Thursday, 31 May 2007

WRONG!, Parts I and II

Every time I'm at the multiplex these days, I get an uneasy feeling. I wasn't sure why at first, but I've since discovered that the culprit is the poster for the new Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up.

It looks pretty benign at first. But as the great philosopher Kevin Spacey once taught us, look closer. See it now. Read the tagline. This movie is assuming that I'm a woman.

Ideally, this shouldn't be a problem. The film theorist Laura Mulvey has reasoned that it is always unquestioningly assumed that a movie's audience is male. So maybe it's a breakthrough whenever a poster decides to target the overlooked remaining 51% of the population.

Except, it's not that simple either. Not only is Knocked Up assuming I'm female, it presumes I'm the kind of female who would never give Seth Rogan the time of day. Despite not really relating to Rogan in any overwhelming way, my oversensitive empathetic side took over. I had to voice my unreasonable complaint on the IMDb message boards... as a character who isn't myself, of course.

BOYCOTT!! - Offensive Poster!

The poster for the new movie KNOCKED UP asks the question, “What if this guy got you pregnant?” Below the question is a picture of the star Seth Rogan’s face.

I am offended by this for 2 reasons.

1) It is assuming that I am a woman.

And 2) I look exactly like the guy on this poster.

This is very frustrating since it gives the general public the impression that I have not laid pipe plenty of times.

Now, I don’t look exactly like Seth Rogan does normally. I saw him in the movie DONNIE DARKO, and he did not look totally like me there. But on this poster, where he strikes the Morgan Spurlock-minus-fries-in-his-mouth pose, well, that DOES look like me. I have the same golden curly hair, halfway-bug-eyed look, confused eyebrow pose, mouth, and other less descript general facial characteristics, although I just shaved. My friends make fun of me every time we walk past this stupid poster to get a latenight milkshake. Every time we walk by a fine looking lady, someone in my crew will say, “Hey, what if Gord got you pregnant?” Last night, I even punched my buddy Dave for carrying on with this $&!#.

I want to be very clear on this: Just because I look like that guy on the poster doesn’t mean that girls don’t want to have sex with me. I have given the beef injection to women who are prettier than Katherine Heigl.

There was a promo for this movie before THE INVISIBLE, talking to its stars. When Ms. Heigl came on she said that the premise is every girl’s nightmare. That’s fatuous! I know girls like Ms. Heigl and they only want guys who look like Mark Paul Gosseler, so what could she even know about what it means to be another satisfied customer!?

Frankly, I have had something against this chick ever since I saw her on Leno promoting the Gerard Depardieu epic MY FATHER THE HERO, where she said that she likes to toilet paper peoples’ houses on Halloween. Somebody should let her know that someone has to clean that $&!# up!

In conclusion, please boycott this movie! It is propaganda telling people not to have sex with me.


Now, in reality I don't look anything like Seth Rogan. I'm really a very masculine amalgam of the more flattering physical qualities held by Keanu Reeves, Chris Cornell, Anna Kournikova and The Rock. For all I know, Knocked Up could be great (I haven't seen it yet.) It's just that the motivation behind this ad is very clear, and fairly unimaginative. Knocked Up is attempting to market itself to a female audience who wouldn't typically go for a fraternal ribald sex comedy--the kind of cross-over effort the Farrelly Brothers achieved in There's Something About Mary.

But mostly, I just have the need to point out that THIS POSTER IS WRONG. By addressing its reader, even if its question is rhetorical, it is mildly discomforting. I've seen Minority Report; I know it's a bad future when ads start talking to me. And by misguessing my sex, I have an urge to pretend I'm insulted.


There's a new reality show on Fox this summer called On the Lot. It's basically American Idol with aspiring directors competing for a film deal. This marks a crucial difference with the other show for one reason. Beyond the monetary potential, the appeal of being the next American Idol is the possibility of a multitude of complete strangers masturbating to the idea of you. Filmmakers are less sexually lusted over than singers, but movies themselves are pure sex. That means that the people on On the Lot are in love with the idea of people getting off on their product rather than on them themselves.

