Film Club: ‘Jackass 3D’ and Halloween Picks
No Pain No Gain… and No Laughs
Friday, October 29, 2010
The critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air discuss "Jackass 3D" and make Halloween recommendations.
Listen to the KPBS Film Club of the Air discussion about "Jackass 3D" and let me explain why I didn't partake.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our next film is called Douchebag. And it follows two mismatch brothers on a prewedding road trip. Older brother Sam is getting married, brother Tom has no date. So they go searching for one of Tom's old girlfriends, along the way, the over bearing Sam and the clutzy Tom learn a little more about each other. And themselves.
ANDERS WRIGHT: What's the movie called again?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's called Douchebag.
BETH ACCOMANDO: And what's the text next one we're talking about?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That would be Jackass.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's so nice to hear Maureen talking like that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not getting paid enough this morning. Of so do you know bag is considered part of the mumble core esthetic. Can you explain what that is.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Sure. Mumble core is generally a genre of film that is generally made on the cheap, lots of the dialogue is improvised, it's about relationships, it's dialogue heavy. It tends to be hand held, and it's basically something that came up sort of when inexpensive digital cameras started to become easy to use. And the term mumble core was actually coined by a sound editor who was trying to put some sound to a track one day and was like, man, I can't hear these guys at all. We'll call it mumble core.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you guys agree that it's part of the mumble core esthetic.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes.
SCOTT MARKS: Are you using the words mumble core and esthetic in the same sentence? .
Q. I did it.
ANDERS WRIGHT: People don't really set out to be, like, I'm gonna make a mumble core movie of it's more a product of the equipment and means you have at your disposal.
BETH ACCOMANDO: If that were the case, then paranormal activity would be mumble core.
SCOTT MARKS: David Lynch shot Inland Empire on --
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, it has to do with an attitude, sort of a contemplating your naval kind of attitude of it's people who are very wrapped up in themselves. And kind of think they're interesting enough that I request go ahead and just film myself that people will be interested. It's a little bit of the off shoot of twitter and Facebook in a way.
SCOTT MARKS: The coauthor actor and editor, Andrew Dickler was in down for the San Diego film critics, they kid a benefit of Douchebag.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They. We are all members. We can't pretend.
SCOTT MARKS: And we had lunch with them. You weren't at the luncheon. We ate what passes for pizza in San Diego. And I said to him, I said what is with all this hand held cleanup in and I was told to be polite. And they said just be nice be nice. And he said to me, well, sometimes we don't have time to stand up a shot. That's like a stand up comedian saying sometimes I can't bother with timing if you can't take time to set up a shot, go sell tires.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But I was there, he also said, it's not always about setting up a shot. Sometimes you're doing things as quickly as you possibly can!
SCOTT MARKS: Because it's the moment's genius of their improvisation! I don't know. This whole idea of improvising a movie where you don't know ending before it starts.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Wait, wait. I think there are some people who can pull that off, and some who can't. If you interview Wong Kar-wai, that's how he makes his movies. Or I don't have enough light so I'm gonna use, you know, a slow are speed. Whatever. I mean, he does --
SCOTT MARKS: But he knows where to put the camera. He knows to put the camera 134 place else other than up the character's nostril.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No. But he does co -- and who knows if he's fessing up to all the truth or No. But the way he talks about the way he shoots is similar to what you just said. Of.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sorry to interrupt, Beth. But we have a caller on the line with a that you feel comment about Douchebag. So here's David calling from Oceanside. Good morning David welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. Douchebag is John Cassavetes, is this is like 40 years ago.
SCOTT MARKS: Oh, to compare this to John Cassavetes.
NEW SPEAKER: You don't need great actors and talent, you don't need digital cameras, you just need ability.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks for calling.
ANDERS WRIGHT: It should be said that almost everybody who makes films that are considered mumble cores looks at Cassavetes.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But they didn't learn from him.
SCOTT MARKS: They learned nothing from him.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Except to make this hand held naturalistic --
SCOTT MARKS: Because it add a rawness? No, it doesn't. It makes it look sloppy and amateurish.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It reminds me of I think it was Dick van Dike who said when you play a drunk you don't want to play him as somebody who's deliberately walking crooked. You're playing him as somebody who's trying to walk straight and can't. And a problem with the hand held stuff is, they don't care about whether it's shaky or -- it's not like they're hand holding it, and trying to get a good shot, they're going, okay, we're just gonna hold it, and that excuses any form of structure to it.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I think the cinematography is not the key element to these movie. They're about relationships.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does it work on that level? When we get to the acting and the plot of the movie.
