Sinatoro: It’s a roadtrippy movie due for global release in 2012, written & directed by the team of Grant Morrison (we heart 4evs) and Adam Egypt Mortimer (video director bloke man).

It was announced just the other week at the San Diego Comic-Con with an emphasis on obviously how rad-awesome-skill it’s going to be, but also promises of how original new, innovative etc. the whole production is going to be, from promotion to the shoot to the DVD commentary no doubt. (We’ll do that by the way: exclusive superfan commentary by us for the Blu Ray 2-disc edition, yeah? Who could say no?) What this means for a no-cash indie flick like this is, inevitably, crowdsourced marketing with a viral twist. ‘X-Ray Cinema’ someone called it, not the next step on from 3D with added cancer risk, but referring presumably to the avowed full disclosure & transparency from the production team that we’re told will be part and parcel of the movie’s gestation.

Here are the basics, spreading linkmulch around like the finest organic man-manure:


(Plenty links on those pages above to some interviews at IO9, CBR and other places, which we’ll no doubt be referring to a bit throughout this post, some of which go in to the movie in some depth, given how nascent the whole project still is. The total disclosure thing seems genuine at least, although time will tell if this approach has been wise – I still want the movie to surprise me, ‘know? Whatever, good for them because they’ve been busy, putting the word out there proactively, which hopefully means they have been able to find backers, rather than the reverse. [which it might! - Zom])

So far so un-unusual ho-hum…. ah, who’re we kidding? it would be easy, too easy to be sniffy about this shameless grab to keep their promo costs down, but come on: this is Grant Morrison and his chum -  our hearts were theirs years ago. We’re going to take them at their word: stick the accumulated Sinatoro stuff through the usual Mindless Ones Dot Com reading machine, and see what comes out the other side.

Poster first. Like the whole concept so far, it hints at a lot while giving away very little. Black soulstuff escaping from the spacesuit-shell of an astronaut, somehow incongruously transplanted from the Sea of Tranquility to the Mother Road itself, Route 66, somewhere in or near the Mojave desert.

Seasoned Moz watchers will immediately think of a few things. Everyone knows you go crazy when you go into space. Apocryphally, astronauts were selected on their lack of susceptibility to the strange powers of metaphor – being blindsided by the moon or watching earthrise apparently too intense for anyone of even a remotely poetic sensibility to experience without cracking up entirely. All of the surviving moonwalkers came back… different, with even the PR-friendly, level-headed Aldrin telling tales of UFO encounters on his journey.


The lost astronaut, the space traveller (outer- or inner-) who goes too far out and comes back changed is a staple of late C2oth SF,  figuring both the literal spacemen of the Apollo programs and subsequently, and their contemporary psychonauts who journeyed in the opposite direction. You’ll remember Johnny Zhivago, fucked on the vodka he’s somehow drinking through his helmet, in the back of Really & Truly’s shaggin’ wagon; and the buzz-cut drunk in the bar who tells Flex Mentallo that the superheroes are real.

The problem here, the problem everywhere, is one of gravity. In the extropian worldview that Moz hasn’t explored explicitly since the nineties but has leaked out in his other work since the Invisibles/Flex days (Flex trade = soon btw. Good.) the force of gravity is like an Old Testament Jehovah, the master and enemy of man, constantly getting in the way, constantly fucking things up, constantly dragging everyone back to earth with a vicious bump. Evolution is a journey upward. The millions of years between the seabed amoebae and the first fish crawling ont the land was one step. Earth-life’s next  is to go beyond the planet’s gravity well and into a post-gravitational existence. It seems likely that flesh may have to be shed, dissolved into black smoke perhaps,  in order for this journey to become viable. Astronauts who experience low- or no-gravity conditions for an extended period of time come back strange because they have fundamentally changed- they are post-gravitational organisms. In going into space, one does not encounter aliens – one becomes an alien.

