[Doing guest coverage of Project Green light is sg-dub. You can read his blog at http://weakisht.blogspot.com/.]
Guesting for the first time on tvgasm to recap a show about first time writers and directors is, I think, rather fitting. Being new ’round these parts, I have set my goal pretty low: I only hope to do better than the first two Project Greenlight movies did. At the very least, I promise I won’t squander the $2,000,000 retainer tvgasm paid me – at least not right away.
As b-side mentioned in a recent post, this season of Greenlight has some serious potential. Of course, at the time of this writing it is now 4 episodes old, so we’ve got some catching up to do. Some changes are in place for this, the third season of Greenlight. Miramax has shifted the blame – er, responsibility – to it’s subsidiary, Dimension Films. HBO, apparently intent on showing only quality original programming, also dumped the cursed show so it is now seen on Bravo. The channel change means that the show will have no more nudity and no more cursing yet will retain all the suck we’ve come to expect. Hooray.Bravo has quickly become the channel for “alternative” (a.k.a. gay) programming. I’m not sure when this shift occurred, but I’m thinking the endless hours of the Cirque de Soleil played some part. Before we knew it, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Blowout, Boy Meets Boy, Manhunt, and Project Runway caused the boys from Provincetown to Greenwich Village [Editor's Note: sg-dub operates out of the East Coast tvgasm offices] to squeal with delight. Staying true to Bravo’s preferred demographic, gay couple Ben Affleck and Matt Damon return once again to give star power to this nearly all male “cast” of writers, directors, producers, and Dimension honchos. Mmmmmm, “honchos.”
Let’s get to the show already. The first episode introduced us to all of the key players in the project, none of which particularly stood apart from the rest. Just a bunch of studio guys in brightly colored collared shirts, jeans, and loafers. I couldn’t tell, but I’d wager none of them were wearing socks. Speaking of “Sox”… Ok, Ben and Matt, we get it. You are from Boston. You like the Red Sox. Enough with the stupid freaking Red Sox hats all the time. Is there some Massachusetts law that if you get on a reality TV show, you must surgically attach a dirty Red Sox cap to your head? It became immediately apparent that the studio and its producers are intent this time around to produce a – gasp – profitable movie, integrity be damned. Then again, this is Hollywood and I think all integrity was damned there long ago… I’m talking Fatty Arbuckle days. (It was part of my tvgasm contract to work in “Fatty Arbuckle” somewhere, somehow.) As before, the final three scripts were chosen via online voting. Yeah, leave it up to the public. Smart. The same public who just made “Sahara” number one last weekend.
In addition to three finalist scripts, Team Damon/Affleck/Dimension (DaFleckSion? Nah. Team Ben-Di-Mat has a better ring to it) had to whittle the director hopefuls down to 3 as well. The gang debated the three finalist screenplays and we were treated to an insider look into the three key factors that determine why certain movies are made: profit, profit, and profit. There was dissent about which script to go with, as Ben and Matt wanted the comedic time travel entry whereas the Dimension guys were pushing for the horror/comedy script. The third finalist was all but forgotten. Before ultimately deciding on which script to film, each writer met Team Ben-Di-Matt in an informal interview setting. The comedic time travel scriptwriter gave me a chance to feel good about my socializing skills and myself in general. He was a complete dork and droned on about Stephen Hawking and space portals and relativity and… Yawn. This was a comedy? With a title character named “Hans Grubenstein?” Well, at least Stephen Hawking sounds funny when he speaks, I suppose.