ANDERS WRIGHT: This movie in particular?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yeah.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I saw this a second time renal, and it grew on me more the second time. I also think, you know, they do know the ending before they start the movie. They have an outline.
SCOTT MARKS: But they don't be how to get there.
ANDERS WRIGHT: No, they have outlines, they know where the scenes are going to be. They know where they start, and they know where they end. And they just sort of let the actors figure out how to get there. I think this one is funny of it's definitely funny.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's been one of the better mumble core films.
SCOTT MARKS: What was the one that you sent me? Johno?
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah, I don't know.
SCOTT MARKS: That was a great movie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: The other mumble core film I like, is in search of a midnight kiss, which is kind of a romantic film.
SCOTT MARKS: I don't think that's mumble core.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They list it as mumble core though.
SCOTT MARKS: They bought a tripod for that film. It can't be mumble core.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How did you all do watching that guy with the horrible beard for the entire movie.
ANDERS WRIGHT: It's actually -- part of the question of this film is actually who is the title character. Because it's I word that's never really --
BETH ACCOMANDO: That's not really a hard question to answer.
SCOTT MARKS: It takes about 15 minutes before you figure out who the Douchebag is. And please, say Douchebag. Don't say the title character. We never get to say these words!
ANDERS WRIGHT: Andrew Dickler who plays Sam, who's this sort of vegetarian, ecofriendly --
BETH ACCOMANDO: Douchebag.
ANDERS WRIGHT: And his attitude as the film progresses, and it's clear, he's very worried about getting married. But his attitude as the film progresses seems to go further and further away from the image he has. So the beard works for that. He keeps doing more and more things that don't seem that are totally incongruous.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But I think all the things that he does along the way are just revealing how much of a Douchebag he is. He's pretentious, he pretends about being concerned about the environment and eating healthy and all this stuff, and he wants to have this social control over other people to do that. And you get these little snippets of him kind of lecturing or insinuating that you're not doing what you should. And that's part of what makes him annoying.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yes.
SCOTT MARKS: When you have a character like this who's like a confessed vegan, he's not gonna go and eat meat. The only reason that's in there is to get a cheap laugh out of the audience and to make a cheap comment about the character. That would never happen.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Here's one thing that's interesting though. He's never acted before. He's been a film edit are on. He edited door mis's last movie, and he was like, you're hysterical, want to be the star of my next movie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Here's where I think the whole mumble core attitude runs into its problems. If you have somebody like Cassavetes who's working with Jenna Rolands and Peter Falk, saying, hey, we're gonna improvise a scene, you've got a baseline of intelligence and talent and skill that you're working with. When you take these mumble core films and it's just a bunch of guys who go, like, hey, we got a camera, and oh, you're funny and let's see what we can do, the level at which they're improvising and creating this -- these films is very different from some of these other ones that do work where improvisation and hand held camera and this naturalistic approach has a very different kind of end result.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we have to take a break. Douchebag opens this Friday at landmark's Ken cinema.
ANDERS WRIGHT: And Andrew Dickler will be there Friday night for a Q and A.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, all right. And talking about a bunch of guys with a camera just doing stuff, we're gonna be talking more about that when we talk about the phenomenon of the Jackass movies.
You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And this is the KPBS film club of the air. Our critics are KPBS film critic Beth Accomando, Scott Marx of the film blog emotioncompulsion.com. But we must return to Douchebag one more moment because we have a caller on the line. Good morning John. Welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi. So in this discussion of mumble core movies and what constitutes naturalism in art and film, I think, you know, the idea that the improvisation and lack of structure constitutes naturalism, I think not a reality. I wanted to mention the French film, the clap, which takes the idea of mockumentary style, but still has a structure. Of and you see the use of hand held cameras. But you feel like it's not really -- it's still art. It's not voyeurism. So I just wanted to hear whether anyone had any thoughts on that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sure. Thank you for that call John. Want to add to that?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Well, it's not mumble core.
SCOTT MARKS: And it ain't art.
