Sunday, January 27, 2013

DOC: Death of Comedy

“To the critics: Movie 43 is not the end of the world. It's just a $6-million movie where we tried to do something different. Now back off. To the critics: You always complain that Hollywood never gives you new stuff, and then when you get it, you flip out. Lighten up.” – Peter Farrelly, via @Farrelybros Twitter account, January 26th

“Movie 43 is going to get about an 8 on Rotten Tomatoes' meter. The critics are gonna freak out at this thing, but the college kids, high school kids, 20-somethings, and anybody who smokes weed is gonna flip out.” – Peter Farrelly, via Farrelly Brothers Facebook, January 25th.

Dear Peter Farrelly,

I never take things to heart when I don’t have to, and I never take anything personally unless I remotely have any sort of emotional investment in them. I don’t even care when people slight critics as a profession, because – and let’s be perfectly honest here – none of us should be in this business if we can’t dish it out and take it in equal measure. No one will like everything you do 100% of the time on either side of the equation. I’ve been called everything from an “illiterate cocksucker” to a “useless piece of garbage who wouldn’t know joy if it bit them on the ass” from filmmakers before, and I never felt the need to start any sort of shit with them because within those letters were impassioned defences of the work that they had done and what they had accomplished. They stated facts and reasons why I was wrong, and while I didn’t necessarily agree with them I just let it go because it was their opinion. I could dish it out. I could take it. Their blood was up, but it never got mine up.

You sir, have gotten my blood up because in a week where several other films could give your piece of trash sketch comedy movie a run for its money in the “worst film of 2013 department” you were the only one to take it personally, and buddy, you picked the wrong horse in your entire filmography to back if you feel persecuted about the critics – all of whom PAID to watch your movie since the studio refused to screen it for anyone – and how they negatively reacted to your work of pure ego and arrogance that you are attempting to mask as populist fare for the masses.

Right off the bat, let me state that I don’t think your movie is “the end of the world” or that it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I also understand that your movie is an anthology film and that you aren’t the only person involved. I’ll even openly admit that I chuckled a few times in the pieces that were directed by James Gunn, Rusty Cundieff, and Griffin Dunne. They still weren’t great skits overall, but they had something that made me not hate them and made your entire multi-year labour of love somewhat worth it. So to think that I outright hate anything and everything about your film, that’s not true. I’ve only seen a handful of films in my life that I have found to be completely irredeemable, and this isn’t that.

But you in particular need to know something that seems to escape your memory entirely. This “different” kind of movie you wanted to produce already exists and has been done better. Sketch and anthology comedies have been around in full force since the early 70s and they never really went away - even if they ended up more likely going straight to video or to cable. It’s a fate your film should have suffered, but no. You’re Peter Farrelly. You had a trio of major hits with your brother Bobby in the 90s, and your careers never really went away no matter how diminished the box office returns were. Your films were never great critical successes, and I still defend some of them to this day. Even Movie 43 still has its defenders within the critical community or else it wouldn’t have made it to that coveted 8% on an already bullshit aggregated website that I never hope to be a part of because of how it kills the dialogue that I love about film in the first place.

But you didn’t do something different. You took an old formula and hoped that the new generation doesn’t recognize it. To say that you did something different is an unnecessary tooting of your own horn. I’m sure any asshole writing an Adam Sandler movie could come up with a dude with balls on his neck dipping them in butter or putting them in Kate Winslet’s mouth after giving her a kiss on the forehead. Anyone could create a framing device that ends so lazily that it might as well just tell the audience to fuck off because you have their money anyway. You didn’t even tell most of the people working with you to step their game up, either. Do you even realize how unhappy everyone seems to look or that they’re just putting in the bare minimum because they were probably making bare minimum wages or doing favours for friends? Have you even watched your movie from start to finish? Wait… that was a bit harsh. You had to or else you wouldn’t be defending it this much.

But let’s talk about that framing device, which consists of Greg Kinnear as a studio executive getting held at gunpoint by Dennis Quaid’s crazed writer to get this sketch movie made in the first place. It’s a sloppy framing device that never goes anywhere. First it’s about Quaid acting crazy, and then it’s about a cuckolded Kinnear trying to kill his boss (Common) and forcing him to blow a security guard (Will Sasso). And instead of having a punchline, you end it with a smug, botched special effect that leads your leading men to literally turn to you and tell you to abandon the project and just run the last sketch (which honestly isn’t even the last one, and shame on you for relegating James Gunn’s gross, but still kind of inventive sketch to the middle of the credits when any sane people left the theatre already). Your whole movie reeks of that shrugging and walking away from a project that only an awful film has.

