Tuesday, June 05, 2018

ScreenRant's "Pitch Meeting" sketches

Comic actor Ryan George has been doing some hilarious skits for the ScreenRant channel on YouTube. ScreenRant is one of many fun movie- and TV-commentary channels that show "Top 10" lists on a variety of topics (e.g., Top Ten Violent Disembowelments, Top Ten Moments When the Hero Doesn't Get the Girl, etc.) and host discussion panels that break down and analyze movie and TV plots. Ryan George's particular contribution to ScreenRant's content is a series of amusing shorts called "Pitch Meeting," in which George plays the dual roles of (1) a screenwriter pitching lame ideas and (2) a creepily tolerant studio exec who listens to them. As the camera cuts back and forth in the rapidfire dialogue that ensues, we come to understand that "Pitch Meeting" is all about flaying movies for their logical and story-structural flaws. The series also contains a running joke: the repetition of the lines "super easy—barely an inconvenience" and "[X] is tight." While the flaying of movies has become something of a cyberspace pastime on YouTube (cf. Cinema Sins, Mr. Plinkett, Honest Trailers, etc.), Ryan George's approach feels fresh, at least for the moment.

Here are a few examples:








7 comments:

Charles said...

Hysterical! I love it when people a) miss the entire point of a scene or b) deliberately misconstrue what is going on just so that can rip apart a film! Comedy gold!

Like the cynical take on the scene with baby Groot at the beginning of GoG2, seeing it as a "toy commercial" instead of a pretty cool episode of the Guardians being an actual family and trying to parent Groot while doing Guardian stuff. Or seeing Ego's transformation into David Hasselhoff as undercutting the emotion of the moment when it's actually pretty meaningful considering that it's already been established that StarLord told kids when he was growing up that Hasselhoff was his father (and there's a callback to that with Gamora as well).

Now, there was plenty about GoG2 that doesn't make sense if you stop to think about it, but if the joy someone gets from the film comes from tearing it apart... I kinda think there might be something wrong with that person.

(Or maybe I'm just done with all those YouTube channels that seem to exist solely for the purpose of nitpicking films. Because I think I am done. Criticism of genuine flaws in films is one thing, but throwing that in with silly nitpicks and downright misrepresentations annoys me. I'm looking at you, CinemaSins.)

Kevin Kim said...

I can understand rejecting the mean-spirited nature of some of these YouTube channels, but I don't think all of them are that mean-spirited. Ryan George, for example, is doing takedowns of very successful movies that he himself probably enjoys. I don't sense from him the anger that fuels, say, Cinema Sins (with his "Fuck you, movie!") or Jenny Nicholson when she's sarcastically ripping a movie apart (her 49-minute take on "Solo" is quite a tirade). Parody and mockery can be oblique gestures of respect. True, when Eddie Murphy mocks Bill Cosby, it's because he genuinely dislikes the man and his message. But when Ryan George seems to miss the point as often as he does, you have to suspect that he's actually paying a weird form of tribute to the film he's focusing on.

If there's one lesson I take away from all these channels, it's that all stories have flaws, which makes it impossible to please everyone. I used to hate parodies of Star Wars because I had sacralized those movies in my mind; they were untouchable. Then, as I got older, I started reading and digesting criticisms of the films, and it was a short step from that to appreciating parodies and mockeries of them. That's been my experience, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

Charles said...

I can understand rejecting the mean-spirited nature of some of these YouTube channels, but I don't think all of them are that mean-spirited.

Fair enough. And I must admit that I do generally enjoy the Honest Trailers. But they don't strike me as mean-spirited.

I don't sense from him the anger that fuels, say, Cinema Sins (with his "Fuck you, movie!")

You probably got this from my previous comment, but I absolutely hate CinemaSins. I'd rather not get into that here, though.

But when Ryan George seems to miss the point as often as he does, you have to suspect that he's actually paying a weird form of tribute to the film he's focusing on.

Hmm. I think I understand what you mean, although I'm not sure I agree. Then again, I'm not sure I disagree, either. Hard to say.

If there's one lesson I take away from all these channels, it's that all stories have flaws, which makes it impossible to please everyone.