ANDERS WRIGHT: No, I think that film had more of a script in place too. But it used nonprofessional actors if are the most part. The French film.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, well, John, thank you so much. I have to tell everyone once again, Douchebag opens this Friday. We're moving on. In describing the phenomenon of the Jackass movies, I'm going to borrow some lineups from the New York Times. After telling us that Jackass three D is rated R, it goes on to say that the movie is populated with clothed seminaked and naked adult men, all apparently stuck in what Freud termed the anal, oral, and phallic stage it is of development. Those men include Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius and Steve O. The movies are a compilation of dangerous, crazy, and sometimes grotesque stunts, and people do get hurt. So Anders, for those of us in our audience who have not seen a Jackass movie or TV show --
ANDERS WRIGHT: Well, are it is one of the things where if you have to ask -- how can you really describe what Jackass is? It is basically this crew of guys lead by Johnny Knoxville doing what -- I guess you could call them stunts but the basic premise is that people are doing, like, horrifically disgusting and painful things in an effort to gross you out or get hurt so that you'll laugh at them getting hurt. Do I have that right Scott?
SCOTT MARKS: So far so good.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Why did you ask Anders to describe it?
SCOTT MARKS: I'm crushed. I'm insulated!
ANDERS WRIGHT: But it's the sort of things that they'll do are so over the top, so unbelievably awful at times to watch, I mean, they're cringe worthy. And at the same time -- people love it. Have you taken Tony?
BETH ACCOMANDO: No.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott, I want your full, full feeling about Jackass 3D.
SCOTT MARKS: I was the first kid on my block to find Jackass. And I would bring the tapes over to people's house.
BETH ACCOMANDO: How old were you?
SCOTT MARKS: It was ten years ago. Go read more comic books! Look at you pointing fingers at me. A friend of mine, and if I say her name, she'll kill me, so I can't do it, the first thing I ever showed her was the Jackass skit where they take the dummy baby and put it in a car seat, and pretend to leave it on the roof the van, and these degree, this is bankrupt, these people are morally bankrupt. I've seen Jackass 1, 2, and 3 with her. Okay, it's Gloria Penner, all right?
SCOTT MARKS: This is a phenomenon. It's just something that harkens back to the best and worst in cinema. You watch this and you can't help of think of guys like Harold Lloyd and buster Keaton, these people who would literally break their bones to entertain you. When Keaton wanted to play with trains, he would go and get a train. In this, when they want to go and get an airplane, they go and get an airplane. There's also a lot of the three stooges in here, where you mix the whole idea of comedy and violence. Where you can't believe what these guys are gonna do. And you can't look away. And also throw in scatology. And that's really what these films are about. I've seen Jackass 3D three times already. This is the best use of 3D. Two people knew how to use 3D. Hitchcock, where you explore the narrative potential of that, and Jules White in the three stooges, who just threw stuff at the camera. The Jackass guys follow Jules White. They just throw stuff at the camera. I never thought I'd be entertained by guys shooting paint balls at a camera, and me ducking like a mental patient.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If listening to how you describe it, it sounds as if Jackass movies would have a limited audience. But I mean, this is one of the biggest grossing opening weekends in the -- in a run down of top opening weekends.
ANDERS WRIGHT: For R rating movie, this came in ninth. It made $50 million. It only cost $20 million to make. The basic credit is if it's a niche audience, it's a really big niche because people love it. Scott's seen it three times.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Or a small group of people love it and just go see it repeatedly.
SCOTT MARKS: 40 percent of the opening gross came from women. These are attractive guys, you get to see male nudity. People go, they just go with their boyfriends. I think they want to see this movie. I think they want to laugh. Of.
ANDERS WRIGHT: To call it a movie, is almost a crime. There's no narrative whatsoever. They get to the camera, and it's hi, I'm Johnny Knox have, I'm about to do this insane stunt. It's pretty phenomenal. I saw it the other day, and I almost threw up three times of there are moments that are so utterly vile. Then people on screen are vomiting and that sets off other people on screen vomiting, then you're in the audience, and you're like, yeah, okay, that might be enough for me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is the kind of thing that some people see and say, that's it. Civilization's over. How do you defend that?
ANDERS WRIGHT: You.
SCOTT MARKS: You know, these are the parents that wouldn't let their parents watch the three stages stooges. My mother would put me in a room and give me hammer and a buzz saw, close the door and say, watch the three stooges. Go ahead.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That explains a lot.
SCOTT MARKS: I would much rather look at this than 90 percent of the other comedies out there. Of and my only defense is, this stuff makes me laugh. When people ask me why, I would have to go into Freudian analysis.
BETH ACCOMANDO: You accuse me of saying, I couldn't say a film was good or a comedy because it made me laugh.
SCOTT MARKS: You want more.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, no.
