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Real Life 30 Mins or Less
August 12, 2011 12:55 PM   Subscribe

The movie 30 mins or less, parallels real life story.
posted by MechEng (67 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's what that movie is about? And they're claiming they didn't know about the famous collar bomber case? And nobody involved in the film made the connection? Ugh. That case still haunts me.
posted by Gator at 12:58 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


People in the lab were laughing at the movie. Then I reminded them about the guy who lost his head over a plan like that.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:01 PM on August 12, 2011


Yeah, when I saw the first trailer for this, I just cringed. It's really in poor taste, and then to claim that nobody had ever heard of the pizza bomber case? Yuck.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not too surprising that scriptwriters mine real life oddities for ideas. When a media spokesperson says “Neither the filmmakers nor the stars of 30 Minutes or Less were aware of this crime prior to their involvement in the film,” I think what they are really saying is "We don't want to pay anyone for their story or their portrayal so the idea was purely our own". I think it's unlikely, considering the oddity of the event, that the original writers were not substantially influenced by it.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2011


I saw the commercial for this and I couldn't believe they made a comedy out of something so tragic. Horrible.
posted by bondcliff at 1:04 PM on August 12, 2011


Previously and previously.
posted by octothorpe at 1:04 PM on August 12, 2011


I saw the commercial for this and I couldn't believe they made a comedy out of something so tragic. Horrible.

I felt the same about LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
posted by philip-random at 1:05 PM on August 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


Michael Cera, how could you!
posted by zamboni at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


Oh geez. I didn't know what the movie was about. The other night Aziz Ansari was on Conan saying "Please go see this so I can be in more movies." Aziz I would love to do that, cause you're generally great, but I really have no interest in seeing this particular one.

Also, it's a little curious that I came away from that whole interview still not knowing what this movie was about.
posted by bleep at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2011


Too soon.
posted by tommasz at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And yeah it's a little unlikely that no one made the connection. As soon as I read "pizza delivery guy w/bomb" I remembered the original case. Please.
posted by bleep at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2011


Previous MeFi thread on Wells. I also find it rather disingenuous that the writers didn't know about that. There's been a lot of editing of the reference to the movie in the Media Attention section of Wells' Wikipedia page (not that that is anything to go on, really).
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2011


I wasn't opposed to the idea of the movie -- even the idea that the movie might be a (very very black) comedy. But I've been cringing ever since I realized that the movie was going to be the kind of comedy that it is after first seeing the trailer.

Despite all that, even knowing all the details, I felt, though it lacked tact, you can have a comedy that is inspired by a tragedy and I can let it go. In fact, I'm not sure it's any more or less offensive than if it has been a maudlin "based on a true story" drama trying to make money or get Oscars.

But I can't get behind the official line being that they didn't know anything about the real event. Come out and say "yes, we heard about this tragedy but decided to make a comedy based on it and tell a totally unrelated story" -- but "what real life collar bomber?" is, for some reason I can't quite figure out, much, much worse.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:13 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


bleep, what is it about Ansari that doesn't scream 'total tool' to you? He's always come off as a sexist, sub-fratboy dickhole - enough of one that I can't stomach watching Parks & Recreation and cringe during his scenes on American Dad - to me. But maybe it's just me.
posted by item at 1:18 PM on August 12, 2011


Michael Cera, how could you!

I think you're confused--the actor in this movie is actually Aziz Ansari. Common mistake.
posted by turaho at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


When is Aziz sexist?
posted by basicchannel at 1:22 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Comedy is suffering + distance. You can't start saying "That's based on a real death so we can't make jokes about it"

See also: the producers, the darwin awards, and every comedy ever.
posted by rebent at 1:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm outraged too. It should be "fewer." 30 Minutes or Fewer.
posted by rusty at 1:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [22 favorites]


bleep, what is it about Ansari that doesn't scream 'total tool' to you? He's always come off as a sexist, sub-fratboy dickhole

I think that is exactly what he is going for, with a dash of cute puppy.
posted by ian1977 at 1:28 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh. I'd only seen the posters advertising this, and assumed it was a non-futuristic adaptation of the initial Hiro Protagonist plotline from Snow Crash.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:36 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


As an aside, there was also this bizarre incident recently (happily a fake bomb).
posted by adamrice at 1:40 PM on August 12, 2011


I thought Titanic was in poor taste. But that's unrelated to the fact that it was based on a real-life tragedy in which hundreds of people died.

