A daddy blog.

07 March 2005

Three documentary-types things

During one of the blizzard weekends of February me and the Boogietrain stayed in and watched all of the 4-disc Return of the King. For me, the behind-the-scenes documentaries are a hell of a lot grander, and more consistently entertaining, than the movie itself. You get to see screenwriters pulling script out of the book chapter by chapter, you get bio sketches of Tolkien surviving WWI and going on to become a genius linguist, you get a glimpse of the lifetime of work Tolkien built up that all sort of served as research before he got started on Rings.

The interviews are mostly with Jackson and design folks, the latter being the more orthodox in adherence to the books. Jackson had to cut scenes and change characters to make the movies watchable, but there seems no limit to the homage set designers can shove into the design of Minas Tirith. They can just spend the whole day looking at a blank canvas and wondering WWJRRD, and then let Jackson sweep across the whole thing in one shot.

For the sake of nothing, compare that image--of artists using a chunk of inspired writing as a springboard for their own cinematic craft--with the minidocumentaries now online about making of Ep3. There’s some genuinely kickass stuff, like Obi and Annaki doing impressive practice work for their penultimate fight. But any time you get a wee bit excited, Lucas strolls onscreen.

Worst example: “There you go,” says Lucas, smiling only at the corners of his mouth as he walks into a room full of artists with the dreaded screenplay in his hand. “A first draft.” The give tepid cheers, and he begins nervously qualifying. “An official first draft.” Hmm. Better lower expectations before you let the script out of your hand. “Of course there’s a lot of cheating going on in there. A lot of ‘They fight.’”

Polite looks.

Has anyone seen The Office? British TV show, same conceit as Office Space, but done in a Christopher Guest mockumentary style. It’s a little too mean and middle school for me, like some of Guest’s less wonderful stuff: all of humanity is contemptible, and the crowd will laugh at whoever the camera lingers on.

But still plenty of good laughs, mostly revolving around Brent, the boss who is basically Lucas in an office park. Same blank square of dough for a head, same lead balloon laughter, and same bizarre confidence in his own charisma. Same ten pounds of bollocks in a five pound bag.

The comedy in The Office, and the tough luck for American dorks, is the ovliviousness of both men. Brent is oblivious to the perrennial failure of his nudging attempts at comedy, while Lucas is unaware that his comments around the set are as unimaginative as the dialogue he writes. Here’s Brent introducing a temp to the accounts department: “Do not be fooled by their job descriptions, they are absolutely mad, all of ‘em. Especially that one, he’s mental. Not literally of course, that wouldn’t work.” Here’s approximately what Lucas says when he walks into Ewan McGregor’s makeup session: “I want him to look like a cross between Obi Wan in Episode 2 and Obi Wan in Episode 4.” Both men get the same polite looks from their subordinates. Whatever you say boss. Just let me go home at five.

It’s almost over. Sith comes out in May, and I will give it the same polite look. Whatever you say, George. Here's my $10. Just let me go home at twenty-nine.