The Worst Movie of the Year just won a contest, and you didn’t even know about it. Not unless you watched all ten episodes of The Chair, Starz Channel’s answer to Project Greenlight.
The Chair pits two novice filmmakers against each other for a $250,000 prize. The gimmick is that they both have to make a movie from the same script – “How Soon is Now” – about college freshmen returning home to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. The beauty of the experiment, as producer Chris Moore never ceases reminding the audience, is seeing what two wildly different personalities make of the same material.
First up is Anna Martemucci. She’s a likable 20-something that comes off more like the resident advisor of somebody’s dorm than a movie director. She’s got a husband and a brother-in-law with her. They are both likable and charming too, and look completely incapable of making an interesting movie – all three seem like people who are getting by more on networking ability than any innate talent.
Their competition is Shane Dawson. He’s a YouTube superstar, with a staggering six million followers on his main channel. He’s sexually ambiguous, vaguely creepy, and sporting a haircut John Fogerty would be proud of. Unfortunately, like the Bruno Kirby character in Good Morning Vietnam, he wants to be funny, but has no idea how – so he dresses in drag and does funny voices and sight gags about spurting blood, but his gross-out comedy is all gross-out and no comedy. He built up an army of teen girl YouTube subscribers by doing daily videos and pandering to a demographic that has outgrown iCarly but is still too young (or stupid) for actual comedy.
The Chair starts off slow. We meet producer Chris Moore, of Project Greenlight fame, and producers Zachary Quinto (Spock!) and some other guys. The first episode is mostly devoted to explaining the concept, repetitively. Things pick up later on, when the characters start making their movies. There’s tons of product placement for the companies that chipped in free office space or locations, more exterior shots of the Pittsburgh skyline than you ever knew you needed, and not enough Zachary Quinto. The drama doesn’t really kick in until episode 7 or so, when both neophyte filmmakers reveal their neuroses. It’s definitely worth a ten hour binge watch on a rainy day.
After watching Anna Martemucci and her husband name-check every recent indie hit from Garden State to (500) Days of Summer, Hollidaysburg is exactly the movie you expect it would be. It’s so derivative of other films that it is barely worth watching. Local actress Rachel Keller is a standout, but you really need a Peter Sarsgaard level talent if you want to remake Garden State, and they didn’t have the budget for that. Still, the movie is surprisingly self-assured for a first-timer, and it might be worth a look when it starts playing on Starz.
Not Cool (2014)
Here it is, The Worst Movie of the Year, and the winner of the contest. Like a sick cross between John Waters and iCarly, Not Cool combines gloryhole and vomit jokes with a frantic pace, blaring colors, and juvenile storytelling. Shane Dawson cast himself in the lead, and fellow sexually ambiguous YouTube star Drew Monson as the other male lead, while the rest of the cast is played by age- and gender-appropriate teens. The whole thing has a weird pedophilic vibe, and even without the shit jokes is just plain unpleasant to watch.
So how does Shane Dawson end up winning? Martemucci made a heartwarming but derivative film, while Dawson made a steaming pile of neon vomit from the same script. But Dawson has hordes of YouTube followers show up to his screenings. As seen in episode ten of The Chair, Dawson is like The Beatles for a certain kind of humor-impaired 14 year old girl. On the other hand, Hollidaysburg relies on good reviews to generate some kind of buzz, doesn’t get them, and plays to empty houses.
Don’t worry, Martemucci, I’m sure you and your husband can network your way to some sort of middle management gig at the Sundance Channel, leaving Shane Dawson – GAAAAH – to make 2015’s Worst Movie of the Year.
The Chair is available on Starz Play.
Hollidaysburg is available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.
Not Cool is available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, but why would you watch it?