Documentary

Tropic Thunder/Rain Of Madness

Tropic Thunder trailer

Rain Of Madness trailer (requires iTunes)

A lot of interesting stuff going on here. Tropic Thunder is a parody of, among other things, Apocalypse Now. So Rain Of Madness, the non-existent documentary about Tropic Thunder, is a parody of Hearts Of Darkness, the documentary about Apocalypse Now.

It’s an interesting time to make a comedy about the war in Vietnam, given that the US is currently involved in another endless police action. But Tropic Thunder isn’t, on its face, a comedy about war. It’s a satire of the whole idea of making a movie about war.

This extra level of remove insulates the audience from having to think directly about what this movie really is: a sophisticated comedy about the war in Iraq. Not just the war itself, but the perceptions that surround it: the way it’s imagined vs. the way it’s realized, what it’s like to really be in combat vs. what it’s like to feel so immersed in war toys, imagery, and information that you feel you might as well be there, even when you’re not.

If you pay attention to the Tropic Thunder trailer, you’ll see that the heart of it is just the old Seven Samurai formula: A group of misfit performers find themselves having to actually do what they previously only pretended to do. For them, the comedy becomes serious. The audience gets the chance to laugh at a situation that’s both serious and funny, but above all, pathetic. In this context, it means that Americans can laugh at how ridiculous it is that we’re still sending troops to Iraq.

The same trick is being used to make jokes about racial stereotypes. If I’d told you last year that Robert Downey Jr. was going to do a movie in blackface, you might not have believed it. But now, ha ha, he’s doing a movie about an actor doing a movie in blackface, so that’s okay, because it’s not really Robert Downey Jr. doing a movie in blackface. But it is.

Isn’t it?

Adventure
Comedy
Documentary

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Religulous

This trailer is nothing but a series of jabs from Bill Mahr, with cuts before we get to hear the responses of the people he’s talking to. The implication is that you’re not going to see the movie to learn anything, witness a meaningful dialog, or see anyone except Mahr (or those who agree with Mahr) say anything clever or cutting.

Much like Borat, the work of Tom Green, or all of reality TV, the basic mechanism here is the exploitation of unwitting people who are caught off guard, don’t know what audience they’re speaking for, and have no control over the editing process. It’s the epitome of old-school media: monolithic, dogmatic, non-interactive, and subject to the views of whoever is calling the shots.

The fact that the first moment in the trailer is practically identical to a moment in The Godfather Part 3 underlines just how myopic this whole venture is. No doubt, Mahr doesn’t know about this similarity, or doesn’t care, because, after all, it’s all about him.

Documentary

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Billy The Kid

Dancing_outlaw
We all have our awkwardnesses and insecurities.

That’s why it’s comforting to see someone who is exponentially more awkward and insecure than oneself have their quirks put under a microscope and sold to a global audience.

The fact that the subject of the documentary actually dreams of fame (but not, of course, theStar_wars_kid
type of fame they’re getting) adds a layer of irony. What’s more, that sense of irony doesn’t seem to lose its appeal, no matter how many times the formula is repeated, which is also ironic, etc.

Billy The Kid Trailer

Documentary

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