It's not that Movie 43 is shocking or "edgy " or whatever any of the writers or directors would like to convince you. If you want to actually puke or cry or be shocked you can go to Rotten.com like the rest of us Internet miscreants. The Cinema of Transgression films by Nick Zedd and Richard Kern have more artistic value than Movie 43 and are generally more interesting. Which is saying a lot because Zedd's films can get pretty boring. You can only see Annie Sprinkle make out with a man who's listed as Ray the Burn Victim for so long... although I feel terrible for writing because everyone needs love. Sorry Ray.
Movie 43 has 12 directors and 17 writers credited with this anthology of shorts modeled according to producers Peter Farrelly and Charlie Wessler in the spirit of Kentucky Fried Movie. Surprisingly none of those writers or directors go by the name Alan Smithee. It's not even totally clear which were written and directed by whom; the production notes are "hilarious first hand [sic] accounts from those who were a part of and were witnesses to the creation of MOVIE 43."
Kate Winslet and Halle Berry and Richard Gere were tricked into participating which is supposed to make their "outrageous" shorts all the more titillating. One of the larger problems of Movie 43 is that it relies on this handful of mega-stars and on our reactions to them and their off-screen personas all in lieu of genuine comedy onscreen. Would it be funny if some schmuck on YouTube played a Steve Jobs-like character who didn't understand why his company's iBabe music player — which looks like a naked woman but has a coolant system with a fan between its legs — was mangling users? No it wouldn't. And it's definitely not any funnier because it's Richard Gere playing him.
What's most offensive about Movie 43 isn't the scatological humor but how shoddily the whole thing was put together. (To be honest I did nearly walk out during the Anna Faris/Chris Pratt short about her desire to be pooped on. I also nearly barfed during Salo. Because poop.) In quite a few of the shorts half of the actors' heads are cut out of frame. Their heads are literally cut off of the screen in a movie that was professionally filmed by accredited cinematographers. Now it could have been the theater projecting the film that was having the problem but that's not really my concern. My concern was mainly that a handful of paying customers (including myself) were sitting through a studio movie where the top of actors' heads aren't in frame.
The self-referential wraparound for the movie is embarrassing for everyone involved including the viewer. Dennis Quaid plays a disheveled crazy writer who holds a studio exec (Greg Kinnear) hostage until the exec agrees to buy his movie pitch. His pitch is the series of shorts which the exec obviously thinks is a terrible idea... because it is. This is like adding insult to injury because the creators know what they've made is crap. Even the studio exec that they themselves wrote thinks the premise of Movie 43 is crap and has to be held at gunpoint to bring the idea to his boss. This idea that you will have wasted 90 minutes of your life on — minutes you could have spent watching YouTube videos of people squeezing their own cysts or having botflies removed from their bodies or yes making out with burn victims.
Complain all you like about stodgy critics who have no sense of humor and don't get "the kids" today and all that but it seems that Peter Farrelly and the group of people who forced this towards theaters (with little to no help from most of the stars or writers or directors) are the ones who are completely out of touch. With anything. Including humor.'s>
It's always a bad omen when Alan Smithee directs a movie. But what about one directed by Thomas Lee?
As every student of show-biz minutiae knows, "Smithee" is the pseudonym
Hollywood typically uses when a filmmaker wants his or her real name removed from the final credits.
"Thomas Lee," on the other hand, is a newcomer. Lee makes his first appearance as an Alan Smithee type on MGM's "Supernova," a $70 million sci-fi disaster flick starring James Spader and Angela Bassett as outer-space medical rescue workers.
In reality, Lee is veteran filmmaker Walter Hill ("48 Hours"). Hill, whose last film under his own name was 1996's "Last Man Standing," was booted from the project in February 1999.
Today, Lee's/Hill's orphaned film hits theaters - and the question is: Is "Supernova" about to implode?
"Generally speaking, it's not a good sign," says Paul Dergarabedian, of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "It's never good to have a director have his name removed voluntarily. Or involuntarily."
Sources say the Lee pseudonym was agreed upon by the studio and the director.
Industry watchers say the name is intended to distract audiences (and, if they're lucky, the media) from the fact that the movie is an Alan Smithee-esque production - a typically troubled Alan Smithee-esque production.
Hill, who himself replaced Aussie filmmaker Geoffrey Wright shortly before the shoot began, was removed from "Supernova" after a dispute with MGM over (what else?) money. Hill wanted an additional $1.5 million to shoot more footage. MGM balked, and tested his rough cut anyway. That was the final back-breaker - it was Hill's turn to balk. A final cut was the result of some major re-jiggering by a MGM board member by the name of Francis Coppola.
Last August, Variety reported that Hill might keep his name on the film if he approved of Coppola's version. But that cut - an 88-minute brief pared down to garner a PG-13 rating -- fared no better with test audiences. Most importantly, Hill never saw it, and the rest became credits history. "Thomas Lee" was called into service.
While "Alan Smithee" is most commonly deployed when a directors wants their names off projects, it's not necessarily the name that's used. The Directors Guild of America declined to comment on the pseudonym process, but "Thomas Lee" apparently passed its fake-name standards.
MGM can only hope "Thomas Lee" brings better luck at the box office than "Alan Smithee." Films bearing the Smithee trademark have traditionally bombed, including: "Let's Get Harry" (1986), "Morgan Stewart's Coming Home" (1987), "Ghost Fever" (1987), and the infamous "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn" (1997), a would-be joke on the Smithee problem that ended up being credited to Smithee when director Arthur Hiller bailed.
Not one of those films grossed more than $1 million at the box office. ("Morgan Stewart's Coming Home" came the closest - taking in a whooping $799,400 during its initial run.)
"Supernova" has a few distinct advantages over its director-less predecessors. For one thing, the studio's not dumping it, opening the film in more than 2,000 theaters. Its January release date is another blessing. With many screens filled up by Oscar-oriented flicks leftover from the holidays, this is a time that welcomes second-hand schlock for the kiddies. Last year, the top grossers of the month were the arguably direction-free teen hits "Varsity Blues" and "She's All That". Even "Supernova's" story line is a plus -- it's a PG-13-rated sci-fi flick, a genre not generally made or broken by a headlining filmmaker.
"You never want to have the director change, but I think this is the right time to release it," says Dergarabedian of "Supernova." "Kids are looking for a kind of movie. They're not necessarily looking at the director. And right now, there's nothing else like it out there."
Of course, there's still a potential problem out there. Unlike the unlikely Alan Smithee moniker, "Supernova's" pseudonym begs a follow-up query: What happens when a real Thomas Lee starts directing?
Documentary about the Alan Smithee pseudonym, created by the Director's Guild of America for directors who ask to have their names removed from movie credits. It has been used in more that 45 features and TV movies. Includes films clips and interviews with critics and directors.