Even in this year of years, dedicated to vision-broadening and mind-opening, I’m falling behind on my moviegoing. It cannot be helped when you have a small child — when you add the babysitting surcharge to most movies, they become indefensible. Perhaps “Thirteen” is worth $16 or so for two people to see, but is it worth $35, the cost when you throw in three hours of babysitting? No. And so, when my screenwriting prof opens class, as he usually does, by asking, “What did everyone see this week?” I have to answer, in a small voice, “Something on video.”

I’m dedicated to changing this, but it’s only October and already I’m behind on “American Splendor” and “Lost in Translation,” and holy Toledo, but “Kill Bill” opens this weekend, too. But I’m fortunate to have the resources of the many U of M libraries as close as my M-Card, so today I took advantage of a long lunch break to take in “Series 7,” an indie production from 2001 so obscure it didn’t even play the art-house circuit.

It’s a ultra-low-budget, ultra-high-satire take on reality TV, and had the good fortune of debuting a few weeks ahead of the first “Survivor,” so somehow the idea of a show where real people have to kill one another on camera didn’t seem quite so outrageous. It was a pretty thin joke, though, and I have to say, it was probably lost in the crowd for a reason. Mike Myers can make one joke last 90 minutes, but he’s a professional.

This weekend, up north, we watched “American Beauty,” which we’re using in my screenwriting class. That one I did see in theatrical release, and liked it less this time. Why is satirizing American suburbia considered this huge, insightful accomplishment? The Marine is a secret queer? You don’t say?!? I mean, talk about a fish, a barrel and a smoking gun, you know? But it’s a lovely movie, and Kevin Spacey rocks the llama’s ass.

The point of all this is, former Fellow Ron and I want to write a screenplay together from the ultra-high-satire perspective, so I thought “Series 7” might be useful. And it is. In its own way.

Posted at 7:44 pm in Uncategorized |

8 responses to “Homework.”

  1. alex said on October 6, 2003 at 8:19 pm

    Amen hallelujah as to “American Beauty.” At the time it came out, I heard it described as the movie Todd Solonds’ “Happiness” tried to be. I think it’s the other way around. And Solonds wasn’t serving up suburbia, at least not so cheaply, but rather dwelling more on the symbiotic relationship between repression and perversion. Funny, all my hetero male friends found “Happiness” disturbing rather than funny, perhaps because of the money shot–such as it was–at the end.

    The only thing I found shocking about it was hearing later that the mother was played by Louise Lasser. I’d forgotten to look for her after seeing her name in the credits. All I could think was Oh my fucking God I’d better quit partying while I’m ahead.

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  2. ashley said on October 6, 2003 at 9:24 pm

    “rocks the llama’s ass”, she wrote, rather nonchalantly. Well, Wesley Willis ( http://starchild.streams.com/starchild/wesley/)

    left us over the summer, and it seems nobody noticed.

    Me, I was in Prague.

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  3. Nance said on October 6, 2003 at 9:34 pm

    I thought that phrase was your coinage, Ash, since you’re the only one I’ve ever heard use it. But then, I’m not as hip as you, music-wise, so.

    God, but I hated “Happiness.” All I could think was, “Actors, run away! Run away while you still can!” But they didn’t. Poor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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  4. alex said on October 6, 2003 at 10:15 pm

    Wow, Nance. I know I’m in a small circle of company on this one, but I put “Happiness” up there with my all-time faves. It really touched the nerves it was intended to touch, and I applaud it on those merits.

    A psycho shrink. A gay marine. Yes, both are kind of “you don’t say?”, but I think Solonds succeeded at making his movie much more gruesome and creepy. And to boot no one ended up dying a horrible death. They all end up living a horrible life. A much better twist in my humble opinion.

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  5. Ashley said on October 6, 2003 at 11:48 pm

    Happiness disturbed me. I mean disturbed. Like in the first time I saw “Henry: portrait of a serial killer” disturbed me. Like in seeing “Bad Lieutenant” the week after seeing “The Piano” disturbed me. It disturbed me like I saw a big flailing Harvey Keitel penis again disturbed me. That’s not to say I don’t watch it again when it comes on HBO or Starz.

    It wasn’t the “money shot” as much as it was the whole “life will never, ever get any better” theme.

    At least “magnolia” had the whole frogs raining down bit o’ redemption.

    “American Beauty” had the protagonist’s daughter escaping the harsh reality of suburbia (for an urban drug dealer….huzzah!), so there was a bit o’ redemption.

    All of my screenwriter friends say that there was no way that Ball wrote that Spacey’s character didn’t pork Suvari’s character. They all claim that the editors cleaned that one up. Me, I don’t buy it. I think that Spacey probably did pass on Suvari, which is why he was “redeemed” at the end.

    “Happiness” had no redemption for anyone. Although Cynthia Stevenson deserved it after getting dumped for Greta Scacchi in “The Player”.

    And Louise Lasser looked like that about 2 weeks after “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” was cancelled. Didya see her in those episodes of Taxi? Jeez…get back on the cocaine, your figure needs it.

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  6. Ashley said on October 7, 2003 at 12:47 am

    Sorry, Nance. A thief am I. I got “rock the llama’s ass” from when I was a DJ and played Wesley Willis nonstop for an entire 4 hour set. They didn’t let me do the late night shift for about a month after that.

    Then I played Petrouchka, Le Sacre du Printemps, and the Spartacus ballet for the early morning shift. They didn’t let me do that again for about 3 weeks. Old ladies were calling and complaining that it wasn’t “restful” enough to wake up with in the morning.

    Rock over London. Rock on Chicago.

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  7. Nance said on October 7, 2003 at 7:00 am

    Well, for me, it was all that Ashley mentions, AND the money shot. I mean: What was the fucking point of that? And the dog? And the dog kissing Cynthia Stevenson? Huh? A POINT, PLEASE?!

    But I do give it points for Dylan Baker’s performance and character. I just won’t ever watch it again.

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  8. alex said on October 7, 2003 at 12:05 pm

    Ashley, you’ve got me laughing so hard I could pee. I’ll admit I’m a bit out of my league discussing the relative merits of Hollywood films as I see so few of them, just as I seldom bother with television. But I did see Magnolia. And grooved on it.

    Feelgood Hollywood just don’t make me feel good, at least not about the money or time spent. I only go to see the freak stuff. Like the R. Crumb documentary. Now that was fun.

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