When Cory McAbee, the writer, director and star of The American Astronaut, approaches the ladies of Venus and sings the line, "So perfect and pure, and gynecologically demure," I nearly lost it. At first I thought: Who talks like that? Then it hit me like a ton of primordial debris, I talk like that. No foolin', I must use the phrase, "gynecologically demure," at least twice a day. Gynecological kismet aside, this is the weirdest steampunk-influenced space western musical I've ever seen. Feeling a tad uneasy throughout the early going of this black and white ode to space punies and earth boobies, I sat and stared at it with bated breath as two henchmen (who work for the Blueberry Pirate) performed an elaborate dance number in the Ceres Crossroads' men's room while our hero attempted to expel fecal matter from his anus. What is this? I repeatedly mumbled underneath my breath, which, like I already stated, was bated beyond belief. How did this get made? was I another query that pasted through my mouth hole on more than one occasion as I watched the Blueberry Pirate's henchmen dance up a storm in the men's shitter on the dwarf planet formerly known as Asteroid #1.
It wasn't until Bill Buell and The Billy Nayer Show hit the stage of the Ceres Crossroads that I began to relax. Performing a ditty called "Love Smiles," Bill Buell's Eddie leans into the microphone and starts singing. The unexpected intensity of his performance ("unexpected" because up until then, his character seemed clumsy and awkward) gave me a real jolt of energy.
Initially thinking that I had inadvertently stumbled upon some artsy-fartsy slab of Sundance-approved twaddle, the film slowly grew on me as it progressed.
When I saw a woman's breast at an à;GRUMH… concert during the latter part of the previous century, I figured everyone would be clambering for me to describe the sensation of seeing a naked breast in person. As you might expect, I was somewhat crestfallen when no-one seemed interested in hearing about my real live tittie experience.
In hindsight, it kinda makes sense that no-one asked me to regale them with stories involving my tit encounter. But let's say you're a sixteen year-old boy living in a part of space that boasts no women whatsoever. And, like me, you saw a woman's naked breasts at, let's say, an à;GRUMH… concert. Don't you think the contents of your brain would be a hot commodity, especially within the non-naked-breast-seeing community?
In order to keep his workers happy, the foreman of a mine on Jupiter employs The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman's Breast (Gregory Russell Cook), one of the few males in the galaxy who has seen... well, everything you need to know about The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman's Breast can be found in his name.
The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman's Breast is my favourite character in The American Astronaut for three reasons. The first being the fact that his name is: "The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman's Breast." The second is because I liked his outfit (think Flash Gordon meets Thor with a hint of Art Deco). And the third is simple: The song "A," a.k.a. "A.E.I.O.U.," is the coolest thing ever.
While the plot is fairly straightforward: Samuel Curtis (Cory McAbee) is an astronaut who must bring "the girl" to Jupiter, trade "the girl" for "the boy," bring "the boy" to Venus, trade the "the boy" for Johnny R., bring Johnny R. to Earth and then collect the sweet, sweet cash. The manner in which the story is told is nothing but.
Boasting shots of old-timey gauges (fans of steampunk will eat this crap up), cowboy silver-miners dancing in silhouette, elderly stand-up comedians ("Is it just me or do my balls itch?"), the driest shave ever to be captured on film (someone get Samuel Curtis some shaving cream/gel, stat), and the manliest dance contest to ever take place on a fragmented planetesimal, The American Astronaut celebrates–and some might say, glorifies–the irregular from start to finish.
It's rather fitting that the film begin with a brief lesson about the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter and a drum roll. What's that? Oh, why is it fitting? It's simple, really. Ceres is the largest object in that particular asteroid belt, and since we spend quite some time there, it only makes sense to know a little more about it. The drum roll, on the other hand, is fitting because it leads us to believe that we about to witness something truly spectacular.
And there's nothing more spectacular than Samuel Curtis' rock music accompanied spacewalk to the Ceres Crossroads, a bar filled with roughnecks and thugs. I loved it when the strings kick in mid-way through his epic EVA.
After Samuel Curtis finally gets inside the bar, Eddie the bartender gives him "a real live girl." According to Larry Blueberry, a.k.a. The Blueberry Pirate (he delivers fruit to the fruitless throughout the galaxy), the case Eddie gave him contains the cells necessary for someone to clone they're own, you got it, real live girl. And you know who would really appreciate a real live girl? That's right, Lee Vilensky (Peter McRobbie), the man who runs an all-male mine on Jupiter.
Since the lucky stardust-sprinkled miners are born and bred on Jupiter, none of them have ever seen a woman. In order to boost their morale, Lee Vilensky has The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman's Breast perform for the workers. While the bulk of his performance involves singing and dancing, his description of what a woman's breast looks like is the showstopper.
However, if Mr. Vilensky gets his hands on a woman of his own, he can describe not only what a woman's breast looks like, but tell them all about sexual intercourse.
While his mission seems to be going smoothly, Samuel Curtis is actually being pursued by his nemesis, Professor Hess (Rocco Sisto), who also serves as the film's occasional narrator. And, oh yeah, it's his birthday.
Anyone else think it was odd that after Samuel Curtis finished singing about the woman with the glass vagina, Annie Golden's Cloris didn't get to sing a song? She is, after all, a professional singer.
Other than that, I thought The American Astronaut has easily cemented itself alongside other musicals and music-themed movies such as: Big Meat Eater, Straight to Hell, Voyage of the Rock Aliens, and Xanadu. Oh, and I wonder if there's away to program your alarm clock to say, "What did your father teach you?" instead of the usual buzzing noise. Wait, my boss just looked at me funny. It would seem that I failed to describe the naked breast I saw at the à;GRUMH… concert. Well, it was round and soft. Now get back to work.