It’s an oddly critical remark within a project that you had to think was ultimately critic proof, or else why would Relativity Media refuse to screen it for anyone? I’m actually one of the few people who can understand the reasoning behind such moves, but you clearly think and thought that yourself. It presumes that paying audiences can’t think critically about a movie themselves.

There’s no doubt in my mind, Peter, that you made this film just to amuse yourself first and foremost, and that you are:

1. Deluded into thinking you know what an audience really wants from a comedy.
2. Not even bothering to care what they thing and simply shrugged and said “Well, if they like it they like it.”
3. You’re sadly right and we’re all fucking doomed.

None of those are the right answers, but the second one comes closest to being any sort of a sane and understandable answer. But your brief tweets seem to insist that you are out of your ever loving mind.

I don’t find it adorable or amusing that you feel the need to say your film is a Hollywood production, because by championing it as such you make every other product coming out of LA look terrible by association. You spent years on this and you never ever would have been able to make this film if you didn’t have the last name you had. You wouldn’t have attracted all of these directors or actors to this project if you weren’t you. You insinuate that this kind of film could have been only made in Hollywood because outside of making this kind of thing in your own basement no one would have been stupid enough to let you do this film otherwise.

You also twist the definition of “Hollywood” to suit your own personal gain and agenda. There are plenty of “Hollywood” films that do things differently and that people really seem to like. They are called AT LEAST HALF OF THE BEST PICTURE OSCAR NOMINEE, PETER. Hollywood gives critics new and unusual things to praise and condemn all the time. We’re only calling your movie out because it’s truly a piece of shit.

I also abhor how you feel the need to say your film only cost $6 million dollars. Sure, by Hollywood standards that’s pretty low, but it’s that same kind of nit picking arrogance that suggests you’ve taken bigger shits than what your movie cost. It’s the same kind of bullshit that led Mark Wahlberg to say that his $55 million dud Broken City was a tough film to make on such a “low budget” last week. You never would have even gotten that amount if you weren’t someone with three $100 million hits under your belt, and I bet you probably could have done the noble thing and shown this was a true passion project and sell all your shit away for a project that you truly believed in. THEN you might have a reason to bitch, but what reason do you have, Peter?

Drop the “man of the people act” and the conceit that all critics are bad. You’ll make your six million dollar cash grab in no fucking time with or without us, and that’s a fact. You’ve already won the game. You probably made that back on international sales alone since your own distributors and studios seem to be doing the bare minimum for your film to begin with. I can see the appeal to “the college kids, high school kids, 20-somethings, and anybody who smokes weed,” of which I only occasionally belong to that last category, but I remember actually being the other three.

And I’m not saying that you’re entirely wrong. I know that comedy, almost moreso than any other genre outside of a straight up art film, is subjective. Some of them may very well get a huge kick out of the film. It didn’t happen in my screening on Friday, which was a little more than half full, included eight walkouts, and only a handful of chuckles with zero actual belly laughs. But again, I didn’t poll people on the way out, so I wouldn’t know. The only comment I even heard among the stunned silence was one such twenty-something saying “Man, that was a lot of dick jokes.”
But if you want to keep up this man of the people bullshit, know that you are fleecing the poorest people possible. Does anyone under the age of 20 outside of the extremely privileged have the money to blow on this shit? Fuck, do people who routinely buy weed have the money to blow on this shit? I’ve had funnier nights in my 20s stoned out of my mind counting the stairs on a staircase than I did watching your movie. I had more laughs in high school trying to run up a snow drift and falling down numerous times and I nearly broke my leg that night.

