Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the Lot: two episodes for the price of one

Catching up on ON THE LOT after a week out of town on vacation...

The August 7 show's opening tease gives away who will be eliminated. Which director do we not see prepping a film for tonight's episode? The result: previously presumed favorite Zach, who came close to being knocked out the week before, is sent packing. The other directors try to look sad about him leaving, but you know they're jumping up and down on the inside since Zach was the one they thought would win.

Tonight's films are based on the winning entry in America's logline challenge: a man wakes up and finds himself in a dress but can't remember what happened the night before. Apparently the creativity of those watching the show matches that of those on it.

Will's THE YES MEN is a major departure for him. Dialogue! In the intro package he compares it to the Coen brothers. You can see the influence, although the film only pulled a couple chuckles from me. Since I'm not cheating by looking at tonight's currently airing episode, I'm going to bet this will be good enough to advance him.

Sam admits beforehand that he believes either he or Adam will go home from their efforts this week. His DRESS FOR SUCCESS is a SAW parody/female revenge comedy. Umm. Err. Uh. It's different. If he wanted to stick around, he should have made something funnier. He never finds a tone that makes it work, probably because he works far too hard and long to set it up.

Those musical bumpers are going longer and longer. As the directors dwindle the producers struggle to fill an hour. Oh, here's a package that reveals--surprise!--the remaining contestants want to win. Also, kittens and puppies are cute.

Adam's ARMY GUY has some David Lynch flourishes with it's lack of context for why the soldier in the dress keeps having the women asking to marry him while he chases his Russian nemesis. Does America like surreal? The twist isn't half bad, but like so many of the films on this show, I've lost my patience and interest by the time it arrives. If it is between him and Sam, I'm certain Adam will be back.

Jason's OH, BOY. sort of uses a SAW-like premise, except the man dressed as a ballerina has a bomb strapped to him and is in someone's front yard. Most weeks I haven't liked his films, and this one is no exception. That being said, he has an identifiable viewpoint in his films, something Adam and Sam don't have. Will's chameleon-like ability is what amounts to a distinct style.

Adam's film wins the top approval of all three judges, so I expect to see him advancing when I begin watching tonight's episode in a few minutes. Unless I missed something, there was no pseudo-car commercial film tonight. Did Ford decide their ad dollars could be better spent elsewhere?

Ugh, what a bad show.

All right, it's time for tonight's show. Adrianna Costa is dressed less provocatively than she's been the last couple weeks. Apparently cleavage isn't classy for the two-part season finale. Speaking of clothes, Kentucky boy Jason is wearing an Ale-8-One t-shirt. I'm mildly obsessed with "Kentucky's soft drink", so this is pretty wild to see.

OK, down to business... Sam is the director going home, which comes as a shock to no one. The judges had the harshest criticism for his film last week.

Adrianna explains the challenge for the final week...which is that they should pick their two best films to show and be judged on them?! Can ON THE LOT get any dumber? Look, one more new film isn't likely to change the opinion of anyone who cares enough to vote, but why bother having them select from their body of work? The show's website has all the films, so it's not like the viewing public can't take them into account. If anything, it makes this episode even more irrelevant. Could this be a sign that there was no desire to sink more cash into this money pit?

Maybe I should be thankful. With no new films, I can fly through this episode. For me the only drama left in ON THE LOT is whether Steven Spielberg will show up to congratulate the winner next week. This reality TV show is not his proudest moment.

Jason drew first for tonight's screening order. Blah, blah, blah. Does it matter? Jason picked ETERNAL WATERS and SWEET to represent him. He chose wisely. SWEET was easily his best film and probably one of the best during the show's run. It's heartfelt and relatable, qualities lacking from most of what the directors have churned out. He's playing the aw-shucks-I'm-just-a-simple-guy-from-Kentucky card. Will is probably grinding his teeth into dust since that's his ploy. Never fear, though. I'm sure he'll work the angle about having to give up on his dream and support his family if he doesn't win.

Will selects his bookend films. GLASS EYE, which sounds as though it was made before the show, and THE YES MEN, his last short for ON THE LOT, are plucked from his oeuvre for the masses determining his fate.

Adam goes the same route with his pre-show submission, DOUGH: THE MUSICAL, and his last, ARMY GUY. Adam essentially confirmed what was suspected. We did get films made outside of the show's process.

Of the three finalists, Will is most likely to turn out a feature I might want to see. Jason is most likely to be an auteur with supporters and detractors. Adam could be the anonymous career director. Carrie picks Will as her favorite. Garry sides with Jason. Considering my surprise at him not only surviving the first voting elimination but earning the most votes, I expect Jason will win. What do you think?


  1. Anonymous11:16 PM

    I don't think any of these directors are worthy of attention, which is the problem with the show and I suspect the prime reason for low ratings. As for the idea of anyone coming out of this an "auteur", you've got to be kidding. This is "talent" in the same vein as American Idol. The winner should feel blessed if he ends up an intern at Dreamworks. For people who want to check out "undiscovered" talent check out any festival anytime anywhere for better things than this. What's Bill from Apprentice doing now anyway?

  2. Besmirch American Idol if you will, but that show has undeniably produced some commercial successes. I don't see anything like that with the On the Lot bunch. I wouldn't be surprised if whoever wins never makes a film, makes one that is never released, or has it go direct to video.

    As for my "auteur" comment, all I meant was that Jason is the only one with a directorial signature. That doesn't mean I think he is some budding cinematic genius.

  3. Anonymous12:48 PM

    There's a great sequence in Storytelling by Todd Solondz where a teenager becomes the subject of a documentary, then you see his ego start flourishing, and the documentary starts turning into a comedy that mocks his groundless ambitions and fantasies which he takes quite seriously, making it all the more funny.

    I think the real entertainment value of On the Lot is in something like this. You had the one contestant come out making sweeping bows after a silly little assignment, and later who got testy with the judges for expressing their views. Then with the knife hanging over his neck he claimed he was personally insulted by their comments, and the program isn't just about what America and the panel of judges think, it's also about what the film makers think about their own films. Right...we're all interested in that. I thought this was very funny. Then last week another guy gets cut and says all this means is he'll have to wait a little longer for the keys to Dreamworks. We've heard a lot of contestants tell us they were born to direct, then show these silly little things that look like poorly made tv commercials, and one guy pleading that if he doesn't win he won't be able to put food on the table for his kid and his family's dreams will be over. The fact that a program about film making has pulled the plug on film making and gone into a heavily padded retrospective mode to an accelerated conclusion is also kind of funny, but not enough to make you watch the show.

    I find whatever entertainment value there is in this show comes from the unintended material, and the creators and producers are unintentionally part of that. What would be an appropriate conclusion is if Speilberg and Burnett come out and pronounce the winner America's next cinematic visionary, then outline his upcoming movie of the week task, and run a series of Dreamworks trailers for the rest of the show.