Saturday, 19 February 2011

Two documentaries

Been watching a few films lately, a couple were documentaries - The Making of a Cult Classic: The Unauthorized Story of 'The Goonies' and Best Worst Movie.

I heard about the The Making of... a while back and I followed it's progress up until it's release last year. As a big Goonies fan I was interested to learn about the process behind the film from the people who made it. Surprisingly, when you consider the film's massive and zealous fan base, there hasn't really been much like this documentary available. To my knowledge, there have been a few scraps of video on YouTube, and some documentaries shown on US TV, but nothing like this before.

If you check the The Making of... 's entry on IMDb it has a current rating of 9/10, which is extremely high for IMDb. The Making of... isn't really worth that high a rating. I think the absence of this kind of doc has meant people have gobbled this up straight away, and rated it a bit more highly than it should be. I was looking forward to seeing it, but when you get down to it it's basically just a lot of interview footage from a few of the actors and the director, and the whole thing lasts under an hour. In some ways it feels like a glorified YouTube video. In an age when decent media is now available online legally for free, I don't think the price of this DVD ($15.99) is justified.

You do have to take into account that this is obviously an extremely low budget production. The people who made this are just a group of fans, so there isn't that much meat to the film. If you want to hear a bit of insight and a few stories from behind the scenes it's great, but I'd have liked a bit more analysis and background information, rather than just anecdotes from the actors and director. There are times when the actors are talking about a scene in the film, and it would have been great if the viewer could actually see that scene, but budgetary constraints obviously meant that actual footage from the film couldn't be included.

Ultimately this is something for mega-fans. Even the casual Goonies fan might struggle to enjoy this. Richard Donner and Corey Feldman are good value for money, but everything else feels a bit inconsequential.

So it was great to see Best Worst Movie, another documentary about a movie, and this doc is mostly deserving of its incredibly high praise. There's a tendency to oversell documentaries, to make the events of the documentary seem more groundbreaking and coincidental than they actually are. Best Worst Movie has suffered from that a bit, but that's how documentaries are marketed these days. And part of the fun is getting caught up in that and believing that this story is something special and touching. And for the most part, Best Worst Movie is.

It's all about the film Troll 2, commonly acknowledged as the worst movie of all time. I first heard about Troll 2 on a podcast a couple of years ago when the hosts were indeed discussing how terrible it is. Interestingly, Best Worst Movie has been made by Michael Stephenson, who starred in Troll 2 as a child, and the documentary mostly follows George Hardy, who also starred in Troll 2.

Hardy is now a dentist, and his role in the film was his only ever acting role, but as the film has gained a cult status recently in the US Hardy attends quite a few Troll 2-themed events and is hailed as a hero for his role in this train wreck of a movie. Some of the other actors are similar in that they haven't had the most successful film careers since, but for these people the recent interest in the movie has given them an opportunity for their 15 minutes of fame through screenings across the US.

One of these failed actors is Don Packard who plays the drugstore owner. While hearing how the movie has been part of all the different actors lives is interesting, Don's stories pre and post-Troll 2 are the most interesting. His frankness and openness genuinely draws you in. He readily admits he's mentally ill, and goes on to tell how he was high on pot whilst filming for Troll 2. Most of the actors didn't have a clue what was going on with the film while they were filming it, mostly down to the incompetence of the Italian director who could barely speak English, but Packard being high the whole time just adds a whole other level of absurdity to the situation.

Then the Italian director enters the documentary. This guy is totally deluded, as he thinks the film's newfound popularity is down to it being a great film. The actors all know this isn't the case, but the director doesn't, and he just can't accept that all these people who come to the showings come to laugh at how bad the film is. The director and actors even have a bit of an argument in front of the fans resulting from the director's frustration that no-one can appreciate the film for its artistic merit.

Best Worst Movie is great as it shows the effect Troll 2 had on the lives of everyone involved, and the whole situation is just absurd, especially after the director gets involved. Definitely check this one out if you're a fan of docs.

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