Exploiting the Archives: The Cracked Majesty of David Byrne's True Stories


When it comes to me and columns, I am all about quantity, and also, I’d like to think, quality. At this point I have no idea how many columns I’ve written over the course of my twenty one years in the business. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say it was probably in the low millions. Nah, that’s probably an exaggeration but between The A.V Club, The Dissolve, Splitsider, Random Nerds, Decider, TCM Backlot, Rotten Tomatoes and Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place I’ve probably written seventy or eighty columns, or somewhere in that ballpark

There are four different versions of Control Nathan Rabin alone: the original, the Patreon-only monthly incarnation, Control Nathan and Clint and finally, and most lucratively, Control Nathan Rabin 4.0, the column where patrons can choose a film for me to watch and write about for a one time one hundred dollar pledge. 

Not all columns are created equal, of course. There are some columns I began, and then abandoned for one reason or another, including columns that I imagined would be a fixture of the site, like the one on Manic Pixie Dream Girls. 

I’ve only written one entry in the Manic Pixie Dream Girls column. I did slightly better in one of my favorite columns for the Dissolve, One and Done, a column on prominent pop culture figures who only made one narrative film. Given the column’s name, it would have been wickedly appropriate if there was but a single entry, but it looks like I cranked out four. 


I’m proud of all of the entries, in no small part because I finally got around to watching and writing about Chairman of the Board, Carrot Top’s ill-fated attempt to become a cinematic leading man, but my favorite entry by far is one on David Byrne’s True Stories

Re-watching Talking Heads frontman and national treasure David Byrne’s sole directorial effort for the column, I fell in love with Byrne all over again and his gently warped and understatedly humane universe. In its own modest way, True Stories is just about perfect. 

Though Stephen Tobolowsky and playwright Beth Henley are listed as co-screenwriters, True Stories represents Byrne’s vision in its purest form. John Goodman is adorable in one of his first major film roles as a big-hearted bachelor looking for love while Byrne is at once fascinatingly alien and wonderfully human as the film’s cowboy hat-wearing narrator. 


Yes, David Byrne only made one movie as a director, writer and star but sweet blessed Lord did he make his sole foray into filmmaking count. 


All this, plus John Goodman sings one of my favorite Talking Heads songs. 

What’s not to love? 

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