I know, easy target. Sorry.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm outraged too. It should be "fewer." 30 Minutes or Fewer.

For expressions of length of time, one uses "less".* See the last example here.

* This doesn't make one whit of sense, but what would English be if all the rules were clear and sensible? Eh?
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


"bleep, what is it about Ansari that doesn't scream 'total tool' to you? He's always come off as a sexist, sub-fratboy dickhole"
I generally loathe tools and sexist sub- or -mega fratboy dickholes. Aziz doesn't give me that impression, either from his stand-up or on Parks and Rec. Sure his character is kind of like that, but he plays it in a thoughtful way that amuses me.
posted by bleep at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The real-life story is screwed up and depressing, but tragic? Dude got tricked into the neck-bomb, but dude was also very much a criminal who would have had no problem robbing a bank. Not exactly the sob story that some people seem to think it is.
posted by UncleBoomee at 2:00 PM on August 12, 2011


UncleBoomee: "The real-life story is screwed up and depressing, but tragic? Dude got tricked into the neck-bomb, but dude was also very much a criminal who would have had no problem robbing a bank. Not exactly the sob story that some people seem to think it is."

Oh, he was a bad guy? That totally clears up any misgivings I might have about a comedy movie based on someone who was pretty gruesomely murdered.
posted by specialagentwebb at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Not exactly the sob story that some people seem to think it is.

Last I checked there was no death penalty for bank robbery. Let's not dehumanize the guy quite so much.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:15 PM on August 12, 2011


The first time I saw the ad for the movie, I thought, wait, they made a comedy out of the Brian Wells case? I actually remembered his name, and I'm far from an assiduous follower of the news. It stretches credulity for them to claim no knowledge of the actual events when even a quasi-illiterate hermit like me knows about it.

It's in poor taste and bad faith, sure, but the worst part, IMO, is that there was probably a really good serious film to be made out of that story, and now that will likely never happen.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:18 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw the commercial for this and I couldn't believe they made a comedy out of something so tragic. Horrible.

I thought the same about The Smurfs.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:29 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


>Last I checked there was no death penalty for bank robbery. Let's not dehumanize the guy quite so much.

I don't disagree that this might be in bad taste, but this is still in better taste than something like the Darwin Awards, isn't it?
posted by UncleBoomee at 2:42 PM on August 12, 2011


> I don't disagree that this might be in bad taste, but this is still in better taste than something like the Darwin Awards, isn't it?

Well, in that case, yeah, I guess. But two wrongs etc.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2011


Saying something's more tasteful than the Darwin Awards is like saying somebody's funnier than Dane Cook.
posted by kmz at 2:50 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why didn't they just use the "guy forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to him" idea while changing all the other details? They could have made a comedy using only this part of the original story and still distanced themselves from it enough to be respectful, I think. They made it too close to the real story though. Kind of a lame.
posted by orme at 3:03 PM on August 12, 2011


I'm outraged too. It should be "fewer." 30 Minutes or Fewer.
For expressions of length of time, one uses "less".* See the last example here.
* This doesn't make one whit of sense, but what would English be if all the rules were clear and sensible? Eh?
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 4:54 PM on August 12 [+] [!]

I believe it does make sense as time is a continuum rather than being made up of discreet integer units. We can measure time this way with minutes, hours, etc, but these are really just markers along the continuum. So we might say more or fewer "hours", but more or less "time". Or something...?
posted by zoinks at 4:10 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hello. I live in Erie PA, and have for the greater part of my life. I worked at the PNC bank branch in question (yes, the one that was robbed by Brian Wells). Thankfully, I no longer have anything whatsoever to do with banking or finance, but there's a few things I'd like to share.

The day that it happened, I wasn't there. I was a salesperson, and they had asked me to travel and be on hand for the college kids moving into a local college town where we had a branch. I did, because they paid me mileage for it and frankly that's the ONLY REASON why I was not face-to-face with that poor man.

I was getting ready to leave said destination, and all of a sudden their branch manager came up to me and was like, "Amy, your branch just got robbed!" I'm like, bullshit, you guys are twisted and I"m going home. Quickly, though, it became apparent that it wasn't a joke - we turned on the TV and literally EVERY local station was broadcasting live feed from the Eyeglass World parking lot (Mr. Wells was still alive at this point).

