Monday, August 01, 2011

Video Documentaries of the Saved

Oh, I GOTTA review this one. Like most of my pending reviews, it's been sitting for a while. Really gotta jump on these things while they're fresh, like a REAL movie reviewer! But I did get back into the Onion's feature of "Commentary Tracks of the Damned" DVD reviews. They reviewed the most recent Adam Sandler pic, and apparently Sandler says of his own commentary "We hope you hated it." Oh, Sandler. You just don't understand! This is not about like or hate, about liking or hating what happens. This is about noticing what DOES happen, not even wanting it to happen... something like that. I guess in his next commentary track he should get more specific and deliberately say "Hope you O'Doyles over at The Onion get a nice Commentary Track of the Damned segment out of this commentary, you hipster a-holes." Don't be so subtle, man! Or are you going to turn your back on your devoted fan completely?
But back to the Sandler type that is the subject of Audience of One. Now, I'm sure you're probably saying to yourself, but The Movie Hooligan! How could this fat, white son of a preacher mom be ANYTHING like an Adam Sandler character? Well, he's kinda nerdy, kinda put upon by the world, kinda pushed around by the local and global O'Doyles of the world. Why, this part Sam Kinison, part Glenn Beck, all Holy Man of Jesus even says at one point that the world of religion is more clique-y than even Hollywood, so there you go! Hollywood is better than the religious types... nah, that can't be right. The religious types would be the first to admit that.
Anyway, so Audience of One starts out amiably enough, promising to not make the same mistakes that "The Devil's Candy" made with its all-access pass to the set of "The Bonfire of the Vanities." We see people hard at work making costumes, designing sets, preparing for a big trip to Italy to film the big scene... a few big scenes of what is surely destined to be the greatest movie ever produced by a church. Hear that, Kendricks? You're about to become chopped liver in the eyes of the Lord! You're the O'Doyles in this equation to Richard Gazowsky's Sandler, Alex and Stephen! And so, they arrive in a small town in Italy to begin production of what we're told is to be the greatest 200 million dollar feature ever to be produced, second only to Titanic and Spider Man 2 and ... several others at this point. 200 million just doesn't go as far as it used to.
Now, for those of you who haven't seen a lot of making-of documentaries before, there are plenty on the DVDs and Blu-Rays that your movies now come on. For my money, the gold standard seems to be the Coen brothers. No one can kiss their ass hard enough, and I mean that sincerely. A glowing cast, a glowing crew, no one who works with the Coens is ever sorry for the experience. Clint Eastwood is perhaps a close second. People are just afraid of disappointing Steven Spielberg, but he's making strides. Then, there's the film being chronicled in Audience of One. This is a good study of some of the red flags one should watch out for: if your experience of working on a film is anything like what you see in this documentary... bail as soon as possible. We hear from a disgruntled stunt man who needs some time with the director alone, especially after he's smoked some adrenaline-accelerating drugs, probably speed or, God forbid, cocaine. I guess marijuana wouldn't make one that tense. Then there are the stars of the movie. It is all about the look, but I guess "the look" doesn't have to do with dental hygiene. Gazowsky isn't about to let the Godly duties of casting the picture out of his hands in the slightest on the one hand, or on the other hand he's not about to let some outsider "actor" into his inner circle.
As for the supposed $200 million we keep hearing about, well, that might be a problem as well. Apparently, cast and crew are trudging along on a shoestring in the meantime. Now, here's my problem: where's the funding coming from? Germans! Hey, buddy! Let's get some domestic funding over here, huh? But I guess he learns his lesson the hard way: never trust German funders. Oh, sorry, I forgot: SPOILER ALERT.
And so, Gazowsky's problems kind of snowball at an ever-faster pace, but I tell you what: cast and crew have their priorities straight. They work hard, and they play hard. Sometimes they take a break to wheel themselves around in chairs with wheels on them, but more importantly, they always take a break to get their Jesus on with a song. This happens at least three times in the documentary, if memory serves. Which is good, because they'll need many miracles to save this sinking ship. After a disastrous vacation in Italy, in which barely one scene gets filmed and legitimate crew member Jens Klein gets injured by a malfunctioning wire crane shot, it's back home for Plan B. Good luck going back to Wolfgang now, buddy! The ragtag crew takes over a studio in San Francisco, if memory serves. They manage to shoot some green screen shots of screaming girls. It's really all about the look. And then, time marches on, indeed it do, and the city starts complaining about unpaid rentals on the studio. The filmmakers try to reason with the city, but God has hardened the city's heart, and the godless heathen bureaucrats triumph against the humble filmmakers. The man himself, the big Gazowsky, takes his cause to the people who can help him the most in this time of crisis: his congregation. Second wind! Second wind! Second wind!!! There's some more singing and praying.
Act Three. At one point, we see the cast and crew appeal to God almighty to get this damn film done... or at least, started. One woman asks God to just take over completely. They're so exasperated and out of ideas, that they'd be willing to sacrifice their essential liberty and temporary safety, if God would just take over and make everything all right: you know, finish the film, buy off the critics, make cast and crew all millionaires in gated communities. I wonder what the finest of the Godless thought about those who would give up their essential liberties for some temporary safety... I should look that up sometime.
Of course, my mere film review can hardly do this journey justice. You just might have to take the journey for yourself... but I'll tell you how it ends up anyway. The deadbeat cast and crew get kicked out of the studio... I forget if they have to pay the bills or not. Probably not, because they're white. But even though this one film didn't get made, Gazowsky unveils some new plans to his dwindling congregation. It's an ambitious plan with several bullet points in handy PowerPoint format. They're going to create a whole movie studio now, that will churn out exactly 47 films a year, I guess one for each of the ronin. Most major studios can barely do 20! Go figure. They also plan on making an Epcot-esque theme park and colonizing space. If my ears weren't deceiving me, some of Gazowsky's congregation were laughing at him, not with him. The plan is gloriously unveiled, and what better way to celebrate than with one last song. And preacher/industrialist Gazowsky, who betrayed the principles of his religion and watched his first movie at the age of 40, is seen openly weeping during the song, and one is left wondering whether he's crying for the glory of God, or for his own earthly failures. (Hint: it's for himself and his earthly failures)

Good double bill with: The Last Shot

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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