This was going to be the week that I was going to review and discuss The Quiet Family and The Happiness of the Katakuris, two fantastic films that deserve a little resurrection.
Then the commentary of Pontypool changed everything.
This is a Public Service Announcement brought to you by the fine people at stonepug.com to warn you that this shit is bad, bad, bad.
Excellent commentary, such as can be found in The King of Kong, gives you insight into how the film was made and the thought process of the film makers. I walked away from this commentary with a new appreciation of how documentaries are made, how multiple threads are being followed and how precarious success is, where it’s very possible to spend months filming only to find that by sheer bad luck none of your stories went anywhere and you don’t have a film. This insight, accompanied by the extra information and background that commentaries are expected to provide, made this commentary almost as good as the film itself.
Contrast this with the specials, which until now would have been the poster child for shit commentary. James Gunn and Paget Brewster didn’t do any prep work and really seemed more interested in chatting each other up and talking about the good ole days rather than focusing on the movie. That being said, there was a lot of valuable information to be had here, you just had to listen to a lot of James and Paget sucking each other off to get to it.
I believe Confucius’ old adage “Just fuck and get it over with” applies here.
Then there’s the festering turd that is the commentary of Pontypool, my Pontypool, which felt like a three hour advertisement for the nonexistent Pontypool 2 and 3.
I say it felt that way, but in actuality it was more like a forty minute of advertisement of Pontypool 2 and 3. But that is still almost half of your hour and a half film, there, bubs.
Let me try to express just how awkward and offputting this was. Friends, have you ever been watching a movie with someone and the movie was so lacking in merit that it failed to engage you on any level? And then you just spend most of the film talking about completely unrelated matters while the film plays in the background? Yeah, that’s Pontypool commentary.
Except it wasn’t two random people who are so thoroughly dismissing the film; it’s the fucking film director and screen writer!
Stop fucking up my experience of Pontypool!
And that’s what’s so heartbreaking about this. I really, really love Pontypool. I just want Bruce McDonald (director) and Tony Burgess (writer) to love it too. Is that so much to fucking ask?
How is Pontypool any good with these two in charge?
This actually begs a pretty interesting question: How is Pontypool so good when these two guys were the ones responsible for making it? I’ve two theories on this one.
The Joss Whedon Effect: Flake in front of the camera, whiz behind it
Ever notice how Joss Whedon occasionally makes things that are genuinely brilliant? Sure, we all have. Since I’m not here to start a little bitchfest over Joss, we can all agree that Firefly is pretty special and just leave it there. We’ll argue about some of his other shit some other time.
Ever notice how Joss Whedon will go full retard when giving interviews or discussing his films? Sure, we all have. Du0d sounds like a legit flake. Had I seen him going full Joss Whedon in front of the camera before I had seen any of his stuff, I’d probably be living my life never having seen Firefly or any of his other works. He’s that off-putting.
I propose that Tony Burgess and Bruce McDonald may have this same kind of idiot savant thing going for them. It’s possible that they have IQs that when combined are in the double digits, but give Tony Burgess a typewriter and Bruce McDonald a director’s chair and watch them go at it like Rainman at blackjack.
This theory has particular credence due to the seminal line of the commentary. When Tony was discussing the book that Pontypool is based on, he said “It was a period in my life when I was profoundly unable to communicate…just in a real fundamental way, unable to talk to people. You know, it felt…it made me wonder ‘Where am I?’ in a very fundamental way.” Bam. Nailed it. If you’ve seen Pontypool, this sentence will make perfect sense to you. You can skip the rest of the commentary. It was a line that both affirmed all the viewer already knew about Pontypool and added depth and richness to the movie by knowing exactly where the author was coming from in its creation. It happens a little after the eighteen minute mark. You need not watch anything else.
The New Hope Effect: Saved in editing
From the commentary it seems very possible, if not likely, that there was an actual competent person who worked on the film by the name of Jeremiah Munce (editor). And it seems very possible that he is the secret hero of this film.
Tony and Bruce discuss this one scene that never made it into the final product. It was where Grant, protagonist of the film, looks between his legs and sees a tiny man standing outside a tiny hut looking up at him and talking to him.
Again, someday I will probably review Pontypool, but if you haven’t seen it understand that Pontypool is a minimal movie. People are trapped in this radio station and their only contact with the outside world and the greater epidemic is mostly restricted to what they’re hearing getting called in by their listeners. They know something terrible is happening, but they can’t verify what it is and that not knowing about what is happening or how to fight it or if it’s even real is pushing them past their ability to cope and threatening their sanity.
It’s minimalistic and it’s effective and it would not be improved with Army of Darkness-esque little people coming out of the woodwork to annoy Grant.
I can only imagine how fucking hilarious that conversation was, how Jeremiah must have searched for a politic way to politely request that the director not fuck up his own film.
But that scene was filmed, that conversation did take place, and thank god the director listened to the sane man on set.
Thank you, Jeremiah. We appreciate your service.
I’m not sure how much danger our readership was in of ruining a night with the commentary of a movie that a lot of you probably haven’t even heard of, but we’ll just chalk this up to catharsis. With that in mind, I’d like to apologize and thank you for your patience.
The reality is that this post isn’t about bad commentary, it’s about heroes falling from grace. I just get so pissed off when creators let their fans down by undermining their own work. And saying that, I’m actually calling to mind the commentary on The Specials. One of the first things that James Gunn did was talk about how he wasn’t pleased with the movie, which may have set a tone that was distasteful to me and colored my vision of the rest of the commentary. But at least James Gunn went on to talk about the film at hand, not his future projects and how much he looks forward to those in preference over the movie that everyone is there to see.
But seriously, James and Paget should just fuck and get it over with.
In case you care
In case you plan to actually navigate the commentary, I’ve provided my rough notes that I kept. And yes, Bruce actually said that at 19:50. Lord love a duck.
10:00 Pontypool 2 + 3
13:00 Pontypool the book
(18:15 burgess “It was a period in my life when I was profoundly unable to communicate…just in a real fundamental way, unable to talk to people. You know, it felt…it made me wonder ‘Where am I?’ in a very fundamental way “)
(19:50 Bruce: “I wanna get sort of to Pontypool 2 and 3 for the people who are actually sitting and listening to this”)
21:00 Pontypool 1
(discusses how the disease is works)
30:00 Pontypool 2
43:00 Pontypool 3
(55:30 they actually answer a fucking phone call during the commentary)
1:02:00 Pontypool 2 & 3
1:04:00 Pontypool 3
1:06:30 (“keep it real, girl, keep it real!”)
1:36:32 total running time