Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE DISASTER ARTIST -- My review

Movie review week continues!

First off there is a cloud of controversy hanging over this film because of the James Franco sexual harassment charges. (This harassment issue has been in the forefront so much lately that I can now actually spell harassment without the use of spellcheck.) Did he do these things? Did he not? Will seventeen other women accuse him in the time it takes you to read this? I don’t know. So at least for the moment, I’m going to recommend this movie on its own merits, and if it turns out Franco ultimately makes Dustin Hoffman seem like a Boy Scout I take it back.

Now to the review...

My all-time favorite book is called CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. It’s a huge comic novel written by John Kennedy Toole that had me laughing at practically every sentence. And yet, lots of people I know and respect hate the book. Why? In order to love it you must embrace the central character, Ignatius J. Reilly who is a sloth and at times infuriating. Some people can’t get past that. I can and find him hilarious. (Obviously I’m not alone. The book won a Pulitzer Prize.)

But I bring that up because THE DISASTER ARTIST asks you to find an over-the-top outrageous character both sympathetic and funny. Even though you’re asked to laugh at him you’re also asked to care about him. If you can, THE DISASTER ARTIST is a treat.

James Franco directed and stars as Tommy Wiseau, a real-life person (as hard as that is to believe). Wiseau wrote, directed, produced, self-financed, and starred in one of the worst movies ever made, THE ROOM. It’s one of those “so bad it’s good” films that has since become a cult classic. Tommy Wiseau is the Ed Wood of the new millennium.

So on one level this is a film about the making of a film. It’s PROJECT GREENLIGHT on steroids. And a razor-sharp satire on Hollywood. But it’s also a film about friendship and dreams. Yes, you’re laughing at ineptitude and hubris but the movie is never mean-spirited. It would have been so easy to make this a hatchet job but Franco steers clear of that.

And his performance is amazing. I’d say he deserved winning the Golden Globe but those are such idiotic awards, who cares? It’s not easy playing over-the-top AND real but Franco pulls it off.

Much credit for the success of THE DISASTER ARTIST should also go to the screenwriters – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.

Some final notes. Like LADY BIRD it’s primarily set in the early 2000’s. Boy, don’t you feel old when films from the 21st Century are now considered period pieces?

You don’t have to see the original movie of THE ROOM to fully appreciate this movie.

Smartly, THE DISASTER ARTIST is played straight. It’s not campy, there’s no “wink wink” to the audience. And that’s what it makes it funny.

It’s only about 90 minutes. Imagine! A comedy that’s not 2 ½ hours.

And kudos to Judd Apatow who turns in a nifty performance as a Hollywood power player who Tommy ambushes in a restaurant.

This and the BIG SICK would be my favorite two comedies of the year. And I’m going back to say THE ROOM is now my favorite comedy of 2003.

19 comments :

Sheila said...


Great review Ken. Just a movie review rather than going into their personal life.

The accusations against these celebrities is coming out one by one relentlessly, that we tend to believe all are monsters. Don't know how much of it is true.

For James Franco, its currently 5 women who have accused.

The worst part of all these accusations and the protest atmosphere is that, some are using these incidents for self publicity - like this out of work actress Catherine Deneuve who supports these sort of behavior (nothing new, as she had first supported that rapist Polanski).

Wonder when it will all end or will some, like Catherine, keep raking up these issues for cheap publicity.

Peter said...

Ken, I know you don't like the Golden Globes, but there was one joke in particular in Seth Meyers' monologue that I think you'll like.

"And we’re all here tonight courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press. Yeah, give it up for the Hollywood Foreign Press. A string of three words that could not have been better designed to infuriate our president. ‘Hollywood foreign press.’ The only name that could make him angrier would be the Hillary Mexico Salad Association."

therealshell said...

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES is one of those books that should NEVER be turned into a film. I know that they keep trying, but I don't think that they should bother. The book is a singular experience, and any film version would spoil that. Just my tuppence.

Charlie said...


He won GG but wont get Oscar nomination after these tweets by his students. I did read their account in few news articles. Most seem consensual. Some not. But the damage is done. Academy wont touch him with a barge pole.

Casey must be thanking his stars for winning last year itself. I bet there will be a debate whether to invite him to present the Oscar for the Best Actress this year.

Academy is shit scared after the bad publicity it got in the last few years. Who knows... they may invite Faye and Warren to present instead of Casey 😉

Gazzoo said...

For any "The Disaster Artist" fan, you MUST seek out the audiobook that it's based on, written and read by Greg Sestero. The movie only scratches the surface of the story, and Greg does an amazing Tommy.

Pat Reeder said...

As a connoisseur of unintentionally entertaining bad entertainment, I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie. Only thing that could make it more enticing for me would be the credit line, "Theme song by William Shatner."

On a different note, this is something you might want to address in a Friday question:

The New York Post has an article about classic sitcoms that might end up being barred from TV Land in the post-MeToo era because their heroes were non-PC horndogs. Millennials are shocked and offended by their outrageous behavior when they are exposed to the shows. Two that you worked on, "MASH" and "Cheers," are on the list. The Instapundit blog compiled that link and several related ones, including an interview with Larry Gelbart on the genesis of the characters, here: https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/285592/

John Nolte at Big Hollywood even suggests that if "MASH" were made today, the heroes would be Hot Lips (who would never be called that) and Frank Burns, because they were both tight-assed, humorless sticklers for the rules who were constantly trying to shame and punish people for not living up to their rigorous standards. I'm sure they would also somehow have Twitter accounts during the Korean War.

