Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control" by Errol Morris---a fucking waste of time

Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, a documentary by Errol Morris, resembles something a first year film student shit out using iMovie instead of Final Cut Pro for some reason. It's a failure as a film, as a piece of art, and as a documentary. Which is a shame because the three main characters that they interview have interesting things to say.

The film centers on four characters: a guy who works with naked mole rats studying their behavior and their society, a guy who builds robots at MIT, a wild animal trainer for a circus, and a topiary gardener. The first three people have surprising interconnections between them due to their insights on animal behavior, artificial intelligence, and how that ties into human society. The guy who who's a gardener doesn't have anything to say about any of it and is just stuck on their talking about how he like to garden and likes taking care of topiaries.

Within the interviews there are montages of stock archival footage that are put there for no reason. Nothing is gained from them. There are also intercut shots of different interviewee's subject matter, like circus shots during a naked mole rat guy interview, that similarly have nothing to do with what is being said. Now, understand that these clips have nothing to offer either as subtle commentary, ironic commentary, or straightforward commentary on the interviews at hand. They're just the equivalent of bean curd stuck in there for no purpose. And there's more

It looks like Errol Morris had a hard on about high quality digital filming when he made this movie, because many scenes that are totally inconsequential to the story are filmed in slo-mo in ways that portray them as the most beautiful things on earth. You have to ask yourself after a while: what exactly is the point of this beauty? Why? What does it add to the picture besides prettiness? The answer is often nothing. Towards the end you half expect there to be a slow motion examination of an elephant shitting done in a perfectly lighted, very beautiful, way, portraying the majesty of, um....an interviewee talking about robots?

If I was a producer on this I would have shit canned the film in a second once it became clear what the director was trying to do with it. Waste of money, waste of time.

And like every independent student film it ends with a dedication to his parents, or to the memory of his parents. Aww....

So his parents are responsible for his fucking up and not knowing how to make a documentary movie despite him being one of the 'big names'?

I think not.

Time to take Errol Morris away from the expensive equipment before he hurts himself.

*on edit: yep, even the title has nothing to do with the movie. Beyond it being a reference to '50s and '60s style pulp exploitation films, the phrase "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control" appears in the movie as the name of an article written by a scientist on the potential future of robots. The idea in that was that small robots who were artificially intelligent may become cheap and out of our control (because they're smart) as well as fast. What does this have to do with the themes that the robot scientist, the naked mole rat guy, the animal trainer, and especially the topiary gardener, touch on? Nothing. Nothing at all.

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