This is going to get long, but I have to give you some geography to convey the scale. The branch was located about 3/4 mile north of I-90, at a major interchange of two highways (PA 19 and 90). On the TV (helicopter shot) I saw traffic stopped for MILES in both directions on I-90. Also, PA 19 was completely stopped in both directions, and you have to understand 19 is like Erie's main artery when it comes to, well, anything. Shopping, bars (well, that's how you get to the bars), beach, anything. It was fucking surreal.

I'm like HOLY SHIT MY FRIENDS ARE THERE. You understand I'd worked with these people for going on 4 years at that point, and damned if I wanted to see them shot or whatever. No one knew what was going on yet at this point, only that it was major.

I get home, via back roads. I've been trying to reach my banking friend on her cell the whole bloody time....nothing. I'm kind of upset at this point.

I make it home in time to see the (edited for the kiddies) version of Brian Wells dying in a parking lot not a quarter of a mile from where I basically spend 3/4 of my waking life. I cry. I am in a bit of a daze. I FINALLY get through to my friend on her phone. She's like "I...I...I....I feel so bad! I was the one who gave him the money! I didn't know! I didn't know!"

Next day, I'm back at my regular (read: irregular, national-news-making) branch. It is FUCKED UP. There are FBI everywhere. There is money stowed in weird places (like behind the radio we used to have in the drive-thru part so that whoever sat back there wouldn't leap through bullet-proof glass from sheer loneliness). There are, apparently, fingerprints EVERYWHERE that no one can touch or else they're the murderer.

A teller at that branch was questioned REPEATEDLY and with much prejudice because her live-in boyfriend worked at the SAME GODDAMN PIZZA SHOP as Brian Wells and had just bought her a beautiful engagement ring about a month prior. It turned out to be unrelated (!!)

The kicker is this. About a month after this all went down, Brian Wells' brother came into my (now completely infamous and since shut down) branch. He came to me. He looked a LOT like his brother.

He said to me, "Miss, I need some answers." I completely and totally had no idea in the world what to do. I kind of froze, in fact, Mr. Wells anticipated this response, as, looking back, he probably had every reason to do.

"Miss," he said, "I need to know what happened to my brother. I need some answers. Our sister does, too." He obviously didn't have to say any more. I mean...what if that was your brother? What the fuck?

And here is what I said. I said, "Sir, I'm really sorry..." and once I got that out, this poor guy just freaked out. He knew, of course, what was coming next. The "I can't say," "I'm not at liberty to give out that information," the "you'll have to call this official police hotline."

Honestly, looking back, that's all I COULD have said. I wasn't there the day it happened. I have NO IDEA because the FBI isn't all that into giving out details of what they've found.

But I did manage to stammer out some things that I'm glad I had the chance to say. "I'm really sorry," "I'm so sorry," "I wish I could help."

He knew I wouldn't be able to. He knew no one was ever going to solve the mystery of "PEOPLE STRAPPED A BOMB TO HIM AND THEN THE COPS LET HIM DIE." (and yes, that is what happened). My lovely little hometown has been some kind of Twilight Zone joke ever since (the bodies in the freezer didn't help - ask about that if you like). I just have never, ever encountered a situation like that before or since (and to be honest, who does?) and I still go back over it in my head at night.

Which brings me to my point. When I saw that trailer, I wanted to strap a bomb to whoever conceived it. I still do. It's not fucking funny; the only consolation I have is that anyone who doesn't live here cannot possibly know how very unfunny it is. My friends and I now sit here, mouths agape that ANYONE would capitalize off the death of a basically innocent person like that. And for lulz? Fucking whatever.

Anyway. This got long. Apologies for the rant, and my city is really, really beautiful. It is not fair that we are portrayed like some kind of weirdo fourth dimension X-files, and it is also not fair that whoever produced this stupid, offensive, garbage movie is making money off of a guy dying like a dog in a parking lot.

Thank you for reading...that is all. Might be back later :)
posted by deep thought sunstar at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2011 [205 favorites]


Comedy is suffering + distance. You can't start saying "That's based on a real death so we can't make jokes about it"

Cool. Now, if you would provide us with some distance to distribute to the people who watched Brian Wells die, everything will be fine.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:14 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh. I'd only seen the posters advertising this, and assumed it was a non-futuristic adaptation of the initial Hiro Protagonist plotline from Snow Crash.

