The Disaster Artist

Director: James Franco

Nominated for: Best Adapted Screenplay

First off I have never seen The Room (2003, Tommy Wiseau) so I was thoroughly unprepared for what The Disaster Artist, which is a dramatisation of the making of The Room and Tommy and Greg’s relationship I guess. I’m not sure I can honestly describe what I’ve just watched as it’s left me a bit discombobulated really, but I’ll try to form some coherent thoughts on it. Also just to say that I watched The Disaster Artist at The Prince Charles Cinema (in Leicester Square) which was followed by either a special screening of The Room or another of Tommy and Greg’s movies so I actually managed to catch a glimpse of Tommy Wiseau himself and he really does look and talk the way James Franco portrayed him in the movie! It’s very odd.

1489421599-wiseau-splitI genuinely cannot tell you if the film was trying to be bad or if it just ended up being that way. This is really highlighted by the makeup and hair. I couldn’t tell if they were trying to be bad when filming the movie within the movie or if it just genuinely was bad. Josh Hutcherson’s hair and Dave Franco’s beard where truly atrocious. I also found the makeup used to turn James Franco into Tommy The_Disaster_Artist_2 Wiseau quite jarring. At times it was excellent and you couldn’t see any of James Franco coming through but it sort of fluctuated throughout the film. This meant that there were times when you could see James Franco come through and that in turn highlighted the familial resemblance between him and Dave Franco who was playing Greg Sestero. I also found it slightly odd to cast your own brother in a film where the friendship between the two leads is somewhat questionable at times, even if it is one-sided. Or is it just that any film James Franco does seems to have a homoerotic undertone to it?

There are some recognisable names in this film – both in the weird conversation bit at the start, like Kirsten Bell, J.J. Abrams, and Kevin Smith – and in the actual film itself, obviously the Franco brothers, but also Seth Rogan, Josh Hutcherson, Megan Mullally, Jacki Weaver and Zac Efron (Zac is huge in this by the way – as in muscles not fat!). I can see why James Franco was beginning to rack up the nominations for Best Actor as he is pretty incredible in it and unrecognisable for a lot of it … it’s just a shame that the #MeToo sexual harassment movement has had some impact on his career given the current allegations against him. It takes a real skill to take something that you actually do well and do it badly and boy does he do this well – after all we all know the acting chops he has thanks to 127 Hours (2010, Danny Boyle)In fact everyone who acts in The Room segments of The Disaster Artist does an incredible job as there are some brilliant young talents being completely wooden and, frankly, terrible. It’s actually painful to watch at times the acting is that bad.  And James Franco’s accent is incomprehensible at times which just adds to the essence of bad.

Dave Franco definitely deserves a mention too as, aside from the god-awful fake beard, he is the one lone sane voice that can ever get through to Tommy which results in a fair 12-the-disaster-artist-trailer.w600.h315.2xbit of pressure on him. He’s the kind of character that you latch onto in order to make some sense out of the craziness surrounding you. And nothing highlights the craziness so much as the premiere screening of The Room in The Disaster Artist which has the feeling of collective madness to it. The audience abandons all pretences of trying to take the film seriously and results in this maniacal outpouring of laughter.

I completely get why it has become a cult movie but I’m not sure that it would have the same impact on me now having watched The Disaster Artist first. I can’t help but draw a comparison to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) which is an homage to one of arguably the worst B-Movie directors in the history of film and that’s saying something because B-Movies weren’t that great to begin with … that’s part of the appeal of them … and this has the same sort of feel to it. Or at least it’s approaching a homage but I don’t know there is just a much more polished feel to Ed Wood than there is to The Disaster Artist – maybe it’s because Ed Wood was shot in black and white which makes it feel classier.

The scenes from The Room are pretty much shot for shot perfect – the pre-credit sequence puts them literally side by side and the likeness is outstanding. While I can’t tell you whether I enjoyed the film or not, as I’m still not entirely sure what I watched, I can tell you that it was definitely an experience that’s for sure.

 

 

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The Princess Bride

Director: Rob Reiner

1987

“Rob Reiner’s friendly fairy-tale adventure The Princess Bride delicately mines the irony inherent in its make-believe without ever undermining the effectiveness of the fantasy.” (739, Jonathan Rosenbaum, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

The Princess BrideNow The Princess Bride has an enormous cult following but it is one of those films (much like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986, John Hughes) that I ever really understood the appeal of. I have given it a number of tries across the years and it just does not appeal to me. You would think that a fantasy film from the 1980s would be right up my street but this one really isn’t. The humor is reminiscent of the Monty Python films, which as you may know I am equally ambivalent of. It’s not the sort of humor that makes me laugh, I think it is base and juvenile and it just does not seem funny to me in the slightest.

“The colorful characters and adventures are, at their best, like live-action equivalents of Disney animated features, with lots of other fond Hollywood memories thrown in.” (739) The characters may be live-action equivalents of Disney animated features but they do not translate very well. Animation gives the directors and writers the leeway to do things that would appear completely ridiculous in a live-action movie. The Princess Bride attempts to make these larger than live characters fit in the real world but falls short in my opinion. I’m not saying that it cannot be done because it can – but it is nominally done most successfully by Disney (the most recent success that jumps to mind is Enchanted, 2007, Kevin Lima) There has to be a subtlety to the performance that results in a successful film, which seems to be severely lacking in The Princess Bride.

“Not even the crude ethnic humor [-…-] pricks the dream bubble, and the spirited cast has a field day.” (739) They certainly do go for it – overacting seems to be the watch word. While I guess the mood Reiner was going for was very much a tongue-in-cheek one but it just doesn’t wash with me. There isn’t really anything that made any sort of positive impression on me. But please by no means let my opinion colour your perception of the film – watch it for yourself and come to your own conclusion. After all that’s what makes cinema, and the arts in general, so interesting – everybody has their own opinions and one person’s masterpiece can be another person’s disaster.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Director: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones

1975

“The process of making the movie had aspects as darkly comical as a typical Python sketch. For one thing, the two directors didn’t make a compatible duo; they had different visions of the movie’s style, and Gilliam resented Jones’s tendency to reduce the grandeur of his set designs with cramped camera setups.” (590, David Sterritt, 1001 Movies You Must See Before you Die)

Monty Python's Holy GrailNow while I am British and therefore naturally understand that elusive British humor, one thing I have never really grasped is the humor of Monty Python. They have moments of shining brilliance where they truly are hilarious but for me these moments are rare. For the vast majority of the time I find them absurd and puerile. And this was certainly the case with Holy Grail. The only moment I found funny was their first interaction with the French – the now infamous “I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

I can completely see how and why this (and other Python offerings) has achieved cult movie status. It’s got easy costumes to recreate that are instantly recognizable. And lord knows it’s quote-worthy. Add to that the other elements such as the horses being coconuts and you have the recipe for an instant cult movie.

Despite not being a Monty Python fan I do have to give them props. They are a hard-working group with almost every one of the core actors, like John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, taking on at least 2 additional roles.

“Like much of Monty Python’s best work, Holy Grail is a keen-minded parody with a political edge, debunking a foundational myth of Western power while playing Brechtian havoc with traditionalist ideas ranging from benevolent despotism to chivalric masculinity. And oh yes – it’s a laugh riot.” (590)

Holy Grail is a completely bizarre film with a very loose narrative that is actually narrated as well. It’s a mish-mash of techniques with real time action and animation often sharing the same scene. It does look quite dated now but I actually think that adds to the film’s cult status and appeal – if you’re a Monty Python fan that is. A lot of the time I found myself getting frustrated with the film due to its outrageous and ridiculous nature.