A two-man team wrote the horror/comedy. One is an embarrassingly unfunny “wacky” writer like Dave Barry, who has the laugh, the tics, and the personality of every lame Morning Zoo deejay you’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing. You just know he thinks that Jon Lovitz is hilarious. The other writer was as quiet and dull as Saul Bellow… And he’s dead. After the interviews, the gang debated between “Feast” (the horror/comedy) and “Hans Grubenstein.” Dimension wanted a marketable moneymaker, and went so far as to compare “Feast” to that Oscar winning epic, “Cabin Fever.” Matt Damon, whose mouth is always slightly ajar (that drives me nuts, and gives credence to his character in “Team America”) was adamant in his opposition and went on record saying, “I’ve never done a movie based on marketing materials!” At this, his BFF Ben slinked down in his chair and completely disappeared underneath the table. “Ocean’s 12! The Legend of Bagger Vance!” screamed young Matt, “How DARE you impugn my integrity!” Ok, I’ll admit, Damon has a pretty decent Hollywood resume, but his comment was just a tad ironic when said next to his Beantown buddy, whose entire life is based on marketing materials. Later that night, while dining out, Affleck was overheard saying, “Matt, dude, what the hell? Helloooooo… Armageddon, Bounce, Pearl Harbor, The Sum of All Fears, Daredevil, Gigli, Paycheck… Surviving Christmas for Christ’s sake?! That whole J-Lo bullshit? I should beat your ass right here. Red Sox Number One!”
Ignoring Matt and Ben’s dissent, Dimension decided to go forward with “Feast.” Great, this meant a whole season of Marcus Dunstan, the oh-so-wacky writer. During the meeting which decided the script, it must be noted that every single member of Team Ben-Di-Mat was wearing one of those yellow, rubber, Live Strong bracelets made famous by Lance Armstrong. Over and over we saw various yellow-banded wrists raise cigarettes up and down between lips and ashtrays… Which I couldn’t care less about, except it struck me as funny when you realize the whole idea behind the bracelets is to raise money and awareness for cancer research. I know I’d feel like a real dick if I were doing something so stupidly ironic.
Now that they had their script, it was time to decide upon a director. This process was a little different; as hundreds of directors submitted short films all using the same open script. Again, the director pool was whittled down to three, and each of them had to present themselves to Team Ben-Di-Mat. One director stood out; his short film was the best sure, but that wasn’t what made him memorable. Can you say… Freakish social pariah? Thy name is John Gulager. His presentation was painful to watch, as he stuttered and stammered his way to breaking the reality TV record for “y’knows” in a 5-minute span (no easy feat). His flop sweat stained the chair. His appearance was somewhere between Philip Seymour Hoffman, your local town drunk/pedophile, and Ralphie from the Simpsons. Good Lord, what a mess.
The first episode ended at a big Hollywood bash (even Extra was there! Alas, no Pat “You’re Kids Can Watch” O’Brien, however) and the winning director was announced: John Gray Teeth Gulager! With defeatist attitude in overdrive, Gulager looked close to giving Greenlight what every good reality show has these days – a vomit scene. However, he held it together and made it to the publicity photo shoot at which Matt and Ben reminded us once again that yes, indeed, the Red Sox are Number One.
“I Can’t Help It, Nepotism Runs in my Family”
The second episode was a bit faster paced than the first, beginning with the first quotable quote from director John Gulager: “Feast is a scary, funny as ass movie.” For a guy with an ass as scary and big as his, I guess he knows of what he speaks, no matter how mangled his syntax. Gulager is such an enigma; he and his life were already fascinating me. It turns out he has a wife… Or girlfriend… Or common law wife… Or something. Everyone called her something differently throughout the show. We met his dad Clu, his brother Tom, and saw pictures of his deceased mother. Now I see why John has such self-loathing – his family is all rather attractive and he’s well… He’s not. The Jabba the Gulager look just ain’t working out.
It was time to move into the Dimension production studio offices, which had brightly painted red, orange, and yellow walls. Upon seeing this, wacky writer Marcus exclaimed, “Orange you glad to be here?” This was followed by his hearty guffaw. Struggling to find the perfect insult for Marcus, I asked my wife (sorry ladies, I’m taken), “Who does he remind you of?”
“Someone really annoying.” Yeah, that about sums it up, thanks. He, along with his writing partner, Gulager, and the Dimension Team (Ben and Matt were busy watching the Red Sox somewhere) had their first script meeting and now it was time for the new director to shine. Unfortunately, the only time Gulager shines is after plowing through a box of glazed donuts. He’s a completely inarticulate bumbling fool who does not, it seems, have the ability to put a single thought into words. This didn’t bode well for the second meeting, which was with Dimension co-President, Andrew Rona. Andrew is boss here, and he didn’t waste time. In a nutshell, the script sucked and would be far too expensive to produce “as is.” Andrew’s strong demeanor appeared to terrify Gulager, who – even when asked direct questions – froze and came up with absolutely nothing. We have a name for someone like that where I work: Useless.