I'd go even further and say that, not only does everyone attribute different levels of importance to flaws, but each individual's idea of what makes a "flaw" is different as well. There is no such thing as a flawless film not only because humans are flawed creatures, but because you can never get 100% of people to agree on whether something is a flaw or not. You might see something as a flaw; I might see that same thing as a feature.

I used to hate parodies of Star Wars because I had sacralized those movies in my mind; they were untouchable. Then, as I got older, I started reading and digesting criticisms of the films, and it was a short step from that to appreciating parodies and mockeries of them.

Oh, wait, I get it now. Not what you just said, but about "parodies" and "mockeries." I was approaching these Pitch Meeting videos as "criticism," so missing the point is actually a pretty big problem--if a criticism misconstrues or misrepresents the work being criticized, it ceases to be valid. As poking fun, though, I suppose that's different. This is why CinemaSins rubs me the wrong way, I think. Not only does it seem very mean-spirited and far beyond the realm of "poking fun," but the guy who does it also considers himself a critic (you'll see this if you watch some of his other videos). It is this conflation of poking fun and criticism that gets on my nerves. Occupational hazard?

Kevin Kim said...

For me, film criticism sometimes becomes problematic if it hits too close to home, i.e., it targets what I thought of as an enjoyable and/or central aspect of the story. If I'm honest with myself, though, such criticisms touch a nerve because I've cathected the film, i.e., brought the film inside my ego-boundaries such that an attack on the film becomes an attack on me. These days, I enjoy most films from a kind of spiritual and emotional distance; there isn't as much cathexis as there used to be, so I'm tolerant of most attacks on what I watch.

As for the conflation of poking fun and criticism... I suspect there's a natural overlap between the two concepts, e.g., with a celebrity roast, which can be both funny and really mean (Shatner got shit for his toupee, I recall). Enjoyable parodies don't stray too far into the realm of the cruelly critical, and serious criticisms generally avoid a parodic tone, but parodies contain critical elements, and even "pure" criticisms can make some of their points through mockery, bitter sarcasm, or what have you. So there's at least a little overlap.

I'm with you re: Cinema Sins. I've stopped watching it mainly for the reasons you laid out: the things that count as "sins" for that guy aren't sins from my point of view at all. Many of the CS criticisms sound like the rants of an angry, old, out-of-touch codger; in that vein, I've seen some sci-fi reviews by Roger Ebert that revealed his lack of knowledge of the cinematic universe he was trying to critique. Over time, the tone of Cinema Sins has also evolved, I think, into something much more acerbic. Watching early CS reviews was fun at first, especially when they were takedowns of movies I hated, but these days, it all feels like a bunch of angry background noise, which makes CS annoying and uninteresting. I bet a lot of people go through a Cinema Sins "phase."

Charles said...

I should add that I am using "criticism" here in the sense of 비평 rather than 비판 (although, yes, the latter can be--or act in service of--the former), just in case that wasn't clear. So when I talk about "film criticism," I'm not necessarily referring to an "attack" on a film, but a genuine attempt to come to a critical understanding of it. I appreciate genuine criticism of films, even those that I like. For example, I can appreciate that there are holes in the GoG films that make them less effective as narratives, and that there are plenty of areas where they could do better. Such criticism is based on a proper understanding of both the underlying principles (of narrative, cinematography, symbolism, etc.) and what the film is trying to accomplish.

I think what "triggered" me about the GoG2 Pitch Meeting was that there was some genuine criticism(비평) mixed in with nitpicks that were not only nitpicks but misunderstood or ignored what the film was trying to accomplish. When I hear a valid criticism (like the discussion of Ego), I go into 비평 mode.

All that being said, though, I was mostly just being sarcastic in my first post, and there were definitely parts that made me chuckle. I have since watched the other two videos as well and gotten chuckles out of them. I especially appreciated how some of the nitpicking/fun-poking in the Black Panther one was aimed at the studio rather than the film.

I gotta say, though... what the heck is up with those eyes?!

Charles said...

Aw, man... I just watched the Pitch Meeting for Infinity War and now I love this guy. Curse you, clever internet humormonger!

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, that one was pretty good.