Reviews about reviews of films about films being filmed
“Politi-flix” received a tip that its film critic, Doug Young, was seen recently in various art house movie theaters throughout Denver. Our sources in fact saw him as he entered the Landmark’s Esquire and Chez Artiste theaters to catch some obscure offering about some esoteric topic. We were unable to verify if he purchased any treats from the concession stand as our cameras were not allowed inside.
As evidence for these assertions, we retrieved a couple of ticket stubs that he cavalierly and brazenly tossed into the trashcan outside the theater as he left the showings (we had someone stakeout the exits to document his coming and going). Here are those recovered ticket stubs:
As you can plainly see, these stubs were for two films — The Cove and In The Loop. The first thing to note is that they show that even though he is a film critic, he sometimes still pays for films just like everyone else. And, although we do not have the stubs to prove it, we also saw him entering the film Paper Heart, which also screens at small art house venues.
These stubs also show that he pays to see some pretty obtuse film fare. And, as we have followed his reviews over the years, we fully expect that Mr. Young will likely write a review of these particular films in his usual unorthodox style.
For example, The Cove is a documentary about a Japanese coastal town that takes advantage of an isolated cove to corral, capture and slaughter dolphins by the thousands for food or for transport to oceanic amusement parks and aquariums throughout the world. The film also shows — in full Mission: Impossible fashion — the lengths to which the filmmakers went to document this slaughter under the cover of darkness and the ever-watchful eyes of the townspeople and police who engaged in thuggish behavior to keep this secret from being uncovered. In other words, the film was not only about the cove and the atrocities that occur there, it was also about the filmmakers themselves — their views on the subject, their moral outrage, the troubles they encountered, and their filmic mission.
So, we fully expect Mr. Young’s review to be a takeoff on some Mission: Impossible theme complete with experts putting together a complex outline of the review itself and how the various aspects of the review evoke a tense and complex caper. Or, the review could be in the style of the taped briefing/review assignment that he receives — just like Mr. Phelps of Mission: Impossible — spelling out how he is to go about reviewing the film, the elements to highlight and the special difficulties involved. Those difficulties could include the emotionally wrenching scenes of dolphins thrashing for their lives, the painful brutality of the slaughter itself that they successfully filmed and we get to witness at the end, and the outrageous justifications and pathetic failure by the Japanese at International Whaling
We would similarly expect such a technique with the film In The Loop. This film is about the political and public relations machinations that ensue right before the Iraq invasion (or something like it). The film uses actors playing fictional characters that represent real people — like British and American political and military officials and their staff and media handlers. The film takes on the veneer of a documentary in the way that it is shot — the “wonderfully” jittery handheld camera movements and askew perspectives as if struggling to witness events as they are occurring — and in the behind the scenes discussions where people struggle to get their views across while also struggling to learn the facts and manage the press message. In other words, it takes on the cast of a film about such films.
So, we fully expect Mr. Young’s review of this film to be a play on some behind the scenes machinations of critics reviewing such a film and their struggles to articulate how the review of the film may be perceived by readers. That nontraditional style will no doubt invoke some praiseworthy aspect of policy/review formation and articulation, such as that the film was brazenly funny and full of creatively vicious expletives, that the filmmakers depict the characters as scheming over-the-top egotists and self-important blowhards and may not realize how realistic this is, and the crass calculations involved in rationalizing and bolstering preconceived policy choices. Or, his review might be in the form of a policy memo with pros-and-cons of seeing the movie, just like a central pros-and-cons memo in the movie regarding the justifications and drawbacks of going to war.
And, it’s likely he also would employ this style for the film Paper Heart. This film was about the filmmakers, who are also stars of the film, as they explore the nature of true love and how people go about finding it. The stars are seen making a documentary about this topic, which is replete with “on the street” interviews of real life couples and fact-finding missions with scientists and experts. The stars play themselves playing people who are being filmed learning about true love. The focus of the film, a young woman named Charlyne Yi, is actually an actress and comedian, but here plays herself (sort of) as she is seen wandering around talking to people about true love and if it really exists. She chances upon actor Michael Cera at a party where he is playing himself (sort of). The two of them seem to have a cute, fetching relationship (sort of) that is interrupted and invaded by the filmmakers filming the documentary about them finding true love (sort of).
So, we fully expect Mr. Young to produce a review that would be a review of the review that would involve whether this technique is really effective or that people might leave the theater confused and not knowing what to think about what they just saw or read. Or, his review might just be light and fluffy and full of fun but inconsequential vignettes that are pleasing and inoffensive, but with little substance.
You know, sort of like this very review!
Doug Young, The Statesman’s film critic, provides various perspectives in his reviews, thereby fulfilling his role as a master film critic.