Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On the Lot: How Low Can You Go?

The sinking ship that is ON THE LOT continues its slow descent to the bottom, but there is some good news. No format change this week!

America has been holding its collective breath for the past week wondering which of last week's five directors will get voted off, and the producers made sure that we'd get a little bluer in the face by keeping the mystery until the end of the show. The "loser" was Trever, whose montage of nightmare blind dates was as unoriginal as possible. I use the scare quotes because at this point the winners are those who don't have to stick around each week and witness the show's death throes firsthand.

While we waited for the results to be announced in the most drawn-out fashion, there were "new" movies to watch. Remember how NBC tried to sell its reruns as "it's new to you" for old episodes you might have missed? Rumors spread last week that these so-called new films were the contestants' submission entries. If true, the films are new in the sense that the general public hasn't seen them. The suspicions were essentially confirmed with the first filmmaker intro.

Toque-wearing Andrew Hunt talked about the challenge of making his film while planning his wedding. He's been one busy guy in the last week if he made a short, planned the wedding, and got married in the last seven days. Of course he didn't. Unless I missed it--and it's possible as my attention drifted a lot during the show--they've dropped the conceit of saying the films were made in five days. Hunt's POLISHED is a decent but unremarkable comedy in the silent film style about a janitor who exacts his revenge on messy office workers. Guest judge David Frankel (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) hit the nail on the head when he said that it would have been more effective as a 30-second commercial.

The analysis could have been repeated for the night's other entries. Time and again the shorts took ideas that merited half a minute at best and sextupled the length. These films crawled along with no sense of rhythm, especially LOVE AT FIRST SHOT. Does this sound familiar? A nerdy, clueless guy drones on about science fiction to his lunch companion and enlists the help of Cupid to make the date go smoother. The acting leaves a lot to be desired, and the clunky editing does it no favors.

The only film with a remote notion of comedy pacing was BEELINE. Shira-Lee Shalit specializes in crass sex humor, this time having a son (played by her own boy) grilling his divorced mother if she's had sex since she split with his dad. Har har. She runs around the city telling her recent lovers not to talk to her again lest the kid find out. The film kept its pace well, but there was weird sequencing in how the second guy she talks to is the doorman at her building. Wouldn't she have confronted him first before leaving the building, coming back, and racing somewhere else? I guess this short, dubbed SLUT MOM by the judges, is what Garry Marshall was looking for when he said that we need more women filmmakers sharing their perspectives.

The resident bad boy directors were next. Marty Martin, who couldn't be fuller of himself, presented another short that functioned as a fake trailer just like his first film, THE BIG BAD HEIST. DANCE WITH THE DEVIL was all flash from the Tony Scott school of filmmaking. Dialogue is subtitled in various fonts, sizes, and location, something Scott experimented with a lot in MAN ON FIRE. Or maybe he's lifting from CRANK. Whatever the case, the guy already has a bloated sense of his talent. From what we've seen, he's nothing more than an empty style mimic.

Proving that ON THE LOT wasn't saving the best for last, Kenny Luby's EDGE ON THE END showed that he knows how to use all the effects on Avid or Final Cut Pro. His short about boozing to deal with a loved one's death was more coherent than WACK ALLEY CAB, but he's a poor man's Marty Martin. With computer editing's bag of tricks available on a wide scale, all he's done is slather on some fancy effects to gussy up an amateur music video.

We've now seen ten of the final fifteen's presumed submission films. This was the best the producers could find? I realize that not everyone trying to break into the industry would consider a reality TV show to be the ideal avenue, but color me seriously underwhelmed with what we've seen. These films may demonstrate a degree of professional competency, but they're also trite and bloated. I found myself looking away to do other things during the shorts, and they're only three minutes maximum.

If some of the directors were cast on the program based on personality and backstory, ON THE LOT hasn't done anything with it. Since it's mostly a studio show (for now), there's very little behind-the-scenes content that would show directors melting down on set or clashing with one another.

Although host Adrianna Costa was as terrible as ever, her performance was more polished than the flub-heavy previous shows. Overall, though, ON THE LOT has found a way to become even less interesting. The films are bad copies of clich├ęd scenarios, and the banter among the judges, directors, and host lacks snap. The show can't be salvaged--I'll be surprised if it completes its full run--but for those of us gaping at its awfulness, it would be nice for ON THE LOT to go down fighting by chucking its current set-up for something more dynamic.


  1. Oh. My. Lord.

    I really thought it couldn't get any worse. But as a group, those shorts were THE WORST FIVE MOVIES I'VE EVER SEEN. And Marty Martin's greenish trailer masquerading as a short film was THE WORST SINGLE MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN.

    You're right, there were no more mentions of five days. But if these were their submission films ... how in the hellapalooza did any of them make it on the show!?

    You know what? I blame film school (out of which most of these contestants come) for about 75% of this. The other 25% I blame on the incompetent administration of this show.

    If they don't change this pulling-out-fingernails format, Noel's gonna stop TiVoing this. And that would be too bad. Because I am just aghast that it managed to get worse between last week and this, and I don't believe it's possible that it will continue to decline any further because surely this is rock bottom, but the show COULD PROVE ME WRONG BY BECOMING EVEN WORSE. And that would be something to see.

  2. Donna, I know you are a "fan" of the show too, so I hope Noel won't give On the Lot the merciful axe that the network ought to drop on it. I'll keep blogging every miserable moment, though.

    If these are the submission films, which seems to be the popular theory, how bad were those that didn't merit selection?

    Honestly, they would have been better off finding the makers of the top viral videos on YouTube and putting them on the show. The shorts we've seen on the show wouldn't draw a second glance on that site. (And there's an inevitable show: a weekly YouTube compendium. Google-folk, contact me for my address for the royalty checks.)

    I realize that there's only so much you can do in a limited amount of time, but the shorts display zero originality. Doesn't anyone have a story or an idea that hasn't been done to death?

    It's awful television. I can't look away, but the fast forward button is mighty handy.