Posted by: playingthedevil | August 3, 2010

…and god spoke (the making of…)

one of the best movies of the 90s

the saying goes that “dying is easy, comedy is hard.”  to make a funny movie with enough jokes throughout is hard, it’s even harder to make a funny movie that stands the test of time.  to stretch the definition of comedy to its widest, there are less than 20 comedies out of the top 250 films on imdb.  the consensus of the funniest movies of all time would pretty much narrowed down to airplane, kentucky fried movie, this is spinal tap, chaplin, buster keaton, early woody allen stuff, and christopher guest.  comedies may have been on the all time best of list one time or another but over time they seem to disappear or seem less as funny and dated.

and that makes this review much more of a joyous occasion.  …and god spoke was barely released in 1994, two years after altman’s the player, five years after christopher guest’s the big picture (before waiting for guffman), right at the time when indie/sundance were blooming.  yet, compare to most movies at the time, watching it now, it’s still one of the best comedies of all time.  after all, there aren’t too many comedies that would make me discover new details on the tenth viewing.

the film uses the mockumentary style (which you can’t do nowadays without a christopher guest mention, unless it’s not a comedy, then it’ll be a blair witch/cloverfield/paranormal activity mention) to tell the story of a director/producer team (which they generously explain for the camera in the opening of the movie) who were making low budget b-movies (dial s for sex, nude ninjas, alpha deatha de-kappa) during their latest production, a studio backed movie based on the bible.  why the bible?  according to the producer, if you’re going to do a movie based on a book, that’s the book to do.  “it’s the all-time best seller and it’s got a four-billion-person build in target audience.”

at this point i’ll have to restrain myself.  to tell you more and being more specific would rob you of the pleasure of seeing the movie.  all i’ll say is that and god spoke encompasses every aspect of filmmaking, at least films about filmmaking.  from studio executive, hollywood nepotism (notice the name of the studio and the name of the executive), shooting schedule (a week and a half behind schedule after a week of shooting), being faithful to the source material (“how many disciples are there?”  “ten sounds about right.”), product placement, european cinematopher, budget concerns (the sodom, last supper, and jesus scenes have to be cut due to budget concern, even though the “christ walking on h2o stuff” has already been shot), art vs. commerce, tech difficulties (“it looks like moses was having a smoke behind the bush”), post production, reviews (the only good review they could get was from the communist paper the daily worker), protest (“two thumbs up – satan”), and stunt casting (the film-within-a-film bible movie stars lou ferrigno, soupy sales, jan…eve…jan…i mean, eve plumb from the brady bunch while the film inculdes future celebs andy dick and chris kattan).

here are a few examples why and god spoke is superior to most comedies:

  • the ark scene (a lesser movie would have just made a joke about the ark not being able to fit in the soundstage.  this movie explains, in just one line, how that came to be.)
  • cinematographer mentioned “sven” (a lesser movie would have worry that the audience doesn’t know who sven is, this movie waited until a natural moment to explain who they are referring to)
  • cameos (a lesser movie would have thought that the cameos are it.  this movie actually incorporate those cameos as characters.)

what sets this movie apart, considering the future mockumentaries is that even though the characters are pretentious, they are funny, likable and fully drawn characters.  as oppose to the films of christopher guest, whose films are getting less funny, more depressing, and increasingly condescending (having watched for your consideration a second time for this review) with pitiful stereotypes.  instead of asking the audience to laugh at the characters like most christopher guest films, and god spoke creates funny characters and situations. it also never forgets that it’s a comedy and keeps you smiling from beginning to end.

as funny as the movie is, 15 years after its release, the ending, while as funny as the rest of the movie, brings several sour notes in this post passion of the christ world:  the cain and abel fight is choreographed by someone asian not named yuen woo ping,  the protests are bound to happen again and again on religious films unless you’re mel gibson and an antisemite, or both,  and bad filmmakers getting more savvy.  it predicted the so-bad-it’s-good moviemakers to delude themselves into thinking that their films are actually funny on purpose.  witness the room (bad movie?  remarket it as a dark comedy!), birdemic, original sci-fi…syfyllis…syfy channel productions, or the asylum oeuvre.  it’s a sad state for films when bad movies become cult classics on purpose while the audiences left wondering if the intentions of bad filmmakers.  remember a time when bad movies become cult classic with people dressing up for their midnight screening by accident?  meanwhile, in the real world, the film didn’t do much at the box office, the director went on to become producer of various reality shows, while the two main actors went on to become bit players on tv shows.

bottom line:  and god spoke ranks among the best of the 90s (if not all time) films about making films genre.  it’s up there with this is spinal tap, the player, living in oblivion, and american movie.  you know it’s deserving to be a cult classic when jokes in the movie ended up in pretty great 90s films about making films movies such as state and main, bowfinger, and the muse.  comparing it to the decade that follows, comedy would devolves into the likes of douchey psuedo “comedies” of family guy and disaster/date/epic/superhero/vampire movies.   hey shitheads, simply referring and recreating a piece of popular culture is not funny.

and for those of you losers who don’t mind watching movies on computer screens, the way movies are NOT meant to be seen, here’s the movie in its entirety, courtesy of google video:

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