Anthony's Film Review
We Make Movies (2016)
A funny independent film about the making of a terrible independent film...
It's been a while since I reviewed an independent movie, one that is produced and distributed without any help from a major film studio. If you have been following Anthony's Film Review, you'll know that mainstream movies are my focus and that I tend to check out indie flicks only occasionally. Also, when I do review indie flicks, I only write and post positive reviews, because I reserve negative reviews for big studio movies that surely have the resources to make a good movie but ultimately let them all go to waste. There's only so much time I can devote to watching and reviewing movies since life takes priority. So to all indie filmmakers who have sent me review requests but have not heard from me, I apologize for either not liking the movie or not watching it for whatever reason. But I do wish you all the best of luck.
Anyway, the latest indie film request I received is related to a comedy about making a bad movie. It's an interesting concept and one that's been done before. One such movie that comes to mind is the 1999 comedy Bowfinger, starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, about a low-budget filmmaker who goes to great lengths to film an actor without his permission. Another good one is Ed Wood, the 1994 biopic starring Johnny Depp about the titular Plan 9 From Outer Space director. Now, if we were to step into the realm of independent movies, there's the 2016 comedy We Make Movies, which was written, produced, and directed by Matt Tory. Oh, and he also stars in the movie, as part of an amusing cast.
Tory plays the role of a narcissistic, self-centered filmmaker named Stevphen Bixby (no, that is not a typo). Actually, I should clarify that Stevphen is a college-aged guy who is aspiring to make it big in movies, not an accomplished filmmaker who has already broken into the Hollywood A-list. Anyway, he is looking to make a movie that will be his magnum opus, one that will be highly praised at a film festival. Not a big-name film festival like Cannes, Sundance, or Tribeca, but a film festival in a town of roughly 1,000 people. And as you might expect, Stevphen's movie has a limited budget and fairly crappy production value.
What do I mean by fairly crappy production value? Well, for one thing, Stevphen's cast is not selected from an acting talent pool. He simply gathers a few friends, plus a stranger or two. The cast of his movie includes Donny (Jordan Hopewell), a nerd who becomes Stevphen's assistant producer; Leonard (Zack Slort), a supposed method actor who works at a movie theater concessions stand; Garth (Jonathan Holmes), a guy who gets hired for a part while in his bathroom; and Jessica (Anne Crockett), the sole female cast member. Just for good measure, let's also throw in two guys with similar names, Curtis (Matt Silver) and Kurtis (Josiah Finnamore).
Then there is Stevphen's movie itself. The big movie he is making combines elements from all sorts of great Hollywood movies. It is true that movies frequently pay homage to older films because that's what inspired the filmmaker. However, a real filmmaker knows that an homage to an old movie incorporates something from that old movie into the current movie such that it has melted and blended into the new movie. Paying homage does NOT mean leaving the original element unaltered such that it clashes with the new movie. If George Lucas did that, his movie Star Wars would have characters from Seven Samurai and The Wizard of Oz on the Death Star. If you think that sounds bad, just imagine Stevphen Bixby's movie "paying homage" to as many movies as possible within its running time. I am pretty sure a film school instructor would give it an F if it were submitted as a thesis film.
We Make Movies is presented in the style of a mockumentary, so you can think of it as Ed Wood meets This Is Spinal Tap. It's as if you're watching an actual behind-the-scenes look at a really bad movie being made. There is humor in this movie, though it's more on the milder side. In other words, it's the kind that tends to generate smiles more than laughs, and even when there is a laugh, it's usually a quick one. I'm not saying that this movie is not funny. It is funny, just on a simple level rather than the level of a hilarious over-the-top comedy that forces audience members to catch their breath every so often. And when the humor is part of a satirical story centering on misfit characters, how can one turn away from the film?
Think about it. Stevphen Bixby is a terrible filmmaker who sees himself as a combination of Steven Spielberg and the director of Inception whose name he cannot remember. (It's Christopher Nolan, you idiot!) He likes to say that "we make movies." Okay, but do you make GOOD movies? That's still the real question, even in this new YouTube-era where anyone can make and share a video. It's amusing to watch Stevphen and his cast shoot scenes without any regard for how fake it all looks, especially when their prop guns are clearly toy guns and the shooting locations are clearly local town sites that don't take the audience into another world. You'll also have fun identifying all the Hollywood movie references mashed up into Stevphen's new movie (which, by the way, has a title that is super long) or ripped off for his earlier movies. And to a certain extent, some of the characters have amusing quirks. For example, if you think Stevphen's name spelling is unusual, just wait until you hear how Leonard insists his name be pronounced.
Overall, We Make Movies is a decent comedy and should not be a waste of time if you want to watch something simple. It keeps the story and humor on a basic level, but at least they're not subpar. For me, I smiled much of the way through and laughed at a couple of scenes, including the improv comedy scene, the water fight scene, and the kissing scene (especially the part that shows how it appears in Stevphen's finalized film). I also like the way this movie illustrates how not to make a movie. If you look at Stevphen Bixby's movie, you'll know what to avoid when you make your own movie. But if you look at Matt Tory's movie, you'll know what to have as a minimum and then go from there. For the question about making good movies, not just making movies period, Stevphen Bixby can't really answer yes to that. But at least Matt Tory can.
For more information about We Make Movies, visit the Internet Movie Database.