances or their interests and write them off as junkies or screw ups before taking the time to realize just how much they seem to love and care for their kids just as another other responsible parent would. There are also some completely heartbreaking moments in here, the most obvious being when Duane Peters discusses losing his son and contemplating suicide.
If the movie starts off a bit scattershot in style, it quickly finds its voice and by the time it's all over, ties things together rather nicely, making its point by letting the interviewees explain things on their own terms and offering up some appropriate social context in the process. You don't need to enjoy the music these guys play to appreciate this documentary - it should appeal to anyone with an interest in parenthood and all the joys and insane responsibilities it offers and commands.
The Other F Word looks about as good as the source material is going to allow for, which is generally pretty strong. The anamorphic 1.78.1 image appears to have been shot on a few different cameras, so a few shots look less than perfect, but most of the footage here is crisp, clean and naturally colorful. Some contrast issues pop up here and there but there aren't any issues with compression artifacts to note. The disc is well authored and free of any obvious dirt or debris (it was shot digitally) and if it isn't the most consistent image you've ever seen, it is, overall, quite nice.
Audio options are offered up in English only, in your choice of a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 mix gets the edge for doing more with the music in the movie, spreading it out through the rear channels nicely and just generally building a bit more atmosphere. That said, both tracks sound fine, providing properly balanced levels and clean, clear dialogue throughout the movie. There are no issues with hiss or distortion and all in all, the audio here is just fine.
The best extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins, producer Cristan Reilly and featured punk rock dads Jim Lindberg and Art Alexaxis. This is a very active discussion, with Art and Jim filling in some of the blanks on their own stories and discussing their experiences making the film and having a film crew follow them around and with Andrea and Cristan covering the more technical side of things, discussing inspiration for the project, issues that crept up during the production as well as reception to the film and more. Complimenting this nicely is a fifteen minute Q&A session that was recorded after the film made its debut at the South By Southwest music festival in which those involved in the project field questions from an appreciative audience.
A few outtakes of interest are also found here, the most amusing being a bit in which Dr. Drew relates an incident when Pennywise were appearing on Love Line which involved a lot of vomit, another of which involves Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. Oscilloscope have also included a few decent performance clips here. On the acoustic side of things we get Art Alexakis doing 'Father Of Mine' and Tim McIlrath performing 'Swing Life Away' and on the electric side of things we get two videos for Jim Lindberg's post-Pennywise band, The Black Pacific - 'Living With Ghosts' and 'The System.'Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, trailer for a few unrelated Oscilloscope releases, menus and chapter stops.
The Other F Word is that rare breed of documentary that manages to approach its subject in a manner that is both sincerely touching and genuinely interesting. It takes on its subject with the right mix of humor and heart and winds up compelling and, well, sweet. Oscilloscope's DVD is a good one, offering up the movie in very nice shape and with a pretty solid collection of extra features as well. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.