One of the most explicit nods the interviews have given us, something those used to wandering apparently without aim or end in the dense atmospheres of GMs best comics will be familiar with, is the Bardo narrative, the post-death experience. Liberation Through Cinema During The Intermediate State. Sinatoro, if it is anything , is dead. If Sinatoro exists in the Bardo, beyond life incarnate, post-gravitational conditions can be expected. Up will be down. Black will be white. Nothing will be as it seems.

Sinatoro is said aloud to sound like ‘Sinatra’, deliberately calling out to the memory of Ol’ Blue Eyes, the dynamic ‘O!’ modification at the end giving with a pulpy comic-book scifi emphasis, like poor Max Thunderstone’s personal creed, mashing Buddhism, Machismo and maybe even Bushido to give the warrior-geek religion of ‘Buddhismo!’ Frank last appeared in a GM comic, but very obliquely, in the crossword in Seven Soldiers #1. Q: To do is to be or to be is to do? A: Do Be Do Be Doooo…. The popularly conceived postmortem separation of body and soul which Sinatoro appears to take as its base precept is precisely of this Cartesian nature. Sinatra Sr’s publicly-held life-story revolves around a similar Janus-like paradox: What Frank ‘was’ was the blue-eyed crooner, the emodiment of America’s best values, good to his mother, gracious to his friends and strangers alike,  singer with a voice that could move tyrants to tears. What Frank ‘did’ was beat his wives, mix with the mob to counteract his momma’s boy image,  treat Sammy Davis like shit, ruin his incredible talent with booze and cigs because he thought it made him tough… He did it his way. Come the end, the final journey, we all do it our way.


(The best Sinatra is Nancy of course, though even she is at risk of being rinsed of any meaning by the on going grind of repackaged dead nostalgia – did I imagine her giving one of her dad’s handkerchiefs to Simon Cowell as some awful tribute, in return for a good seat on American Idol? Please tell me I did…  Nancy’s candypop-sheen-over-dusty- deep-West-rock vibe is likely to find a resonant tone in Sinatoro also. See below, however. Nancy also stars in Speedway, the best Elvis movie. Extra points for featuring a young Bill Bixby, threatening to Hulk out at any moment and nick Elvis’ sandwich.)

It’s not til you hear it said out loud that ‘Sinatoro’ takes on those associations though. The word itself, the glyph, the letters alone, have their own distinct resonance. Why the extra ‘o’? Why make the word so easily bisect into Sina Toro? It doesn’t take long for the pig etymology machine to turn ‘Sina Toro’ into ‘Chinese Bull’, a precise description of the thing currently killing America, and hence an extremely provocative title for a Western/road movie, those being the two quintessential USian genres. Capital has lately found a home even more amenable to its blank desire – the centralised, authoritarian and socially codified Eastern economies providing even less resistant channels for the progress of its colonisation of Earth. The death of the American empire – an empire won through the superiority of the image as weaponry – will be the great death explored throughout Sinatoro. Lao Tse was last seen several hundred years ago, riding a bull, heading West.

Side note: The movie’s obvious cinematic spiritual predecessors:




There’s been a certain amount of chat about the film so far, but nothing of that key ingredient in any hipster road movie – the music. The important choice here seems to be the time-honoured one – score or songs? Backroom Mindless thought is leaning towards giving the job to  a modern solo electro-ambient hero like the never-hipper oneohtrixpointnever, maybe Christian Fennesz‘ guitar-glitch or something from Cali-raga droner James Ferraro. The sonic landscape of American psychedelia is pure rock though, with its favourites and standards and essential refrains. The best way to ensure the movie has both a classic, unified theme and space to include the tunes it’s going to be impossible not to feature in a morbid road movie (Don’t Fear the Reaper) is to give the gig to an instrumental turntablist like Phillip Jeck who will be able to fold the rock hooks and spacious Western atmospherics into a single cohesive score.