So what do you think? Will "MASH," "Cheers," "Blazing Saddles" and virtually everything else that audiences enjoyed back before it became a federal offense to laugh at human foolishness survive the current wave of neo-Puritanism, or will they be relegated to the ash heap of history, along with statues of Confederate generals?

Peter said...

Sheila

I strongly object to Catherine Deneuve being accused of supporting sexual harassment and also the ridiculous claim that she's an "out of work" actress.

If you read her comments fully, she said rape and sexual assault are NEVER acceptable. She was saying men should be able to "chat up" women and that men trying to woo women, perhaps clumsily but not perversely, are being swept along in the wave of condemnation.

I don't agree with her defence of Polanski, but if you want to go after her for that, then you'll have to also include Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Adrien Brody and all the other actors who've appeared in his films in recent years.

Lastly, two films in production this year, three completed last year, and 14 throughout the previous 7 years is rather strange for someone who's "out of work".
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000366/#actress

Sheila said...


When I said out of work, I meant people who want to hog limelight not for their movies, but by wading into such subjects for publicity.

By making such statements, she wants to attract attention, that's all.

By her letter, she is infuriating the already incensed chatterati rather than allowing the whole issue to die - like I said in the first comment.

Yes, many supported Polanski. I was just talking of her, so pointed to her support of that rapist.

And finally don't get too worked up and talk about ridiculousness. What's truly ridiculous is that even after Ken told he wont talk or review Oprah's speech, some people simply try to drag the topic into comments, hoping Ken comments upon it.

blinky said...

How does this movie compare to Ed Wood?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Pat Reeder, it's the New York Post, flagship of the Murdoch print empire. They're more interested in being anti-PC than in the question of why TV Land would care about the views of "millennials," most of its viewers being the AARP generation. And if they do drop MASH there are at least three other places to see it on my cable system. If you're quick, you can click around and see how it evolved over the years -- by the end, Maj. Houlihan had ceased to be a tight-ass called "Hot Lips" and become an assertive, career-oriented woman who no longer slept with horny generals. I like to think she retired as a general herself. (Frank Burns, of course, went back to Indiana and wound up running the state health department for Mike Pence until he was indicted for insider trading in a patent medicine scam.)

Justin Russo said...

A non-sequitur: though you might enjoy this raving article from NYMag on Ted Danson!

http://www.vulture.com/2018/01/ted-danson-the-good-place-performance.html

Peter said...

Chill out, Sheila. Ever since Ken said he didn't want any more posts bashing celebs, I've quit commenting about Oprah.

On your other points.....fair enough!

Andrew said...

Ken, if you haven't read it already, you'd probably appreciate this article. It's a very interesting but sad description of Toole's life before his suicide.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-professor-and-the-doomsday-clock-a-confederacy-of-dunces-and-signs-of-john-kennedy-tooles-suicide

Pat Reeder said...

To Buttermilk Sky: I know "MASH" a lot changed over time, I have the complete series on DVD (You're welcome for the 7-cent royalty check, Ken!)

But they're talking about whether the early "Henry Blake" era episodes, as well as many other pre-"woke" era classic sitcoms, will remain in circulation. I think the point of the article, which was based on a media professor's shocked reaction to his students' shocked reaction to "MASH," was whether these shows, which we consider comedy classics, would survive beyond the generation that currently watches TV Land. Will Millennials outgrow their attitude that depicting less-than-perfect human behavior is the same thing as endorsing it ("Blazing Saddles")? Or will the shows be saved by future generations and the ever-swinging pendulum of popular taste ?

For instance, when I was a kid, I loved the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields for their "screw conventions" attitudes. Today's generation would probably be horrified at Groucho's fat-shaming of Margaret Dumont, Harpo chasing blondes without a notarized consent agreement, or W.C. Fields promoting cigars, alcohol and kicking obnoxious little kids in the ass. But maybe the next generation, having grown up under their priggish helicoptering supervision, will embrace all those anarchists again.

Incidentally, I find it amusing that so many Millennials say they embrace "anarchy," but only the kind that comes with an extremely strict set of government-enforced rules of conduct.

Rob in Toronto said...

Sheila's either not playing fair deliberately or only wants to see what she wants to see.

Deneuve was one of 100 French women who signed a letter concerning their views on the subject. She was hardly a lone voice crying out of the wilderness. And it is only natural the media would go to her for quotes , given her legendary status in the film biz.

It's very frightening that any sort of response to this issue is automatically dismissed outright without anyone considering the shadings involved.

What I find most ironic is Sheila accusing Deneuve of expressing her views simply to get publicity and attention - EXACTLY the response men have using to shut down their accusers for years.

s g said...

'Sheila said...
When I said out of work, I meant people who want to hog limelight not for their movies, but by wading into such subjects for publicity.'

No you didn't Sheila.

Johnny Walker said...

I’m surprised “Sheila’s” comments are being allowed. They seem to be designed to provoke as much controversy and antagonism as possible.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Pat Reeder: Then they'd also have to dump HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (Barney); FRIENDS (Joey); and TWO AND A HALF MEN (Charlie). I guess WILL AND GRACE might get a pass because Jack is gay rather than straight, and BIG BANG THEORY would sneak through because although Howard leered at everything in sight in the early seasons he never got anywhere with it.

Not going to happen.

wg

Donald Benson said...

Side note regarding "Confederacy of Dunces": The Doris Day movie that inspires Ignatius to yell erudite abuse in the theater is "Jumbo". Despite some appealing stars and a bunch of Rodgers and Hart songs, the endless closing fantasy number would make anybody yell erudite abuse.