Oh God, if only. THAT is a movie I'd love to see.
posted by bloody_bonnie at 9:49 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Interestingly, a similar plot device shows up in The Great Game, the third episode of the new Sherlock TV series (which is excellent, you should know, and Benedict Cumberbatch is superb). There is a bomb, there is a deadline, but there is no bank, although there is an illicit motive at work. It is actually such a small part of the story that I found it somewhat exploitative even within the milieu of Stephen Moffatt and Mark Gatiss's top-notch storytelling.
posted by dhartung at 10:59 PM on August 12, 2011


I can't wait for the creative team behind this movie to discover the previously hidden hilarity in the Manson murders.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:43 AM on August 13, 2011


I can't wait for the creative team behind this movie to discover the previously hidden hilarity in the Manson murders.

Here ya go!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:33 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding rebent about suffering + distance.

Seeing as how people are offended because of a lack of distance, here is a list of more things to get outraged about:

-Airplane, since when was there not enough distance between us and airplane crashes? If you think its pre-9/11 production excuses it, then try Snakes on a Plane.
-Burn After Reading, I bet Dick Cheney can't watch that without cringing

I understand these are attempts to be sympathetic, but it's coming across as overreaction. Is this how you want to teach your children to express grief? Snark at people who don't understand it?
posted by neil pierce at 7:04 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Airplane, since when was there not enough distance between us and airplane crashes? If you think its pre-9/11 production excuses it, then try Snakes on a Plane

1) It's Airplane!.

2) The snakes on a plane in Snakes on a Plane were Shiites, not Sunni.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:32 PM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Airplane, since when was there not enough distance between us and airplane crashes? If you think its pre-9/11 production excuses it, then try Snakes on a Plane.

A more accurate analogy would be if they made a comedy using actual details from 9/11 such as a plane being crashed into a skyscraper.
posted by bleep at 9:05 PM on August 13, 2011


Would it be more acceptable if the actual criminals got the idea from a movie? Not sure about the dates, but I can think of three or four films off the top of my head with similar plot devices (Die Hard 3, Crank, Speed, SAW VI maybe?). It's prima facie good caper comedy material.
posted by doublehappy at 10:41 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another disgusting parallel: In the real incident, Wells was sent on a scavenger hunt to find notes that would purportedly give him the keys to unlock the collar bomb. Sounds fun? You too can join in -- with the Foursquare game tie-in to the movie, with a sweepstakes sponsored by Columbia TriStar Marketing Group (promotional press release here).

From the rules of the game:
You can then follow the links and instructions to “check-in” at any retail location that is “tagged” on Foursquare as a bank, food truck, pizza restaurant, screening of the Picture and other tagged location (each a “Location”). In order to “check-in” you must be in or immediately adjacent to the Location’s perimeter and use your wireless mobile device to access the Application and follow the system’s instructions to check-in to the location that corresponds to the Location.
One of the banks that you check in for the game? Wells Fargo.

I find it hard to believe that Michael Diliberti, the writer for this movie, had no idea that it closely retold the Wells story. In a Variety interview last year, he said that his writing process includes getting lots of feedback from others while writing: "I pass pages to my agents, manager and other people I'm working with because I want to know what people are and aren't reacting to during the process." Plenty of people read the script, and it was listed in the Black List (.pdf) in 2009, which is "compiled from the suggestions of over 300 film executives, each of whom contributed the names of up to ten of their favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2009 and will not be released in theaters during this calendar year." Five people nominated it for the 2009 list. They filmed it in 2010, in Grand Rapids.

If it was written in, say, 2008, passed around to many people for feedback, filmed in 2010 in the same general area, and the marketing group worked during that time to create tie-in games, is it even plausible that not one person noticed the similarities?
posted by Houstonian at 6:26 AM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you guys reading the same link I am? It clearly says the writers were vaguely aware of the story while writing this. I mean, "vaguely" clearly understates, but it's not like they're claiming it isn't connected.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:16 AM on August 14, 2011


neil pierce:

I think this reaction is due to the confluence of several factors: the apparent disavowal by the filmmakers (which, I'd expect, is to avoid involvement by surviving conspirators or family members), and the level of detail that appears to be lifted, barely changed, from a singular, very strange/recognizable, and recent event, all for laughs. Plane crashes exist in the abstract; they may affect more people, but the particular details of specific plane crashes--down to the occupations of the victims--generally don't make it into late-summer comedies, and there's a good reason for that.

Also, who said anything about "teach[ing] your children about grief"? It seems like a strange argument to introduce into this thread.

