04 April 2009

Meet My Best New Abusive Friend...

...the Robotard 8000.

I first heard word of this amazing machine from the mad filmmaking genius A.E. Griffin. And now I am forever indebted to him, to the extent that I must obey his every whim, no matter how maniacal or nonsensical.

You can find out more about the Robotard 8000 from its website here. But all you really need to know is that the Robotard 8000 has spontaneously generated a fantastic screenplay (cough cough) entitled "Balls Out," and its reasons for doing so are this:
We thought it was time someone reset the clock. As it stands, young writers come into this thing of ours with watered down ideas based on watered down ideas which were first distilled from crap. And at some point, for the sake of everyone from filmmakers to the bean counters to the stupid fucking audience, the clock demanded to be reset. Because ultimately, the art of film is a precious and beautiful thing and if it isn’t, it makes it very difficult for us to make that cash money.
And so, to combat the formulas of Hollywood, they created this script. Perhaps they did not consciously intend to combat the formulas, but that is what they ended up with (according to me).

I have read the script twice now, and I have conjured up my own interpretation of it. If you haven't heeded my advice and read it yet, I encourage you to do so before you continue to my analyzation. Not because of spoilers, but because my thoughts probably won't make a lick of sense otherwise.

To continue:

The way I see it, "Balls Out" is a satire of all that is wrong with Hollywood comedy. It follows the traditional screenwriting rules, but cranks the elements way the fuck up to 11 to better highlight the absurdity of following any of these rules and cliches to begin with. As some observers have put it, the script is yet another "overprivileged white guys writing movies about the exquisite sorrow of being overprivileged white guys" screenplay, but it is so much more than that. It is a usurpation of the genre.

Allow me to explain:

"Balls Out" feels like the creation of bitter, bitter writers tired of receiving the same shitty notes from the same shitty executives. It's as if they banded together and said "You want a fucking traditional white-collar comedy screenplay? We'll give you a fucking traditional white-collar comedy screenplay." And so they created a main character, Jim Simmers, whose entire personality and reason to be is to suffer, die (literally), then rebel. Surrounding him is the traditional cast of characters: the best friend girl who is perfect for him but he doesn't notice (even though her name is virtually identical to his and she goes to absurd lengths to be perfect, such as playing an electric guitar, buying him Cuban cigars, and patching his wounds), the horndog best friend (who is now a gigolo who screws women of indeterminable ages), and the family man friend (who is so devoted he is willing to do nightly battle with his severely retarded and combative son).

These characters all conform to their standard, traditional arcs, and it makes them pretty shallow and obnoxious, humorously so. Jim undergoes a Hero's Journey of sorts, surviving death, battling a beast, receiving mundane advice from a magical Negro, and finding salvation in the arms of Thomas Douglas Cruise. Of course he has to alienate his friends and his girl on the course of his journey - that's what all of these overprivileged white men comedies are about. But naturally he makes amends, and when he does, there's a random voice to highlight the stupidity of it all, exclaiming "Yeah! Fucking Yeah!"

Part of what makes the screenplay so absolutely fucking hilarious is also what makes it so difficult to film: the voice. The very first line is "FADE THE FUCK IN:" You can't quite film that, and yet it sets the tone perfectly for what is to follow. Similarly, the following genius descriptions and action lines conjured up by the Robotard 8000 somewhat defy filming:
Jim pulls up to a nondescript, multi-story, “God
please kill me” office building.
Junior charges out backwards slamming Rob into a wall
until further rewrites.

He looks like shit hit with a brick...wiped
on a curb...and stepped on by a bum.
And yet they are perfect.

At a certain point, I think "Balls Out" loses momentum, and yet I question why I feel that way. If you've read the screenplay, the part that lags for me comes after the battle with the dog and ends when Mr. Tom Cruise is introduced. But I know why that lag is there. It's because it needs to be there for the script to continue to conform to the standard rules whilst simultaneously usurping them. At the same time, some of those seemingly superfluous scenes feel like satires of other filmmakers. The scene where Jim convinces Larry to train him in the supermarket seems like it's a take-off of Kevin Smith. An earlier scene with the insurance customers running around Mr. and Mrs. Mr. Whiteman's yard could easily come from a Farrelly Brothers movie. It even includes a character explaining what is wrong with someone while wringing laughs from their problem - something of a Farrelly Brothers specialty.

If you haven't done so yet, I encourage you to read "Balls Out." You'll either laugh, or you'll be offended, and that, at least is a reaction.

7 comments:

  1. You are the closest so far to understanding.

    So close.

    So very, very close.

    We we eventually publish the original draft - the one BEFORE we toned things down to appease our reps - you will see just how close you are.

    Thanks for the kind words.

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  2. The Robotard 8000,

    Good luck on Beverly Hills Cop

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  3. Toned it DOWN!?! I'd have to read that draft on the toilet as shitting oneself with diabolical laughter was an all to real threat with the "watered down" draft.

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  4. Sweet Jesus, please let this original draft be real, and not some mythic creature like The Sasquatch or happiness. I would sacrifice thousands of cute and adorable Muppet Babies on your altar, Robotard 8000, just to glimpse this document.

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  5. It's real.

    With the exception of a handful of different/omitted scenes (including a coda at the end), it's essentially the same script.

    We just dialed back the in-your-face nature of it all. Some of the changes are subtle, like this first description of REBECCA:

    FIRST DRAFT -

    INT. CORDDRY HOUSE - EVENING

    REBECCA CORDDRY (36), a sweet-faced, dainty housewife
    answers.

    REBECCA
    Jim!

    Rebecca is damn near a 1950’s housewife. The kind of
    woman who grins no matter how hard she’s been
    punched.


    FINAL DRAFT -

    INT. CORDDRY HOUSE - EVENING

    REBECCA CORDDRY (36), a sweet-faced, dainty buttercup
    answers.

    REBECCA
    Jim!

    Rebecca is the spitting image of a 1950’s housewife.


    ...and others are more pronounced and pertain to the original theme of the piece, which were dialed back at the insistence of our reps.

    In any case, we'll probably post it in a few weeks. :-)

    ReplyDelete
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    Ann

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    ReplyDelete
  7. Ann is all heart. And a spam bot. But still all heart.

    ReplyDelete