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The Last Big Thing

The Last Big Thing (1996), newly released on DVD

I first saw The Last Big Thing shortly after it was released, some twelve years ago and thought it was brilliant and hilarious. Amazingly enough, it still holds up today. On the DVD cover this film is described as a “scathing satire of modern-day Los Angeles.” What is so interesting and original about it, however, is that it’s at least as much a satire of alternative culture and cultural criticism as it is of mainstream culture.

The hero/anti-hero is Simon Geist, an intellectual slacker/cultural critic who pretends to edit a magazine called The Next Big thing in order to make fools of all the desperate people who want to be famous in L.A. Of course, Geist is so humorless and sophomoric in his judgements that most of the time we are laughing at him rather than his targets. Writer-director Dan Zukovic, who plays Geist, made no attempt to make him likable or sympathetic.

Certainly, The Last Big Thing satirizes the silliness of pop culture (which, going by this film, hasn’t really changed that much in fifteen years; except for the absence of cell phones, it could have been filmed today), such as rock bands obsessed with 1970s sitcoms, but if there is a message at all, it’s that you can’t look down on the rest of society from a great height, as Simon Geist attempts to do, without becoming ridiculous and, ultimately a hypocrite.

Aside from the great performance by Zukovic, Susan Heimbeinder as Geist’s girlfriend, with her bizarre mannerisms and brilliant sense of physical comedy, adds to the absurdity of it all. Geist, like every college radical, underground magazine publisher, is obsessed with creating a movement that can’t be “co-opted.” Meanwhile, his idea of a grand statement is imitating Munch’s The Scream while staring into a chrome garbage can. As someone in the film, I don’t recall who, points out, there is a Warhol-esque theme to the whole thing. The Last Big Thing succeeds at being both a criticism and a meta-criticism of modern culture.

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