Thanks to Andrew, who has let me tag along on some of his activities, I have found that meeting filmmakers in packed venues is actually quite fun. I have enjoyed skipping over the small talk and jumping right into more meaningful topics, like the passion behind their projects. Of all the people I have met here, about twenty percent are from Fuller and frequent the Pasadena campus. Yet, we had to travel 700+ miles to meet. I hope we can continue our film conversations after we get back, for there is yet much I need to process!
This is only my second film-watching day here, and I am already feeling a bit overwhelmed, primarily because of the first film I watched today. It made me feel very uncomfortable, I am still processing what I saw, how it reflects our culture, and how I feel about its interpretation. The two films I watched today are Tyrel and A Futile and Stupid Gesture.
Tyrel is about a group of guys that get together to celebrate a birthday by taking a weekend trip to a cabin. Tyrel had the potential of landing every bit the cultural critique Get Out landed. However, apart from portraying an excruciatingly uncomfortable misadventure of a lone African American in an otherwise all caucasian group, it falls short of delivering well thought out commentary.
During the post-screening Q&A director Sebastián Silva mentioned that the inspiration for the film came from witnessing a group of guys on vacation in this exact dynamic. I will share a detail about the ending since there is really no way to spoil the film as it is more about an experience than about a story. One of Silva’s final remarks was, “It’s devastating that in the end all he has from this is a crappy selfie.” Much like this comment suggests, while the film blatantly introduces racial tensions it fails to explore them in depth. In the end this ends up rendering the film into a string of painfully uncomfortable moments without actually engaging the deeper issues.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture
My second and last film of the day was A Futile and Stupid Gesture, a much welcomed counter-balance to the unsettling experience of Tyrel. Full disclosure, I am in no way familiar with American comedic entertainment history, so I cannot judge how true this film is to its real life inspiration. Yet, this film is explicitly aware of the fact that many a watcher will not be acquainted with its subject matter. AFASG is a comedic biopic about comedy legend Doug Kenney, National Lampoon cofounder and writer of Animal House (1978) and Caddyshack (1980). The script is cleverly and irreverently meta. I found this quite refreshing. The film plays its self-awareness well. It delivers gags about narrative devices and almost immediately bulldozes right through the fourth wall hilariously demolishing suspension of disbelief. For me, this is part of its charm and works to make this a more memorable film.
However, I would say that apart from the clever storytelling this is a very mainstream film. Despite being a biopic, AFASG does not look to educate but to honor the memory of Doug Kenney in way he would have approved, by being entertaining and funny. I was definitely entertained and laughed out loud with the other 1,000+ audience members all throughout the film, so in this respect I would say it succeeds. Watching the film with that many people definitely made for a fun experience. This was augmented by the fact that this was the premiere screening. So, the writers, director, and many of the main cast members, many of whom are comedians themselves, were present to answer questions after the screening. Overall, in its superficiality and perhaps much to the chagrin of true comedy connoisseurs, the film is entertaining regardless of how true it is to Doug Kenney. A Futile and Stupid Gesture is already streaming on Netflix, so head on over and have some laughs.