Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Comedy, Death and Trespassing: Ideas and not much more.

Making original movies is hard. Crude laughs, gory deaths and gorilla filmmaking are easy. Too easy.

In this case, crude jokes with the gimmick that they're delivered by a soundstage full of bankable stars. Bloody, violent death as conceived by 26 individual horror fetish directors. And a gorilla movie made by a trespassing band of filmmakers whose "making of story" has garnered more attention than the movie that got made.

As a movie fan, projects that deliberately offend or flaunt disrespect as their primary selling point, have worn on me to the point where I'm worn out. Moronic humor that mines laughs from stereotypes, splatter soaked violence for its sheer mechanics and scripts with "story" aspirations no higher than a pile of scat, make a mockery of every hard-at-work filmmaker in the business. And movies with hack, slight stories, that resort to "stunt" filming to garner attention, are a new and depressing reality.

Unfortunately here are three current offenders, two in theaters and one in the headlines, that fit this tiresome bill. Remarkably, the first is inexplicably laden with big name stars.

First, a few names you might recognize: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Seth MacFarlane, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Uma Thurman, Gerard Butler, Halle Berry, Terrence Howard and Tony Shalhoub (smartly uncredited). There's a laundry list of more than three dozen very recognizable names salted over the credits of Movie 43, but politely I'll just say that the other names on the list aren't as surprising as the ones above.

Why all the righteous indignity? It's just a movie.

But it's not. It promotes itself with cheap shots, racist humor, and stereotyped characters frame to frame. It's a text book definition of lowest common denominator. And it's this: Hollywood is spectacular at glad-handing itself for simply doing what it gets paid to do. Actors who use an awards show appearance to spout ad nauseam on just how privileged they are to be in such a venerable and honored profession, lose all credibility lending their talent to taking the cheap shot and the easy check.

So enough with the false humility. Make the movie and take the check; no one blames you for making every cent you can. Or look on your profession as the art you proclaim it is and do it proud. Your call.

I imagine though, that the publicists, agents, studios and left behind loved ones, of any of the actors named above, would cringe in objection if a clip from Movie 43 were to be included in an Academy Awards memorial roll some day. Anna Faris, you're excused. Halle Berry, you most certainly are not.

Cringe worthy. Not the movie,
the marketing.
Next,  The ABC's of Death. Why in all of movie marketing is there a child on this poster? Why, while the movie industry finds itself standing against the wake of the all too real gun debate in an effort to defend itself from censorship and charges of gratuitous and exaggerated violence, does a movie laser focused on 26 ways to exhibit gore, have a child on its poster?

Magnet releasing boasts Mark Cuban as a partner and Mark Cuban should be slammed for this, exactly in the way he so gleefully slams officiating as an owner in the NBA. It is simply, outrageously inappropriate. I'll add that the trailer for this collection of film bits includes a scene of a man brutally fighting a vicious dog for sport, as a child is watching. I won't sink to actually including either the trailer or a link.

As a compilation of 26 shorts designed to evoke cringing, laughing or cheering death scenes, from an audience assumedly so disconnected from their conscious minds that they can tolerate the tedium of 26 back-to-back gory vignettes, this is a project that 26 film school fraternities might have tackled. But for fear of being banned from their respective campuses. If it makes money, there will be more. You've been warned.

And then there's the movie marketing itself by making headlines.

Say you've got a million bucks lying around and you want to make a movie. Once you've got a script, or at least an idea, well there's all that pesky stuff like sets, locations, cameras, lights and, oh yeah - permits to worry about. Well that seems like an unnecessary nuisance.

Members of the cast of Escape From Tomorrow filming
during an unannounced trip through a Disney attraction.
Mankurt Media, LLC.
At least it did to Randy Moore, the gorilla movie maker who not only decided permits were frivolous, but shot most of his movie, Escape from Tomorrow, on sets he had no permission to use - namely the permanent facades and street settings of Walt Disney World. The film was covertly shot during regular operating hours among thousands of oblivious park guests.

Moore even went as far as shooting inside attractions without permission, and without any regard to the distractions or intrusions he might be causing to guests around him - who, by the way, also plunked out admission prices to enjoy a theme park - not to be annoyed by someone stealing their film budget for the price of a park hopper pass.

The upshot of an incident that should obviously outrage the Disney Company, is that movie "journalists" are praising Mr. Moore's aggressiveness in getting his movie made and even questioning whether he has done anything wrong. One nano-second's glimpse at the precedent set here and a nightmare unfolds far worse than the fictional breakdown suffered by Escape From Tomorrow's lead character. Wanna make a movie set in a zoo, museum, tourist attraction, airplane, movie theater? Just buy a ticket. Need a scene in a popular restaurant, just order up dinner and shoot.

Disney should bring the weight of its entire organization, and its stockholder's concerns, down onto Mr. Moore's head with crushing speed. And if anyone remembers Mr. Moore's moviemaking antics ruining their magical guest experience, they should complain to the mouse house posthaste.

The idea that filmmakers of any caliber can simply commandeer a public or private space, large or small for personal gain, with disregard to rules, laws or simple considerations, is as outrageous as critics and movie journalists praising the effort. Perhaps those of you who applaud Mr. Moore as cleverly resourceful, would like to make your personal addresses public, just in case some aspiring auteur might like to make their next movie at your child's birthday party or your daughters wedding?

The Academy Awards approach. Great movies lie ahead. Moviedozer has more great trailers and new projects to talk about, so let's get back to celebrating this art form rather than pointing out its flaws. As always, your thoughts are very much welcome by clicking the comment button below.

Poster art is shown through the curtesy of its respective studio. Still frame from Escape to Tomorrow: Mankurt Media, LLC.

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