The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't. This week, I watched....
The blurb for people who don't like to read reviews: Considering that movies about movies are a dime a dozen and mockumentaries outside of Christopher Guest often end up falling flat, The Making of "...And God Spoke" is a surprisingly refreshing and funny movie. I'm baffled that it has gone by comparatively unnoticed in the last twenty years, but I definitely think it's a good movie for any aspiring filmmaker / creative type to see. Think of it as a better-rounded, if not quite as funny, Waiting for Guffman. My Rating: 3.5 / 5
And God Spoke is an appropriate choice for the HHG right now for two reasons. First, I'm reviewing it while Noah is out in theaters and people are flipping out about the Bible again. (I get that it's the word of God and all, but don't you guys ever get tired of it? Why not make a big budget adaptation of Journey to the West or something?) Second, it's a movie about guys who unintentionally make a hilariously bad movie.
(Note to self: find the Stephen Chow adaptations of Journey to the West and make a night out of it. That's gotta be a good time, right?)
I have an inherent distaste for movies about filmmaking. It's the same kind of bias I have against biopics - basically, I always go into the movie wondering why the subject matter assumes that it deserves to have a movie made about it. Biopics are at least defensible most of the time in that they are about people who lived interesting lives, so even if I don't find them especially fascinating, I can at least understand it.
But movies about making movies? It's just so... masturbatory. We get it, guys. We know you have challenges when you make a movie. But you still get to make movies for a living. We don't.
Movie-themed movies have to walk a delicate balance between accessibility and introspection. If the filmmakers veer too far off in one direction, they can become too inside-jokey, like An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. Or you can go the other direction and become overly broad, condescending, and cutesy, like S1m0ne, America's Sweethearts, or An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn.
And God Spoke manages to not only walk that line and deliver some hilarious moments, but also give a pretty good insight into the way human beings can rationalize terrible choices. It does a terrific job of grounding the supposedly lofty realm of Hollywood in basic human problems without ever once coming off as patronizing.
The narrative is pretty simple. A couple of guys set about filming a biblical epic, but along the way they run into a series of comedic errors. The jokes originate wholly from the repeated disasters that strike their shoot, such as building an ark that is just slightly too big to fit through the door into their set, or inadvertently hiring a woman with a full-body tattoo to play Eve, or hiring a Director of Photography who accidentally adds a filter to their lens that renders their footage useless.
Eventually they run out of funding and go into personal debt to finish the movie, only to find out that it has one of the worst critical receptions of all time. Then, in a brief epilogue, we find out that the movie enjoys massive cult success from ironic midnight screenings.
One thing that makes And God Spoke stand apart from most filmmaking movies is that it takes a macro-level view of the entire process. It's not about the fallout of a bad movie, or one specific day in a chaotic shoot, or the story of a movie that never got finished. Instead, it shows everything about the making of a terrible movie, beginning with the initial concept and ending with a mass audience's reaction.
I appreciated this approach. For one thing, it gives you a better sense of how terrible things get created - something that I talked about before, and which this movie illustrates perfectly. For another, it turns filmmaking into an actual narrative, which is something that strangely never gets done in most movies about movies. Actually, now that I think about it, I really can't come up with another movie where the conflict is specifically about making the movie - all the other movies that are coming to mind are about interpersonal conflict. (Except maybe for Lost in La Mancha, but that is, sadly, not fiction.)
Unfortunately, I would say that the movie is a bit of a trade-off in the comedy department. None of the jokes are necessarily bad. It's just that some of them are a bit flat or spaced apart too far. And so the movie is never a huge laugh riot. That being said, when it wants to be funny, it really does hit the mark.
One other thing that's worth pointing out: this is one of the few movies out there that knows how to create an unintentionally bad movie that actually is hilariously bad, but still believable. I bet that if the fictional And God Spoke was actually a real thing, it would totally be deserving of midnight screenings and hipster worship. Most movies that make up a "bad" movie to make fun of tend to go so far over the top that it strains credibility, to the detriment of the characters. And God Spoke is that special kind of bad that you could see somebody convincing themselves to make.
And God Spoke is available right now to watch on Netflix Instant. It's a breezy, fun 80 minutes - a good time for anybody with even a passing interest in movies, mockumentaries, or case studies in failure.
Plus, it manages to have Andy Dick being funny. You don't want to miss out on an opportunity like that.