Side notes: Things Sinatoro MUST NOT have #1: An astronaut, or anyone wearing moonboots, trudging down the freeway with ‘These boots were made for walking’ playing over the top. NO

Things Sinatoro MUST NOT have #2: ‘The hero wakes up with no memory and finds an Ace of Spades in his breast pocket… with a bullet hole in it!’  Let’s not have it too much like a video game, eh? Whenever I play games they always seem to involve lots of getting stuck in corners, looking at my shoes, and shooting holes in walls. NO.

And that’s about all we’ve wrung so far from the available material. There will, we have little doubt, be more to say in the coming months.

21 Responses to “Sinatoro: if we won’t bite who will?”

  1. Botswana Beast Says:

    You are rubbish at computer games, bob. Anyway there’s a bit of a distinction between the type where you wake up, knowing nothing, you are the lead character of Feersum Endjinn, Noname Leedkaracter, and blah-de-blah, I think this will be a bit like that (Adventure Games) and the one where you panic, lose co-ordination, etc (Shoot-’em-ups.)

    Charlie Brooker definitely explains all that somewhere in this. And what you are like playing games, which is rubbish.

  2. Botswana Beast Says:

    Was going to add, yes – that obviously it’d be smashing if that trifecta of movies were indeed the three most direct influences (although yr Lost Highway maybe over the Wizard of Oz thing) – but then I thought, oh dear, I will have to admit that I saw El Topo other week for the first time and, as Jodo sez of it “if you are great you will see a great movie, if you are limited a limited one”, I did feel pretty limited, nonplussed etc. by the whole affair. Because no drugs, I expect.

    Further, though: if anyone wants to talk shit abt The Doom Generation they can bite this dick, srsly.

  3. bobsy Says:

    Well yeah, I was on plenty drugs when I saw it moons ago and, well, was preferring the film in my head infinitely to the one I was watching onscreen. More in there for the PKD – Lennon – VALIS connection really.

    Lost Highway’s not really all that much a road movie though, is it? It plays quite deliberately with juxtaposed interiors & exteriors, the road itself more like comic guttering (call the pseud police!) (Oh no don’t they’ll shut the whole blog down)

  4. Botswana Beast Says:

    What’s the Valis connex.? It’s not the pink light, because that’s the Bowie thing, errr… The Man Who Fell to Earth.

    Prolly right about Lost Highway, it has the bit at the end, the intercuts, the road in the title – huh, maybe just figured out a little bit more about The Straight Story anomaly in that period between it and Mulholland Drive… I guess Wild at Heart is the opening point of that period, really, okay, you defo win.

    Excited about cinema though, first time in a long while, I’m sort of down on film as a – you know, you watch so many in a year or however long and you’re lucky if maybe five are really, really good (Inception is okay, but whatevs, it’s no Dark Knight amirite?!)

    Kinda feeling strong need to watch Dead Man again, actually, which I don’t own – but the thing there, that sonic desolate plains howl by Neil Young, who yes, voted Republican one time, but you have to think most of them did, really, the USAs, at least once; I think that, albeit the chronicle foretold, could likely be a fourth pillar of forebears here. Morrison quite big on Westerns atm. I’m completely unfamiliar with any of the artists you mention here, so will get on that.

  5. bobsy Says:

    In stoner lore Topo was the real-life ‘movie that they go and see in Valis’. Apparently John Lennon was in the cinema too, being similarly brainblown, whereafter he paid for the film to have its US distribution.

  6. Tweets that mention Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Sinatoro: if we won’t bite who will? -- Says:

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  7. RetroWarbird Says:

    Fly Me to the Moon. That’s the first thing that came to my mind while free-associating the name with the astronaut’s image. (I’ll try to ignore that combining lounge act crooning with Space always brings me fond memories of the latter half of Deep Space Nine).

    Then my eyes caught up, saw black leaking out of his face like precious inky soul-stuff leaking out into the atmosphere … losing something precious and self-contained into the “wider world”. But all I could think of was Dark Side of the Moon.

