Review: The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon | SXSW 2022

Score: B-

Director: Matt Eskey

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Rated: NR

The Mojo Manifesto is an entertaining documentary about a raucous rock star. While it will educate you about this enigmatic musician and his rise to fame, it's pretty much for fans only.

Mojo Nixon rose to fame in the late '80s as college radio stations grew in popularity, highlighting alternative rock artists back when that word meant something. Often lumped in with other artists that took from both punk and country music, Nixon distinguished himself with provocative songs like "Don Henley Must Die" and "Burn Down the Malls."

This documentary - originally announced in 2013 - mostly covers the 10 years between his debut with Skid Roper (who declined to participate) and the end of his prolificacy in 1995. Nixon recorded a ton of music in this period, collaborating and touring with just about anyone who would put up with (or join him in) his debauchery on the road. His reputation as an unfiltered musician and philosopher got him a gig at MTV. But he eventually became a personality they couldn't control. His video for "Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child," starring the wildly popular Winona Ryder, angered Atlantic Records (Gibson's record label at the time) and the network refused to air the video.

Nixon comes off as an unapologetic but mostly good-hearted provocateur. The problem with this doc is it never goes wider than the brief period when Nixon was mildly popular. There's one great bit about his childhood growing up in the racist South, with parents that supported the Civil Rights Movement. But there's absolutely nothing connecting him to the present. Surely there are musicians today influenced by Nixon, or at least an exploration of why the psychobilly genre died out. But there's none of that in The Mojo Manifesto.

Still, you're likely to seek out his entertaining music and yearn to see a live performance, which used to be a staple of SXSW. For non-fans, that's about all you'll get out of this.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.