Monday, May 01, 2006

Signs That Your Movie is Destined to be Lampooned on MST3K

So Matt Green has recently begun sharing his love of MST3K with the group, and I must say, it is a very noble and funny past time. There a few things one must have when watching an MST3K episode. First, you have to turn your brain off. This thing that we call logic, and literary terms called plot structure do not exist in the movies that are being watched by Joel/Mike and the Bots. Note however, that this excludes the movie/informational shorts that are sometimes shown before the bad movie. These shorts (while laughably funny for their sometimes odd characterization of life), actually are decent when taken into consideration the time period in which they were made. That said, it’s still darn funny to make fun of them according to today’s societal standards (“What to do on a Date,” I’m looking right at you). Second, you have to be able to sit through REALLY dull parts in movies, and I am talking dull like watching corn grow. Third, you have to appreciate really silly humor, often groaner inducing humor. But, if you can master these three skills, you can begin to appreciate the jewel that is MST3K.

But let’s talk about the movies themselves. To all the aspiring directors, to all the would be cinematographers, I think the should all be required to watch at least 5 episodes of MST3K before they are even allowed to touch, nay, go within 20 feet of, a camera. For this show actually serves as a useful teaching tool to tell people how NOT to make a movie. Oh, if only learning about the Battle of 1812 or the Treaty of Versaille were as fun as this, then we would have such a well rounded and educated population! But instead, this jewel of an education piece is relegated to aspiring film makers, so you should best pay attention to this show if that is your career choice. Think of all the knowledge that they could gain by just watching a single episode!

First, but not foremost, let’s talk soundtracks. Sound is one of the most important aspects of a movie. Even before there was spoken dialogue, there were soundtracks to help convey the mood that needed to be felt. Buster Keaton’s “The General” is a great example – when you see that steam train coming, you feel the excitement as the music quicken’s its pace. And if it’s a creepy horror movie, you have creepy or tense music playing – NOT SOME TRIPE LIKE EASY JAZZ! Oh yes, I am looking at you “Manos, the Hands of Fate” and “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies”! For those of you who have not had the pleasure (or horror) of watching these two gems, their soundtracks were probably the cheapest part of the budget. They simply took a tenor saxophone player, stuck him in front of a microphone, and told him to play improve for two hours straight. That’s it. Nothing else, just bad improve. And when it’s paired up with the movie, the music makes (of course) no sense in relation to what is going on. We have fast improve during a slow scene, and just lazy laid flair when things are heating up. So note to directors – spend some money to score your film with something more than a sax player (or in the case of modern sci-fi movies, a synthesizer on repeat).

Secondly – props/costumes. Now, not every director has multi-million dollar budgets to work with. As an answer to this monetary dilemma, most directors think this is why God created Play-doh and sock puppets – BUT IT’S NOT! No! Rather, that’s why we have imaginations! The guys who did Blair Witch didn’t have squat to work with. So, did they decide to dress up their “villain” in white sheets and go boo? Or have it have wires hanging from it as it scared the campers? No, they didn’t show it at all! That’s what made it creepy – our imaginations did the work. Instead of making us think, the directors of “Future War” decided to show us REALLY bad puppets of Raptor dinosaurs and “cyborgs” that had just way too much white foundation on. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t put fat men in wife beaters and then try to make them look scary (coughThe Final Sacrificecough). It just doesn’t work. Cloaks are a good fit for fat people, and are just as cheap provided you get a roll of fabric and sew on a button or two. Directors – know your budget limits and work with them, not around them.

Finally – plot. You know how when you go on vacation, you do things, and when you come back, you tell people about the things that you do? Well, what you DON’T tell them is HOW you got to where you were going (unless of course something important happens which then obviously makes the how you got there important). Take your average beach trip. Most families when going to the shore will drive to the beach. Sure, they may talk about something that catches their eye, which leads into a conversation of such, but do you see them talking about everything that goes by? “Oh, there’s a red house, and now a blue one, we’re passing a stretch of corn field, there’s some roadkill, there’s a billboard for a new product, hmm, are we there yet, oh, there’s another car, and another one just like one we saw five minutes ago…” It’s the same thing for movies! Unless something is going to happen on the way there that will influence the plot, skip it! Just show them getting into the car, starting on their journey, do a simple wipe/fade, show them arriving, and voila! The audience knows that the family went on a trip! If you want to say it took a long time, have little Suzy say a line about how long that took, or boy, that was an exhausting 3 hours! Compare that to the end of Manos the Hands of Fate, where two ladies go on this journey so boring and has no plot that it allows one of the guys to go on a 5 minute rant that’s a complete stitch, and would have been better had it been in the original movie to begin with! And what’s the deal with adding stuff that doesn’t further the story? Come on! Did I really need to see all that expose on why the main guy’s brother died horribly in a tragic car accident when he was 5 when the matter at hand is what breakfast cereal he is going to choose and the story will not be affected by that considering that the story takes place on a submarine dealing with leaky pipes?

I could go on with countless other DO NOT’S for our aspiring directors our there, but the point is this: Film directing is not for everyone. For every Stephen Spielberg, there at least ten Ray Dennis Steckler’s (Director for above mentioned “Incredibly Strange Creatures…Zombies”). My advice? Post your “cinematic masterpiece” on something like YouTube or Google Video before you submit it to the studios to see if you have what it takes. And Studios – actually read the script and watch the finished piece before you subject us to the utter garbage that these directors are shoveling on you! Although with any luck, you’ll at least get some royalties in twenties years when MST5K lampoons the latest “The House Of 1 Million Corpses Who Decided To Go On Living But Couldn’t Because They Had No Heads.”

As a side note, I had to look up the director for “Incredibly Strange Creatures…” to find out who was in charge of the abomination. Frankly I though it would have been a female considering the amount of time spent on highlighting the females talent (or more aptly, lack of) through the numerous dance sequences. And what struck me as hilarious, yet rather prophetic is the tag line for the movie – “We Dare You to Remain Seated when Monsters Invade Audience! Who'll Chicken Out First--Boys or Girls? Girls! Learn if Your Boy Friend Can Take It!” Yes, that was the actual tag line. I for one have to say that if I had brought my date to this movie, I would have been the one to chicken out first…by promptly taking her out to the lobby and the profusely apologizing for subjecting her to that kind of trip. Then again, if a couple CAN sit through that movie and not be bored to tears/want to kill themselves, then it’s a pretty good sign that they can withstand anything that life throws their way and should consider driving to the nearest all-night wedding chapel and getting hitched right away.

And as a final side note, the writer for “Incredibly Strange Creatures” only wrote one other thing according to – “Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters”. ‘Nuff said.


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