Thirty five minutes in, we were introduced to the very first female “character” in Project Greenlight; Michele Gertz the casting director. She set to work immediately and started reading actors for the movie’s many parts. Hey, wasn’t that Henry Rollins shown for a split second? I’m not a fan of his self-righteousness, but I am a fan of his anger. Please, please, please cast him, if only to see him rip Gulager a new one. After a few readings, Gulager stepped out from the shadows and offered his first opinion on anything thus far. Damn, this is gonna be prolific. “These people are all fine, but I want to cast my father, brother, girlfriend/wife person, god-daughter, and dietician. I’ll leave it up to the reader to discern which one I made up. This guy in unbelievable… He seems to have no vision other than that of his entire family populating his first “big” movie. When confronted with the realities of the way movies are marketed (i.e., star power), and when asked what he thought about nepotism, Gulager responded, “Nepotism is great!” He then went on to compare the Gulagers to the Fondas, Coppolas, and Woody Allen. His goddaughter is pretty cute – but does John really want to marry her?
Hopefully episode three would offer some more insight into the disturbed mind of John Gulager.
Mr. Wes Craven, meet Mr. Totally Craven
Initially, in the third episode, it appeared as though John Gulager was getting his shit together. While in a meeting with Andrew Rona, a co-president at Dimension, Gulager finally had some answers and ideas. A big part of this episode was a boring budget battle. I’ll spare the details, but Rona wouldn’t budge from 3 million bucks, the production team needed at least a half million more, so they sucked the Maloof brothers’ asses and got it from them. 500 grand from the Maloofs? That’s like getting 50 bucks from me, plus the brothers got free advertising for the Palms and some television face time (albeit on Bravo, but still.)
Auditions continued with a few more B and C level actors. Navi Rawat from “The OC,” Krista Allen from George Clooney’s pants, and Jason Mewes from ìDrug Rehab.” Auditions also continued for a few J and K level actors: Clu Gulager (DJ Clue has more acting cred), Tom Gulager (“The greatest actor in the world” according to John), Diane Goldner (Gulager’s girlfriend) and his goddaughter. They all appeared to do a half decent job, but the general sense was, “That was cute, that was fun, now that it’s over, let’s get the real actors in here to cast, thanks.” Unfortunately, John Gulager still didn’t get the point. Am I gonna go see a movie with a topless Clu Gulager or a topless Navi Rawat? John Gulager is a dumbass.
Such a dumbass, in fact, that while at dinner with Wes Craven he ordered spaghetti and meatballs. Who over the age of 9 orders that at a restaurant? The same guy who responds to criticism about his asinine nepotistic demands by tearing pictures off his office walls and schlumping home early. Judging by the size of the shirts he wears, maybe he really does think he’s still 9 years old? Which reminds me of one of the more awkward moments I’ve ever witnessed on television: Gulager hugging his girlfriend goodbye in a manner that can only be described as “Six year old child pulls his sister’s hair, gets reprimanded by his father, cries, then sheepishly approaches his mother’s protective bosom for solace.” Pathetic.
I really don’t understand John Gulager. Up to this point, he didn’t seem to have any passion about any of the important issues (his directing, the script, the timeline, his weight, his teeth, his hair, his clothes, etc) but was obsessed with the idea of his family getting the lead roles in “Feast.” Amazingly, the Dimension folks showed enormous restraint and patience in light of his nonsense, but enough was enough. Then again, they did select him… But did they pick him for his directorial skills – or for Nielson numbers? Hmmmmmm.