I have to admit, though, reading this article from one of the previous Metafilter threads made me picture the whole thing being made into a lurid thriller, especially with the last! minute! twist! at the end (kind of specious, but so are a lot of thriller endings.)
posted by kagredon at 8:12 PM on August 14, 2011


I felt the same about LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

I was studying in Italy right when La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) was still playing in theaters in Italy.

The movie came up in discussion a couple of times when I was there. The people I spoke to were very defensive about the film.

I was taking Italian cinema and the teacher (who was Italian herself) showed for comparison another film; I can't remember the title or anything else about it (and after all, she only showed us a clip) but the scene she showed depicted survivors being rescued at a concentration camp. Only, they don't know that the army coming in are there to save them, so they all freak out and start screaming. Maybe a little bit too melodramatic, perhaps. She stopped the tape. "This. This I find offensive."

Another lady was talking about the film and took it upon herself to criticize Schindler's List. She rattled off a few things she didn't like about it and then said dismissively, "Poi, finisce bene..." ("Then, it has a happy ending..."). I've watched the film and I definitely had some issues with it. I found it a bit bizarre that a Jew would do a long stretched out comedy about asking for things from "Santa Maria".

I think there's definitely a difference in the kind of comedy that 30 minutes or less is, and the kind of comedy Life is Beautiful was. The first really has no context. I didn't know that an event like this had actually happened, and with such a tragic end. It seemed like just a goofy, wacky screwball comedy. Life is Beautiful, on the other hand, is describing something that, hopefully, all moviegoers know really happened. It also definitely has the feel of putting on the mask of humor in the face of tragedy. This is pretty much part and parcel of interactions between Guido and his son. Despite the agony of daily life, when returning to the bunk Guido makes a great show of this being a "fun game" rather than the life-or-death struggle that it really is. In the same way, Benigni shows a movie that is a comedy, but underneath the comedy that's taking place is this continuing feeling of dread and fear, culminating in death.

Whether or not some people find the movie offensive (and there's no consensus on this), it's pretty clear that Benigni intended to be respectful of the subject matter overall. The same cannot be said of the directors of "30 Minutes or Less".
posted by Deathalicious at 10:23 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


the bodies in the freezer didn't help - ask about that if you like

Umm, OK - I'll ask: what about the bodies in the freezer??
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:30 AM on August 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


ooh ooh, is this where I get to say RTFA?
posted by sweetmarie at 8:59 AM on August 15, 2011


Another lady was talking about the film and took it upon herself to criticize Schindler's List. She rattled off a few things she didn't like about it and then said dismissively, "Poi, finisce bene..." ("Then, it has a happy ending...").

Yeah, only Steven Spielberg could give the Holocaust a happy ending. I heard that line pretty much the week it opened. And it's a good one. Schindler's List was definitely neutered somewhat by its final few minutes.

As for Life Is Beautiful, I found the basic concept so absurdly WRONG, I never made it past the trailer. I'm still traumatized by it ... and f***ing Benigni's Oscar Winning Moment. I'm amazed he didn't thank Hitler for making it all possible ... and the 6 million little people.
posted by philip-random at 9:25 AM on August 15, 2011


As for Life Is Beautiful, I found the basic concept so absurdly WRONG, I never made it past the trailer.

Does it soften the blow somewhat to know that Benigni's character dies in the film?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on August 15, 2011


Okay, glib and pithy didn't really express my point well. Lemme try again.

I can see all sides here. It can be true that comedy = tragedy + distance, but sometimes it depends on the kind of comedy, and the amount of distance.

Life Is Beautiful is more "heartwarming" than "wocka-wocka" with its comedy. It had its warts, but if your impression of Benigni is "zany slapstick guy" the way he was in the Oscar awards, then it may be reassuring to know that the film was not like that. It's MUCH more restrained, more like "heartwarming" than "laugh riot." (Granted, y'all may still hate the idea on principle, which is also fair.)

However, another guy has consistently done the kind of "wocka-wocka" kind of humor about Nazis -- Mel Brooks. He said once that he played a kind of game with himself: he always made sure there was at least one throwaway gag involving Nazis in every one of his films. He did this, he said, because he believed that if you laugh at someone, that takes away some of their power. So him putting bumbling Nazis in his films is kind of his "fuck you" to Hitler. Then again, he's been VERY careful about how he uses Nazis -- they're kind of "out of context". I think most of his films have been set in very different times and places, so he hasn't done wacky comedies about the Second World War; it's always Nazis in places like The Wild West, outer space, deliberately bad Broadway shows, etc. He did appear in a film set in 1930's Germany, but that was a remake of an earlier film and he was just cast in it.

