Thursday, August 31, 2006

Turds On A Movie

My immediate reaction upon exiting the movie theatre after seeing Snakes On A Plane was: “That was the most obnoxious movie I’ve ever seen.” I mean obnoxious in a good way. I liked the honesty of its camp. It created a new genre: Proto-Schlock, or self-aware awfulness. I was endeared to this idea, and I appreciated the movie for not trying to be good but instead reveling in its own inherent badness.Then on my way home I tried to switch lanes, and the dude two car-lengths behind me decided he didn’t want me to, and he sped past while I was halfway into the other lane. Whenever a situation like this comes up I use Ol’ Trusty to sort it out. I flipped him the bird. Not content with being just a plain asshole, he decided to make a run for the Major Asshole award by then slowing down and swerving into my lane, to teach me a lesson or something.

Maybe I shouldn’t have given him the finger, or maybe he shouldn’t have been an asshole. Regardless, I was now in a bad mood. When in a bad mood one tries to think about things that will pull him out of that mood, but instead he usually gets pushed deeper into his misery. It’s kind of like when a dude is trying to make his boner go away by thinking about baseball, but in his head the dudes on the field turn into ladies, and then they turn into naked ladies. So I thought, “I’ll get myself out of this mood by thinking about Snakes On A Plane.” Bad fucking idea.

The first image that popped into my head was of some dickhead blogger creaming in his Levi’s while watching something that he wanted to happen in Snakes On A Plane actually happen on the screen. Months ago this guy posted some bullshit about Snakes On A Plane that the producers read. They, sensing the hype that this movie had already created (when they hadn’t yet spent a dime on marketing), decided that they should field suggestions for the movie from the internet. So what this blogger wrote caught the eye of the producer. The producer called the writer, the director, and the actingest motherfucker in Hollywood, Sam Jackson, and decided that they had to put what this dude wrote in the movie. So they spent a couple million dollars for the writer to write the new scene, the director to direct the new scene, the actors to act in the new scene, and of course for the special effects guys to do their thing yet again.

Mind you, the movie had already been shot; it was fundamentally in the can. So the producer thought that it would be a good idea to change this piece of shit into an R-Rated piece of shit. They shot new scenes and put them into the movie. Then they had this movie containing new scenes SUGGESTED by the “fans” (Can a movie have fans even though it hasn’t proven itself to be fan-worthy; i.e., no one’s seen it?).

Look at this from the perspective of the filmmakers. The writer wrote this script, either from his idea or from someone else’s. It doesn’t matter. He wrote the script. He wrote the movie that was ALREADY made. It doesn’t matter if it was bad to begin with; it’s his job to write what he gets paid to write. Same with the director: the quality of the material is inconsequential. So he heard that they wanted him to write new things based on what some dickhead on the internet wanted. It’s like when a chef slaves over a steak only to hear that the person who ordered it wants ketchup with it. Ketchup? Don’t you like what I made for you? Sure, it might not be the best steak ever, but fucking ketchup? Why the fuck did you order it in the first place if you’re just going to smear ketchup on it? The writers and filmmakers are the chef, and the dickhead bloggers are the ketchup. It’s the writer’s steak that the producer ordered. If he didn’t like what he ordered, why the fuck did he order it in the first place?

Being a blogger myself, I realize the irony in me making fun of bloggers, especially after having written something in which I all but solicit the producers of the next Batman film to do what I say. But here’s where I’m different: I stated that I do not actually expect anyone to pay attention to me. I was just ranting. In the case of Snakes On A Plane, someone said something ridiculous about the movie, which was then read by someone else who sent it to someone else, etc., etc.

All this attention caught the eye of the producer. The producer then figured, “Let’s shoot some new scenes based on what these inter-tards are saying about our piece of shit movie!” So the internet community is getting a boner. “Lady Hollywood is paying attention to us!” Now people will start coming up with the most insane things they can think of and start posting them in whatever public forum they can find. The producers will read these new insane things and decide to put them in movies. It’s like a cannibalization of attention. The attention is causing more attention, which in turn is causing even more attention.

The closest thing I can compare this with is Adult Swim. When Adult Swim started on Cartoon Network it was really fun and goofy, and it was something great to watch while you got drunk with your friends. Then Adult Swim started putting things people wrote on their message boards on television and since then anything anyone has said on the boards has been posted with the hope of it being featured on television one day. So everything posted on them is obnoxious and obvious. But Adult Swim keeps putting quotes on television, so now people have to outdo each other. Poster A posts something clever. Then Poster B posts something cleverer than Poster A. Then Poster C comes up with something cleverer than Posters A and B combined. It keeps going on and on like this until you pay $8.50 to see a poorly shot Sam Jackson say, “That’s it! I’ve had enough of these mother-fucking snakes on this mother-fucking plane!”

I guess I might be treading the same water as the Chuck Klosterman article from Esquire that Jim Emerson and I both wrote about. But something neither of them covered is this: How is what happened with Snakes On A Plane any different than censoring a movie? Doesn’t changing a completed movie in order to make it more violent make changing a completed movie in order to make it less violent okay? We’ve all heard about companies that take DVD releases of certain movies and get rid of the “naughty bits” and then re-release these so-called “cleaned-up” versions of movies. Well, what if there was a company the put more naughty bits in (a couple more streaks of blood or a couple more swear words)? Would we be up in arms then? Would we have so derided George Lucas for “special-editioning” Star Wars if we had suggested it?

It makes me sad to say it, but Snakes On A Plane was made by professionals, by people who make films for a living. I’m all for audience participation; in fact, audience participation has elicited some of the most exciting developments in the entertainment industry. Sony has been fond of having fan-created poster contests. The movie Slither just had a contest in which you could edit your own trailer. Outside of movies, The Four Horsemen, a group of toy sculptors, solicited fans for toy ideas. Fans then voted on the best idea for a toy line. They then voted on which characters from the toy line to develop. They then voted on the sculpts for the characters and ultimately voted on which character would be produced. To an extent, audience participation can and will continue to work. But people, please leave the brushes in the hands of the artists. We’re the audience for a reason: we sit back and watch what someone else has created. If you’re not content to sit back and watch, then make your own movie, and we’ll see how much you like it when someone blogs a couple new lines for you.

I guess the final point I can make about this movie is that it all comes down to a case of overestimating the buying power of those heavily involved in the culture of blogging. Bloggers are a small fraction of vocal and passionate people, which are a fraction of passionate people in general, which are a fraction of people in general. When you get down to it, the massive group of people who had created the hysteria surrounding this film weren’t all that massive after all. Hollywood thought that bloggers represented the whole, they thought what bloggers wanted was what everyone wanted. So they changed a bunch of stuff around to suit to what they thought everyone wanted. If the opening weekend number of Snakes On A Plane have taught us anything, is that it’s not about how popular the opinion actually is, it’s about how vocal the holders of that opinion are.

I’d honestly be more afraid of what Snakes On A Plane represents had it been more successful, but as it stands it was just a shitty movie that’s been talked about a lot more than any shitty movie ever has.

So did I like the movie? Yeah I did, because it sucked, and I like shitty movies. I’d probably watch it again too, but I wouldn’t pay money for it again. Mostly because Snakes On A Plane is the first intentionally manufactured sign of the coming Movie Apocalypse. I’m glad to have seen the product of the entire filmmaking process becoming irrelevant. The new way to make film will involve many more people and will crank out many more pieces of shit. It’s like Hollywood is a turd factory that’s finally discovered how to make smellier turds. No one wants a smellier turd, and I can only pray to God that Snakes On A Plane is not an indication of things to come.