Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Candidate for Best Worst Movie

The Disaster Artist
Director: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron
Released: December 8, 2017

Oscar nominations:

Best Adapted Screenplay - Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (lost to James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name)

I have never seen The Room (not to be confused with Room!), but I am well aware of it from the many reviews (mainly the video one from the Nostalgia Critic) I've read about it. When it came out in 2003, I was not aware of it because it was a very small movie, but over the years its gained a cult following and this is how I became aware of it. I've never seen it because it's more interesting to watch other people's interpretation of it (like the NC review and this movie). I've also never had any interest in watching Troll 2, but the documentary Best Worst Movie is absolutely fascinating. (And while The Room has terrible acting and a lot of things don't make sense, I think Troll 2 may have it beat as worst movie ever).

The Disaster Artist tells the story of the making of The Room. It begins in 1998 where aspiring actor Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco) meets a fellow actor in his acting class, Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco) and they become fast friends and move from San Francisco to L.A. to make their acting dreams come true. Tommy says he has an apartment they can both stay in. There are a few shady things about Tommy: he says he's from New Orleans, and while he has an accent, it's not a Southern one. Throughout the movie it's discovered he has a lot of money (hence the reason he's able to afford an apartment in San Francisco and Los Angeles, he drives a Mercedes, and he's able to finance the movie they will eventually produce which will cost about $5 million). He also tells Greg's mother (played by Megan Mulally) that he's nineteen, the same age as Greg and he is definitely way older than Greg!

It is a little weird that real-life brothers are playing friends because even though James Franco is made up to look like Wiseau, he still looks like himself and Dave Franco looks a lot like his brother.

When Tommy and Greg have a hard time succeeding in Los Angeles (did they think it would be easy?), Tommy decides that they should make their own movie. He writes a script which will become The Room (terrible name for a movie; but since I haven't seen the movie, I don't know why it's called that.) The movie is about a guy named Johnny (who Tommy will play) who has a girlfriend named Lisa who he's madly in love with, but she sleeps with his best friend, Mark (to be played by Greg). Tommy makes the comment that Mark is named after "Mark Damon" from The Talented Mr. Ripley, ha! Johnny is so overcome with grief, that he kills himself. Oh, and Tommy's not sure if he's going to make Johnny a vampire or not. (What?) I'm assuming he didn't go down the vampire path.

Production begins in June 2002 and while Johnny and Greg cast the other parts for the movie (and let's just say the actors they got to play those actors in this movie are much more well known than the actors in The Room!), they also buy the filming equipment they need. Since they are buying instead of renting, they are allowed to use the studio. Tommy wants to shoot the movie on both digital and film which is unheard of as both are lit differently and there are other variables that don't make sense to shoot both. I didn't know if he wanted to shoot the movie twice; once on film, and once on digital; or if he wanted to shoot some scenes in film and others in digital. But from day one the movie is set up to be an odd one and it will only get stranger from there.

I noticed that Jason Mantzoukas plays one of the guys who sells them their equipment, Paul Scheer plays the first DP on the movie, and June Diane Raphael plays an actress within the movie. If you know all these names, you are probably familiar with the podcast, How Did This Get Made? where they take a terrible movie (like The Room; I'm sure they've done an episode of it, but I haven't listened to it, but now I really should!) and make fun of it. It's a very funny podcast; I highly recommend it. It can't be a coincidence that all three have parts in a movie based on one of the worst movies ever made when they have their own podcasts about terrible movies.

On the first day of filming, Tommy, the director (he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Room), insists on them shooting a scene that takes place in an alleyway on a set made up to look like an alleyway when there is an actual alleyway right outside they could use. He insists on shooting on the set because it's "a real Hollywood film". This is the kind of eccentric person Tommy is. Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron play the two actors playing the characters (it's kind of weird that they're playing the actors who are playing the characters! It's almost like a double layer of acting - they have to be good as the actors, but terrible as the characters those actors are playing) and I did not recognize them at all until I saw that they were in the movie, then had to go back and re-watch this scene. I have no idea what is up with the character of Denny that Hutcherson is playing (within the movie's movie; God, this is so confusing!) As the actor, he is also confused and asks Tommy how old his character is supposed to be (since he acts very young and juvenile) and Tommy replies, "Fifteen, sixteen, your age" and he replies, "I'm twenty-six." Ha! Oh, please, tell me this is a true story and Tommy Wiseau thought a 26-year-old was a 15-year-old! Of course, most of the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 were almost in their thirties when they played high school students so it's not the craziest thing! Other humorous elements adding to the scene is that Denny has the worst haircut ever so Josh Hutcherson has to wear this hideous wig (I'm assuming it was a wig!) so that's probably why I didn't recognize him. Also, Efron's character's (character's!) name is Chris R. and Hutcherson is asking Tommy why he has to call him Chris R., why not just Chris?