In both those cases, too, there was a lot of distance between the subject of the work (Nazis/the Holocaust) and the time they did the work. The earliest Brooks film to include Nazis was The Producers, and that was in 1968 -- nearly 25 years after World War II. Begnini waited twice that long.

Oh -- and those of you who held up Airplane! as a parody of plane crashes -- you looked at the wrong thing. Airplane! was not poking fun at plane crashes themselves, it was poking fun at disaster movies ABOUT plane crashes. And Snakes On A Plane is so ridiculous that I'm not sure what real-life incident could lead someone to be traumatized by it. (Herpetologists who are afraid of flying may be discomfited, but that's a small group, I'd wager.)

So now we have 30 Minutes Or Less, which -- unlike either Life Is Beautiful or Brooks' work -- poked its fun at the downtrodden character in the real event, and also only waited 4 years. Not only did it not get what kind of comedy you can make from tragedy, it also waited only 4 years, as opposed to 25. In fact, since most movies take a couple years to make, it probably only waited 2 years. That's....no time, particularly when you're making the victim of a tragic event the FIGURE OF FUN in your work.

So yeah -- while it is true that comedy = tragedy + distance, I'm afraid 30 Minutes Or Less failed the smell test for both "distance" and "comedy," and is pretty damn tacky.

(Oh -- and for the record, while I respect others' right to disagree, if anyone ever makes a zany comedy about 9/11, I will have a hard time not wanting to rip the guy's spleen out through his throat. That is all.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Umm, OK - I'll ask: what about the bodies in the freezer??

It's a little buried in all the links at this point, but the Wired article (kind of amazingly) explains the untangling of the plot.
posted by psoas at 10:26 AM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


the bodies in the freezer didn't help - ask about that if you like

Umm, OK - I'll ask: what about the bodies in the freezer??

Well,since you ask...

You know those chest-type freezers that hunters often have? That you can stick a whole deer into and also a pack of Freezy Pops for the kids? The FBI opened an Erie freezer, a month after the Pizza Bomber, and there was absolutely a person in there. His head was missing and his legs were...not where they should have been.

That was basically the death knell for all of the tourist ambitions that this town ever had.

We started getting known as "Eerie, PA" and can I please tell you, I would rather not hear that joke anymore.

But I got to meet John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" fame. It was sorta cool.

And then, mysteriously, the guy that had been involved in the whole thing...died in jail. "Heart attack" is the official story. Unlikely, say we. of course, don't mind any of this because Erie is a tourist town! And you will totally not die if you come here! haha!

I'm just saying, I wish none of this had happened. I find it...unpleasant....that Jesse Eisenberg et al would make a comedy out of this.

Here's what I think. I think Jesse et al should face down Brian Wells' brother. I think they should be the ones to explain to him why this film is so FUNNY!. I clearly couldn't do it, although I tried. I think I will not be viewing this movie, and I think that I will continue to live here and face down the "Eerie" jokes.

Here's the thing. Here's the reason why I've posted about this when I really should not have: A) If you can't tell, I have a serious problem with this stupid movie. B) I have a problem with the fact that American movie-land is so very derivative that it has to take legitimate tragedies and make them...funny? I still don't get the joke.

C) I realized that I've been ranting this whole time, but I ask you, if I don't then who does? What I'm asking you to do, MeFi, is to NOT go see this movie. I ask you to not give them any money at all. I ask you to consider, next time you want a "family comedy" to go to, that this is an ugly, ugly thing to support and also consider that it wasn't your friends in the parking lot.

It wasn't your friends who made "People" magazine and got broadcasted on "America's Most Wanted," "NBC Nightly News" and "ABC World News Tonight." (It also wasn't your friends who had Rottweilers and an engagement ring, people). Believe me, once Brian Wells' brother came in, it wasn't very cool. It was sickening. I know the kind of kind-hearted people who hang out on MeFi. None of them would have laughed at this poor guy.

To wrap up: Erie, PA is one of the most beautiful cities in the USA. No one will kill you if you come here.

I beseech you, do not support this movie! Rather, take the money you were going to spend on it and give it to the Wells family. I haven't the faintest how you might do this, but watch MeTa for the next couple weeks. I just had an idea.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 10:27 AM on August 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh yes, and there was also anthrax involved.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:20 AM on August 15, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: " I think most of his films have been set in very different times and places, so he hasn't done wacky comedies about the Second World War; it's always Nazis in places like The Wild West, outer space, deliberately bad Broadway shows, etc. He did appear in a film set in 1930's Germany, but that was a remake of an earlier film and he was just cast in it."

