Sunday, 25 April 2010

Feathering his nest

In amongst all the multi-million dollar blockbusters lining up to fill your local multiplex is an all-action thriller made on a rather more modest budget. And yet, whilst the other movies jostle for attention in another crowded summer schedule, this little film has already notched up quite a cult following, not to mention some unbelievable reviews.

Originally intended for the Sundance Film Festival, James Nguyen's opus was rejected by the festival's selection committee, so the industrious auteur decided to screen the film independently. The film fans who stumbled upon 'Birdemic: Shock and Terror' couldn't quite believe their luck.

Inspired by Hitchcock's apocalyptic adaptation of Daphne de Maurier's The Birds, Birdemic portrays a horrifying attack on a small town by a platoon of eagles and vultures, leaving the townspeople with no choice but to fight back.

Movie studios have always been happy to quote film critics out of context, turning non-committal reviews into glowing recommendations, simply by virtue of the bits they leave out. So Nguyen should have no trouble creating some truly spectacular posters featuring quotes like "it's like nothing you've ever experienced. Words completely failed me by the film's end." Now who wouldn't want to see a movie with the power to make that kind of an impression?

Unfortunately, the quote continues "I was sure of only one thing - I had just had the funniest, most awesomely bad experience of my entire life." Maybe not quite what Nguyen had intended.

Not that you'd know from his reaction. Speaking to the New York Times about the surprise success of his avian shocker, he said “A few people... were laughing at my movie. But I think the majority who were there really laughed with it. That’s the risk that I take in making a movie, to be judged, to be reviewed — the good, the bad and the ugly."

I'm not sure if there's anything inherently 'good' about Nguyen's film, but bad and ugly seem quite plentiful. The actors could take lessons from porn stars on convincing line readings, and the CGI eagles wouldn't look out of place menacing Horace as he goes skiing. The birds don't so much attack people, as hover threateningly in front of them, before inexplicably exploding.

According to the Times article, Nguyen spent $10,000 and seven months (weekends mostly) bringing his singular vision to the screen. And although audiences are hyperventilating at his staggeringly inept handiwork, Nguyen may have the last laugh. His dream was to make a film that would find an audience, and he's certainly achieved that.

Considered by many to be the worst director of all-time, Ed Wood died penniless and forgotten, several years before his films were rediscovered and celebrated on the midnight movie circuit. With many people marking him out as Wood's logical successor, Nguyen is fortunate enough to be around to actually enjoy his fame and notoriety.

He's found a medium that allows him to express himself. And the great thing is, his work is engaging people and eliciting an emotional response. Ultimately, isn't that what all artists crave?

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