SCOTT MARKS: The whole idea is you get to see this group of guys that literally spend ten years of their life in front of you. And the camaraderie that they have, and the fun that these guys have. It's like watching a show in the band, like if Jane occur son got the band to laugh. If he said something that was so funny you had would hear doc in the back. The crew is sitting there, and they're vomiting too!
ANDERS WRIGHT: Everything is about somebody getting hurt, and everybody laughs about it. Including the guys who got hurt.
SCOTT MARKS: They used to do a lot of sadistic candid camera stunts, but everybody knows what they look like now. So that you can't do it. You see a lot more wee man in this, and a lot more Preston lacy.
ANDERS WRIGHT: They don't really have the same impact anymore. And Knoxville went off and tried to be a movie star for a while. And had I'd say sort of a limited amount of success.
BETH ACCOMANDO: He was in a John waters film that was good.
ANDERS WRIGHT: They made that dukes of hazard remake.
Q. I don't think that's one to put up there.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But it was a big money movie. But he seems to have left that behind and gone back to smashing stuff.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we heard what Scott fell about the 3D. You think the 3D adds to this.
ANDERS WRIGHT: There are definitely times -- it's more that it's just so appropriate than anything else that you're just -- I took the glasses off a couple of times during the movie and was like, ah, it doesn't really make a difference one way or the other. But they're just like, we're gonna go so far out with this stuff, why not have it in 3D, why not shoot paint balls at you? Again, there's so much fecal matter in this film, why not have it coming at you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was gonna ask you why it got an R Rated.
SCOTT MARKS: I'm surprised this thing was rated at all. There are some things that go on in this film --
ANDERS WRIGHT: I was trying to explain this to some folks last night, and I almost threw up just thinking about it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We won't put you there again. I want to let everyone know that Jackass 3D is playing in theatres all across the country. And before we end, of course we're doing our film club right before Halloween. So I just want to go around and find out what kind of really really good spooky Halloween movies you have to recommend to listeners I'm gonna start with you Beth.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I don't want to recommend a scary or spooky film. But there were two films that kind of captured the weird sensibility of Halloween, and that's Tom Brownings' freaks. And playing off of that is twin falls Idaho. There's a wonderful scene in there where -- the story's about conjoined siamese twins and the only time they go out in public is on Halloween. And people think it's a costume. So those two films for me, I just feel like this Halloween --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, that is creepy. That's a good one. Thank you. Anders.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I've got two movies as well. I always like to go back to Romero's dawn of the dead, are the one that takes place in the shopping mall. Which is one of the first one I saw when I was young, where was where I was like, oh, now I'm starting to understand what social commentary means of it's not so scary but I just enjoy that film so much. When I start to think about what scary films really mean to me, one of the movies that just scared the hell out of me was Coppola's the conversation. It's not a horror movie at all. But it's a conspiracy film. And it just sucked me in and worked me over.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's really creepy too. That's a straight conversation. Scott?
SCOTT MARKS: Pretty woman.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Sex in the city if you want a scary one.
SCOTT MARKS: Val Lewton, the Val Lewton box set. If you love rosemary's baby, seventh victim is a film about devil worshiping, and I'm telling you the use of light and shadow in this film. It's really creepy. Is it scary? I was gonna say what's the last film that scared you. I would have to say paranormal activity two. Have you seen it?
BETH ACCOMANDO: No.
SCOTT MARKS: The first 45 minute system, enough already. When it kicks in, I'm embarrassed to tell you how much I moved in my seat.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is that one of your recommendations then?
SCOTT MARKS: If you really want cheap visceral scary scares, I think paranormal activity is a fine film to see.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But I would say, if you you were the sort who was gonna go see paranormal activity two, you've already seen it.
CARL DEMAIO:y yeah, the same thing with Jackass, the point is a bit moot. But the veil lieuten stuff, it's a merger of film noir and horror, and it came out in the '40s. I walked with a zombie, cat people, ghost ship, seventh victim. There's a box set out there, and these films are just really really atmospheric. Just drenched in atmosphere. But what scares you?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Like Polanski's the tenant.
SCOTT MARKS: It creeped me out, but I don't know if it --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The shining. We're out of time. I've gotta thank you all. Really lively, really fun. Thank you so much. And These Days is produced by Angela Corone, Hank Kirk, Megan Brook, Pat Fin, senior producer Natalie Walsh, our production assistant is Hillary Andrews, and I am Maureen Cavanaugh. I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the week. You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.
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