"To be or not to be" is pretty hilarious and Mel Brooks produced it and was the lead. It was way over the top. In the beginning he plays Hitler in a kind of cabaret style act. Later on, when they are trying to smuggle some Jews out of Poland or something, Nazi soldiers show up and the Brooks character actually dresses up as Hitler and marches around as them to distract them.

Even if Mel Brooks didn't direct it himself, it was very, very much a Mel Brooks film in tone and feel. Personally, what I take from Mel Brooks' work is that he has never really shied away from controversy, and has never been afraid to condemn the stupid and absurd through slapstick. I never got the feeling during To Be or Not To Be that he was making light of the suffering that took place during the Holocaust (although the audience in the movie is laughing, the "Juden! Juden!" scene gave me chills when I watched it). It was always that he was making fun of the stupid, stupid Nazis.

Which is sort of why Life is Beautiful is so weird, because it flips it on its head a bit. The Nazis are dead serious but it's the guy in the concentration camp who is goofy. I still say it "works" in the sense that it almost never seems outright disrespectful.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2011


The thing about To Be Or Not To Be, though, is that it was a remake of a film from 1942. So I'm wondering how much of the humor was part of the original, which sounds kind of wacky-hijinks-y in its own right.

As for Life Is Beautiful -- I think the key to its tone is that it's supposed to be the little kid, now grown up, who's narrating the story. Begnini was trying to shield him from horrors by acting like they were all playing a very complicated game; it's never "hey let's talk about how wacky the Nazis were," rather it's "I can't bear to let my kid know what's really happening so I'm going to tell him this other thing is happening instead so he's not upset". And between that, and the grown-man-misremembering-things-from-when-he-was-little kind of thing happening, it's got a sort of allegorical, "storytime" feel to it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:39 PM on August 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ooh, interesting: just noticed something about the original To Be Or Not To Be, which kind of proves the point about "letting enough time pass." The original was kind of screwball-comedy, and was made in 1942, but -- it bombed, because the public thought making fun of Nazis was not quite appropriate. The critics loved it, but the public...not so much.

26 years later, though, the public felt differently.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on August 15, 2011


I saw this and "The Devil's Double" this past weekend, and both are similar in that they make use of real -- and really awful -- history in the service of outrageous filmmaking. "30 Minutes or Less" is a straight-up comedy, although a strangely flat one, while "The Devil's Double" has some art house pretensions, but is, in a lot of ways, closer in tone and content to the Pacino "Scarface" than anything else. And the Uday Hussein story is an even more terrible one than that of the collar bomb -- Hussein was reportedly a serial rapist and murderer, which is dramatized in this movie.

I understand the complaints, and sympathize with them. Filmmaking is, in general, a pretty trashy undertaking, with a long history of stealing from current events to make money from provocation, often with a minimum of good taste. And you can find this everywhere from legitimately trashy cinema (1973's "Three on a Meathook"), mainstream horror ("Silence of the Lambs"), comedy (1993's "Ed and His Dead Mother"), and legitimate classics ("Psycho") -- the the preceding examples are films based on Ed Gein, and that doesn't even mention the 2010 musical version of the story.

I don't know what to make of it. In Spielberg's version of "War of the Worlds," he showed walls taped with handmade missing posters, an image borrowed directly from the events of 9/11. Was this an offensive example of unscrupulous appropriation, stealing from our collective national tragedy to goose up a science fiction film? Or was it an effective use of the historical record, taking an image we associate with tragedy to give his film an additional dash of realism -- he also borrowed heavily from cinema verite and war footage to serve the same function in this film. Of course, this was a science fiction/horror film, rather than a comedy, but both seem equally questionable genres for this sort of thing. Or, at least, if one is questionable, the other is equally so.

I guess my approach is to address the piece of art itself. Our popular culture is a sort of roiling unconscious, where everything of significance gets churned into art, some better, some worse. Law and Order used to steal newspaper stories for their plot lines, a trend that they lifted from L.A. Law, who, in turn, lifted it from every dramatic storyline that could claim it was "ripped from the headlines," which dates back at least as far as 1925, when Eisenstein made "The Battleship Potemkin," which detailed an event that was only 20 years old -- certainly in the living memory of most Russians. And that may not have been comedy, but, although it is a masterpiece of filmmaking, it is also naked a work of propaganda, which must rank pretty low of the pecking order of respected film genres.

