Canned films

The Goods:
Live Hard, Sell Hard

Starring Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames,
James Brolin
Directed by Neal Brennan

Adam
Starring Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving
Directed by Max Meyer

Taking Woodstock
Starring Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Emile Hirsh
Directed by Ang Lee

Rating: Just in time for back-to-school, these three films feel like they were made by students for students — sort of like those bygone After School Specials.

Of course, many are familiar with those controversial Web sites offering students fully written term papers, essays and book reports for a small fee. These canned, self-contained papers allow students to satisfy those annoying demands for required class work-product without infringing on the precious time constraints involved with partying and playing. All one has to do is download them, print them, slap one’s name on them, and then get back to the kegger.

But why limit this to old-fashioned written papers? Why not get with the 21st century and offer visual term papers and assignments as well? With the advent of digital technology and the Internet, all you have to do is grab a camera, start filming and post your results on YouTube or file-sharing sites. In fact, lots of people are getting into the moviemaking business using this impromptu method. So, it seems it’s only a matter of time until “video term papers” could be allowed as school assignments.

Such sites could also be available for students of film classes directly. Why go to all that trouble learning about esoteric film theories, coming up with an idea, writing a script and lining up locations, actors and special-effect shots when you can simply go to a Web site, pay a small fee and download a complete film to turn in under your name? That would leave plenty of time to get back to that multiplayer video game.

To get the ball (camera?) rolling, herewith could be three such offerings. (Just click on the title link to download; prices are variable.):

Business and Marketing Classes:
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

For you business students being pestered by your teachers to do some research on successful marketing tools and how to move inventory, we have just the item for you. Click on the link for The Goods and download this film, which focuses on the techniques used to sell used cars — items that are traditionally especially hard to market and sell. Your teacher will be impressed with the special marketing insights you depict — insights into human nature such as “sex sells,” fake price mark-ups, playful balloons, free popcorn and hot dogs, on-the-lot strippers, and a rapper disc jockey blaring tunes from an outdoor platform. Your classmates will think you are a genius, and they will love the Will Ferrell-like manner in which all this important business information is relayed — complete with crassly adolescent humor, plenty of sexual references, a manically egotistical hotshot salesman and language and behavior designed to shock, humiliate and disgust. After all, as all good marketers know, humor sells as well.

Pre-med Classes: Adam

Is your teacher requiring you to examine some popular health affliction? That sounds terribly complicated and time-consuming. Instead of having to pore through a whole bunch of scientific papers, why not simply download Adam? No, that’s not a religious reference, so you don’t have to worry about getting into the whole evolution vs. creationism morass. Just click on the link and you get a film that will wow your teacher and classmates with how much you know about the highly talked-about Asperger Syndrome. Don’t worry if you don’t know what it is, because Adam will spell it all out for your teacher and classmates in simple and direct terms. They will be impressed with how much you learned about this disorder and what it’s like for someone with this condition. Adam, a guy just like you and your classmates who has this unfortunate disability, goes through all the typical struggles that you and your fellow students go through — like going to parties, finding a job and going to work, fixing dinner and getting a date. And, with Adam, you get to showcase the added difficulties of someone having to get by all alone. You see, Adam’s father dies, and he has to live alone in the apartment he and his father shared. That means poor Adam has to figure out how to pay rent, deal with his father’s will, encounter other tenants — all while interacting with others who are unfamiliar with this syndrome and don’t know how to respond to “weird” Adam. But Adam helps them learn all about it in this “video pamphlet.” See? Learning really is power!

History Classes: Taking Woodstock

History can be so dry and boring with all those dates and people and trends. It can be a royal headache to have to pore through all those books and sort through all those competing views of what happened when. But that’s all in the past! All you have to do is click on the link for the film Taking Woodstock, and your assignment is history! With this film, you get the added bonus that 2009 happens to be the 40th anniversary of some groovy concert that your parents love to talk about. And, since your teacher probably was a teenager then, he or she will love this bit of nostalgia. Brownie points indeed! The film shows how this massive outdoor concert actually happened (it almost didn’t). through the eyes of a young man helping his uptight parents rent out rooms at a rundown hotel they own near the concert site. He takes it upon himself to work with the community to locate a site on a farm and make a host of arrangements. You get to show your teacher and classmates what people wore back then, what they listened to, the kinds of cars they drove — the whole societal upheaval and radical change that was happening back then and is symbolized by this concert. And it’s all done in such an inoffensively lighthearted and subdued style that you will win extra points with your teacher. Like what your teacher may have worn at the time, the whole event is depicted through rose-colored glasses. There’s no examination of the event’s seedy underbelly, no violence, no nasty commentary, no criticism, no fuss. It captures the mood that one might experience from smoking a reefer, and it practically dissipates like so much smoke from a bong hit. A good grade is certain. Far out!

Doug Young, The Statesman’s film critic, provides various perspectives in his reviews, thereby fulfilling his role as a master film critic.