Friday, April 13, 2007

"Heckler"













Happy Friday, ya'll.

As I procrastinate from writing a short summary of my novel, I stumbled over a trailer for Jamie Kennedy's new documentary called "Heckler". Click here for the trailer.

At first the documentary seems like a relatively enjoyable compilation of comedians taking down hecklers; you know, those assholes who shout things at people on-stage in an attempt to co-opt some of the attention the performer's getting. They're a fairly indefensible group. In one clip, Jamie Kennedy comes back at one heckler who's just told him he ought to die, with, "You see, the difference between me and you, is that I came here in a limousine. You came here behind twelve huskies." Not really that funny as I type it on the screen, but the crowd seemed to like it. Anyway.

Eventually the trailer for the documentary moves from hecklers, to critics of all stripes. Anyone who's got something not nice to say. Kennedy calls in bloggers and critics into his home for on-camera interviews and reads them back the things they've written and they have discussions, apparently. True, during these discussions he endures even more insults from these critics, this time live and in-person, but he also gets a chance to insult them back, and usually with more cutting precision. He asks one blogger to restate the name of his website. Kennedy responds, "Shouldn't that be frustrated filmmaker dot com?" To another: "Do you have any friends? And your computer doesn't count." Rob Zombie bitterly describes what must be his impression of most bloggers as people who "live at home with mom, never had a girlfriend, all writing in to say that Spielberg sucks."

I guess my question is: who is this movie supposed to appeal to? People who'll see anything and then like everything they see? "Heckler" looks like something Jamie Kennedy put together because he was angry, in part, over people who've heckled him during his stand-up shows, but mostly over how bad the critics, legit and amateur both, raked him over the coals for movies like "Malibu's Most Wanted" and "The Mask II". I know it must sucks to be in the public eye and have to deal with meanness from anonymous people writing on-line, but to ask the great unwashed to pay to see a withering indictment of themselves is just a little confusing. I know this is just the trailer. Perhaps the film is less a criticism of critics and more a denunciation of the incivility with which many on-line self-publishing folks use to criticize those in the spotlight, the folks putting out movies and TV shows and books and music and what have you. If so, then yeah. I still won't see it, but I won't condemn it.

But the trailer doesn't give that impression. It seems more like a screed from comedians and filmmakers telling us if we don't have anything nice to say about what they do, we shouldn't say anything at all. To some extent, isn't unfair criticism part of being an artist/performer in the public eye? It's a great job, but even great jobs are bound to have a downside or two, right? I can sympathize that famous folks don't like dealing with all those hustling paparazzi in their faces, or maybe even that they don't like people calling into Gawker with star-sightings, but now we can't weigh in with critical opinions of their creative products, the very products they expect us to consume?

I don't know. On the face of it, it seems like a vanity project where Kennedy and other maligned rich creatives get a rare chance to vent about the audiences who don't have the smarts to love them or their work. I think Jamie Kennedy's a funny, talented guy. His next movie, "Kickin' It Old School" looks like it could be pretty funny. But I think he'd be better served concentrating on the next thing rather than looking back in anger at all the vitriol that, if one Googles themselves enough (I'm talking to you, Charles McClennahan), is pretty easy to find on the internet.

Then again, maybe I got the wrong impression from this trailer. Take a look and see what you think Kennedy's trying to do here.

Have a good weekend.

2 comments:

harwell said...

That trailer makes the movie look really vindictive and as mean-spirited as the hecklers they're complaining about. Maybe that's the point, and maybe there's a moment where when talking to the internet critics Kennedy steps back and says, "You realize me calling you a failed filmmaker is basically the same kind of personal jab as what you did to me in your review." But even if that happens...what's the point? What's the message? That we should be less critical? Why? Would the world be a nicer place? Really??

The idea of exposing these douchebags who heckle performers and athletes live and in person at their respective events seems pretty fascinating to me. But coupling that with an attack on the personal nature of some critics seems exceptionally petty and shallow. The simple answer as to why some critics come across as overly harsh or personal is because it makes for a more entertaining read. Pauline Kael and David Thompson are as brutal as any critics I've ever read, but I seriously doubt Kennedy would question their integrity. Why? Because their reviews were published in more traditional fare than rottentomatoes.com? And where does he draw the line between what's acceptable criticism and what's deemed a personal attack?

I suspect public criticism has always been as harsh and personal as it is now. The difference is that the internet has given a voice to the public. Instead of joking about how bad something is in a bar or outside the theater, people can now do that on a blog or website. If it bothers you Jamie, don't freaking read it dude. After all you came in the limo and the rest of us schmucks are just killing time with our poor, pathetic, and regretful lives as we rot inside with envy of the likes of you.

Writing personal criticism like that is enjoyable to the writer, but it's only really personal if the object of the criticism takes it personally.

So, lighten up. And know that this movie is just going to make more people ream you in their reviews.

JudgeHolden said...

Absolutely right. I'm glad to see I wasn't seeing things here. If "Heckler" was going to be a documentary about how dickish hecklers are, cool, do it. But to veer off into hating on small-time critics seems like a massive misjudgment on Kennedy's part. In the short clip of Lucas Kennedy included, Lucas seemed like he was going to once again take all the criticism of the prequels in stride. That's cool. Even if he made a few bad movies, he knows how to be zen about negative criticism. But it seems like Kennedy wanted to get Lucas, a mega-millionaire, to complain about all the regular Joe fanboys out there who thought they fell well short of expectations and said so on the internet. Who could think that's a good idea? And then Rob Zombie, a multi-millionaire musician and film director, whining about mean bloggers? Really? And holding up Uwe Boll's ridiculous boxing matches against his fanboy critics as a heroic or commendable thing? Maybe if Boll concentrated a little less on working out and more on making good movies, he wouldn't have to read so much about how execrable his movies are. Looks like Jamie Kennedy is getting to be as out-of-touch as his faux-gangasta rapper character he played in "Malibu's Most Wanted" (which I actually saw, though I can't remember much about it).