John Waters made "The Diane Linketter Story" in 1969 the day after Art Linkletter's daughter committed suicide, reportedly under the influence of LSD. As it turns out, this was propaganda too -- she had not taken drugs when she died, and there is some reason to think she may have been murdered. And after her death, Linkletter himself released an album he had made with Diane, called "We Love You, Call Collect," about a young runaway on drugs; Waters argues this was at least as exploitative as his film.

So, when it comes down to it, I don't think the collar-bomb story is necessarily off-limits for artistic exploration, even as a comedy. The trouble is, as a comedy, it's a bit of a dud.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:47 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, and there was also anthrax involved.

Wait. What? Can you elaborate (without ?
posted by kitsy at 8:28 AM on August 16, 2011


Pooh, sorry. I meant to say: (without another cliffhanger)
posted by kitsy at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2011


Interesting points, Bunny. some reactions:

I understand the complaints, and sympathize with them. Filmmaking is, in general, a pretty trashy undertaking, with a long history of stealing from current events to make money from provocation, often with a minimum of good taste. And you can find this everywhere from legitimately trashy cinema (1973's "Three on a Meathook "), mainstream horror ("Silence of the Lambs"), comedy (1993's "Ed and His Dead Mother "), and legitimate classics ("Psycho") -- the the preceding examples are films based on Ed Gein, and that doesn't even mention the 2010 musical version of the story.

Still, though, Ed Gein's crime was discovered in 1957 -- about 15 years before Three On A Meathook. Trashy though it may have been, they still seemed to wait for a respectful interval before getting into it. John Waters didn't do the same with The Diane Linkletter Story, true -- but John Waters has always made a habit of flaunting such conventions in the first place -- it's like he's saying "I know it's tacky and horrible of me to do this and that is precisely why I'm doing it." He, and trashy filmmakers, know full well that the things they do are going to offend people, and that's part of why they do that. And, they also don't deny that that's what they're trying to do.

As for Spielberg using the "flyers of the missing" detail in War Of The Worlds -- I honestly don't recall having connected that to 9/11 (and that's saying a lot, because I was living in New York ten years ago, as I do now). Personally, I'd wager that the fact that that was just a subtle detail is what let most people accept that -- it wasn't "about" 9/11, and it was more "taking an image we associate with tragedy to give his film an additional dash of realism", as you say. (Also personally, I rolled my eyes much more at how the film Remember Me used the event, as a somewhat maudlin plot point in a weepy romantic drama. ...But that may be more about me disliking weepy romantic dramas anyway.)

I'm not sure it's just the "it's too soon" that is prompting the reaction of people in here. It's more the wide-eyed, innocent denial on the part of the filmmakers, concerning an event that was that soon after. John Waters knew full well that he was being tacky, and that was part of his intent; the guys who made 30 Minutes Or Less, though, are blinking at us in wide-eyed shock and saying, "who, us? We had no idea this was even a connection, really! We swear! We didn't mean anything bad by it!" That kind of denial comes across as really insincere -- or indicates that they were irretrievably dumb. And no one is really saying that this should be a forever-after-hands-off kind of thing -- only that if you're gonna get into it, just know what the ramifications are and own them, rather than trying to pretend you're the innocent naif who really didn't know, I swear!

Oh, yeah, and being cleverer would help too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on August 16, 2011


kitsy: Just read the Wired article psoas linked to. Well worth your time.
posted by SomaSoda at 9:47 AM on August 16, 2011


Australian police arrest man in US over fake 'collar bomb'
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on August 16, 2011


I saw Mel Brooks in interview when To Be or Not To Be came out and he was explicit in saying that he thought the only way the Nazi mystique could be tackled was by making fun of them, showing how ridiculous they actually were. That was his motivation behind The Producers, which I think is probably the best film he ever made.

And reading the Wired article on the original crime... it comes across as a much better movie than this seems to be, although Fargo covers much the same ground, without actually upsetting any real person, so it would be an unnecessary movie. Not that Hollywood has any problem with unnecessary movies.
posted by Grangousier at 3:58 AM on August 17, 2011


Today I learned that Psycho premiered only 31 months after Ed Gein was arrested!! A book and then a movie both based on the same series of murders in less than 3 years.
posted by Megafly at 6:31 PM on August 17, 2011


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