You are counting on these people to essentially give you six million dollars that you probably already cleared just signing up for a potential Dumb and Dumber sequel that isn’t even a done deal or one of your producer credits. I get from your tweet that I’m not exactly your target demographic, but I don’t have the money to blow on this bullshit either and I have no truck calling you out on how much of a hypocrite you are whether you realize it or not. Do you even know what good most of the people who see your movie could do for themselves and others with the six million dollars you shat all over the screen? Do you know how many better filmmakers could have made dozens of films with your “paltry” six million dollars. I’m not one for moralizing about this kind of thing, but since your movie is so ugly that it looks like it cost maybe a tenth of that, I feel somewhat justified to make that point.

Fuck being a critic Peter, I’m talking to you as a human being right now. Talk to anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I’m not some silver spoon fed asshole who whips his dick out to get off on a stack of Eclipse Series Criterions. There’s not a single thing that I have gotten to in my life without scraping or earning any of it, and I still haven’t made shit. You spent four years making this movie? FUCK YOU. Ask me what I spent the past four years doing. You wouldn’t last four days in my life, the hell with four years. Ask most of YOUR POTENTIAL AUDIENCE what they spent the past four years doing. Cry me a river that people don’t like your movie, Peter. When I think of some depressed or stressed person from your implied demographic who just wants a laugh going to see your movie because they want a laugh and leaving potentially feeling worse about everything or feeling taken for a ride, I feel awful and I couldn’t give a shit less if any review cost you between $5 and $18. Why do we go to the movies? We go to feel happy, or scared, or amused, or provoked by thought, and your film does none of that beyond questioning how it got made in the first place. I have never been one who looks to forward any agenda, and I think by and large most critics aren’t like that. I’ll freely admit that some who just seem to love the sounds of their own voices, but to have something this negatively received means you probably screwed up more than you succeeded.

And don’t get me mistaken, I’m not jealous of your success in any way, and it’s not that you don’t potentially have another good movie in you. I’m sure you earned most of your chances just like so many great artists have done. I’m saying that based on those tweets you’ve forgotten where you came from and what your movies meant to people. Dumb and Dumber holds up. Kingpin holds up. There’s Something About Mary holds up. The movies you did with your brother are largely not that bad overall. You guys took chances with The Heartbreak Kid and Hall Pass, and no matter how much I think they didn’t work, I admire to some extent what you were trying to do. Movie 43 isn’t anything. It’s a perfect null-set piece of shit, but at least it incited a reaction in me, which some movies can’t even muster.

But overall I severely disliked the majority of it and I never wanted to contribute to the chorus of people shit talking your movie, because here’s the biggest kicker and fallacy of all: If I wrote a pan and said all the things I hated about your movie, to some degree it would elicit curiosity from people to go and see your film. I wasn’t about to give your movie that satisfaction and I was fully prepared to forget it ever existed. I was just going to set it aside and let people find it on their own. To your credit, it probably is critic proof.

But then, you had to go and run your mouth and act like an arrogant jerk, Peter. Let me be very frank and honest with you since I haven’t pulled any punches yet and I think I’ve been pretty diplomatic and forthcoming that your film isn’t the worst thing ever. For the past several weeks I’ve been questioning why I even do this job. I was ready to just throw it down and walk away until I realized that people like you are why people like me exist. I would have honestly ignored you if you just didn’t say anything. I was going to be the bigger man, but pointing out how ludicrous your argument is actually gave me the energy to go on. I’m pissed off at you now. I’ll be fair to you in the future. And I want to thank you for this gift that you have given to me. By calling out all critics, you made me want to be a better one.

You’re right. I flipped out over Movie 43, but not because it sucks or because you’re proud of it, but because you can’t take the heat and you should get out of the kitchen.

I feel so energized by your lazy movie and thoughtless hit-and-run styled comments where you can’t even really be bothered to defend your movie to anyone. You’re like that 50 year old guy driving down the street in the rain in an overcompensating sports car through a red light on your way to work, splashing the poor people you’re think you’re catering to. What you never think about is that one of those people getting splashed could create something better than your unimaginative junk.

So thanks, Peter. I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to treat everyone I meet in this industry with the utmost respect until proven otherwise, but unless you can respond to any of this like a man and admit that you made an unoriginal movie or even bother to explain why you think it is, you’ll just be seen as a coward to me on this one. I don’t know you from anyone else, and on a personal level you might be a decent guy who just let his mouth get away from him. It happens. I might be doing it right now. But there’s not a single thing that I’ve written here that I regret.

-Andrew Parker
Film Critic

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