That's really everything you'll ever need to know about movies. But I'll keep going anyway.

We feel (provided we possess a moral base) more comfortable judging the worth of movies than the worth of entertainers. This is because movies are products and not people, so any insult that comes back to a person is indirect. Or the blame is at least partitioned among a group of people. This is why when the judges on On the Lot don't like a movie, they always point out that the director is still talented without sounding like they're lying. A bad movie is just one instance of bad sex. Everyone feels entitled to say so, yet many haven't really investigated that opinion. More often critics just rely on cliches. On the Lot is proof of this.

On the second episode to air, judge Brett Ratner (director of the Rush Hour movies and X Men: The Final Stand) dismissed a filmmaker's one minute short because its use of text on the screen was too arty. Ratner said it was "style over substance." My friend pointed out that this text complaint means Ratner would likely hate my own movie Later That Stevening.

Curious as to how the consensus-defining Internet was reacting to Ratner's criticism, I did a combined google search on the terms "brett ratner" and "style over substance". Instead of getting anything related to the show, I ended up with dozens of links to reviews accusing Ratner's own movies of their style over substance.

This would be a poetic justice, except how is it even possible? How much discernable style do Ratner's movies possess? And how is it overwhelming the substance? Isn't the whole point of getting Brett Ratner to direct a movie that it isn't going to be personalized?

Saying that a movie is style over substance is a bizarre complaint anyway. I can't think of many movie-smart people I've ever heard say this. Interpreting style reveals substance. The two are connected most of the time. In cases where they aren't entirely, the issue of the "style over substance" charge is really just that the movie doesn't contain adequate substance. So the style is a virtue. If you take the style away too, you're not left with much. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, for example, is a letdown thematically and conceptually. But it's a gorgeous movie. Every frame looks like a painting. The filmmaking style isn't a detriment, it's the major thing the movie has going for it.



Lee Anne said...

Thanks for clarifying EXACTLY what was bothering me about the Knocked Up campaign.

Mark Palermo said...

Hey Lee Anne,

Glad to be of help. I'll see how the movie lives up this afternoon.

Joefilmfan said...

The problem with the poster is that here in Hollywood, guys who look like Seth Rogan get laid all the time with girls who look like Katherine Heigl. That’s like 98.56% of the couples here.

The inverse of style over substance is substance over style, yet the people who take the former as an insult would consider the latter as a compliment. But really, the equation itself is nonsensical. There is no spoon.

riley said...

this is what TC should have run instead of that piece where that girl talks about how cool this movie's going to be because Judd Apatow is a genius or something like that. I didn't believe one word of it because she said, 'moreover' with all seriousness while listing off his comic 'achievements' and I hate that word. looks like Apatow has no problems getting tail.

Mark Palermo said...

Joe - The "substance over style" supporters are WAY more common from what I can tell. Again, their ability to separate and prioritize form and content like that is absurd.

I was explaining the miscalculation of the Knocked Up poster to my friend last night (which, make no mistake, is a film about male wish fulfillment), by pointing out the outcry that would happen if the inverse appeared on the poster. If you had an uglified close up of America Ferrara with the tagline, "What if you found out this girl was having your baby?," it would seem mean. The 98.56% of Hollywood couples are proof that people aren't that shallow.

Riley - Apatow should cut down on the tail. Good filmmaking requires a degree of sexual energy that you can't maintain if you're getting laid all the time. Unless you're Joseph Kahn. And thank you for supporting truth and artistry.

Mark said...

I miss the hell out of my computer - I gotta get this thing on my LJ RSS feeds.

PS you nailed it

Mark Palermo said...

Thanks Mark!

riley said...

ha ha ha - no tail for Apatow, just a lawsuit! Seriously, did he steal it or is that just a debate as to whether Alison is a common name for an aspiring Jewish reporter?

Unplanned pregnancy? It was unoriginal anyway.