I know. I'm sorry. I've been delinquent in providing you, my loyal reader, with a recap/analysis of last week's Mid-Atlantic regional finals of IFC's Ultimate Film Fanatic, and here we are at Friday with a new episode just raring to air tonight at 10:30. I know that Out of Focus has become the internet destination for all things UFF, and I'm not sure who should be more saddened by that: me or IFC. But somehow, former contestants are finding there way to this blog and emailing me or, better yet, making it to the comments.
In fact, the first aired winner of the show, who I harassed a bit in my point due to his relatively simple and boring "obsession war" winning item -- a notebook of 365 films he had seen the year before -- even commented on that first UFF post recently, and I do feel the need to respond.
Jordan: I never criticized your Woody Allen book; in fact, I said you got screwed for not winning that individual battle. But your argument that nobody except true film geeks even know the film The Phantom of the Paradise is asinine. That's the effing point. It's "Ultimate Film Fanatic." I want a true film geek to win. And whether or not somebody buys something on eBay or has a more interesting story is beside the point to. The fact that he values the Phantom mask enough to buy it off eBay is enough for me. If it was the Phantom mask vs. your Woody book, that would be a good battle. But Phantom mask vs. your little notebook of movies watched? Hell, I keep one of those too. The only "obsession war" that has definitively been more boring has been the idiot who used his 40 Acres and a Mule internship. I'm not even saying you shouldn't have won the whole episode. You winning the first battle was fair, albeit arguable. And I did think you should have won the second. But Edwin got robbed on the show, and now that I'm even more convinced that the producers are fixing the show, I say they fixed it for you.
Moving on ...
Never fear. I did finally get around to watching last week's new travesty in trivia game show production. Again, the right guy won, but also again, it had to be orchestrated at least somewhat. I still can't get over that anyone thought it would be a good idea to write such awful lines for host Chris Gore. This week: "I promised you some damage, and I think we delivered." No you didn't. Well, except for the damage caused to my shoulder muscles from cringing in pain at once again hearing the exact same non-ad lib with one word replaced. Or wait, was it the cringe induced from the never-funny joke, "We tested their knowledge, and frankly, you guys scare me." Oooh, burn. Except, wait. Everybody scares you. Chris, you should do something about that; like hire new writers or something.
Anyway, this episode has all the same problems as the other episodes. I was particularly annoyed by the moment during "The First Cut" when contestant Michael couldn't answer the very first question of the trivia face-off and so Jason was allowed to advance without even having to provide the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" solution. At least Jason DID know the answer, otherwise I would have actually been pissed. But basically, the producers truly determine the first round by coin flips, because if Michael hadn't had that specific question, maybe he would have gone further. And maybe that would have been better since Jason absolutely sucked in the debates.
The one "first" in this episode was that a woman advanced not just to the second round of debates but to the third round/"obsession war" as well. Oh yeah ... BULLSHIT! No, nothing against women whatsoever, but it is totally obvious that they didn't want the whole series to be devoid of women so they helped her through. The debates -- which could be the absolute best part of this show -- seem to get worse and worse. Both of them this week were simply awful. I don't know if it's simply nerves or the short time limit, but nobody actually makes a point. And when they do, it's either really simple or really stupid.
Jason went up against Bill in the first debate. Jason hates Kevin Smith movies; Bill loves them. Oh by the way: remember that Jason Mewes (the Jay half of "Jay and Silent Bob") is one of the "celebrity" judges. Nice topic, guys. Mewes was even wearing a Dogma cap. He tried to make light of the idea that he would just vote for Bill because Smith is his friend, but whatever. Jason was doomed. Especially since there are many great arguments to hate Kevin Smith movies. Personally, I've always felt Smith was a very funny writer but an absolutely terrible director. Regardless of budget, all his movies have a slapdash student-film feel, and the flow is just not very good. He hasn't grown as a director since Clerks, and that's a problem. Anyway, Jason's argument was basically (and I'm paraphrasing), "Clerks good. All else bad. (Grunt.)" The judges give it to Bill.
