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Sunday, 7.18.04: Making Mock

Our movies this weekend have a common theme: just because you are passionate and ambitious doesn't mean you won't be a failure. It may mean that you simply expose yourself to mockery. There's corollary too -- something about Dennis Hopper and drugs and creativity, but I'll have to get back to that.

"This is Spinal Tap" is a spoof on rock band documentaries -- a mockumentary. Rob Reiner plays hack documentarian Marty DeBergi, who adoringly follows around the British band Spinal Tap. As the movie skewers every cliché in the book, we see the band start falling apart. They really aren't that good. Stops on their American tour get cancelled. They start squabbling. They love the wild, drugged up lifestyle, but their passion -- their belief in themselves -- isn't quite enough to help them avoid our pity and our mockery.

"American Movie" is an actual documentary produced by Chris Smith and Sarah Price. They follow around would-be filmmaker Mark Borchardt. The guy is pushing thirty without much going for him except his passion for making slasher movies (since he was a little kid) and his longing for the American Dream. He kinda knows what he's doing technically but is pretty much a pothead and drinker from a working class family who give him only grudging support. Still, he is persistent. He is trying to make a feature film but winds up only completing a 30-minute short over the course of several years.

For every Wes Craven, there must be scores of Mark Borchardts. For every Dennis Hopper, who can turn out fabulous products while totally loaded, there must be hundreds of losers who just think they can.

The movies (and I have "Waiting for Guffman" yet to watch) are funny, but taken together they seem like cautionary tales. DON'T EVEN TRY. You'll only wind up making a giant ass of yourself. Better to stay under the radar. Keep your so-called passions to yourself. In the last episode of Deadwood, the villain-hero Al Swearingen tells someone: "Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh."



This is Spinal Tap Tagline: Does for rock and roll what "The Sound of Music" did for hills (1984)

American Movie Documentary based in Milwaukee (1999)

Waiting for Guffman Tagline: There's A Good Reason Some Talent Remains Undiscovered. A mockumentary about small town theater. (1996)

Wes Craven Master of the horror film genre.




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