    I hope to god Sinatoro gives me a good experience to go along with Route 66, because The Grapes of Wrath nearly destroyed any interest I have in it. (Steinbeck nearly derailed my interest in literature at a young age).

    I’d like to get my Kicks on Route 66. (I hope they use the Depeche Mode version.)

  8. Zom Says:

    No Retro! If Darkside of the Moon plays over any of it I’ll leave the cinema (assuming it gets made and gets into any cinemas). I can get into a bit of Floyd, but that’s sledgehammer obvious.

    I think that Jeck would be a good choice, if you were to go the score route, but I suspect a soundtrack with some purpose built electro-ambient (I will not use the term ‘drag’) and hauntological stylings from the likes of perhaps Ariel Pink would work the best for The Imaginary Movie Playing In My Head. Question is whether all those rights will be affordable, which they may well not be.

    Morrison and Mortimer’s description of money as a potential impediment rather than a driver is interesting but I hope that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to try very hard indeed to get their hands on as much as they can get. Films, even cheap films, cost lots and lots of money for good reasons.

  9. amypoodle Says:

    fly me to the moon, love it as much as i do, needs to go away too.

    everyone the world over thought of it, and that is bad.

    or is it?

    what concerns me is how easily the appropriation of the iconography of this overly familiar imaginal space – america – could tip over into cliche, especially because other creators (from scott fitzgerald to dennis hopper to martin scorsese to darren aronofsky to david lynch to, most recently, adam curtis and his incredible it felt like a kiss) have been mining parallel seams for a while now. the american dream (whatever that is), and its constituent parts, has been the subject of much exploration over the years. the thing’s music, i think, is a real danger here. the traditional music of america, rock, blues, country and jazz, has already taken on an aura of hazy uncertainty and menace in the hands of composers like badalamenti, barry adamson and in the soundtracks of david lynch generally, and mortimer and morrison seem to be planning on visiting similar territory, or at least they should be following the logic of the film as it’s already been discussed. if they want to avoid boring the audience they might want to look at modern outgrowths of traditional forms. i’m imagining a film with the swirling shamanics of animal collective’s ‘spirits they vanish’ as a music cue, or the half remembered beach boy atmospherics of panda bear playing over a mirage sequence, a love scene choregraphed to the dreamy hypno-folk of tickley feather’s ‘natural’ (yes, i dig paw tracks), kurt vile’s nu americana for the road movie bits – shit, intead of rammstein when the gangsters show up, LIGHTNING BOLT! This movie’s themes lend themselves perfectly to the postmodernity of so much CONTEMPORARY american music. the music of a deconstructed america.

    (the showtunes thing is nice, though – that’s a fantastic way in because it hasn’t been done in a film of this kind before.)

  10. amypoodle Says:

    i really think much of the soundtrack has to be as fresh as the rest of thing promises to be. it’s such an important aspect.

  11. Zom Says:


  12. RetroWarbird Says:

    Well, then, I vote the entire thing done by barbershop quartet.

    (Sledgehammer obvious is true. I just am required to pay my respects to Floyd regularly. And I guess to the guy who converted Dark Side to 8-bit Nintendo NES as well. Look it up on the video bombardment websites …)

    I don’t really have any good choices for strange music to add, although I’d say I’d appreciate folk music. It really depends on the theme or imagery of each “step” of the journey, and how much the style of the film can vary the thing.

    Bonnie “Prince” Billy, I think, is probably my only real “suggestion” for who I’d like to hear. As constant in my ears as Leone soundtracks and Between the Buried and Me hyper-progressive metal riffs. But I’m sure a quick scan of SXSW musicians would yield good choices from folk backgrounds.

