Sunday, February 18, 2007

For Your Consideration (2006)

For Your Consideration (Christopher Guest, 2006)

In one scene in Christopher Guest's latest satire For Your Consideration, industry neglected thespians Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) and Victor Miller (Harry Shearer) and make-up artist Sandy Lane (Ed Bagley Jr.) are discussing an Oscar-buzz blurb over the former's performance in the still in-production indie film "Home for Purim." Victor thinks that Oscar stuff is silly. Sandy is quick to reply that it's the backbone of the industry, for which Victor answers back sarcastically saying that the industry is noted for not having a backbone. While the observations about both the Oscars (being silly) and Hollywood (being backboneless) are true, I thought that both descriptions also fit this dismal failure of a movie.

My main problem with For Your Consideration is not that it's not funny, but that the film is satire in its safest and least interesting form. It is silly in a way that the depictions are cartoonish to the point of being ineffective and toothless; and it is backboneless because by the time the film ends, it still didn't have any novel point on how Hollywood has become sick and rotten with its fetish with red carpets, buzzes and blurbs, and that golden statuette.

Guest shifts from his usual mockumentary style and instead delivers this satire as haphazardly stringed together setpieces of overt screenwritten acrobatics of wit and visual gags. TV-programs like Entertainment Tonight gets parodied into an extremely mean-spirited and insensitive tabloid show hosted by stand-offish weirdly hairdo-ed Chuck Porter (Fred Willard) and be-wrinkled Cindy Martin (Jane Lynch). Sadly, Guest's parodying comes off as empty-headed attempts to bring out the worst in Hollywood, and at its worst aren't even interesting or humorous enough to pass as gags for Saturday Night Live (which, if I may add, isn't even funny).

The film feels quite dry. Guest, who has thrived directing satirical mockumentaries seem to be trapped in a limbo of now knowing which way to go. Co-written with Eugene Levy, the script drowns the satire with fantastical and wildly simplistic depiction of the entire awards race. A more careful understanding on the labyrinthine world of Oscar whoring would've done the film miracles. Instead, Guest conveniently oversimplifies matters --- acknowledging the silliness of pre-release reviews and pre-ordained determination of award worthiness while erases the role of pre-Oscar awards, non-Hollywood print criticism, and celebrity pedigree from the awards scenario. The brushing aside of these essential requisites for Oscar-glory cheapens Guest's efforts and lessens the impact of what Guest may be trying to insist, and fails to do so.

The Oscar-hungry characters in For Your Consideration are comparable to the delusional auditioners of popular talent show American Idol, praying for recognition despite the ridiculousness of their talents and efforts. The buzzed-about fictional film "Home for Purim" looks like a quickly made bad Hallmark-channel movie. The conscious decision to make the films within the film bad does accrue a number of chuckles, yet it also provides an immense undesirable logical hole. One may defend Guest's cinematic decision to turn hammy films into probably best pictures as a depiction as to how art and taste has never been a factor for the Oscars; while I'm tempted to agree, I know it's not true as there is still a modicum of good taste remaining within Hollywood.

"Don't count your chickens before they hatch, (especially if the eggs are patently bad)" --- that seems to be the moral of Guest's tale. I always try to not label films with moralistic lessons but I felt that to do so here is quite justified. If you don't want to end up as an acting teacher or a failed stand-up comedian, then follow the moral of the story; but since we're living in a world more complex than the one in Guest and Levy's feature, then there's really no reason to get worried.

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