Saturday, October 18, 2008

Auteur Watch: Raja Gosnell

Welcome to the Movie Hooligan blog! In case this is your first time here, this is our segment called Auteur Watch, where we profile film directors, see where they came from, and speculate on where they're headed. In the case of Raja Gosnell, straight to the top. Now, I know some of you out there are probably reading this and thinking to yourself, Raja? TERRORIST! And normally, you'd be right. Oh, but look at the photos of him. That's right, it's a dude's name. Why, you could hardly pick him out at an airport, could you?
If you did see him at the airport, you might notice from his body language a confident stride. That's because his latest triumph is Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Oh sure, it's in IMDb's Bottom 100, right down there with Fat Slags and Manos, the Hands of Fate. Manos used to be at #1, but as you might guess, this half of the list is a little more chaotic than the top 250. Anyway, the bottom 250 list is just a love letter, really. The big number that matters? Two weeks in a row at #1! Read Variety sometime, you'll know what I mean.
Ah, but it's all familiar territory for Raja. Born in the (Los Angeles) winter of 1958 to Beverly and Ray Gosnell Jr., the movie business was his backyard. As you can see from father Ray's resumé, quality was pumped into Raja's head at an early age. Look at those films! Guess who's coming to Dinner, The Sting, Paper Moon, Mooch Goes to Hollywood. All classics. Raja's life gets a little fuzzy after that, as I'm too lazy to look up his Wikipedia entry... oh, all right. Hmm! Not much there either. And I don't like the fact that Raja's IMDb entry doesn't have anything that says son of Ray and Beverly. It's a two-way street, you know.
Starting out in the biz as an editor, things were slow, editing films like The Lonely Guy and Teen Wolf, Too (the good one). That is, until he got hooked up to the John Hughes / Christopher Columbus film school with... ta da! Home Alone! 12 weeks at #1! His turn to direct, right? Wrong! Back to the editing deck with you, squidly. Yeah, but my dad is... yeah, yeah, we don't care who your dad was, get back to your film glue and your non-digital sound and shut up. And that was how it was until Nine Months came and went. Didn't stick around as long as Home Alone, did it?
Anyway, after Nine Months in 1995, and unsure if he wanted to stay in this cruddy biz, something happened. Perhaps a chance meeting with Saul Bass or Stuart Baird? Someone to look him square in the face and say, "I've got three words for you, Raja: Go for it, go for it, go for it. Max out those credit cards and make a damn movie. And don't be kind to anyone on your way to the top, in case you have to come back down."
Ah, but it's tough to do even that in Hollywood. Fortunately there was a job opening, and soon enough, Home Alone 3 was a Raja Gosnell joint. The crisp editing was the first thing the critics noticed. From there it was a steady climb, Never Been Kissed, Big Momma's House? And then, the first big hit, Scooby Doo. 54 million opening weekend! Some people would put that on a chart showing the gradual decline of American literacy, mostly bookish liberal types on TV. I thought we got rid of those kinds! Anyway, even in Hollywood you can't argue with numbers. And Raja showed he wasn't one of those artiste types who wasn't afraid to do a sequel, and out came Scooby Doo Too. Not as profitable as the first, but at least he won't have to direct the third one. Took another bit of a dive with the family comedy, Yours, Mine and Ours (YMO). Guess the Cheaper by the Dozen train left sooner than you would of hoped.
But that's all behind Raja now, what with the triumph of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. So now that all his dreams have come true, what's next for Raja? Every director takes a long break at some point. Some to enter a new phase of their career, some to start a whole new studio, but not Raja. Up next on the resumé, Twist. What's it about?
Ah, who cares. As long as it's not an 80s flashback.

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