  13. amypoodle Says:

    other music ideas:

    i’ve had the ‘in the shadow of film noir’ comp on rotation for weeks and it’s a pretty good primer for all things lynch not lynch.

    i especially love the final track, ‘last meeting’ – a last farewell to your ghostly, shapechanging rattlesnake lover.

    also, for more straightforward badlamenti lifting, their ‘under the influence of angelo badalamenti’ one is pretty neat.

    both comps are awesome primers to boot. i’ll be mining them for a long time.

    another tune that never found it’s way into a lynch film but should’ve has to be yo la tengo’s ‘let’s save tony orlando’s house (sonic boom remix)’ (not, not NOT the original version, which is kind of meh). only problem is it’s lyrics are somewhat situation specific, though it could be a good one for when the credits roll.

    (can’t find links to this one anywhere.)

    i’m getting all lynch now. probably off track.

    as for oneohtrix, he certainly does have an ear for the hauntological mash up, but so far his forays into americana have been limited to hippy pastorelics and cold war and MOR daydreaming. i would like to see him unleashed on some other shizzle though. he’s not a bad choice for a soundtrack.

  14. Zom Says:

    My friend and ex-flatmate killed Bonnie Prince Billy stone dead. She just couldn’t resist overwraught emotion in her music, and she also couldn’t resist playing her music on repeat, so much so that the sound of Oldham’s cracked voice makes me feel psycholigcally sick.

    I hope to get back to him at some point in the future. But for the time being, and from a purely subjective point of view, I could do without any BPB on the Sinatoro soundtrack.

    Amy, I think you raise some good points re the risks of going back to some of the wells Sinatoro seems to be tapping.

  15. Zom Says:

    I think the upshot of the money question could well be that they get a poor and hungry but reasonably well known musician (of which there are very many thanks to digital distribution) to produce a cheap soundtrack. Maybe putting aside a little bit of money for the odd bit of licensed diagetic music. Would’ve thought that would be the cost effective way of doing things.

    Amy just suggested Inland Empire as a good example of what you can do on a small budget. Personally I’m not entirely sure how small its budget was, especially when you factor in the in-kind element: the goodwill of the highly experienced creative team. Maybe something similar is achievable, though, for a small cost. I’m no expert.

  16. grant Says:

    Soundtrack: Espers.

    covering Sinatra’s Rod McKuen album.


    Title: “Sin a Toro” means “Without-at-Bull” in Spanish. But if Western Mexican thing is happening, it’d more likely be a pun involving “Cine Toro” which would be “Bull Film.” (In Spanish, “Chinese Bull” would be “Chino Toro,” I think. Like the khaki pants, or the kid in _West Side Story_.)

  17. Shiny Jim Says:

    I’m excited.

  18. Jonathan Burns Says:

    Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding

    brought Space back with him brought redshift and static radio

    they said it couldn’t be done they said nobody could do it

    I’m William Blake. Do you like my poetry?

    but L&M is low in tar with more taste to it

  19. Brimstone Says:

    the worst early X-Files episode had this plot (astronaut becomes possessed/changed)

    have you read World of Darkness’ old Mage game? past the boundary of Earth Consensus Reality broke down. literally anything was possible. read the Sons of Ether sourcebook… so much evocative imagery. psychonauts and astronauts

  20. Zom Says:

    I recently read the WoD Mage stuff. In retrospect one imagines the Wachowski bros cribbed more from WoD than Moz.

    There’s some evocative ideas in there for sure, although their ambition isn’t met by the detail of the text in most instances.

  21. Alphonse Says:

    As far as the soundtrack, and at least some of the staging goes, will there be a Dennis Potter influence? He’s an acknowledged ‘Moz’ fave (I’ll admit I prefered it when he went by ‘George’) so the idea of a series of song and dance routines in a warped desert landscape does kind of suggest the ‘Dem Bones’ sequence in (I think) ‘The Singing Detective.’ But possibly ‘Lipstick On Your Collar.’

    Hopefully, this film will be like ‘The Doom Patrol’ – any number of high, low and outsider art ideas shoved through the blender of the Great Man’s head, that somehow work as a coherent whole, but, well, we’ll see.

    I’d like it to work out for Grant though; Mark Millar, when they run into each other at conventions and such, must be insufferable these days.

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