Once it appeared the casting agent and the producers had fully and rationally explained how the whole movie business works to Gulager, we all thought he’d move on and get over the idea of filming the “Gulager Family Reunion Feast.” But we were wrong… It turns out that the opposition from the studio brass only emboldened his lunacy. Mr. Sulky Misfit dreamt up the brilliant idea of filming a short movie with his family members, flying to New York, and meeting with MIramax/Dimension CEO Bob Weinstein to “prove” to him how great his family of actors really was. This prompted one of the better lines of the season thus far when bug eyed executive producer Chris Moore intoned, “I’ve got a healthy f’n skepticism about John.”
And I’ve got a healthy f’n case of carpal tunnel syndrome after spewing out this four episode recap.
Get a Clu, Gulager!
Last week’s episode four began right where the last left off. With Chris Moore in a rage about Gulager’s insistence to cast his family and friends (“When you do your wedding videos, do you hire your brother to be the groom?”), the two met over lunch to finally put this issue to bed. I’ll let Chris’ on words from his “blog” tell the story: “I just wanted to fire him, and get a director who wasn’t insane.” After scaring Gulager with the potential pink slip, it appears now that he’ll accept “real” actors in the lead roles. Thank goodness, because Krista Allen and Navi Rawat are hot, whereas Gulager’s girlfriend Diane is, well, she’s his girlfriend so you tell me.
We were treated to a few more auditions, one of which was roly-poly Ricki Lake. Apparently her reading sucked and she knew it, offering up the excuse, “I’m sorry, I’m on Ambien right now.” That admission was quickly forgotten as rehabbed heroin addict Jason Mewes showed up again for his call back. The casting was the thrust of this episode, especially when casting agent Michelle Gertz snuck her friend from the OC Navi through to score a lead. Of course John didn’t like her in the role, but even Dimension had reservations. Her readings sucked and her star quality isn’t exactly Mischa Barton, and the Dimension brass was pissed. Poor Navi, this episode made her look like shit. Gulager also had reservations about the other female lead, calling Krista Allen “cheesy.” And casting your entire family isn’t cheesy? Christ, this guy has some balls – which is weird, because he actually has no balls at all. Damn you Gulager, I can’t figure you out!
While the writing duo was off getting agents, lawyers, and contracts to write the next Highlander movie – that’s right, straight to the top for these two Midwestern yahoos – the creative FX creator, Gary Tunnicliffe was busy banging out monster wieners. Remember, this show is on Bravo, so seeing a man named Tunnicliffe stroking a monster dildo would not be a huge surprise. In this case, however, Gary actually created a huge phallus to be used in the movie during a scene where the monsters apparently procreate. True to form, Gulager stepped in and demanded that they use his uncle for that part because, as it turns out, he happens to be a monster prick. (Welcome to tvgasm!)
Before the final cast was announced, Gulager took a tour of Wes Craven’s latest set, but he couldn’t get past the craft services tables. You’d have thought he’s never seen a decent spread before, which is odd because he’s a rather fat man and even has a rather ample amount of under-the-chin flab. My guess is that this is where he stores his extra depression, when things start going too well for him.
In the final script meeting, Gulager had some interesting suggestions; “I want Honey Pie to be in her underwear throughout the entire movie.” Um, the movie takes place in a bar. “I envision this scene with her peeing on the toilet and then she drops the gun.” Something tells me he envisions girls peeing all the time. After all, really, don’t we all?
The writers finally finished their final rewrite, the financing was secured from Dimension and the Maloofs, all the actors were selected except for Hero, the, err, hero, the sound stage set was almost complete, Gulager refilled his Paxil prescription, and we are finally ready to make a movie! Just days before production was to begin, the actors and other key players gathered to have their first table read of the script. Unfortunately, the police were tipped off that there was a bomb inside the building and evacuated the premises for the day. The obvious joke here is that the “bomb” is, of course, “Feast.” Unfortunately for me, someone on show stole my thunder and said it to the camera. Goddamnit.
It turns out that Henry Rollins and Jason Mewes made the cut. Incredibly, so did Clu Gulager as Bartender and Diane, the wifely girlfriend, in a small role. And I can’t forget the acting tour de force that is Balthazar Getty as Bozo.
Hopefully I’ve caught you up with the show thus far, just as they begin production. It should be a great next 6 episodes.