So then Jason has to debate again, this time against Dorothy. This time they argue over the qualities of the film Chicago. Dorothy loves it and thinks it was a worthy Oscar winner. Jason hates it. OK, here's the thing: Jason was a crappy debater, but he should have won this one because Dorothy was even worse. Her argument seemed to be, "No it wasn't." He would say the lighting was terrible; she would say the lighting was great. Whatever. I found the lighting fine. Jason's best argument was that you could tell it was a Rob Marshall's first film. But that's all he said. HOW could you tell? I happen to agree with him. I liked Chicago, but it had major directing flaws. For one thing, Marshall loved the sweeping camera moves a bit too much. Sometimes it worked; others it was distracting and unnecessary. Marshall is a very experienced stage director, but film is a different aesthetic, and with Chicago, he overdirected. But Jason didn't say anything like that. I believe Dorothy's argument amounted to, "I don't think you could tell it was his first film." In fact, she had so little to say of any import that she had time left over. They give you 20 and 10 seconds, and both times she had time left. Are you kidding me?
But it's about time a woman got to the finals, so guess who won? The judges inexplicably went for Dorothy.
Somehow, the producers must have known they'd never get away with moving her on past Bill with the non-crap she brought for the "obsession war." In fact, for the first time in UFF aired-episode history, the "obsession war" only lasted two rounds because Dorothy's stuff was so lame.
Bill could have put his photo in a dictionary next to the word "collector." His first example was a selection of photos of himself in front of all these shelves filled with movie memorabilia. They were overflowing, and I can't even imagine how much stuff he actually owns. In fact, out of everyone who's been on the show so far, he was the first guy to actually scare me. It's obscene how much money he must have spent on trinkets over the years. Dorothy's first items were also photos: pictures of her at the actual locations of scenes from her favorite movies. But these were very generic, normal tourist locations with nothing movie-specific about them. She had a picture in Daley Plaza in Chicago because of The Blues Brothers, and another at Ft. Point underneath the Golden Gate Bridge where Kim Novak famously fell into the Bay in Vertigo. I have a picture like that somewhere. I think it's me in a cub scout uniform because every grammar school kid who grows up in San Francisco ends up going to Ft. Point. It's no contest, so they give it to Bill.
However, that first "battle" was better than the second and deciding one. Dorothy started this time with a ticket stub from Rain Man. First, let me just say something that may be unpopular. Rain Man is one of the most overrated movies and least-deserving Oscar winners of all-time. The film (like many Barry Levinson pictures) is at least 20 minutes too long. How many times do we really need to see that if Ray doesn't make it to a TV in time for Wapner, he's going to freak out. Dorothy, with her now apparent non-indie-film sensibilities, predictably loves Rain Man. So much that every time she cleans out her wallet, she comes across the ticket stub and says, "Great movie. I can't throw it out." So she shoves the 15+ year old stub back in her wallet.
You know, they should have just given the damn thing to Bill right there without even making him present. Jordan, I apologize for my comment about how relatively boring your diary of films seen were, because Dorothy's ticket-stub is at least as bad as Julian trying to say his relatively common unpaid internship was anything "fanatical." Dorothy's keeping that stub might make her crazy, but that's a different issue.
Still, they allowed Bill to present what I thought was a pretty kick-ass piece of memorabilia. Somehow, he had a bunch of casino chips from Martin Scorsese's film Casino. The production had original chips made up for the fictional Tangiers Hotel and Casino featured in the movie, all with different colors and designs, and Bill had this plastic bag with several of them. That's some one-of-a-kind shit people. (And apparently, he didn't have to buy it on eBay, Jordan.) That deserves two thumbs up and a trip to the finals. And if the judges had even tried to give the round to Dorothy's ticket stubs, I would have had to completely stop watching the show.
But for your sake, dear reader, I will continue to observe and react to the continuing struggles of IFC's misguided program. Two more regionals and then, I assume, an episode of the finals. I know it won't get any better; here's hoping it doesn't get any worse.