Other problems with the filmmaking include Tommy making everyone wait for hours when he is late one day and it is so hot that an elderly actress playing Lisa's mother (played by Jacki Weaver) faints from heat stroke; Tommy makes everyone uncomfortable during a sex scene when he walks around the set wearing only a sock to cover himself, then starts berating the girl playing his girlfriend (played by Ari Graynor) because she has blemishes on her skin; and Tommy being such a terrible actor that it took him 68 takes to get his lines right the first day of shooting. Seth Rogen plays the script supervisor who has to keep feeding him his lines.  In a funny scene we see the entire crew reciting the lines for him. This is the (completely terrible) line: "I did not hit her. It's not true. It's bulls***.  I did not hit her! Oh, hi, Mark." The "Oh, hi, Mark" cracked me up every time. Like I said, I've never seen The Room, so I have no idea what the context of this line is, but WHY does he say, "Oh, hi, Mark" at the end of this rant? Was he ranting and just then saw his friend? I am vexed; it vexes me. Oh, and I should also add that Tommy Wiseau is a terrible actor and has this weird, flat delivery. Check it out for yourself. To be fair, everyone seems to deliver their lines flatly. He also keeps laughing during a scene when Mark is telling him about a girl he knew who got beat up. They try getting takes where he ISN'T laughing (since that's what they want to use), but he just laughs every time. When they film the scene where Johnny kills himself, he shoots himself in the head, falls back, but then keeps on moving and moaning even though that gunshot to the head should have killed him!

When they eventually premiere the movie and are watching the scene when Johnny goes into a flower shop and the woman who works there says (in a flat tone), "Oh, hi, Johnny. I didn't know it was you." Seth Rogen's character says out loud, "Who doesn't recognize that guy?" since Johnny has long black hair and is wearing sunglasses inside.

During a lunch break, after she's had her heat stroke, Jacki Weaver's character tells Greg and the other young actors "Even the worse day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else." I don't know if I agree with this logic, but let me try my own examples using this template:

The worst Taylor Swift song is better than the best Ariana Grande song. (Yeah, not a fan of the Grande.)
The worst Jurassic Park movie is better than the best Transformers movie. (At least JPIII is one hour shorter than the first Transformers movie!) That was fun. Try your own!

Soon after Greg moves to L.A., he starts dating another inspiring actress (played by Alison Brie) and they run into Bryan Cranston at a coffee shop. Now since this is 2002, Greg is awestruck because he recognizes him from Malcolm in the Middle. His girlfriend introduces them since she knows Cranston from her pilates class and he tells Mark he's directing an upcoming episode of MitM and they're still looking for someone to fill a guest role and that Greg would be perfect for it. However, when he tells Tommy this news, he tells Greg he can either do "the little TV show" or their movie and guilts Greg into forfeiting the guest spot. I was thinking, if Greg did MitM and did a really good job, Bryan Cranston might have remembered him when Breaking Bad was about to start and maybe, just maybe he would have recommended him to Vince Gilligan for the role of Jesse Pinkman (Greg Sestero and Aaron Paul are about the same age), and the rest, as they say, could have been history. But alas, this never happened; Greg was never offered a guest role on Malcolm in the Middle and never met Bryan Cranston. I read it on the trivia page for this movie.

Throughout the shooting of the movie within this movie, we see what day they are on out of the forty days they have for shooting and I laughed when they were on day 52 of 40! It was released in one theater in June 2003. Tommy paid to keep it there for two weeks to qualify for the Academy Awards. Is he really that delusional? Did he really think this piece of dreck could qualify for the freaking Oscars? It grossed $1800 on its opening weekend (and I'm surprised it even made that) and has since made seven million dollars due to its cult following. This movie doesn't really go into HOW it became to have a following which I felt was a missed opportunity.

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